The weirdest presidential transitions in history, explained

(CNN)Is the transition of power from Barack Obama to Donald Trump the very strangest in the history of the American presidency? Surely it’s a contender: On January 20, an irascibly bombastic real estate mogul and reality star who once accused the President of being a fraud will step up to the plate as commander in chief himself, taking the mantle from the man — community organizer and law professor, preternaturally calm in public — he once claimed might never have really been President at all.

On the other hand, this transfer of power is hardly the first controversial one; the American presidency has a long history of contentious handoffs. CNN Opinion asked historians to give us some context with descriptions of transitions past.
So is the Obama/Trump transition the weirdest ever? After reading about these other six, you decide.

From John Quincy Adams to Andrew Jackson: After the campaign that killed a First Lady-elect


November 4, 1980-January 20, 1981
By Julian Zelizer
Editor’s Note: Julian Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University and a New America fellow. He is the author of “Jimmy Carter” and “The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the Battle for the Great Society.” He also is the co-host of the podcast “Politics & Polls.” The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own.
In January 1981, the nation awaited a presidential transition as dramatic as what we are witnessing today. Back then, a former Hollywood actor who was associated with right-wing conservatism prepared to take over the reins of power from the discredited presidential administration of Jimmy Carter. For many Americans who lived through the 1950s and 1960s, it was unthinkable that a person as conservative as Reagan could inhabit the White House. In 1964, the nation had rejected the conservatism of Barry Goldwater when Lyndon Johnson defeated him in a landslide election, but now Reagan would be in control, along with a rightward Republican Senate.
The transfer of power was taking place between two very different types of politicians. Carter was a cerebral, problem-solving, centrist who rejected any ideological orthodoxy and Reagan was a zealous conservative who thrived in dramatic proclamations and theatrical appeals to voters. But Carter was devastated by the 1980 election as a result of economic malaise and the Iran hostage crisis, which made it seem as if the United States was powerless to stop any threat. The collapse of his presidency, and the ongoing turmoil facing Democrats since the failure of Vietnam, opened the door to something fundamentally different to a person who seemed far outside mainstream American politics.
The rest was history. During his inaugural speech, Ronald Reagan made his major theme painstakingly clear to Democrats: Government was the problem, not the solution. Iran added insult to injury for the defeated Carter by waiting until Reagan completed his speech to release the American hostages. The rest of his presidency, and Republican politics since the transition that occurred in 1981, has revolved around trying to push politics, policy and public debate as right as possible. Today, as Donald Trump prepares to take control from President Obama with a list of extremely conservative Cabinet appointees, and conservative Republicans in control of both chambers of Congress, many in the GOP are hoping that despite all the chaos and ugliness of the Trump campaign, that just maybe this new presidency might be as significant to the fulfillment of Reagan’s vision as any other Republican who has taken control of the White House.

Read more:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s