6 Bizarre Factors That Predict Every Presidential Election
Despite what the pundits, talking heads and NPR tell you, the presidential election is still a crapshoot. You think you know what's going to happen, then BAM! The president of the United States takes a Xanax/Thanksgiving turkey cocktail before a debate. Wouldn't it be great if you could shut out that political noise and predict the outcome of every presidential election based on completely ridiculous and arbitrary factors?
Guess what? You totally can. Just go by ...
The Redskins Rule
The Washington Redskins enjoy one of the most remarkable reputations in political history due to a little correlation called the "Redskins rule." It's as simple as it is spooky: If the Redskins win their last home game before election day, then the party in power gets to hold on to the White House. If the Redskins lose, no matter how close the game, the opposition party takes over.
"Hmmm, I should go for a tie just to see what happens."
You could write it off as blind chance if, say, it worked for three or four elections ... but the rule has incredibly held true for every damn election since 1940, except one (and we'll get to it in a minute). So this is slowly entering gypsy curse territory.
Because why the hell would this possibly work? Maybe you could say that the incumbent is re-elected when things are going well for the country, and when things are going well, the crowd will be more jazzed to root for football, and the positive crowd makes the team play better. But why would it only apply to that one game? Keep in mind that it has nothing to do with how good the team is overall -- the 1976 Redskins only lost two games at home all year, but by God, one of those two losses was right before election day, and therefore the Republican incumbent lost and Democrats took back the presidency. What the hell?
"Screw your election! We just lost to the Cowboys!"
As for the one exception, it was in 2004, when the Green Bay Packers beat the Redskins but George W. Bush held on to the presidency. The fact that this was the one exception actually makes it weirder, because as some of you vividly remember, Bush was president but had actually lost the popular vote in 2000 (winning only due to the Supreme Court craziness over Florida's recount). As the guy credited with discovering the theory, Steve Hirdt, points out, if you make the rule refer not to the party in power, but to the party that won the popular vote in the previous election, it suddenly has a perfect 18-for-18 record predating World War II.
Which Side Sells More Halloween Masks
The nice thing about the election being so close to Halloween is all the Electionweenie parties the bars throw. And what better costume for a Hallowection bash than the rubbery dripping face of your favorite presidential candidate? Or just a regular mask of LBJ. Either way -- spooooky!
So you'd think that the sales of presidential Halloween masks would only reflect how uncreative and slipshod we are when it comes to costumes, not much more or less. But it's actually a pretty accurate indicator of who will win the election. According to CNN Money in 2004, Halloween mask sales have accurately predicted the winner of every U.S. presidential election since 1980. This method was upheld in 2004 and again in 2008.
The great thing about John Kerry masks is that they work just as well for Andrew Jackson.
This is a little bit surprising, because it seems like for every nerd who dresses up as his favorite candidate, there would be 10 college kids ironically dressing up as somebody they hate to make some kind of "wacky" commentary (i.e., college Republicans in the '90s wearing Bill Clinton costumes with a blow-up Monica Lewinsky doll attached). After all, Halloween is all about being scary, right? You'd think all of the Obama supporters would be out buying Mitt Romney costumes and trying to craft a "binder full of women" to carry around.
The binder marked "?" is illegal in 38 states.
Also, you'd think that either way the numbers would be badly skewed, since people who dress up for Halloween are only one segment of the population. You're leaving out the elderly vote, plus all of the religious types who don't believe in the holiday.
But, no -- for a generation, we've been buying the mask of the guy we intend to vote for. Which is pretty weird, if you ask us, especially since we're pretty sure a lot of these sales are parents buying masks in order to dress up their toddlers as a form of political debate ("Thanks for the candy, can I take a moment to talk to you about why little Mitt here will be good for small businesses?"). And in case you're wondering, according to the good folks at BuyCostumes.com, we're looking at four more years of an Obama nation. Either that or we've got a whole other racial effigy problem on our hands.
Speaking of kids ...
