With Presidents Day coming on Monday, this is a good time to reflect on the 56 Presidential elections that this country has had, and to judge which ten are the most significant, path breaking elections.
Of course, there can be debate and disputes as to the judgment of this author and blogger, but here goes, in chronological order.
Presidential Election of 1789–the selection by the Electoral College of our first President, George Washington, the absolutely right choice for the beginning of our nation under the Constitution, as Washington set important precedents for the future, and had no ambition to grab power long term.
Presidential Election Of 1800–the first time we had an opposition party come to power with grace, and without violence, setting a standard for the future, as Thomas Jefferson defeated John Adams, and the dispute between him and Vice President Aaron Burr, who claimed a tie in the Electoral College, was settled peacefully as well, and caused a modifying of the Electoral College process.
The Presidential Election of 1828–the first one decided by popular vote synchronizing with the electoral vote, and giving the country a so called “Common Man” in the Presidency, Andrew Jackson, representing city workers and frontiersmen alike.
Presidential Election of 1860–leading to the election of Abraham Lincoln, who set out to preserve the Union at all costs, and wielded power in a controversial, but thoughtfully considered way, through four years of the Civil War.
Presidential Election Of 1912–the triumph of progressivism, the recognition that government’s role had been changed irrevocably in a country that had been transformed from an agricultural to an industrial nation, had tripled in population since the Civil War, had become a multi ethnic nation, and had recognized the need for the regulation of capitalism in the public good, as well as political reforms and social justice. And it was the most exciting election, as three Presidents, past (Teddy Roosevelt), present (William Howard Taft), and future (Woodrow Wilson) competed against each other.
Presidential Election Of 1932–the triumph of Franklin D. Roosevelt at the worst moments of the Great Depression, offering hope and action (the New Deal) to revive the spirits of the nation, and have the American people believe in the future. Without his victory, there might have been social revolution and bloodshed on a large scale.
Presidential Election of 1960–witnessing the first Catholic President elected (John F. Kennedy) and the promotion of idealism and a new beginning in the advancement of social justice and political reform.
Presidential Election Of 1964–the victory of liberalism with the election of Lyndon B. Johnson, and the defeat of Barry Goldwater and conservatism, therefore insuring the continuation of the New Deal, and the evolution of the Great Society.
Presidential Election Of 1980–seeing the triumph of conservatism under Ronald Reagan, with some modifications of the New Deal and Great Society, and great speeches, but not the conservative “heaven” that many imagine it was, but making Reagan a national icon like Washington, Lincoln and FDR.
Presidential Election Of 2008–witnessing the first African American President (Barack Obama), and his work to provide health care reform, preserve the New Deal and Great Society, and overcome the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
The author welcomes discussion and debate on this post!