Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Poll: What Was the Most Consequential Presidential Election?

The poll has closed for the question, "What was most consequential presidential election?" Thanks to all who participated by voting. Also, thanks to Jennie Weber for suggesting the question.

1860 - Lincoln was the winner with 35%. It is hard to argue with this. As the wording at the Lincoln Memorial notes:

IN THIS TEMPLE
AS IN THE HEARTS OF THE PEOPLE
FOR WHOM HE SAVED THE UNION
THE MEMORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN
IS ENSHRINED FOREVER

Would there be a Union as we know it if Lincoln had not won in 1860?

1932 - FDR came in a close second with 31%.

The Election of 1800 came in third with 14%. I am a bit surprised this did not rank higher. As The Election of 1800: Teaching about a Critical Moment in the History of American Constitutional Democracy notes, "But this democratic tradition had to be earned. In 1800 American democracy faced one of its most serious challenges when Republican Thomas Jefferson defeated Federalist President John Adams. World history reveals that in all too many cases, political leaders defeated at the ballot have not honored the voice of the people. But America followed a different course. The Federalists handed over the reins of power to their hated rivals, setting a precedent that has guided American politics ever since." It is still true. If Obama beats McCain, the Republicans will hand power over peacefully to the Democrats. This is pretty amazing considering most of history.

1980 - Reagan came in fourth with 11%. Finishing last in the poll was 1789 - Washington with 7%. President Washington may have been first but I guess the poll participants figure American democracy was preordained!

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