Anyone else feel the American voters wouldn't give one Party more than 12 years in the White House?

16+ years in the White House for one party, it’s just something I feel like America doesn’t do.
If you share this feeling with me, how do you think it will manifest in the context of 2016/2020?

In the past 228 years, it’s only happened a few times:
[li]28 years Democrat-Republican: Jefferson/Madison/Monroe/Adams 1801-1829[/li][li]16 years Republican: Grant/Hayes/Garfield-Arthur 1869-1885[/li][li]16 years Republican: McKinley/Roosevelt/Taft 1897-1913[/li][li]20 years Democrat: Roosevelt/Truman 1933-1953[/li][/ul]
It’s only happened once in the past 100 years. Only four times total and for two of those four 16 was the limit. Since then it’s been 8-8-8-4-12-8-8-8. I feel like after 12 years the American public will blame anything they’re unhappy with on the White House whether the President is doing a good job or not.

I’d expect that if President Years 9-12 is doing a bad job or has any notable scandals, then informed voters would vote him/her out before the chance for years 13-16 but… I’d also expect that if President Years 9-12 is doing a good job that the opposition could easily convince uninformed voters that the President is doing badly and must be replaced (because “balance” theoretically sounds like a good idea, I believe uninformed voters will tend towards going back and forth regardless of the qualifications of the available candidates).
I do not have a prediction for how this would play out over this election and the next one. Still, my gut just tells me Americans won’t be inclined to go more than 12.

If a Republican takes the White House this year then the conversation is over before it’s begun. I think the Republican field is weak, so if the Republican nominee takes the White House I think he’d likely be a one-term President who could possibly be followed by an two-term Democrat.

I could see Bernie Sanders being a one-term President (and I say that as someone who prefers Sanders to Hillary Clinton), capping the Democratic White House at 12 years as my gut tells me would be the limit. He’s a change from the mainstream Democratic Party agenda so if his first term doesn’t go very well I could see voters saying to themselves “Well, that was an experiment and it didn’t go well- time to end it.” Plus, he could end up running against someone half his age.

Hillary Clinton, I kinda see her as a two-term President. I have a more difficult time seeing how my instinct rings true in this case- and I think Clinton is the most likely person to win the Presidency this Fall. With the road she’s travelled, I think getting elected the first time will have been the hard part. Once she’s in, I see her staying in. My 12 year limit gut feeling would require something really bad happening on her watch (terror attack/economy crash). It could be something she had no control over and she could handle it perfectly but still the voters could blame her for it and deny her a second term- that’s the only way I see my gut feeling playing out if Clinton is elected.
Am I the only one whose gut says the American electorate is disinclined to give more than 12 years in the White House to one Party?

My theory on the reason for this is that after loosing three or more elections in a row, the party out of power will undergo internal reform to become electable again. The examples I can think of include Nixon using the Southern strategy, Bill Clinton making the Democratic Party more centrist in 1992, W with his “compassionate” conservatism in 2000, etc. If the Republicans are to win the presidency again, the party will have to undergo some significant internal reform. My guess is that this will involve kicking out the Tea party wing of the party. If instead the Republicans keep doubling down on the crazy, they will eventually be on the receiving end of losses so devastating that the Democratic Party will become too big and eventually split in two. One party rule just isn’t stable outside of an authoritarian system like in China. I suppose ending up with three parties is a small possibility. However it happens, I think the far right wing of the Republican Party will be the odd constituency out. We’re almost seeing this right now, with moderate Republicans that will support Hillary over Bernie while trying to marginalize The Donald.

I think looking at the number of elections and saying that it’s only happened four times is a little misleading. Add up the number of years that it’s happened, instead of the number of elections, and it’s 80 years out of 228. So, in fact, more than 33% of the time, American voters have in fact been happy to give the White House to the same party for more than 12 years.

The number of times you’ve had one party hold the White House for more than 12 years will necessarily be few when you’re only talking about a time span of 228 years. You can fit fewer 16-year stretches into a 228-year period than you can 8 or 4 year stretches.

Set aside “more than 12 years”: seldom does one Party keep the White House for more than 8 years.

I think the Era of Good Feeling and the post-Civil War Reconstruction Era should be treated as special cases. With these excluded, it is very rare indeed that a non-incumbent won the Presidency after his Party had held it for 8 years or more. In fact it’s only happened twice: Hoover won in 1928; Bush the Elder won in 1988. (The Truman/FDR victories after 1932 were all by incumbents.)

