Military Experience

September 16, 2012

I was thinking about something today regarding military service. Starting in 1948, the candidate for U.S. President with more military experience usually did better in elections than his adversary: Truman defeated Dewey, Ike defeated Stevenson (twice), Kennedy defeated Nixon, Nixon defeated Humphrey, Carter defeated Ford, Reagan defeated Mondale, and the elder Bush defeated Dukakis. The exceptions: Johnson defeated World War II pilot Goldwater, Nixon defeated bomber pilot McGovern, and Reagan defeated Naval Academy graduate Jimmy Carter. (And yet at least Johnson, Nixon, and Reagan all had some military experience.) Then in 1992, everything changed. Clinton (no experience) defeated the elder Bush, then defeated combat veteran Dole. The younger Bush (virtually no experience) sort of defeated Vietnam veteran Gore, and then defeated Vietnam combat veteran Kerry. Obama (no experience) defeated McCain (Navy pilot, POW).

So what happened? Well, perhaps World Wars I and II created so many voters with military experience that in the 1950s – 1980s the public thought it important for the Commander in Chief to be one of them. Then in 1990, we started losing so many of the veterans, and the younger generation had far fewer veterans to replace them. Then again, you’ll note that the period I covered before everything changed perfectly coincides with the Cold War. Perhaps when that ended, we no longer thought it important for the President to have served in the military. But here’s where I’m going with all this: notice something about the election this year? Zero military experience. It’s interesting that with all the military action the nation has had the last ten years that even the Republican party has abandoned the notion that military experience is important. (When’s the last time they ran someone with none? 1948.) Anyway, I’m not trying to say whether it’s right or wrong, I’m just pointing out that it’s fascinating for me to see the first election in my lifetime – and my parents’ lifetime – involving two candidates with no military record.

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2 Comments to Military Experience

  1. articles says:

    September 21st, 2012 at 10:35 pm

    You really make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this matter to be really something which I think I would never understand. It seems too complex and very broad for me. I am looking forward for your next post, I will try to get the hang of it!

  2. Simona says:

    September 23rd, 2012 at 1:34 am

    Excellent post. I was checking constantly this blog and I am impressed! Extremely useful info particularly the last part :) I care for such info a lot. I was seeking this particular information for a long time. Thank you and best of luck.

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