The Kid Vote
Remember when you were a kid in elementary school and you got to participate in a school-wide mock vote? To humor your childish little baby brains, the grown-ups set up voting booths and counted the ballots and everything, knowing perfectly well that your vote had as much say as a 19th century woman's. Half of the kids probably picked the candidate who most looked like a cartoon, or tried to eat the ballot.
Yet, somehow, the Scholastic News election poll has correctly called 15 of the past 17 presidential elections, including every single presidential election since 1964. Their only misses were in 1960, when they picked Richard M. Nixon over John F. Kennedy (in reality Kennedy won the popular vote by a microscopic margin of 49.7 percent to 49.5 percent), and in 1948, when they chose Thomas E. Dewey over Harry S. Truman. And hey, who didn't?
"To be fair, Governor Dewey did win the majority of deez."
"Deez, Mr. President?"
We suppose you could say that it's all because elementary school kids don't have the balls to vote for anyone other than their parents' favorite candidate ... but would they really mirror the results so perfectly? There are no rebellious kids who go against the grain? There aren't millions of dumb kids who just pick the candidate who most reminds them of their grandpa?
The best part is that Scholastic publishes their results weeks ahead of the actual election. All this jibber-jabbering about polls and hiring fortune tellers to read tea leaves to tell us who will win is pointless. The kids have already spoken. It's going to be Obama. Put a fork in it, we're done here.
The other 4 percent went with Big Bird.
How Vigo County, Indiana, Votes
If you follow election coverage, you know by now that there are entire swaths of the continental United States that are already in the pocket of one candidate or the other. California will go Democrat, no questions asked. Texas and the rest of the deep South will go Republican. In fact, every election actually comes down to about half a dozen "swing" states (again, see 2000, Florida) because the rest of the country is solidly in one camp or the other. But not Vigo County, Indiana. However Vigo goes, so goes the rest of the country.
In fact, Vigo County has correctly picked the winner of every presidential election since 1956, in most cases within 3 percent of the popular vote. And with only two exceptions, you can actually follow the streak back to 1892, the year that Grover Cleveland staged an LL Cool J style comeback (just don't call it that). So, what's the secret to Vigo County's success as a weather vane? Part of the reason is that Vigo sits in the belt of what's known as the mean center of United States population.
"Someone tell Ohio and Illinois to quit hogging the armrests."
Every 10 years, the people over at the Census Bureau get high as balls before attempting to answer this completely high as balls question: If you could attach a weight to all of the people in America, where is the point that you could totally balance the whole country? That point is the mean center of the population, and the map above represents that point dating from 1790 to 2010. Also, Vigo County is solidly in the belt of balancing points. If the mean center of the United States is located squarely in the guts of America, then Vigo County, Indiana, is America's g-spot.
Whereas Florida is America's dick that sometimes leads it to questionable judgment.
Why does this matter? Vigo isn't just a melting pot, it's "a microcosm that reflects the electorate as a whole." It's a working-class county with universities and factories, city folk and country folk, poors and less-poors. And it's a county that flip-flops on mayors -- Republican one term, Democrat the next. They just don't give a fuck. And they pick the president every time.
What we want to know is, why aren't reporters going door to door RIGHT NOW to find out what Vigo County residents are thinking?
The Summer Olympics
There are only three things that happen every four years: the Olympics, the American presidential election and the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. Now, we can't speak for the stone-faced gents in England, but we can say that there's definitely a connection between the Olympics and the elections. Or at least the Olympics that we've seen on television.
Check this out: Almost every single time the Summer Olympics were hosted by a country that had previously won a hosting bid, the incumbent party won the popular vote that election. Likewise, every time the games were hosted someplace new, voters thought that it was time for a change and chose a president from a different party. That's a success record of 12 out of 13, with the only miss being in 1988. And you can't trust anything from the year that launched Rick Astley's career, so we don't think that one counts.
Interestingly, this model only works if you remember how hilariously bad the International Olympic Committee was at choosing its host cities for the first half of the 20th century. Japan was slated to host the summer and winter 1940 Olympics, Italy the 1944 winter games and England the 1944 Summer Olympics. All these events, just like the 1916 Berlin games, had to be canceled due to world wars. So even though 1964 was the first time we watched the Olympics in Japan, the Japanese had won the bid war decades previously. As for what possible connection this could have ... we can't even guess. Feel free to try in the comments.
