1122: Electoral Precedent

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Electoral Precedent
No white guy who's been mentioned on Twitter has gone on to win.
Title text: No white guy who's been mentioned on Twitter has gone on to win.

Explanation[edit]

Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Created by a TIME TRAVELER. Please explain and flesh out each broken precedent. Do NOT delete this tag too soon.
If you can address this issue, please edit the page! Thanks.

During election season in U.S. presidential elections — and especially in election night coverage — it is common for the media to make comments like the ones set out in the first panel of this comic. Randall is demonstrating the problem with making such statements, many of which simply come down to coincidence.

After the first panel the next 56 panels in this comic refer to each one of the 56 presidential elections in U.S. history before Obama's re-election in 2012. The panels depict a pre-election commentator noting a quality or condition that has never occurred to a candidate, until one of the candidates in that election broke the streak. In other words, one can always find at least one unique thing about a candidate who has gone on to win (or in some cases, lose) or the circumstances under which they won (or lost) that is unique from all previous winners (or losers). It's worth noting that some of these 'firsts' were truly precedent-setting (such as the first incumbent losing, the first president to win a third term, the first Catholic president, etc.), but the fact that they hadn't happened was no assurance that there wouldn't be a first time. As the years pass on, these 'streaks' become more and more nested and complicated, and then brought by Randall to the point of absurdity by pointing out very trivial things, such as "No Democratic incumbent without combat experience has ever beaten someone whose first name is worth more in Scrabble" (1996).

The flaw made by pundits while reporting such streaks is that there will always be something that has never happened before in an election, and they purport to suggest that these things are related to the candidate's win or loss. Randall considers this a logical flaw. A common one is, as noted in several panels, candidates can't win without winning certain states. The question, however, is one of cause or effect.

Given that there have only been 56 elections, there are always going to be things that haven't happened before. If you go out looking for them, you're sure to find some. There is no magic about why these events haven't happened. In most cases, it is merely coincidence.

In the last two panels two more statements like the previous are given. They were both true before the election in 2012 on November the 6th. The comic came out in the middle of the campaign on October the 17th. The statements were constructed so that the first predicts that Obama can't win over Mitt Romney, and the second that he cannot lose. As Obama won the election he thus ended the streak Democratic incumbents never beat taller challengers whereas the other streak is still valid.

The title text refers to the fact that Twitter was founded in 2006. Obama won in 2008, so at the time of the comic it was true that no white male person mentioned on Twitter had ever gone on to win the presidency; although certainly some former presidents, all of whom were white males, have subsequently been mentioned on Twitter. This streak was broken in the next election year, when Donald Trump won the 2016 election.

During these last four weeks before the election Randall posted no fewer than four comics related to this election. The others are: 1127: Congress, 1130: Poll Watching and 1131: Math.

In 2020, Randall posted an update to this comic: 2383: Electoral Precedent 2020.


Table of Broken Precedents[edit]

Please have someone else validate your row, as to make sure the table is accurate

