Predictably, these days, when two or more political pundits are gathered together in her name, there is discussion over whether Hillary Clinton is running for President Obama’s third term or former President Bill Clinton’s third term. (Read why I believe that she is running for both.)
However, among Republican political pundits, might I suggest that the discussion also include a heartfelt thanks to the Republican-controlled 80th Congress, which was in session from January 1947 to January 1949? Why? Because on March 21,1947, that esteemed body passed the 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, limiting the president of the United States to two elected four-year terms.
From a Republican perspective, and viewed through a historical lens, the passage of the 22nd Amendment should be construed as a miraculously timed political fluke. If not for this presidential term limit, American history could have been dramatically altered in the recent past and again in 2016.
The past example is the proposition that Bill Clinton could very possibly have been reelected to his own third term in 2000. Amazingly, even after being impeached on December 19, 1998, and mired in numerous scandals, when Clinton left office on January 20, 2001, his job-approval rating was a very commendable 66%.
In fact, Clinton’s average job-approval rating during his entire second term was 61%, with only 29% disapproving. Unbelievably, Clinton’s highest job-approval rating of 73% occurred on December 19–20 of 1998, while he was being impeached by the House of Representatives.
Moving to the current example (and, Republicans, please forgive me for even writing this), it is not far-fetched to think that Obama would have a good chance of winning a third term.
First, never underestimate the power of incumbency, as witnessed to by the last three presidents’ having won reelection.Throughout our history, in the 32 presidential elections in which an incumbent was on the ballot, 22 have won. This translates into a 68.7 reelection rate.
Second, it is entirely plausible that Obama could have rallied his loyal voter coalition for a third time. And why not, considering that in 2012 he won reelection with a whopping 332 electoral votes, in spite of a bad economy, and his own unpopular policies.
However (and we should be thankful for this), because of the action taken by the 1947 Republican Congress, pundits are reduced to talking about Hillary’s winning her husband’s and her former boss’s third terms, as opposed to our country potentially having to experience the real thing. (Raise your hand if you think Obama would run again if he could.)
Here is why I believe the passage of the 22nd Amendment was a miraculous political and historical fluke.
First, some background: The 80th Congress convened on January 3, 1947. Less than three months later, Congress passed the term-limiting amendment in reaction to President Franklin Roosevelt’s having been elected a total of four times starting in 1932. But it was not until February 27, 1951, almost four years after its passage, that the 22nd Amendment was ratified by the required three-quarters of the states.
However, the miraculous fluke concerns historical political math.
From January of 1933 up until January of 1995, the Republicans controlled Congress only twice, for a grand total of four out of 62 years. And in one of those years, 1947, they managed to change the course of the presidency and the nation forever.
In the 1946 midterm election, after 16 straight years of the Democratic party’s controlling both houses of Congress, the Republicans finally won control of Capitol Hill.
A year and a half later, during the 1948 presidential campaign, President Truman nicknamed the 80th Congress the “Do Nothing Congress.” The moniker stuck. Not only did Truman win election to his own presidential term, but he had coattails long enough to win back Democratic control of both the House and the Senate.
It was not until the 1952 presidential election, when retired general Dwight Eisenhower won the White House, that the GOP was able to wrest back control of both houses of Congress, with a very thin margin of victory.
Republicans had just won the presidency for the first time since 1928, and the ghost of Franklin Delano Roosevelt was not looming quite as large as it had been in 1947. Therefore, it is unlikely that the 1953 congressional Republicans would have had the same motivation to pass the 22nd Amendment.
Furthermore, and more important, by the mid-1950s Roosevelt had become a larger-than-life national hero, and Republicans would not have wanted to appear as if they were dishonoring his achievement of leading the nation to victory in World War II.
Alas, in 1956, Republicans once again lost control of Congress and did not regain control again until 38 years later, when the 104th Congress was sworn in on January 3, 1995.
Now let’s all stand up and applaud the 1947 Congress and that miraculous slice of political pie that is keeping President Barack Obama from planning his 2016 reelection and telling us why he needs four more years to fully destroy our nation.
Cross-posted at National Review Online