History shows that there are some odd curses associated with the American presidency. Those curses can be deadly and destructive.
However, history shows that the presidential curses can fade or change. Here is a brief examination of the presidential curses and their implications.
The Ohio Curse
Natives of Ohio love to remind people that their state has produced five presidents (six if you count Ulysses S. Grant (R-Illinois).
Yet all of Ohio’s presidents have been cursed with incredibly bad luck. Two of the five Ohio presidents James Garfield (R), William McKinley (R) were assassinated. A third Ohio president, Warren G. Harding (R) died in office of natural causes.
Moreover, only one Ohio president William McKinley was elected to second term. Unfortunately, McKinley was assassinated in the first year of his second term (1901).
A fourth Ohio president William Howard Taft (R) suffered one of the most humiliating defeats in American presidential history. In 1912, Taft came in third in the presidential election behind Governor Woodrow Wilson (D-New York) and former President Theodore Roosevelt (P-New York). Hence, Taft is the only sitting president in American history to draw fewer votes than a third-party candidate.
Is Jim Crow Responsible for the Ohio Curse?
The first Ohio President Rutherford B. Hayes (R) did not seek a second term. Hayes declined a second term because of his unpopularity. To explain, Hayes earned the nickname “Rutherfraud B. Hayes” because of the questionable circumstances surrounding his election.
In 1876, Samuel Tilden (D-New York) won the popular vote. However, Hayes became president because of a backroom deal engineered by railroad magnate Thomas Scott.
To explain, Republicans agreed to withdraw all federal troops from the South and end efforts to enforce reconstruction laws that protected African Americans’ constitutional rights. In exchange, Southern Democrats agreed not to contest Hayes’ ascendancy to the presidency.
Thus, Hayes’ presidency cleared the way for Jim Crow, the denial of voting rights to most Southern blacks and widespread lynching (murder) of African Americans and others in the South. Hence, believers in Karma could claim the Ohio Curse is a punishment for the loathsome compromise of 1877 and Jim Crow.
The Ohio Curse extends beyond presidential deaths. Many historians view Harding’s presidency, which started well, as one of the most corrupt and incompetent in American history.
Notably, Harding’s tenure included the Teapot Dome Scandal and allegations of corruption and hypocrisy. Harding was a notorious drinker, yet they elected him on a prohibition ticket.
Does the Ohio Curse Extend Beyond the Grave?
Another Ohio-born President Ulysses S. Grant (R-Illinois) headed one of the most corrupt administrations in American history. However, I do not consider Grant an Ohio president because he was an Illinois resident at the time of his election.
Some historians list Grant as one of America’s worst presidents. However, recent historical revisionism shows Grant was a good president whose record was destroyed by racist historians.
To explain, Grant tried to enforce Reconstruction and protect African Americans rights. Those actions offended many white, particularly Southern, historians, who spent a century smearing Grant’s reputation. Thus the Ohio curse could extend beyond the grave.
In addition, Harding did end the worst policies of his policies of his predecessor Woodrow Wilson (D-New Jersey). Harding ended America’s pointless involvement in the Russian Civil War and withdrew from Wilson’s membership in the World War I Triple Entente (Alliance) in reality conspiracy of British and French politicians to dismember the Ottoman Empire and steal its territories.
Thus, Harding could have prevented American involvement in a disastrous war in the Middle East in the 1920s. Notably, British troops withdrew from Turkey in 1923 to avoid a confrontation with Kemal Ataturk’s nationalist armies. Whether Wilson, a notorious Anglophobe, would have sent American forces to back the British is a matter of speculation.
However, Wilson did support Britain’s spectacularly unsuccessful efforts to help the so-called “White Forces” against the genocidal Bolsheviks in the Russian Civil War. One of Harding’s first actions as president was to end Wilson’s Russian adventure.
Harding also released all the political prisoners Wilson imprisoned for criticizing for his policies. Wilson era political prisoners included presidential candidate Eugene Debs (S-Indiana) whose only “crime” was criticizing Wilson’s involvement in World War I.
Some historians list Harding as a bad president, however. Racism could play a role here because there are false rumors that Harding was of partial African American descent. Disturbingly, Harding’s reputation among conservative historians has improved since DNA testing debunked his African American heritage.
Some white American intellectuals cannot accept the possibility that a black man could be an effective president. I expect to see a similar effort to destroy President Barrack Obama’s (D-Illinois) legacy soon.
The Whig Curse
In America’s second party system (1828-1852) the popular Whig Party elected two presidents William Henry Harrison (W-Indiana) and Zachary Taylor (W-Louisiana). Both men died during their first terms.
Thus, the Whig Party had a curse. In contrast, no Democratic president died in office until Franklin D. Roosevelt (D-New York) in 1945.
Notably, the Whig Party collapsed completely during the Kansas-Nebraska Act crisis in the 1850s. The Whigs’ replacement as America’s second party the Republican Party is still with us.
The Vice Presidential Curse
During the 19th Century four vice presidents Jon Tyler (W-Virginia), Millard Fillmore (W-New York), Andrew Johnson (D-Tennessee), and Chester Arthur (R-New York) succeeded a president who died in office.
None of those men was able to win his party’s presidential nomination. Moreover, none of those men went on to have a successful political career. Fillmore ran for president on the xenophobic American or Know Nothing ticket in 1856 and came in third.
Tyler organized a convention to work out a peaceful settlement between North and South during the crisis of 1861. Tyler’s efforts were spectacularly unsuccessful because Civil War broke out. Tyler. Voters elected Tyler to the Confederate Congress but the former president died before he could take office.
Voters elected Johnson to Congress after several years of Post-White House obscurity. However, Johnson died before he could take office.
Interestingly, the vice presidential curse vanished in the 20th Century. Four 20th Century vice presidents Theodore Roosevelt (R-New York), Calvin Coolidge (R-Massachusetts), Harry S. Truman (D-Missouri) and Lyndon B. Johnson (D-Texas) all became successful presidents. Plus voters elected all four men to second terms.
Truman and Theodore Roosevelt are now regularly listed among America’s greatest presidents. Plus Teddy Roosevelt is one of the presidents enshrined at Mount Rushmore.
The Vice Presidential Curse Returns
However, Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) experienced a horrible second term. The Vietnam War destroyed Johnson’s reputation and the unpopularity of LBJ’s civil rights agenda and anti-poverty programs undermined the Democratic Party’s electability.
Finally, many voters blamed LBJ for violent antiwar protests, rising crime rates, the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and US Senator Robert F. Kennedy (D-New York), and race riots in 1968. By April 1968, LBJ dropped out of the Democratic presidential primary to avoid a humiliating loss.
In addition, only two sitting vice presidents; Martin van Buren (D-New York) in 1836 and George H.W. Bush (R-Texas) in 1988, were elected president in the last 200 years. Both men went onto lose their reelection bids.
Plus, only one former vice president; Richard M. Nixon (R-California),was elected president. Nixon won two impressive presidential victories in 1968 and 1972.
However, the Watergate scandal forced Nixon’s resignation in 1974. In addition, an old corruption scandal forced the resignation of Nixon’s vice president Spiro Agnew (R-Maryland) in 1973.
Thus you can argue that there is a vice presidential curse. Only time will tell if the presidential curses continue or if new presidential curses will appear.