Year Broken Precedent Explanation Validity
1788 No one has been elected president before. ...But Washington was. Discounting the Articles of Confederation and its president, Washington is the first president of the US. True
1792 No incumbent has ever been reelected. ...Until Washington. Washington is the first person who had a second term. He was unopposed so there was no challenger. True
1796 No one without false teeth has become president. ...But Adams did. Washington had false teeth, made of human teeth and other materials. His successor Adams, despite having tooth decay, refused to wear false teeth. True
1800 No challenger has beaten an incumbent. ...But Jefferson did. Adams is the first president not to have a second term, due to signing the unpopular Alien and Sedition acts. He was defeated by the challenger, Jefferson. True
1804 No incumbent has beaten an challenger. ...Until Jefferson. The 2 previous incumbents were Washington, who was unopposed, and Adams, who lost as an incumbent (to Jefferson). True
1808 No congressman has ever become president. ...Until Madison. While George Washington served in the House of Burgesses, Madison served as congressman for Virginia's 5th district from 1789 to 1793 and the 15th District from 1793 to 1797 in the U. S. Congress. True
1812 No one can win without New York. ...But Madison did. While it is true New York voted against Madison but he still won, New York did not vote for Washington due to an internal dispute. False
1816 No candidate who doesn't wear a wig can get elected. ...Until Monroe was. Despite popular misconception, Washington did not wear a wig, but in fact powdered his hair white. False
1820 No one who wears pants instead of breeches can be reelected. ...But Monroe was. The first 5 presidents, including Monroe, all wore breeches.
1824 No one has ever won without a popular majority. ...J.Q. Adams did. Jackson won the plurality of the popular vote and Electoral College. But as it was a four way election, he did not achieve a majority - so the vote went to Congress, who elected John Quincy Adams. True
1828 Only people from Massachusetts and Virginia can win. ...Until Jackson did. Jackson was from South Carolina, while all previous presidents were from Massachusetts or Virginia. True
1832 The only presidents who get reelected are Virginians. ...Until Jackson. Washington, Jefferson, Madison and Monroe were the only re-elected presidents at that time, and they were all Virginians. True
1836 New Yorkers always lose. ...Until Van Buren. Martin Van Buren is the first president from the state of New York. True
1840 No one over 65 has won the presidency. ...Until Harrison did. He was 68 and the first over 65, and died of pneumonia 31 days after giving the longest inauguration to date. True
1844 No one who's lost his home state has won. ...But Polk did. Assuming "home state" refers to the state of residence, Polk is the first, losing Tennessee to Clay but took 15 of the 26 states including New York. However, if you count it as state of birth, Jackson and Harrison already did. True
1848 As goes Mississippi, so goes the nation. ...Until 1848. Prior to 1848, every candidate who had won the state of Mississippi had won the election, with the only exception being the 1824 election, where John Quincy Adams was elected by Congress, due to no one winning the Electoral College. In 1848, Lewis Cass won the state of Mississippi, but lost the election to Zachary Taylor. True
1852 New England Democrats can't win. ...Until Pierce did. Pierce is the first candidate from the Democratic Party from New England, specifically New Hampshire, and he won the election of 1852. True
1856 No one can become president without getting married. ...Until Buchanan did. While other presidents were widowers, Buchanan was the first unmarried president, being a life long bachelor. True
1860 No one over 6'3" can get elected. ...Until Lincoln. Lincoln was the first president over 6'3" president, at 6'4" tall, making him the tallest president to date. True
1864 No one with a beard has been reelected. ...But Lincoln was.
1868 No one can be president if their parents are alive. ...Until Grant.
1872 No one with a beard has been reelected in peacetime. ...Until Grant was.
1876 No one can win a majority of the popular vote and still lose. ...Tilden did. Samuel Tilden won a majority of the popular vote, with 51%, but lost in the electoral college in a contested election, resolved by the Compromise of 1877. (During the election of 1824, Jackson won the popular vote but did not win more than half of it, a majority) True
1880 As goes California, so goes the nation. ...Until it went Hancock. Since being a state in 1850, the winner of California had won the election - until 1880 when Winfield Hancock won California, but lost the election to James Garfield.
1884 Candidates named "James" can't lose. ...Until James Blaine. James Blaine was the first major candidate with the first name "James" to lose an election, losing to Grover Cleveland.
1888 No sitting president has been beaten since the Civil War. ...Cleveland was. Grover Cleveland was the first president since the end of the Civil War to be defeated by a challenger, losing to Benjamin Harrison. Andrew Johnson was not chosen as the Democratic candidate in 1868. Ulysses S. Grant served 2 terms and did not run for a 3rd term. Rutherford B. Hayes and Chester A. Arthur (who became president after the assassination of James Garfield) did not seek reelection after their first term.