And since London hosted the Olympics back in 1908 and won the bid to host in 1944, we can bet that Obama will win re-election this November. Either a Republican or a third-party candidate will win in 2016 after Brazil hosts its first-ever Summer Olympics, so there's plenty of time for Ms. Palin, Mr. Cain and Mr. Trump to study up.
Why shouldn't the president also have a reality show?
The Oscar Connection
Let's not kid ourselves. Most of us stopped caring about the Oscars when Shakespeare in Love beat out Blues Brothers 2000 for Best Picture back in 1999. But if you pay attention, you can actually use Hollywood's greatest pat-on-the-back ceremony to predict who will be president of the United States. This theory is a Cracked exclusive, so feel free to tell us where we're wrong.
It works like this: During an election year, go back and find out who won the Academy Award for Best Picture the year before. If the movie has a downbeat ending where the system fails (bad guy goes free, good guy loses, etc.), you can plan on the incumbent party losing. If, on the other hand, the movie portrays the system working in the end -- a child is saved from falling through the cracks, a criminal is brought to justice, a gym montage delivers a truly buff Rocky just like it promised it would -- then the incumbent party is good to go.
Words can't describe how much we want to see this scene recreated with Biden and Obama.
Here's the pattern going back to the '70s ... tell us this isn't pretty damn convincing:
1975: In Best Picture winner One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, a not-crazy person is lobotomized by the mental hospital meant to help him. The system fails the main character and the rest of the inmates at the institution; the next year, the incumbent party loses the presidential election.
1979: In Kramer vs. Kramer, a biased justice system sides with an irresponsible mom in a custody case "just because" -- their words, not ours. The next year, the incumbent Democrats are out and Republicans are in.
"You come at the Streep, you best not miss."
1983: After suffering through affairs, divorce, cancer, death and terrible '80s hair, a broken family comes together to raise three kids in Terms of Endearment. Despite tragedy, the family structure stays intact and overcomes all. The incumbent party wins.
1987: This is the one example that we admit might not quite fit. The Last Emperor is a movie about how the very last royal in the Qing Dynasty makes his way in a world that no longer needs him. That world is communist China, and the communist party holds an iron grip at the end of the movie. So you would think that it's the kind of downbeat ending that would get the incumbent Republicans booted from office ... unless they were running on a "fight the communists" platform, in which case a movie reminding the audience of how terrible the commies are would be a boost to the party promising to get tough on them. Incumbents win.
1991: In The Silence of the Lambs, Clarice saves one victim but lets a cannibalistic serial killer get away so that he can chill out Jimmy Buffett style in the Bahamas. While eating people. We'll have to give law enforcement a negative on that one. Incumbent party loses.
"If you must know, Clarice, his last words were 'I wish I'd voted for Dukakis.'"
1995: Braveheart -- true, William Wallace is publicly gutted, but Scotland eventually gets her FREEEEDOM. Which was what it was all about in the end. Freedom prevails, and so does the incumbent party.
1999: In American Beauty, the protagonist is murdered by his psychotic neighbor and both families completely fall apart. The incumbent party loses.
2003: In The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, evil is defeated and the rightful king takes the throne. The incumbent party wins.
See that, Peter Jackson? Two fucking sentences, and we didn't even need one epilogue.
2007: No Country for Old Men ... not only does everyone die horrifically, but the bad guy gets away. The incumbent party loses.
So what does that mean for this election? The 2011 winner was The Artist, in which a struggling actor makes the transition from silent movies to talkies, thanks to the love of a good woman and the good graces of the people who always adored him. But in a shocking twist ending, he is also revealed to be French. We'll just come back and fill this one in after we see how the election turns out.
Please visit Jacopo della Quercia on Twitter.
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For more political jibba jabba, check out 5 Presidential Elections Even Dumber Than This One (Somehow) and 6 Presidential Secrets Your History Teacher Didn't Mention.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out The One Country Whose Elections Are Crazier Than the USA's.
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