A Short History of Presidential Second Terms

This column was published in the Laurel Leader Call (Laurel, MS) on May 15, 2012:

As Barack Obama seeks a second term in the White House, one must wonder why he would even want one.  Amazingly, almost every presidential second term has been wrought with severe problems, especially in our modern era.  And almost every chief executive seeks to go home long before the final curtain closes on his final administration.

The only exceptions to second term malaise are George Washington, who did face serious public opposition and outrage over the hated Jay Treaty in 1794, though most of the anger was directed towards John Jay, and James Monroe, whose first term was wrought with several crises – Missouri’s admission as a slave state and the Panic of 1819, but his second was relatively quiet.

We may also count Calvin Coolidge, as a second Harding-Coolidge term, where the Roaring Twenties was in full swing, and Silent Cal saw unemployment reach the unheard of level of just one percent in 1926.

As for the rest, there was no smooth sailing on the turbulent sea of statecraft. Continue reading