Presidential Numbers

A couple of numbers you haven’t heard much of, regarding this year’s presidential election.

The 2020 election of Joe Biden to the presidency is the 59th election in US history (is, not was, because it’s ongoing; the electoral college has yet to cast its ballots, which will be counted by Congress on January 6, 2021, to determine the winners of the election).

On Inauguration Day, January 20, 2021, Biden take office as the 46th president in US history (since the State Department has told us that Grover Cleveland’s two non-consecutive terms mean we should count him as both the 22nd and 24th presidents).

Biden’s first term will be the 68th presidential administration (since each president’s term counts as a separate administration). January 3, 2021, will mark the end of the 116th Congress and beginning of the 117th Congress.

At the moment, Biden is the 37th president-elect in US history. The term “president-elect” doesn’t appear in the Constitution, and is relatively new (historically speaking). The Presidential Transition Act of 1963 (Public Law 88-277) says “The terms ‘President-elect’ and ‘Vice-President-elect’ as used in this Act shall mean such persons as are the apparent successful candidates for the office of the President and Vice President, respectively, as ascertained by the Administrator following the general elections held to determine the electors of the President and Vice-President in accordance with title 3, United States code, sections 1 and 2.”

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Most Popular Votes Ever… Until Next Time

Another one of those factoids floating around, in the absence of final, definitive data relating to this year’s presidential election is the number of actual votes the ticket of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris is receiving. Yesterday, Biden said “we’re on track to receive more than 71 million votes. That’s more popular votes than any other presidential ticket in history.” And he’s absolutely right. However…

As I start writing this, Biden and Harris are up to approximately 72.5 million votes. Donald Trump and Mike Pence have approximately 68.9 million.

While it is entirely true that Biden/Harris will get more votes than any other presidential ticket, it is also incredibly trite. It’s actually much more interesting (and less common) for a president to be elected with fewer popular votes than a previous president. That’s only happened 21 times in the 58 presidential elections we’ve had (in 1792, 1796, 1800, 1816, 1820, 1824, 1912, 1924, 1940, 1944, 1948, 1960, 1968, 1976, 1980, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2012, and 2016). The reasons those vote totals were lower vary, from the fact that no one was running against James Monroe in 1820, to the four-way free-for-all in 1824, from increasing discomfort with Franklin Roosevelt’s continual presidency in 1940 and 1944, to incredibly close elections in 1960 and 2000, to strong third-party candidate showings in 1912, 1968, 1980, 1992, and 1996.

Popular vote increases over time, as does the population of the US (from 2.8 million in 1780, to 5.3 million in 1800, 23 million in 1850, 77 million in 1900, 151 million in 1950, 281 million in 2000, to 328 million today, for example), the number of citizens (those eligible to vote), and the number of registered voters. And then, of course, in addition to the steady growth of those numbers, there were also the quantum leaps: the extension of popular vote throughout the states in the early years of the republic, the 15th guaranteeing the former slaves the right to vote (in 1870), the 19th Amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote (in 1920), the 26th Amendment lowering the voting age to 18 (in 1971), and so on.

Popular vote milestones (the first candidate to reach):
100,000: Thomas Jefferson in 1804 (104,110)
500,000: Andrew Jackson in 1828 (642,553)
1,000,000: William Henry Harrison in 1840 (1,275,390)
2,000,000: Abraham Lincoln in 1864 (2,218,388)
5,000,000: Grover Cleveland losing in 1888 (5,534,488)
10,000,000: Warren Harding in 1920 (16,144,093)
20,000,000: Herbert Hoover in 1928 (21,427,123)
30,000,000: Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 (34,075,529)
40,000,000: Lyndon Johnson in 1964 (43,127,041)
50,000,000: Ronald Reagan in 1984 (54,455,472)
60,000,000: George W. Bush in 2004 (62,040,610)
70,000,000: Joe Biden in 2020

