Let’s face it; by most objective standards, the 2012 presidential election is boring. Gone are the days of flamboyant, rambunctious personalities who flitted between smoke-filled back rooms and fiery stump speeches. Mitt Romney and Barack Obama may be ranted and raved about by cable TV pundits, but the drama hardly compares to the great races of the past.
In the 24-hour news cycle, being boring is a feature not a bug. But as a result, this presidential race feels less grand than gaffe, less politics than pandering, and less presidential than petty.
That wasn’t always the case. I recently spoke with David Pietrusza, a historian who has written eloquently about the most interesting presidential races of the 20th century. We discussed “1920: The Year of the Six Presidents” – the race that featured giant personalities from the ‘Progressive Era,’ ‘Roarin’ 20s,’ and the ‘New Deal.’
As the title implies, six presidents (future, past, and current) were involved in the presidential race that year.)
We also chatted about “1948: Harry Truman’s Improbable Victory and the Year that Transformed America,” the tale of how — despite being written off by the media, establishment politicians, and pretty much everyone else — Harry Truman pulled off an upset victory against Thomas Dewey.
And finally, we touched on “1960: LBJ vs. JFK vs. Nixon,” discussing how the 1960 race forever changed Richard Nixon‘s perception of politics — and how the race is often misremembered by liberal historians.
These were some of the great campaigns of the modern era, and if you find yourself growing tired of Mitt Romney’s taxes or President Obama’s “you didn’t build that,” gaffe, I suggest picking up one of Pietrusza’s fine books. (Or, at the very least, you might just devote 25 mins, or so, to the podcast for free.)