While people talk about who’ll run against Trump in 2020 — assuming he seeks a second term — I’m thinking about how we’ve just had three consecutive eight-year presidencies: Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.
That is exceptional.
Only three times in U.S. History has the republic had a span of 24 years (or more) with only three men heading up the executive branch of the federal government.
The first was 1801 to 1825, with Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe.
Next, the unique span from 1933 to 1961 when Franklin Roosevelt was elected four times only to die in office after being reinaugurated three months earlier, then Harry Truman serving out FDR’s fourth term and winning one of his own, to be followed by Dwight Eisenhower who served two full terms.
There has never been a span in which four consecutive presidents of the United States all served two complete terms. Jefferson’s predecessor served only one, as did Monroe’s successor. Herbert Hoover lost to FDR in 1932, and Eisenhower’s successor was the ill-fated John Kennedy.
Clinton, of course, beat Dubya’s father in 1992.
I’m old enough to remember when we had a succession of short-tenured presidents. Even Lyndon Johnson, despite having won a term in his own right in 1964 and having been constitutionally eligible in 1968, didn’t have eight years. Richard Nixon resigned. Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter were both defeated for re-election.
As uproarious as American electoral politics have become in recent decades, it’s phenomenal that our incumbent presidents keep getting re-elected, and leaving office on schedule rather than vacating early by resignation, impeachment, or extralegal means.
Maybe the divisiveness of our politics is like so many stories told to us lately: not entirely true.