Coming: A Century of Failed Presidencies
This past Sunday on CNN, eight Democratic contenders debated the issues and each other. Tonight, the 10 declared Republicans are going to take on each other in the same venue before a national TV audience. In the words of the CNN press release:
Due to the historical nature of presidential debates and the significance of these forums to the American public, CNN believes strongly that the debates should be accessible to the public. The candidates need to be held accountable for what they say throughout the election process.
I watched the Sunday evening Democratic debate, growing more and more depressed for two reasons:
* I tried to mentally place each of the great presidents in my lifetime—Roosevelt, Truman or Eisenhower—on that stage with these current contenders. Or how would Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln or Teddy Roosevelt have fared? Would these splendid men have stood out amidst that yapping pack desperate for sound-bite immortality? I could think of just three people in modern history whose towering intellects, powerful personalities and ability to think on their feet would have left the others eating their dust: Winston Churchill, George C. Marshall and Margaret Thatcher.
* The second reason for my depression is that the mad rush of states to schedule primary elections earlier and earlier in the cycle guarantees that absolutely no man or woman will ever again have a successful presidency.
In business, in government, in life, it is imperative not to change age-old systems that are working pretty well without thinking through all possible unintended consequences and collateral damage.
The Nominating Process
The notorious 19th century New York City Democratic boss, William Marcy Tweed (who later went to jail for corruption), was famous for his pronouncement, “I don’t care who does the electing as long as I do the nominating.”
Until 1960, the nominating process was left up to parties, with the exception of a few “non-binding” primary elections that were essentially beauty contests.
- Washington, D.C.