How Long Does It Take A Political Party To Wear Out Its Welcome?

To those of us who follow the news closely, four years seems like forever. But for most Americans, it seems that four years isn’t enough for a political party to wear out its welcome.

In a post yesterday, Paul noted that defeating an incumbent president isn’t easy: from 1896 to the present, only five incumbents who sought re-election have been rejected by the voters. A reader refines that number further and, I think, persuasively:

I noted with interest Paul’s post on defeated Presidents. Another way to slice the data is to note that with the exception of Carter, no incumbent president serving the first term for his party has lost a reelection effort since before 1900. Put another way, the party of the defeated incumbent had held the White House for more than one term when the incumbent got beat.

A very interesting point. Unlike, say, George H.W. Bush in 1992, Barack Obama had, in addition to the advantage of incumbency, the fact that his first term followed a Republican administration rather than a Democratic one. I think our reader is on to something here. Voters are inclined to give a political party more than a single term to see what they can do after taking over from the opposition. In 2012, exit polls suggested that many voters still blame the country’s problems on President Bush. From one perspective this is ludicrous, but from the historical point of view noted by our reader, it makes a certain kind of sense. Many voters feel that it takes more than four years to judge the course on which a party has set America.

This idea may or may not be correct, but in any case, I suspect that in another four years, a majority of voters will be more than ready to pass a harsh judgment on the Democrats’ stewardship.

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