The 1928 and 1988 elections were at times of peace and prosperty. 2016 is neither particularly peaceful nor particularly prosperous. I think Democrats “certain” of victory in November are way too optimistic.

While I agree that being ‘certain’ of victory at this point is premature, it’s very different reasons. As Nate Silver is frequently at pains to remind us, the sample size for anything involving Presidential elections is really, really small. If you start discounting particular instances of something happening as ‘obvious exceptions’, it gets even smaller. The ‘party fatigue’ hypothesis is interesting, but there’s just not enough data on this point to make predictions based on it.

We often see things saying “If X wins, s/he will be the first president to Y”, as though that made X less likely to win. But of course, there have been so few presidents that nearly any candidate is going to be the first who was or did some thing.

And that’s why I don’t think the Democrats should be ‘certain’ of anything. I do think they’ve got the edge (and the prediction markets agree, for what that’s worth), but there’s just not enough data on this stuff for that level of confidence.

I think circumstances will favor a party switch for president fairly frequently, but we had 20 straight years of Democratic presidents with FDR and Truman, so circumstances could allow it. It’s a lot more complicated than who is president though, the makeup of the congress matters too, and most presidential elections are fairly close and events during the election cycle can swing the electorate one way or another. But we are Americans, and one of our best characteristics, one intended in the making of our Constitution and electoral system, is that we can’t make up our minds.

Electoral Precedents

I think FDR and Truman isn’t a good example, because that was World War II. There was a strong “don’t-change-horses-in-the-middle-of-the-stream” sentiment and WWII was most definitely not normal average times for America.
So yes, I think 12 years is the max, and even the last time the Republicans did it (Reagan-Bush,) didn’t Bush trail Dukakis by 17% in the polls at one point in 1988?

88 years – 1861-1869 were excluded on a rather thin technicality (of the use of the “National Union Party” label for Lincoln’s reelection).

There could be other wars or circumstances that lead to the same long run of presidents from one party. It’s pretty clear that we have changed party for our presidents fairly regularly, but following Truman we haven’t had the opportunity to re-elect a president twice, so a lot of circumstances where we might have just one president continue in the same party for 12 years no longer exists unless we repeal that stupid anti-democratic amendment, and the pattern we see may not be based on the electorates tolerance for one party. The 2 term limit is not simply limiting the time in office of a president, it makes him a lame duck as soon as his second term starts which would affect the job he does and the way the people view his party.

I think that the main factor that determines whether or not there is a party switch is how the economy is doing. It was doing poorly in 2008, so we got a party switch. (Same for 1980 and 1992) It’s doing much better now, so I think the Democrats will win, no matter who wins the nomination.

I recall reading once that one of the Kennedy family (a woman, I think) once remarked on how difficult it would be to explain to a foreigner the difference between Democrats and Republicans. In those days the parties were more in the nature of tribes than strictly ideological factions; each had its liberal and moderate and conservative wings. And in that political environment it would not be surprising to see a party voted out of power just because it had held it too long and the voters were sick and tired of it.

But that is not today’s political environment. Each party really stands for a set, or range, of ideas now, entirely different from the other’s set or range. Either party can stay in power for so long as a majority likes its ideas – even if that party proves to be made up of pols who are, e.g., significantly more corrupt or incompetent than the other’s. Pro-choicers are not going to vote for a pro-life candidate just because the pro-choice candidate is a crook or an idiot, and vice-versa.

The effect of prolonged bad economic performance would be, perhaps, to change some voters’ minds about their ideas, and that might turn a party out of power. But the ideas will still rule, so long as we have a clear ideological divide in our party system.

So it can’t happen unless there are special circumstances. Is what we have right now a special circumstance? The only way to find out is to wait and see if it happens. In other words, this has no predictive power at all.

I understand your logic here, but I’m not sure it improves the overall analysis. When people were voting for Obama, they weren’t thinking “This is the beginning of a 16-year stretch of Dems controlling the white house.” They were mostly thinking “We better stop the Republicans from getting another 4 years.” It’s only now in this election that voters are really thinking about a 12+ year stretch.

So I think any method of counting years should discount the first 12 of each sequence. That method would conclude that we have only been in 12+ year terms for 32 years out of 228, or just 14% of the time.

I honestly don’t know all that many people that think about it in these terms. They talk about wanting a change when things go bad, but not that you can go too long in general.