An ignominious centennial is upon us. January 17th will be the 100th anniversary of the effective date of Prohibition. The 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution is the only amendment whose purpose was to limit freedom rather than expand it. Seven months later, on August 18, 1920, the 19th Amendment was ratified and in contrast, represented a significant expansion of basic freedom for millions of American women by granting them the right to vote.
With voting about to begin in caucuses and primary elections in which the two major parties will choose their nominees for president, it’s worth noting that the United States is currently in an era of almost unprecedented stability and continuity in the office of president. Say what? I suspect that lots of alert readers (ARs) may think this statement is among the most ludicrous things they’ve ever read in this column. And that’s saying something. Nevertheless, consider the following.
Since Schlafly Beer has been in business, three consecutive presidents have each served two complete terms: Bill Clinton from 1993 to 2001; George W. Bush from 2001 to 2009; and Barack Obama from 2009 to 2017. The last time this happened was 200 years ago when Thomas Jefferson served from 1801 to 1809; James Madison from 1809 t0 1817; and James Monroe from 1817 to 1825. It was during Monroe’s second term that the State of Missouri was admitted to the Union. It has also been 200 years since the last time two consecutive presidents both served two complete terms. In other words, there’s been less turnover in the office of President since 1993 than there was in the preceding 168 years.
As most ARs probably know there are at least five current or former mayors running for president in 2020: Michael Bloomberg (New York), Cory Booker (Newark), Pete Buttigieg (South Bend), Julian Castro (San Antonio) and Bernie Sanders (Burlington, VT). What these same ARs might not know is that only three former mayors have ever held the office of president; and none since the 1920s. Two of these three had been vice presidents who acceded to the presidency when the incumbent president died in office.
Andrew Johnson was the mayor of Greenville, TN from 1834 to 1835. He served as vice president under Abraham Lincoln for a little over a month before becoming president on April 15, 1865. On February 24, 1868, the House of Representatives voted to impeach him. Following a three-month trial in the Senate, he narrowly escaped conviction and removal from office. After failing to receive the Democratic nomination for president in 1868, he returned to Tennessee and was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1875. He died in office a few months later.
Grover Cleveland served as mayor of Buffalo, NY from January 2, 1882, to November 20, 1882. He served as president of the United States from 1885 to 1889 and from 1893 to 1897. He was the only U.S. president to serve two non-consecutive terms, making him both the 22nd and 24th president. During the summer prior to Cleveland’s first election in 1884, published reports began to appear of his having been “illicitly acquainted” with a woman named Maria Halpin by whom he had fathered a child. The incident inspired an anti-Cleveland campaign song titled “Ma, Ma, Where’s My Pa?” to which the Democrats’ rejoinder was “Gone to the White House, ha, ha, ha!”
Upon hearing the news that Coolidge had died, the writer Dorothy Parker reportedly asked, “How can they tell?”
Calvin Coolidge was the mayor of Northampton, MA from 1910 to 1911. He served as governor of Massachusetts from 1919 to 1921, during which time he vetoed a bill that would have allowed the sale of beer or wine with an alcohol content of 2.75% or less. He served as vice president under Warren Harding beginning in 1921 and became president upon Harding’s death in August of 1923. He died less than ten years later in January of 1933. Upon hearing the news that Coolidge had died, the writer Dorothy Parker reportedly asked, “How can they tell?”
A lot of ARs and others may consider it unusual that the incumbent president of the United States did not receive a majority of the popular vote in the 2016 election. These ARs and others would be wrong. For most of the time since the end of World War II The United States has not had a president who was elected to the office by a majority of the electorate. First, there were the presidents who were not initially elected to the office but acceded to the presidency by virtue of being vice president when the incumbent president either died in office or resigned: Harry Truman (1945 to 1949); Lyndon Johnson (1963 to 1965) and Gerald Ford (1974 to 1977). Ford, it should be noted, had not even been elected vice president, but had been appointed to the office following the resignation of Spiro Agnew in 1973. Second, there were the presidents who were elected with the requisite majority in the electoral college but did not receive a majority of the popular vote: Harry Truman in 1948; John F. Kennedy in 1960; Richard Nixon in 1968; Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996; George W. Bush in 2000; and Donald Trump in 2016.
Looking ahead to the 2020 election, we all hope that it is entirely free of foreign interference. I would say the same for the inauguration of whoever is elected in November of 2020. This inauguration will occur three days after the 101st anniversary of the effective date of Prohibition. Let’s hope that whoever takes the oath of office that day will guarantee complete freedom from foreign influence in his or her inauguration and only serve beer from breweries that are American-owned.
Chairman – The Saint Louis Brewery