So there is a meme floating about on the Internet that no President since WWII has ever been re-elected with unemployment above 8%. Let’s debunk this falsehood. The underlying message here is that President Obama cannot be re-elected as long as unemployment remains above 8% based on previous examples.
There have only been two Presidents where unemployment has exceeded 8% for any length of time. One was Gerald Ford. Ford was never actually elected so you can’t really make the re-election argument in that case. The other was Ronald Reagan where unemployment remained above 8% throughout the majority of his first term. Despite that fact, he was re-elected to a second term in 1984 (I should note that unemployment had dropped below 8% on November 1984 when the Presidential election was decided so technically Reagan was re-elected while unemployment was at 7.2%).
But let’s get to the bottom of this meme. The intent is to provide a false scenario that uses the current unemployment figures to discredit the President. The assumption is that Presidents cannot be re-elected if unemployment is above 8%. It’s a means to make President Obama responsible for the current employment shortfall similar to making him responsible for the price of gas at the pump. You might as well blame the President for your bad hair day. Non Sequitur.
But let’s dig deeper into this complaint. Unemployment was rampant during the great depression; sometimes as high as 20%. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was re-elected three times (this was before term limits) so the argument that unemployment equals ineluctability is false. The fact that the current meme lists its starting point as post WWII is quite telling in that regard. Stating that unemployment above 8% is an historic requirement for re-election is a lie designed to make you believe that Barack Obama cannot be re-elected because he is responsible for the high unemployment rate when, in fact, it is the previous administration that caused the economic disaster.
Unemployment rates at 8% or greater do not mean President Obama won’t be re-elected. But massaging these numbers to predict an outcome is just wishful thinking on the part of Republicans who have no chance of defeating President Obama in 2012.
- Obama Likely to Face Highest Jobless Rate of Any Postwar Incumbent (blogs.wsj.com)
- Barack Obama Finds Solid Ground, High Approval Ratings, White House Confident About Reelection (huffingtonpost.com)