1122: Electoral Precedent
Title text: No white guy who's been mentioned on Twitter has gone on to win.
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 a 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.
In 2020, Randall posted an update to this comic: 2383: Electoral Precedent 2020.
Table of Broken Precedents
Please have someone else validate your row, as to make sure the table is accurate
|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 a 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.||False|
|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.||Lincoln was the first U.S. president to have a beard.||True|
|1868||No one can be president if their parents are alive. ...Until Grant.||The veracity depends on if BOTH parents have to be alive, or if any parents are alive. If either parent can be alive, then Washington's mother, Mary Ball Washington, died four months after he became president. If both have to be alive, Grant was indeed the first president to have both parents alive when assuming office.||Maybe|
|1872||No one with a beard has been reelected in peacetime. ...Until Grant was.||Grant was the second U.S. president (behind Lincoln) to be reelected with a beard, but only Grant was reelected during peacetime.||True|
|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.||True|
|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.||True|
|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.||True|
|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.||True|
|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".||True|
|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.||True|
|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 when McKinley died in 1901. However, he was not elected President until 1904, by which time he was no longer under 45. The precedent was broken in 1960 when Kennedy was elected at age 43.||False|
|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.||True|
|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.||From Lincoln's presidency to Wilson's, only one Democrat won- Grover Cleveland, who had a mustache but no beard.||True|
|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.||True|
|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.||True|
|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.||True|
|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.||True|
|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.||True|
|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%.||True|
|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.||True|
|1944||No Democrat has won during wartime. ...Until FDR did.||The United States has engaged in many minor wars near-constantly since its formation, although it being "wartime" in the country for many of these is debatable. Martin Van Buren won during the Second Seminole War, Franklin Pierce won during the Cayuse war and Apache war, James Buchanan won during Bleeding Kansas, the Third Seminole War, the Yakima War, and the Second Opium War, Grover Cleveland won during the Garza Revolution, and Woodrow Wilson won during the Border War, the Occupation of Nicaragua, the Occupation of Haiti, and the Occupation of the Dominican Republic.||False|
|1948||Democrats can't win without Alabama. ...Truman did.||Although technically true, the Democrat party did not appear on the ballot in Alabama in 1948, making it impossible for them to have won under any circumstances. It's also worth noting that Alabama had consistently voted Democrat in every election since Alabama's formation as a state except for 1864, when it was in the confederate states, and in 1868 and 1872, where Ulysses S. Grant would win both times. A democrat would not lose a popular vote in Alabama while appearing on the ballot until 1968, and would not win an election while losing the vote in Alabama until 1992.||True|
|1952||No Republican has won without winning the House or Senate. ...Eisenhower did.||This is false as Republicans won control of both the House and Senate in 1952. This precedent would be broken in 1956 after Democrats flipped both chambers in 1954.||False|
|1956||No one can beat the same nominee a second time in a leap year rematch. ...Until Eisenhower.||The phrase "leap year" excludes the elections of 1800 and 1900, which were not leap years in the U.S. or most other countries (although they were leap years in Russia, which was still using the Julian calendar).||True|
|1960||Catholics can't win. ...Kennedy beat Nixon.||The only other Catholic to be nominated until 1960 was Democrat Alfred E. Smith in 1928.||True|
|1964||Every Republican who's taken Louisiana has won. ...Until Goldwater.||Prior to 1964, only two Republicans had won Louisiana: Rutherford Hayes in 1876 and Dwight Eisenhower in 1956. Both won, however in 1876 the election in Louisiana was contested until the Compromise of 1877 resolved it in favor of Hayes.|
|1968||No Republican vice president has risen to the Presidency through an election. ...Until Nixon.||Theodore Roosevelt, the winner of the 1904 election, was a Republican former Vice President, but he had already risen to the Presidency in 1901 when McKinley died in office.||True|
