Forty-Four times the nation has transitioned from one President to another. Some of those weren’t as much transitions as they were emergencies. Eight times, (18%) the Vice President has been called upon to become President after the death of the sitting President. John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Andrew Johnson, James Garfield, Teddy Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson all took office after the death of the President put them in the White House.
Twelve times (27%) a member of the same Political Part as the President took office following the end of the previous terms. On one occasion (2%), a Vice President took office when the President resigned (Ford).
What that means is that for most of our history, roughly 53% of the time, the incoming President was the opposite Party of the sitting President. You could argue that Andrew Johnson was also different from Grant, but I am using his Party upon entering office. Plus Johnson is kind of a strange Presidency anyway, and with what I am about to talk about about his is the MOST uncomfortable transition we may have ever had.
In any case, taking deaths, resignations and same party out of the equation, we have had essentially twenty-four actual “transitions” that involved a real change in the ruling party of the nation. And not once has a shot been fired.
That doesn’t mean that there weren’t problems and verbal sniping. Who can forget the famous removal of all the “W” keys “prank” pulled by the outgoing Clinton team? Or the “insult” Nancy Reagan leveled at Roslyn Carter? How about Truman carping about Eisenhower’s paranoia? And Nixon claiming LBJ has “blood on his hands?”
For all of that, transitions went reasonably well. Certainly better than any other nation can claim to have transferred power between two different ideologies that many times. But there is also a reason for being able to make that claim – a reason that is slowly dying and could be why in the midst of this particular transition we are seeing even more than usual “discomfort” and we are likely to see even more unease in the future…