Adam Ruins the Election

Oct 23 2016

In this special episode filmed in front of a live audience, Adam brought historical perspective to the 2016 presidential race, revealed amazing stories about past White House occupants and explained why this year’s elections should actually feel familiar, with one exception -- and it’s not Trump. These are his sources.


“Callender wrote that Adams had a: ‘…hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.’”

James Callender. The Prospect Before Us. Printed for the author, 1800. 

“Johnson bragged about his penis constantly… He nicknamed it ‘Jumbo,’ and when a colleague would approach him in the bathroom ‘Johnson would sometimes turn to him with his penis in his hand, shaking it, as if we he was showing off…’ and say, ‘Have you ever seen anything as big as this?’”

Robert Caro. The Years of Lyndon Johnson: Master of the Senate. Knopf, 2002. 

“If you were in the bedroom holding back when [LBJ] went into the bathroom, he would just call you in and say, ‘Come on in! I haven’t finished what I’m saying.’ You get sort of used to this.” - Doris Kearns Goodwin.

“Historians on Lyndon B. Johnson”, The White House. C-SPAN, 1 Dec 2008

“[Wallace] was actually the most successful third party candidate of the last hundred years!”

U.S. Electoral College. “Historical Election Results: 1789–2012 Presidential Elections.” U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, accessed 10 Oct 2016. 

“In 1919, [Edith’s] husband, President Woodrow Wilson, suffered a stroke. The cabinet was told that Wilson just had nerves and indigestion. But in reality, the dude was actually paralyzed. Or, as his doctor put it, ‘My God! The president is paralyzed!’”

Kenneth R. Crispell and Carlos Gomez. Hidden Illness in the White House. Duke University Press, 1989.

“Edith controlled access to Wilson so thoroughly that she had, in many ways, de facto Presidential powers. Newspapers even called her ‘the nation’s first Presidentress’ and ‘Acting First Man.’”

Paul Brandus. Under This Roof: The White House and the Presidency. Lyons Press, 2015.

“The first woman to run for president was Victoria Woodhull in 1872. People found her so threatening, the press depicted her as Satan!”

Carol Felsenthal. “The Strange Tale of the First Woman to Run for President.” Politico, 9 Apr 2015.

“The first woman to run for a major party nomination was Margaret Chase Smith in 1964. She ran as a Republican. And reporters found the very idea of her candidacy so ludicrous, they laughed when JFK tried to pay her a nice compliment.”

“Press Conference, 14 November 1963,” The White House Audio Collection, item no. JFKWHA–238. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, recorded 14 Nov 1963.

“But that was nothing compared to what Shirley Chisholm went through in 1972 when she became the first black woman to run for a major party nomination. She had no chance of winning. It was a symbolic candidacy. But despite that, people hated her so much, that there were multiple assassination attempts on her life.”

Rajini Vaidyanathan. “Before Hillary Clinton, There Was Shirley Chisholm.” BBC News, 26 Jan 2016.

“In fact, if Hillary Clinton wins, she won’t even technically be the first American woman to become the President of a country, because Guyana elected an American woman president in 1997. Her name was Janet Jagen. She was born in Chicago, moved to Guyana, and was elected president there.”

Robin Wright. “Hillary Wouldn’t Be the First Female American President.” The New Yorker, 1 Aug 2016.

“America ranks 83rd in representing women in national legislatures like Congress.”

“Country/Economy Profile: United States,” The Global Gender Gap Index. World Economic Forum, 2014.

“If he wins, Trump will be the first President ever who has never held public office or a position in the military.”

Laura Koran and Ryan Browne. “Can Trump Be the First to Go Directly from Corner Office to Oval Office?”, 12 Aug 2016.

“[LBJ] was so shameless, he talked about his own asshole on the phone and recorded it.”

“Johnson Conversation with Joe Haggar.” The Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Recordings, tape WH6408.16, call 4851. The Miller Center, recorded 09 Aug 1964.

“The Civil Rights program is a farce and a sham — an effort to set up a police state in the guise of liberty… I have voted against the so-called antilynching bill…” - Lyndon B. Johnson, 1948.

Robert Caro. The Years of Lyndon Johnson: Means of Ascent. Vintage Books, 1991.

“Everett, you come with me on this bill and 200 years from now schoolchildren will know only two names: Abraham Lincoln and Everett Dirksen.” - Lyndon B. Johnson, reportedly spoken to Everett Dirksen, 1964.

“JFK & LBJ: A Time for Greatness,” Secrets of the Dead, as told by Doris Kearns Goodwin. PBS, 4 Aug 2015.

“I’m sitting here with Charlie Halleck, now, and he’s breathing down my neck… And I need to do anything I can for Charlie Halleck. Now isn’t there something you can do?” - Lyndon B. Johnson, spoken to James Webb, 1964.

“Johnson Conversation with James Webb,” The Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Recordings, tape WH6401.16, call 1421. The Miller Center, recorded 18 Jan 1964.

“A few days later, Webb called Johnson to let him know he was giving Halleck’s district a series of NASA grants, contracts, and even a research facility that added up to over a million dollars.”

Todd S. Purdum. An Idea Whose Time Has Come: Two Presidents, Two Parties, and the Battle for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Henry Holt and Company, 2014.

“Our political system is flooded with cash. In this election alone, over $1.6 billion has been raised!”