|1972||Quakers can't win twice. ...Until Nixon did.||The only Quaker president before Nixon was Herbert Hoover. Hoover only served one term.||True|
|1976||No one who lost New Mexico has won. ...But Carter did.||From its statehood in 1912 to 1972, New Mexico had been a reliable bellwether state.|
|1980||No one has been elected President after a divorce. ...Until Reagan was.||Reagan was the first divorced President.||True|
|1984||No left-handed president has been reelected. ...Until Reagan was.||Reagan is one of 8 left-handed presidents (as of 2020). None of the 4 left-handed presidents prior to Reagan was reelected (James Garfield was assassinated in his first year in office and Herbert Hoover, Harry Truman, and Gerald Ford only served one full term each).||True|
|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.||True|
|1992||No Democrat has won without a majority of the Catholic vote. ...Until Clinton did.||The exact breakdown of the Catholic vote in each individual election is unknown until the advent of demographic-based exit polling, however Catholics have historically been strongly Democratic until 1968. In 1976, Carter won an estimated 54-57% of the Catholic vote, while in 1992 Bill Clinton only won 44% due to the independent campaign of Ross Perot.|
|1996||No Dem. incumbent without combat experience has beaten someone whose first name is worth more in Scrabble. ...Until Bill beat Bob.||This refers to Bill Clinton and Bob Dole. However, their legal names are William Jefferson Clinton and Robert Joseph Dole. Their first names are William and Robert, not Bill and Bob.|
|2000||No Republican has won without Vermont. ...Until Bush did.||Vermont had voted for Republicans in every presidential election from 1856 (the first contested by the Republicans) to 1988, with the exception of 1964. George W. Bush was indeed the first Republican to win the presidency while losing Vermont.|
|2004||No Republican without combat experience has beaten someone two inches taller. ...Until Bush did.||John Kerry served for 4 months in the Vietnam war, while George Bush has no combat experience; and yes John kerry is 11cm taller than George Bush (which is actually about 4 inches, not 2).|
|2008||No Democrat can win without Missouri. ...Until Obama did.||Missouri had been a Democratic stronghold for the later half of the 19th century and was a key bellwether state from 1904 to 2004. Obama is the first Democrat to win without Missouri, and 2008 was considered the year when Missouri ceased being a bellwether.|
|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.||...Until Obama did.|
|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.||True|
|Title text||No white guy who's been mentioned on Twitter has gone on to win.||Twitter was founded in 2006; Barack Obama was the first president elected since its founding, and although he had been mentioned on Twitter prior to his election, he is not a white male and so did not break the streak. The streak was broken in 2016 when Donald Trump was elected.||...Until Trump did.|
- The problem with statements like
- "No <party> candidate has won the election without <state>"
- "No president has been reelected under <circumstances>"
- [Each statement below has its own panel. The year is in a caption, the precedent is stated by a standing Cueball in the main panel, and the president who broke it is below the panel.]
- 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 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.
- 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 been elected. ...Roosevelt did.
- 1908... No Republican who hasn't served in the military has won. ...Until Taft.
- [The precedent takes up the entire panel this year. Consequently, there is no Cueball.] 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.
- [The panel is zoomed in on Cueball's head in this frame.] 1968... No Republican vice president has risen to the Presidency through an election. ...Until Nixon.
- [The panel is zoomed in on Cueball's head in this frame.] 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.
- [The panel is zoomed in on Cueball's head in this frame.] 1988... No one with two middle names has become president. ...Until "Herbert Walker".
- [The panel is zoomed in on Cueball's head in this frame.] 1992... No Democrat has won without a majority of the Catholic vote. ...Until Clinton did.
- [The precedent takes up the entire panel this year. Consequently, there is no Cueball.] 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.
- [The panel is zoomed in on Cueball's head in this frame.] 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.
- [This year has two panels.] 2012... [Panel one] Democratic incumbents never beat taller challengers. [Panel two] No nominee whose first name contains a "K" has lost. [Text under panels] Which streak will break?
- 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.
- The first president with a wig was technically Washington, who did not wear a wig, but in fact powdered his hair white.
- Although Theodore Roosevelt became the first president under age 45 and was later elected president, he was not elected before the age of 45.
- 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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