Presidential Loser #17 Martin van Buren, 1840
The election of 1840 was a real thrill ride, crazy-zany, cuckoo mess. Okay, actually it was boring as hell. Martin van Buren was electoral toast after the Panic of 1837 when 342 banks failed resulting in a wide-spread financial collapse. (Sound familiar?) It’s kind of a shame we don’t call these things “panics” any more – it adds a little zest and glamour to economics. Back in the old days they had panics all the time. It was like, “What do you want to do today?” and someone would say, “Let’s have a bank panic.” They had a panic in 1819, 1857, and 1873. Those worked out so well, they went and had panics in 1884, 1890, and 1893. Then again in 1896, 1901, and 1907. Then in 1911. Then we stopped having panics and instead had the Great Depression. See what I mean? Which do you think sounds more entertaining? A Panic sounds like you’d be running around hollering and waving your arms. Depression sounds like you’re lying on the couch watching a chick-flick marathon and eating cookie-dough ice cream. The big sensation of the election was Harrison’s campaign song “Tippecanoe and
too,” which admittedly has a toe-tapping feel. The lyrics in part ran, “we'll beat little Van, Van, Van, Van is a used up man.” The van Buren camp went negative, calling Tyler Harrison “granny” and suggesting he was ready to retire to a log cabin and drink cider. Big whoop. It’s not like van Buren was Mr Stud-Muffin. Look at the picture, he looks like an understudy to play the Wizard of Oz. Back in the days of Jefferson and Adams there was real character assassination, and not just character assassination either, actual assassination: Aaron Burr shot Alexander Hamilton, for crying out loud. I guess people were just more patriotic in those days.
William Henry Harrison: 234
Martin van Buren: 60