1892 No former president has been elected. ...Until Cleveland. Cleveland was the first (and thus far only) president to serve 2 non-consecutive terms, winning the presidential election in 1884, losing in 1888, and winning in 1892.
1896 Tall Midwesterners are unbeatable. ...Bryan wasn't. William Jennings Bryan lost the 1896 election to William McKinley. Bryan's measurements have been lost to history, but contemporary historians described him as "a tall, slender, handsome fellow".
1900 No Republican shorter than 5'8" has been reelected. ...Until McKinley was. At the time, McKinley was only the 3rd Republican who was reelected (behind Lincoln, and Grant). And he was the shortest of them all, at 5'7" tall.
1904 No one under 45 has been elected. ...Roosevelt was. At the start of his presidency, Theodore Roosevelt was the youngest president, taking office at the age of 42.
1908 No Republican who hasn't served in the military has won. ...Until Taft. Taft was the first Republican to win an election and not serve in the military - Lincoln served during the Black Hawk War; Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Benjamin Harrison and McKinley served in the Civil War; and Theodore Roosevelt served in the Spanish-American War.
1912 After Lincoln beat the Democrats while sporting a beard with no mustache, the only Democrats who can win have a mustache with no beard. ...Wilson had neither.
1916 No Democrat has won while losing West Virginia. ...Wilson did. Since its statehood in 1863, Wilson is the first Democrat to lose West Virginia, but win the national election.
1920 No incumbent senator has won. ...Until Harding. Harding was the first sitting Senator to become President - he resigned his position as Senator to become President.
1924 No one with two Cs in their name has become president. ...Until Calvin Coolidge. Calvin Coolidge was the first with "two C's in his name". Presidents with "one C" in their names prior to Coolidge were John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, Zachary Taylor, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Abraham Lincoln, Chester A. Arthur, Grover Cleveland and William Mckinley.
1928 No one who got ten million votes has lost. ...Until Al Smith. Smith was the first candidate to get more than 10 million votes and lose. He received over 15 million votes, but lost to Herbert Hoover, who received 21.4 million votes, and won the electoral college, 444-87.
1932 No Democrat has won since women secured the right to vote. ...Until FDR did. FDR was the first Democrat to win since 1919, when women secured the right to vote.
1936 No President's been reelected with double-digit unemployment. ...Until FDR was. FDR was reelected during the Great Depression, when unemployment peaked at 22-25%.
1940 No one has won a third term. ...Until FDR did. FDR is the first and only president to be elected for 4 terms due to his popularity/policies. This is now made impossible by the 22nd amendment, which limits a president to 2 elected terms.
1944 No Democrat has won during wartime. ...Until FDR did.
1948 Democrats can't win without Alabama. ...Truman did.
1952 No Republican has won without winning the House or Senate. ...Eisenhower did.
1956 No one can beat the same nominee a second time in a leap year rematch. ...Until Eisenhower.
1960 Catholics can't win. ...Kennedy beat Nixon.
1964 Every Republican who's taken Louisiana has won. ...Until Goldwater.
1968 No Republican vice president has risen to the Presidency through an election. ...Until Nixon.
1972 Quakers can't win twice. ...Until Nixon did.
1976 No one who lost New Mexico has won. ...But Carter did.
1980 No one has been elected President after a divorce. ...Until Reagan was.
1984 No left-handed president has been reelected. ...Until Reagan was.
1988 No one with two middle names has become president. ...Until "Herbert Walker". George H. W. Bush is the first and to date only president with 2 middle names.
1992 No Democrat has won without a majority of the Catholic vote. ...Until Clinton did.
1996 No Dem. incumbent without combat experience has beaten someone whose first name is worth more in Scrabble. ...Until Bill beat Bob.
2000 No Republican has won without Vermont. ...Until Bush did.
2004 No Republican without combat experience has beaten someone two inches taller. ...Until Bush did.
2008 No Democrat can win without Missouri. ...Until Obama did.
2012? Democratic incumbents never beat taller challengers. Barack Obama is 6' 1" (185 cm), and Mitt Romney is 6' 2" (188 cm). When Obama won, it broke the streak.
2012? No nominee whose first name contains a "K" has lost. This apparently refers only to major party nominees, as many third party and other nominees with a first name containing "K" have lost, such as Frank T. Johns of the Socialist Labor Party of America. Major party nominees with a "K" have won, such as Democrats Franklin Pierce, Franklin Roosevelt, and Barack Obama. If Romney had won, it would have broken the streak with respect to major party nominees, although not the streak as stated, which had already been broken with respect to all nominees.

Transcript[edit]

Ambox notice.png This transcript is incomplete. Please help editing it! Thanks.
The problem with statements like
"No <party> candidate has won the election without <state>"
Or
"No president has been reelected under <circumstances>"
1788... No one has been elected president before. ...But Washington was.
1792... No incumbent has ever been reelected. ...Until Washington.
1796... No one without false teeth has become president. ...But Adams did.
1800... No challenger has beaten an incumbent. ...But Jefferson did.
1804... No incumbent has beaten a challenger. ...Until Jefferson.
1808... No congressman has ever become president. ...Until Madison.
1812... No one can win without New York. ...But Madison did.
1816... No candidate who doesn't wear a wig can get elected. ...Until Monroe was.
1820... No one who wears pants instead of breeches can be reelected. ...But Monroe was.
1824... No one has ever won without a popular majority. ...J.Q. Adams did.
1828... Only people from Massachusetts and Virginia can win. ...Until Jackson did.
1832... The only presidents who get reelected are Virginians. ...Until Jackson.
1836... New Yorkers always lose. ...Until Van Buren.
1840... No one over 65 has won the presidency. ...Until Harrison did.
1844... No one who's lost his home state has won. ...But Polk did.
1848... As goes Mississippi, so goes the nation. ...Until 1848.
1852... New England Democrats can't win. ...Until Pierce did.
1856... No one can become president without getting married. ...Until Buchanan did.
1860... No one over 6'3" can get elected. ...Until Lincoln.
1864... No one with a beard has been reelected. ...But Lincoln was.
1868... No one can be president if their parent are alive. ...Until Grant.
1872... No one with a beard has been reelected in peacetime. ...Until Grant was.
1876... No one can win a majority of the popular vote and still lose. ...Tilden did.
1880... As goes California, so goes the nation. ...Until it went Hancock.
1884... Candidates named "James" can't lose. ...Until James Blaine.
1888... No sitting president has been beaten since the Civil War. ...Cleveland was.
1892... No former president has been elected. ...Until Cleveland.
1896... Tall midwesterners are unbeatable. ...Bryan wasn't.
1900... No Republican shorter than 5'8" has been reelected. ...Until McKinley was.
1904... No one under 45 has become president. ...Roosevelt did.
1908... No Republican who hasn't served in the military has won. ...Until Taft.
1912... After Lincoln beat the Democrats while sporting a beard with no mustache, the only Democrats who can win have a mustache with no beard. ...Wilson had neither.
1916... No Democrat has won while losing West Virginia. ...Wilson did.
1920... No incumbent senator has won. ...Until Harding.
1924... No one with two Cs in their name has become president. ...Until Calvin Coolidge.
1928... No one who got ten million votes has lost. ...Until Al Smith.
1932... No Democrat has won since women secured the right to vote. ...Until FDR did.
1936... No President's been reelected with double-digit unemployment. ...Until FDR was.
1940... No one has won a third term. ...Until FDR did.
1944... No Democrat has won during wartime. ...Until FDR did.
1948... Democrats can't win without Alabama. ...Truman did.
1952... No Republican has won without winning the House or Senate. ...Eisenhower did.
1956... No one can beat the same nominee a second time in a leap year rematch. ...Until Eisenhower.
1960... Catholics can't win. ...Until Kennedy.
1964... Every Republican who's taken Louisiana has won. ...Until Goldwater.
1968... No Republican vice president has risen to the Presidency through an election. ...Until Nixon.
1972... Quakers can't win twice. ...Until Nixon did.
1976... No one who lost New Mexico has won. ...But Carter did.
1980... No one has been elected President after a divorce. ...Until Reagan was.
1984... No left-handed president has been reelected. ...Until Reagan was.
1988... No one with two middle names has become president. ...Until "Herbert Walker".
1992... No Democrat has won without a majority of the Catholic vote. ...Until Clinton did.
1996... No Dem. incumbent without combat experience has beaten someone whose first name is worth more in Scrabble. ...Until Bill beat Bob.
2000... No Republican has won without Vermont. ...Until Bush did.
2004... No Republican without combat experience has beaten someone two inches taller. ...Until Bush did.
2008... No Democrat can win without Missouri. ...Until Obama did.
2012... Democratic incumbents never beat taller challengers. No nominee whose first name contains a "K" has lost. Which streak will break?