Presidents who received more popular votes than any other candidate in history:
George Washington in 1789: 43,782
Thomas Jefferson in 1804: 104,110
James Madison in 1808: 124,732
James Madison in 1812: 140,431
Andrew Jackson in 1828: 642,553
Andrew Jackson in 1832: 701,780
Martin Van Buren in 1836: 764,176
William Harrison in 1840: 1,275,390
James Polk in 1844: 1,339,494
Zachary Taylor in 1848: 1,361,393
Franklin Pierce in 1852: 1,607,510
James Buchanan in 1856: 1,836,072
Abraham Lincoln in 1860: 1,865,908
Abraham Lincoln in 1864: 2,218,388
Ulysses Grant in 1868: 3,013,421
Ulysses Grant in 1872: 3,598,235
James Garfield in 1880: 4,446,158
Grover Cleveland in 1884: 4,914,482
Grover Cleveland in 1892: 5,556,918
William McKinley in 1896: 7,112,138
William McKinley in 1900: 7,228,864
Theodore Roosevelt in 1904: 7,630,457
William Taft in 1908: 7,678,395
Woodrow Wilson in 1916: 9,126,868
Warren Harding in 1920: 16,144,093 (the first election in which women could vote legally)
Herbert Hoover in 1928: 21,427,123
Franklin Roosevelt in 1932: 22,821,277
Franklin Roosevelt in 1936: 27,747,636
Dwight Eisenhower in 1952: 34,075,529
Dwight Eisenhower in 1956: 35,579,180
Lyndon Johnson in 1964: 43,127,041
Richard Nixon in 1972: 47,168,710
Ronald Reagan in 1984: 54,455,472
George W. Bush in 2004: 62,040,610
Barack Obama in 2008: 69,498,516
And now, Joe Biden in 2020.

And those who didn’t win the election, but still received more popular votes than any other candidate in history:
Andrew Jackson in 1824: 151,271
Samuel Tilden in 1876: 4,288,546
Grover Cleveland in 1888: 5,534,488

And for those of you who are more graphically inclined, here’s a graph of popular vote totals over time. Each time the top line makes a new high marks an election in which a presidential candidate received more popular votes than any other candidate in history.popularvotetotals

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Election day continues, despite the candidates

If you missed it, President Trump just made a speech from a stage in the White House’s East Room, in which he declared victory in the presidential election, and announced that all vote counting should cease immediately. I’m outraged. I delivered my ballot a week ago, but as with most mail-in ballots, it probably hasn’t been counted yet, because the counters can only go so quickly, especially when they don’t even open the ballots before “election day.” So I called the White House to express my “concern” (well, I used slightly more forceful language). If you’re in a similar situation, I urge you to call, too. The phone number for the White House is 202-456-1414.

Voting Day

I delivered my absentee ballot today to a nearby early voting location. As I’ve said several times, my vote probably doesn’t matter, because of where I live. Yours may be far more important.

Something odd about this ballot, for me: this is the first time that I’ve voted a straight party ticket. I voted for the candidate representing the Democratic Party in every single race. And this ballot is my response to the actions (and inactions) of President Donald Trump, and to the leaders of the Republican Party who have rolled over and allowed the president’s nonsense and villainy to run rampant and unchecked through the government and the country. (Yes, villainy: he frequently seems to think he’s still playing the villain on a reality television show, rather than realizing that he is the President of the United States, and that his words and actions have very great impact on the planet.)

I regret that my votes are against candidates, rather than for candidates (and this is also notice to the Democratic Party not to take my action in this election as an indicator of my future votes), but I’ve decided that a continuing Trump Presidency is a danger to the continued health and well-being not only of the country, but of each one of us individually. Joe Biden is not my ideal choice for President, but he is a much better choice in this election, and my vote for him and the rest of the Democratic ticket is my attempt to emphasize how much I think Donald Trump is the wrong choice in this election.


2020 Vice Presidential Debate Review

For those who are asking: yes, I did watch the vice presidential debate last night.
I thought both candidates did what they needed to do: look competent, show that they agree with and follow the lead of their presidential candidate, and not do anything too egregiously stupid. They were both there to re-assure those who have already decided which way they’re voting that that decision was the correct one.
Both candidates, it seems, let pass several opportunities to attack the other. Again, I think that’s because they weren’t there to look terribly combative (well, more combative than they have been on the campaign trail). That wasn’t the goal of the debate.
I don’t think either candidate swayed any votes, but that doesn’t really matter, and wasn’t their goal. Glancing at several post-debate analyses, it seems one thing they all had in common was a difficult time finding enough undecided voters to put together a meaningful panel.
Actually, the most surprising part of the debate, to me, is the universal agreement that “my” candidate did great, totally won the debate, and wiped the floor with the other. I haven’t seen/heard anyone say anything positive about the other candidate, or anything negative about their own. So, like our reliance on social media for news for the past decade, we continue to live in echo chambers in which differing points of view, if they’re noticed at all, are immediately dismissed as “fringe”.