“2016 Presidential Race: Summary.”, Center for Responsive Politics, updated 11 Oct 2016.

“You have six months until the election. Break that down to having to raise $2 million in the next six months, and your job, new member of Congress, is to raise $18,000 a day.” - Rep. David Jolly.

“Are Members of Congress Becoming Telemarketers?” 60 Minutes, contributed by Norah O’Donnell. CBS News, 24 Apr 2016.

“Jeb Bush and his SuperPAC raised over $155 million.”

“Candidate Summary, 2016 Cycle: Jeb Bush (R).”, Center for Responsive Politics, updated 21 Sep 2016.

“In 2011, the average voter turnout in mayoral elections was only one in five!”

Mike Maciag. “Voter Turnout Plummeting in Local Elections.” Governing, Oct 2014.

“Over $1.5 million was spent running ads in this local election. Two years later, a lawsuit revealed that the group making the ads was bankrolled by a mining company owned by Chris Cline, an out-of-state mining billionaire with a vested interest in building mines in Wisconsin.”

Theodoric Meyer. “In Wisconsin, Dark Money Got a Mining Company What It Wanted.” ProPublica, 14 Oct 2014.

“Since 1994, the percentage of Republicans who say they view Democrats ‘very unfavorably’ has more than tripled. And the same is true for how Democrats view Republicans.”

For the 1994 figures, see:

“Political Polarization in the American Public.” Pew Research Center, 12 Jun 2014.

For today’s figures, see:

“Partisanship and Political Animosity in 2016.” Pew Research Center, 22 Jun 2016.

“For most of the 20th century, there was actually such a thing as Liberal Republicans and Conservative Democrats.”

Keith Poole. “Graphic Picture of a Polarized Congress.” UGA Research 41.1 (2012): 32.

“I think we just delivered the South to the Republican Party for a long time to come.” - Lyndon B. Johnson, spoken to Bill Moyers, 1964.

 Bill Moyers. Moyers on America: A Journalist and His Times. New Press, 2013.

“By the ‘70s, the rift of polarization began to take hold.”

Clio Andris, David Lee, Marcus J. Hamilton, Mauro Martino, Christian E. Gunning, and John Armistead Selden. “The Rise of Partisanship and Super-Cooperators in the U.S. House of Representatives.” PLoS ONE 10.4 (2015): e0123507.

“The two sides now work together so little, the last few Congresses have enacted fewer laws than at any time since 1947 — at least!”

Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives. Calendars of the U.S. House of Representatives and History of Legislation, 113th Congress, Final Edition. U.S. Government Publishing Office, 2015.

“Among those highly engaged in politics 45% of Republicans and 41% of Democrats view the other party’s policies as a threat to the country.”

“62% of Republicans and 70% of Democrats say they are actually afraid of the other party.”

“70% of Democrats feel that Republicans are more closed-minded than other Americans.”

“And roughly 45% of Republicans said that they think Democrats are more lazy and immoral than other Americans.”

“Partisanship and Political Animosity in 2016.” Pew Research Center, 22 Jun 2016.

“Partisan polarization is actually making you stupid… It’s because of something called Identity-Protective Cognition. We all want to believe that when we’re presented with strong, factual evidence, we’ll change our beliefs accordingly. But researchers have found that is not true. Instead, when we make decisions about whether or not we believe new information, we do so based more on cultural identity than rational thinking.”

Dan M. Kahan, Ellen Peters, Erica Cantrell Dawson, and Paul Slovic. “Motivated Numeracy and Enlightened Self-Government.” Behavioural Public Policy, forthcoming; Yale Law School, Public Law Working Paper No. 307, 3 Sep 2013.

“In 2015, Gallup found that there were more independents than there were Democrats or Republicans in America.”

Jeffrey M. Jones. “Democratic, Republican Identification Near Historical Lows.” Gallup, 11 Jan 2016.

“Are you a Democrat who wants paid family leave, but you can’t get it done? Well, why don’t you team up with the 73% of white evangelicals who want that, too!”

“Are you a conservative who wants to reduce immigration? Well, 33% of Democrats are with you on that.”

“On Views of Immigrants, Americans Largely Split Along Party Lines.” Pew Research Center, 30 Sep 2015.


For More on This Topic:

To learn more about the shocking and hilarious nastiness of 19th century politics, see this 2008 feature in the Washington Post.

Ellen Fitzpatrick tells the story of Margaret Chase Smith’s remarkable presidential run in greater detail, for The New Yorker.

For an impeccably-researched defense of political insiders in general and LBJ in particular, see “How American Politics Went Insane” by Jonathan Rauch, for The Atlantic.

Not convinced that money can’t buy the presidency? The freakonomists over at the Freakonomics podcast get into the science.

After that, Andrew Cockburn’s Harper’s piece on the “election-industrial complex” will explain where Jeb’s money went.

“Dark money” can still buy local elections, though. This short post from FiveThirtyEight explains when campaign spending counts most.

And this New York Times op-ed provides an overview of the outside spending problem in local elections. (If that’s not disturbing enough, see the full Brennan Center report for even more examples.)

Ezra Klein over at Vox has more on “identity-protective cognition” and the devious skin-cream/gun-control study.

Finally, WNYC’s On the Media interviews Michael Lind, who talks about why we may have more in common with the other party than we realize.

rty than we realize.