A recent article in the “paper of record” noted that a research study recently published in the Journal of Science concluded that most United States Presidents have a relevant shelf-life of 40 years from the time they leave office. On paper, this means that President Lyndon Johnson’s relevance could expire before Robert Caro gets around to concluding his endless biography of LBJ (now up to three volumes and counting.) Can you imagine Caro reaching around Page 335 of Volume 4 writing about that fateful Sunday night in 1968 when Lyndon took to the airwaves to inform the country that he would not seek re-election. The light bulb will go off in Caro’s head, he will stop writing, shake his head, realize nobody cares and simply write, “Never mind.”
Benedict Carey, the author of this piece noted that the professors who conducted these tests from 1974 to 2014 saw that students remembered the men who served during times of crises. So Caro’s efforts may yet be saved as LBJ could remain relevant by being attached to JFK’s coattails and that damn Vietnam War. (Good bet; the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Act alone would not sustain him.) Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton and Bush 43 will be less than blips on a radar screen to future test-takers. Perhaps 43 will deserve an asterisk as being on the scene on September 11, 2001? President Obama, for the obvious reasons, should have a long shelf-life.
If you find this disturbing, try to name two or three of the presidents between Andy Jackson and old Abe? (1) Or between Abe and FDR save Teddy and Thomas W. Wilson better known as Woodrow? (2)
Sure, I admit feeling a deep sense of my own mortality when I realize that the majority of current college-age students don’t have a clue who Harry or Ike were.
And so it goes. I’ve developed my own test to see if we have enough memory left to recall political events that once were important if not vital to our beliefs. I believe that the ages people are most passionate about politics are from 18 to 24 roughly college-age. They can be passionate as they want to be without having to worry about a job, paying off college, buying a house, supporting a family, a mortgage, car loans; etc…that thing we call life,
So I ask you to remember the election closest to your 21st birthday. Name the man who won, his running mate; the loser and his running mate? (3)
I was twenty in 1964. Lyndon Johnson defeated Barry Goldwater. Johnson ran with Hubert Humphrey and Goldwater, with William E. Miller. I was a one of the Goldwater supporters who had to endure the rout our man suffered that election night. But the defeat seared the event into my memory giving me an advantage in this challenge. The main reason that I have this advantage is that Bill Miller’s fame came not from his run with Barry or his term in Congress as a representative from upstate New York. Nope, it was from the commercial he did for the American Express Card produced in 1975.
It began with Miller facing the camera and stating: “Do you know who I am? I ran for the office of vice president of the United States. That’s why I carry the American Express Card.” (The commercial then shifted to a scene of an AMEX Card, name blank where an unseen printer produces: “William E. Miller” and his year of membership.)
Cut back to Miller, “Don’t leave home without it.”
- Presidents between Jackson and Lincoln: Martin Van Buren, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, James Polk, Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan.
- Presidents between Lincoln and FDR: Andrew Johnson, Ulysses Simpson Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James Garfield, Chester Arthur, Grover Cleveland (two interrupted times), Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, (Theodore Roosevelt), William Howard Taft, (Woodrow Wilson), Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover.
- 3. The Answers to the Quiz
. Winner VP Loser Losing VP
1932 F.D.R. John Garner Hoover Charles Curtis
1936 F.D.R. Garner Alf Landon Frank Knox
1940 F.D.R. Henry Wallace Wendell Wilkie Charles Mc Nary
1944 F.D.R. Harry Truman Tom Dewey John Bricker
1948 Harry Truman Barkley Dewey Earl Warren
1952 Ike Dick Nixon Adlai Stevenson John Sparkman
1956 Ike Nixon Stevenson Estes Kefauver
1960 J.F.K LBJ Nixon Henry Cabot Lodge
1964 L.B.J Humphrey Barry Goldwater Bill Miller
1968 Nixon Spiro Agnew Humphrey Edmund Muskie
1972 Nixon Agnew George Mc Govern Sergent Shriver*
1976 Jimmy Carter Mondale Jerry Ford Bob Dole
1980 Ronald Reagan Bush Carter Walter Mondale
1984 Reagan Bush Mondale Geraldine Ferraro
1988 George H. W. Bush Quayle Michael Dukakis Lloyd Bentsen
1990 Bill Clinton Al Gore Bush (41) Dan Quayle
1996 Clinton Gore Bob Dole Jack Kemp
2000 George W. Bush Chaney Al Gore Joe Lieberman
2004 Bush (43) Chaney John Kerry John Edwards
2008 Barack Obama Biden John Mc Cain Sarah Palin
2012 Obama Biden Mitt Romney Paul Ryan
* Thomas Eagleton would also be a correct answer