Trivia/Errors[edit]

  • There was an error in the original 1800 panel of the comic, as Jefferson (not Adams) was the first challenger to beat an incumbent, when Jefferson beat then-president Adams in 1800. This was later corrected.
  • Also, one of the statements of a streak for the 2012 elections can be considered wrong: in 1952, the Republican candidate/running mate Eisenhower/Nixon defeated the Democratic alliterative ticket Stevenson/Sparkman (in what can only be described as a landslide). The comic has been changed, and now reads "Democratic incumbents never beat taller challengers" as the streak which would have the Republican ticket as the winners.


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Discussion

This illustrates how the future is unlike the past in countless ways. 108.162.216.59 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)


I don't understand what he means by Alternative Tickets in the last frame.

It does not say 'Alternative', it says Alliterative, meaning that both names starts with the same sound/letter. Romney/Ryan --Pmakholm (talk) 16:04, 18 October 2012 (UTC)

My research tells me that Jefferson won 1800. Error on Randall's part? Davidy22 (talk) 08:52, 17 October 2012 (UTC)

I'm a bit confused by 1792 vs. 1804: The latter is "No incumbent has beaten a challenger", but didn't Washington face any challenger when he was re-elected in 1792? Jolindbe (talk) 14:19, 17 October 2012 (UTC)

He ran unopposed --Buggz (talk) 14:33, 17 October 2012 (UTC)
As far as I understand it, he had four opponents, but got all the votes. Then, the electoral college voted on whom to be the vice president among the remaining candidates. But it seems unlikely to get 100% of the popular votes, do I misinterpret the wiki page? Jolindbe (talk) 17:45, 17 October 2012 (UTC)
Well, back then, the electoral college didn't take their votes from the people. They just decided, so they decided to give Washington the presidency. 140.247.0.79 18:55, 17 October 2012 (UTC)

"1904: No one under 45 has become president. ... Roosevelt did."

Sort of. Theodore Roosevelt (Oct 1858–1919) was under 45 when he became president, in 1901. But by the time of the 1904 election he was 46.
75.36.234.236 18:48, 17 October 2012 (UTC)

Correct. Theodore Roosevelt was the youngest President to date, but Kennedy was the youngest yet elected. 67.51.59.66 20:09, 17 October 2012 (UTC)

The image needs to be updated. I'm not sure how to do that myself. 76.122.5.96 23:56, 17 October 2012 (UTC)

Uploaded corrected image, changed tense on comments. Reload/refresh to check the 1800 frame should now show Jefferson... --B. P. (talk) 01:36, 18 October 2012 (UTC)

And how can people be from Virginia AND Massachusett? I think he meant OR.77.245.46.86 11:39, 18 October 2012 (UTC)

I take it the entire comic will not go up under "Transcripts"? Bobidou23 (talk) 22:03, 18 October 2012 (UTC)

It will, but no one's been bothered the transcribe it all yet.Davidy22 (talk) 23:01, 18 October 2012 (UTC)

Although Buchanan/Breckinridge won in 1856, Stevenson/Sparkman were defeated by Eisenhower/Nixon in 1952.

