Recently The Onion ran the ingenious headline “Nation Finds Solace in Knowledge Candidates Taking Years Off Own Lives By Running For President.” It’s usually true of Commanders in Chief: They undergo brutal campaigns before taking on an even more brutal job. But not so the following gents, who entered office with a minimum of wear-and-tear or even effort. As rumors spread of the GOP convention turning to a fresh-faced newcomer (read: not Trump or Cruz), behold presidential elections won with shocking ease…
“Monroe is also notable for being the first of our presidents the average American knows nothing about today, paving the way for the Millard Fillmores and Benjamin Harrisons to come.”
The President: George Washington
Why so easy: It’s George freakin’ Washington.
How it happened: The man who led America to independence, Washington was literally the only choice for office as he proved with the unanimous electoral vote. (69 out of 69, dude!)
Historical legacy: You know how America exists? This guy.
The President: Washington again
Why so easy: It’s still George freakin’ Washington.
How it happened: One of the many ways Washington is unique: He is the only person to win the presidency who genuinely would have preferred not to hold the presidency. Now 60, his desire to get the hell back to Mount Vernon was postponed another four years to help the nation remained united. With 132 of 132 electoral votes, he was the first and only president to run unopposed until… you’ll find out momentarily.
Additional historical legacy: You know how our president actually needs to be elected and doesn’t just cling to power until death or a rebellion? This guy.
The President: James Monroe
Why so easy: Faced the ideal opponent… nobody!
How it happened: Having battled to simply win the Democratic-Republican nomination in 1816, the former Secretary of State found reelection far, far easier. His re-nomination a lock as the incumbent, Monroe witnessed the rival Federalist Party collapse completely, letting him run unopposed in the Era of Good Feelings. (But not Great Feelings, as he fell short of Washington’s standards, claiming 231 of a possible 235 electoral votes.)
Historical legacy: The Monroe Doctrine helped shaped the Western Hemisphere. Having followed Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Madison, Monroe is also notable for being the first of our presidents the average American knows nothing about today, paving the way for the Millard Fillmores and Benjamin Harrisons to come.
The President: James K. Polk
Why so easy: Somebody had to get it.
How it happened: Our first dark horse, Polk entered the Democratic convention reasonably confident he might be nominated… for Vice President. The convention turned to him only after eight ballots of deadlocks between the frontrunners, with one of his selling points being his promise to serve only one term and give somebody else in the party a shot as soon as possible. While the Whig Party mocked him with the slogan “Who is James K. Polk?”, he won the election comfortably: 170 electoral votes to Henry Clay’s 105.
Historical legacy: Polk had four goals: settle the Canada-Oregon boundary dispute with England, reestablish an independent treasury, lower the tariffs on foreign goods, acquire California. All four accomplished in his first term, he stuck to his vow not to seek reelection and died three months after leaving office. (Mic drop.)
The President: Franklin Pierce
Why so easy: Seriously, somebody had to get it.
How it happened: Dark horses get no darker. On the first ballot for the Democratic presidential nomination, Pierce received 0 votes. Indeed, the hopelessly split convention did not turn to him as the nominee until the 49th ballot. Pierce then won the presidency with 254 electoral votes to General Winfield Scott’s 42, in large part due to his relative youth. (Pierce was 47 and Scott was 66 in an era when living past 40 was a pleasant surprise.)
Historical legacy: Polk he was not. Soon after winning, Pierce watched his son die in a train accident, and it really didn’t improve from there as his presidency helped make the Civil War inevitable. His own party refused to let him seek another term, reportedly inspiring the quip, “There is nothing left to do but get drunk.” Pierce kept this promise, drinking himself to death by 64.
The President: Dwight Eisenhower
Why so easy: Voters like Ike. (In particularly, they like Ike winning World War II.)
How it happened: Sign you’re popular? Both parties want you as their nominee. The Eisenhower campaign for the GOP nomination began without his involvement or his supporters even knowing for certain if Ike was a Republican. Ike eventually admitted his Republican-icity and became the nominee, beating Adlai Stevenson 442 to 89 in the electoral college. He enjoyed it so much he beat Stevenson again 457 to 73 in 1956 as Democrats utterly failed to learn anything from four years earlier.
Historical legacy: FDR, Truman, Eisenhower. Seven straight elections when voters picked a president now generally respected by both parties and revered by historians as America survived the Great Depression, won World War II, laid the groundwork to win the Cold War, saw our economy boom and finally made progress toward ending segregation. That said, none of these men boasted about his penis. (Trade-offs, people.)