Which Major Party Candidate Would Have Been the Worst?

Besides Burr and Henry Wallace:

Any of the post John Adams Federalists (Pinckney, Clinton, King) who represented a party that was ridiculously obstructionist and also secessionist/New England regionalist assholes (ie trying to restrict the admission of new states so they’d never outnumber the 13 colonies)

Millard Fillmore in 1856, running for the American Party which was nativist and anti-Catholic

John Breckinridge in 1860 as the candidate of the Southern Democrats (ie slave power)

William Jennings Bryan in 1896, 1900, and 1908-rabid inflationist, prohibitionist, and as an added bonus advocated banning teaching evolution

George McGovern in 1972-wanted to cut defence spending by a third in the middle of the Cold War

Both Mondale in 1984 and Dukakis in 1988-outworn New Dealers who offered nothing new. If elected they’d have done little but damage the Democratic Party even more


Robert Taft who while a brilliant and principled man was an isolationist and opposed US involvment in the Cold War

Pat Buchanan in 1996. 'Nuff said.

That was the party platform but McClelland personally repudiated it-if elected he’d have continued the war to the finish. In addition since Lincoln ended up being assasinated some argue McClellan would have done a better job than Andrew Johnson.

That’s damning McClelland with faint praise.

Losing the War, or the South, would hardly have ended the United States, any more than losing the States ended Britain.

For that matter, would Fremont have gone to war? I don’t know too much about him, but it seems Southern secession would have given him the two things he wanted most: free states for white settlement on the frontier, and the excision of the slaveowning oligarchy from Congress and federal government.

I agree with the choice. Fremont was an egomaniac who was convicted of several military charges after clashes with General Kearney in California, and engaging in duels. He was also court martialed during the Civil War. As noted, the man was reckless and impulsive in the extreme, resulting in the unnecessary deaths of others. He married the daughter of Thomas Hart Benton, who encouraged the behavior and who probably had visions of his very own puppet in the white house. The country would have been ill-served .

Oh, I’m sure. I was just amused by the hyperbolic “the United States would not exist today.” The United States would have continued without the seceded states. When cooler heads prevailed, relations between the two countries would have been amicable, given the economic incentives and shared heritage (see US and Canada today).

I figured the fairest way to answer the question was to assume outside events (especially foreign affairs) would have been relatively the same and consider how a different president would have handled those same events. I felt it would have been a cop-out to say, for example, that if Gore had been elected in 2000 there wouldn’t have been a 9/11 attack or if Hoover had been re-elected in 1932 Hitler wouldn’t have taken power in Germany. And by the same principle, I assumed Khrushchev and Castro would have followed a similar course to what they historically did in 1962.

For what it’s worth, I agree that there was a lot of American arrogance and hypocrisy involved in Cuba. Both the Kennedy and the Eisenhower administration acted as if the United States owned Cuba and had a veto over Cuban affairs. And the Soviets justifiably accused us of hypocrisy when we made an issue out of their missiles in Cuba after we had already based our missiles in Turkey.

Under federal law at the time, the Secretary of State (if eligible) became President. IMO that law made a lot more sense especially under wartime conditions.

Well, yes . . . McClellan would have been bad too.

Had secession been successful, I don’t believe it would have been the last secession. There were other regional frictions in the US.

Oh jeez yeah, probably without even waiting for the South to fire on Fort Sumter. Fremont never backed away from a fight. He started one in California even before we were at war with Mexico. Fremont thought Lincoln was much too timid and have should have fought more aggressively (with what resources, who knows) and freed the slaves much earlier.

The danger with Breckinridge would have been not so much his election as his successor’s election. If the Republicans had won in 1864, Breckinridge would have been in Buchanan’s position as the incumbent for four transition months while the South seceded. Breckinridge might have been even worse than Buchanan–he might have recognized the Confederacy and given up the federal forts. Or maybe not–he was a Kentuckian and semi-loyal to the federal government until he was threatened with arrest in fall 1861. We’ll never know.

Historical ignorance fought, thank you. However, assuming President Willkie had been running for reelection in 1944 the Republicans still would have lost the head of their ticket four weeks before the election.

Then there was the infamous “4th Expedition”, conceived and led by Fremont to explore a route through the Rocky Mountains for a rail line. He deliberately chose early winter to start the expedition, with the logic that if they couldn’t hike through in the winter, a rail line would never work. Despite warnings from people who knew better, including local Indians, they set out and were quickly trapped by vicious blizzard conditions. They ate all of their pack animals when food ran out, and it’s suspected that there was cannibalism involved with the ten people who died. The man was a menace.