Kerry’s Total’s Better Than Democrat Average

1896. The year of the William Jennings Bryan and the “Cross of Gold.” The year that Karl Rove’s idol, William McKinley, was elected president. Of course McKinley had been a prolabor lawyer and Ohio governor, and recent research by Kevin Phillips indicates that McKinley thought poorly of the big trusts, and wanted to break them up in a second term. Still, beginning in 1896 the GOP became a far more progressive party. While this GOP progressivism was not to last, 1896 is still important for Democrats: It was that year that populists and progressives took over the party and rescued it from post-Civil War economic conservatives. Sure some Democrats are more liberal than others, and certain decades (the 1920s, the 1990s, but NOT the 1970s) saw a semi-conservative Dem resurgence (without the racism).

Since 1896, Democrats have sought to marry Thomas Jefferson’s concern for the common man with Alexander Hamilton’s desire for a strong central government. While not downplaying the (sometimes revolutionary) significance of their policies, it’s safe to say that Wilson, FDR, Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, and Carter all followed in this tradition.

The questions are: How have Democrats done since the populist-progressive takeover of 1896? How did Kerry do in 2004 in relation to the other 26 candidates from 1896 to 2000. Since 1896, the GOP has averaged 48.35% of the popular vote, while the Dems have averaged 45.95%. Kerry’s 48.3% of the popular vote was therefore better than both parties average.

Averages from two eras:
1896-1944: Dem 45.7%, GOP 47.6% (thanks FDR for making this respectable).
1948-2004: Dem 46.2%, GOP 49.1%. Without the Johnson landslide of 1964, the Dem number would only be 45.2%.

In any event, of the 27 Democratic candidacies from 1896 thru 2004, Kerry”s 48.3% is seventh best out of 27. Gore just beat Kerry by winning 48.4% of the vote in 2000. For all of his alleged “political genius” Clinton only got .9% more than Kerry in the incumbent friendly year of 1996, and got 5.3% less than Kerry in the challenger friendly year of 1992.

Democratic heroes Woodrow Wilson, Harry Truman, and John Kennedy only got 1.0% 1.3% and 1.4% more than Kerry respectively ( 49.3%, 49.6% and 49.7%). Jimmy Carter got 50.1% of the vote in 1976, only 1.8% more than Kerry, running against Ford who was saddled with a lousy economy, Watergate, the recent defeat in Vietnam and the unpopular (if correct) pardon of Nixon. Aside from LBJ and FDR landslides, Democrats have done rarely done as good as Kerry and in those few (4) instances where Democrats have they failed to win a majority of the vote and got no better than 1.5% more than Kerry did.

A complete list of Democrat totals both pre- and post-WWII since 1896 follows from best to worst:
1932- 57.4%
1940- 54.7%
1916- 49.3%
1896- 46.7%
1900- 45.5%
1908- 43.1%
1912- 41.9%
1928- 40.8%
1904- 37.6%
1920- 34.1%
1924- 28.8%
1964- 61.1%
1976- 50.1%
1960- 49.7%
1948- 49.6%
1996- 49.2%
2004- 48.3%
1988- 45.6%
1952- 44.4%
1992- 43.0%
1968- 42.7%
1956- 42.0%
1980- 41.0%
1984- 40.6%
1972- 37.5%

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About Nick

Teacher of Social Studies. Born in the 1970s. History major, music minor. Big Baseball fan. Economic progressive.
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