He's wrong about the other 'precedent' for 2012 as well. Other first name with a K losers:

  • 1924, Frank T. Johns (Socialist Labor)
  • 1932, Frank S. Regan (Prohibition)
  • 1936, Frank Knox (Republican)
  • 1948, Tucker P. Smith (Socialist)
  • 1980, Patrick J. Lucey (Independent)
  • 1996, Patrick Choate (Reform)
  • 2004, Chuck Baldwin (Constitution)
  • 2008, Chuck Baldwin (Constitution)

--76.20.209.221 10:43, 20 October 2012 (UTC)


Good point about small party candidates, but Tucker P. Smith was the Socialist vice presidential candidate in 1948; the presidential candidate was Norman Thomas. --174.59.119.154 13:51, 24 October 2012 (UTC)


You're technically wrong about Chuck Baldwin. He was born as Charles Baldwin. He only ran for vice president in '04 and president in '08. I'm too lazy to find the rest.Randomperson4000 (talk) 19:31, 26 August 2014 (UTC)


Errors

Should the errors be included in the article explanation, or should they just be discussed here in the chat box? I'm of the opinion that anything that doesn't go towards explaining the comic should go here in the discussion. I would lean towards keeping error nitpicking confined to the discussion page. Davidy22 (talk) 13:19, 18 October 2012 (UTC)

I think errors should be put down in a trivia/errors section. Or, if a flame war is starting, move it onto the talk page. lcarsos (talk) 23:44, 22 October 2012 (UTC)

I put back my original comment on the 2012 streaks; some anonymous person had previously written 'whether he thinks "st" and "sp" sounds are different enough to count as alliteration', but first of all, an alliteration requires the (first) sound(s)/letter(s) of two words to be the same (not different), and second, if Randall would consider Stevenson/Sparkman not to be alliterative (as their second letters differ), he would undoubtedly think the same about Romney/Ryan.--Jay (talk) 14:11, 29 October 2012 (UTC)

Yeah, I noticed that edit, but thought there was a "not" in there, which would have made it make sense. Ah well. lcarsos (talk) 16:50, 29 October 2012 (UTC)
Not quite true, Jay - St/Sp is two different consonant blends, which are much more intertwined than a consonant and its following vowel, as in Ro/Ry. The question is do they sound alike, not the literal letters used. - jerodast (talk) 17:06, 3 December 2012 (UTC)

Re: 1996 - surely 'William' (12 pts not including 50 pts for using all seven letters) beats 'Robert' - (8 pts)? -- 163.1.166.255 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)



2012: Democratic incumbents never beat taller challengers.

Isn't Obama 6'1" and Romney is 6'2"? Certainly Obama won there. 24.6.170.96 01:47, 17 October 2013 (UTC)

The comic was written before the presidential election. 173.245.52.223 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
Transcript

Just finished the transcript. I didn't check for typos, since there was a lot of typing. It would be great if someone else would look over it. -- 207.242.93.10 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Looks great! I've removed a lot of the whitespace which (I think) makes it easier to read, and doesn't require quite as much scrolling. I haven't gone through and spell checked everything either, but if someone finds anything they can fix it. lcarsos (talk) 23:44, 22 October 2012 (UTC)

2012: No Republican has lost a November 6 presidential election... 2012: No one ever wins re-election after the previous two presidents - from different parties - won re-election... 2012: No Democrat was re-elected with very high unemployment and a Republican-controlled House...

...until Obama. 50.74.2.12 02:06, 5 June 2013 (UTC)


Is it me or does the 1972 panel now say „Quakers can’t win twice“? What happened to „No wartime candidate has won without Massachusetts“? 1956–1964 seem to be wrong, too. Or am I missing something? Quoti (talk) 23:15, 28 February 2014 (UTC)


2016: No white guy who's been mentioned on twitter has gone on to win... Until Trump did. Redninjakoopa (talk) 04:53, 10 November 2016 (UTC)


Funny how the alt text is now also false, considering Trump is now president-elect. ill change the comment on Jan. 20th 108.162.237.39 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

It's really funny because Trump is basically the king of Twitter politics/mud-slinging, I'm presuming that Randall didn't go back and change that alt-tag, because it was a safe bet that anyone coming after Obama would be another white guy, and anyone elected would be mentioned on twitter, but because Trump is so prolific on Twitter it makes the alt-text seem almost prophetic. 172.68.58.251 14:14, 4 April 2019 (UTC) Sam

1848 Democrats do not lose when they carry Pennsylvania. But https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1848_United_States_presidential_election Shows Taylor the Whig carrying Pennsylvania and winning. I am confused.