SURE YOU WANT TO BE PRESIDENT? (Illustration) American Presidents Civil Rights Government History Law and Politics Social Studies Visual Arts American History

Clifford Berryman (1869-1949), a prize-winning American artist, lampoons President Cleveland in this political cartoon entitled “Choosin’ to Run Isn't as Restful as This.” Published on the 13th of August, 1928, in Washington’s The Evening Star, the cartoon contrasts Cleveland’s tendency to relax with an otherwise busy reelection season. Image online via the Library of Congress. Click on the image for a better view.


The U.S. Constitution gives the top job in the federal government to the President. Whoever serves in that capacity must be elected by citizens of the country who are 18 years and over.

Today expensive, endless television ads are candidate-preferred tools of persuasion, but before the days of instant communication, campaign posters (beginning in 1848 when Zachary Taylor ran for president) were used to influence voters.

Taylor, a popular General in the US-Mexican War whose nickname was "Old Rough and Ready," was so well-known at the time that the poster's artist, Thomas W. Strong, didn't bother to put the candidate's name in the picture.

Abraham Lincoln couldn't have known what was in store for him when he became President of the United States. Believed by many to be America's greatest leader, Lincoln didn't have his characteristic beard in 1860, when his election poster was created. (Note how much the job aged Lincoln! He was assassinated slightly more than four years after he first took office.)

President Andrew Johnson, Abraham Lincoln's successor, won his impeachment trial by one vote. Although he remained in office, press criticism was brutal.

"King Andy," as he was called by some, was hounded even as he planned to return to private life. In the end, he was defeated by the power of the people as set forth in the U.S. Constitution. To this day, however, scholars debate whether the country-at-large possessed accurate facts.

The last American election of the 19th century - between William McKinley and William Jennings Bryan in 1896 - was characterized by bitter rancor. Opponents of McKinley said he was an imperialist. One thing was sure: The people did not want federal interference (especially from federal judges) in local affairs. The LA Times (on September 24, 1896) was explicit in its message: "Down with the courts."

As the 19th century closed (and the 20th opened), many politicians were leaning toward expansionist policies. The Verdict put that "imperialist" question directly to the people on February 27, 1899. Was President McKinley, standing with the ghosts of Napoleon and Caesar, a despot?

The list of chief executives, ridiculed by the people as they question the judgment (or actions) of their leaders, is a long one. The same applies to institutions (like Wall Street), wealthy entrepreneurs (like John D. Rockefeller) or high-ranking members of government (like the Vice President).

Spiro Agnew (Richard Nixon's Vice President) was an especially easy target in the early 1970s.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Sep 01, 2004

Updated Last Revision: May 07, 2019

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"SURE YOU WANT TO BE PRESIDENT?" AwesomeStories.com. Sep 01, 2004. Feb 22, 2020.
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