1122: Electoral Precedent

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Revision as of 23:26, 22 October 2012 by (talk) (Transcript)
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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.


During election season (particularly 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 title of this comic. Randall is demonstrating the problem with making such statements, many of which simply come down to coincidence.

Each panel of this comic refers to one of the 56 presidential elections in U.S. history. 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). 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.

The title-text refers to the fact that Twitter was founded in 2006. Obama won in 2008, so it is true that no white person mentioned on Twitter has ever gone on to win the presidency (although certainly some former presidents, all of whom were white, have subsequently been mentioned on twitter).

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 current (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). Whether this is an error on Randall's part, or whether he thinks "st" and "sp" sounds aer different enough to count as alliteration, is unknown.


The problem with statements like
"No <party> candidate has won the election without <state>"
"No president has been reelected under <circumstances>"

No one has been elected president before.
...But Washington was.

No incumbent has ever been reelected.
...Until Washington.

No one without false teeth has become president.
...But Adams did.

No challenger has beaten an incumbent.
...But Jefferson did.

No incumbent has beaten a challenger.
...Until Jefferson.

No congressman has ever become president.
...Until Madison.

No one can win without New York.
...But Madison did.

No candidate who doesn't wear a wig can get elected.
...Until Monroe was.

No one who wears pants instead of breeches can be reelected.
...But Monroe was.

No one has ever won without a popular majority.
...J.Q. Adams did.

Only people from Massachusetts and Virginia can win.
...Until Jackson did.

The only presidents who get reelected are Virginians.
...Until Jackson.

New Yorkers always lose.
...Until Van Buren.

No one over 65 has won the presidency.
...Until Harrison did.

No one who's lost his home state has won.
...But Polk did.

The Democrats don't don't lose when they win Pennsylvania.
...But they did in 1848.

New England Democrats can't win.
...Until Pierce did.

No one can become president without getting married.
...Until Buchanan did.

No one over 6'3" can get elected.
...Until Lincoln.

No one with a beard has been reelected.
...But Lincoln was.

No one can be president if their parent are alive.
...Until Grant.

No one with a beard has been reelected in peacetime.
...Until Grant was.

No one can win a majority of the popular vote and still lose.
...Tilden did.

As goes California, so goes the nation.
...Until it went Hancock.

Candidates named "James" can't lose.
...Until James Blaine.

No sitting president has been beaten since the Civil War.
...Cleveland was.

No former president has been elected.
...Until Cleveland.

Tall midwesterners are unbeatable.
...Bryan wasn't.

No Republican shorter than 5'8" has been reelected.
...Until McKinley was.

No one under 45 has become president.
...Roosevelt did.

No Republican who hasn't served in the military has won.
...Until Taft.

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.

No Democrat has won without Indiana.
...Winson did.

No incumbent senator has won.
...Until Harding.

No one with two Cs in their name has become president.
...Until Calvin Coolidge.

No one who got ten million votes has lost.
...Until Al Smith.

No Democrat has won since women secured the right to vote.
...Until FDR did.

No President's been reelected with double-digit unemployment.
...Until FDR was.

No one has won a third term.
...Until FDR did.

No Democrat has won during wartime.
...Until FDR did.

Democrats can't win without Alabama.
...Truman did.

No Republican has won without winning the House or Senate.
...Eisenhower did.

No Republican has won without Missouri.
...Until Eisenhower.

Republicans without facial hair are unbeatable.
...Kennedy beat Nixon.

No Democrat has won without Georgia.
...Johnson did.

No Republican vice president has risen to the Presidency through an election.
...Until Nixon.

No wartime candidate has won without Massachusetts.
...Until Nixon did.

No one who lost New Mexico has won.
...But Carter did.

No one has been elected President after a divorce.
...Until Reagan was.

No left-handed president has been reelected.
...Until Reagan was.

No Democrat who has won Wisconsin (without being from there) has lost.
...Until Dukakis did.

No Democrat has won without a marjority of the Catholic vote.
...Until Clinton did.

No Dem. incumbent without combat experience has beaten someone whose first name is worth more in Scrabble.
...Until Bill beat Bob.

No Republican has won without Vermont.
...Until Bush did.

No Republican without combat experience has beaten somone two inches taller.
...Until Bush did.

No Democrat can win without Missouri.
...Until Obama did.

Alliterative tickets (e.g. Romney/Ryan) are undefeated.
No nominee whose first name contains a "K" has lost.
Which streak will break?

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This illustrates how the future is unlike the past in countless ways. (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. 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. 18:48, 17 October 2012 (UTC)

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

The image needs to be updated. I'm not sure how to do that myself. 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. 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)

-- 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. -- 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)


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)? -- (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. 01:47, 17 October 2013 (UTC)

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

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. -- (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. 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 (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. 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.

Trump isn't white, he's orange. The first white guy to be mentioned on Twitter and then get elected president is Joe Biden.

Ahh, I love this comment. Beanie (talk) 13:29, 19 May 2021 (UTC)
Quite :) -- The Cat Lady (talk) 20:11, 10 September 2021 (UTC)