Thursday, January 1, 2015

Era of Good Feelings

My brother-in-law sent me a neat piece from Vox profiling presidents' sixth years. You may wish to read it here. The article calls to mind how I urge my AP U.S. History students to ponder the trend that no president seems to have a good second term (except one). The job really does become thankless in the second term. The country tires of the president by that time. Congress no longer respects his authority. Enough time has passed for the initial gleam of his initial promises to have rubbed off. Some of the best advisors and cabinet members have departed, and the bill for some of the poor first generation of officials comes due. The sixth year is when these pessimistic and cynical forces crystallize.

I did enjoy seeing how the article said James Madison had the worst of it in his sixth year. Good choice. An ironic part of that story, however, is that the cabinet official presiding over the ignominy of that year was James Monroe who held both the positions of Secretary of State and War when the capital was burned. Amazingly, that fellow found work again, as Madison's successor in the presidency. And he went on to accomplish a great anomaly: being the only president whose second term went better than his first. The article, by the way, says Monroe enjoyed the 4th-best penultimate year in presidential history. 

No comments: