The Corner

Re: Confetti Rate

I think I’m going to have to disagree with Brother Miller about the desirability of a single six-year term for presidents. John writes (in a very suspicious venue by the way):    

Why do two-termers frequently finish on a bad note? Perhaps it’s because they dash into office full of energy, good will and political capital. Then they grow tired and wear out their welcome. Mid-term congressional elections usually erode their power and embolden their foes. Top aides often move on, replaced by second stringers who lack the same level of commitment. When battered incumbents cross the finish line, they’re usually happy to go home.

I’ll suggest an alternative explanation for lousy second terms: the two-term limit! FDR’s second term was a disaster in every way, but did FDR’s third term go badly? Not so clear. Would a younger Ronald Reagan have had a bad third term had it been possible? I’ve been mulling an article or possibly a short book on this subject for a long time, and have asked historians and political scientists for theories about the second-term curse. No one has thought much about it in systematic ways, and I get a wide range of tentative answers. The two-term limit is just one that has come up.

By the way, who is the modern exception to the two-term curse? Ronaldus Magnus, of course, Iran-Contra not withstanding.


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