History Unplugged Podcast
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Almost President: Stephen Douglas, Thomas Dewey, and Other Failed Candidates That Would’ve Altered History Most by Winning

June 07, 2022
00:00 38:41
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Dozens of American leaders captured their party’s nomination for the presidency but never reached the Oval Office. How would history have changed if they had won? If Abraham Lincoln had lost to Stephen Douglas, a pro-slavery Democrat, in 1860, then Emancipation would be the last thing on his mind during the Civil War. If Richard Nixon had defeated JFK in 1960, then the Cuban Missile Crisis, Bay of Pigs Invasion, and Space Race could have also turned out very differently.

To explore these counterfactuals is today’s guest Peter Shea, author of the book In the Arena: A History of American Presidential Hopefuls. We discuss the rise, early career, campaign, and later achievements of historical giants like Aaron Burr and Henry Clay, up through modern candidates to get insight into what it’s like to run for one of the most powerful positions in the world – and come up short.

In a speech Theodore Roosevelt gave after losing the 1912 presidential election, he assigned ultimate credit “to the man who is actually in the arena…who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

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Meet Your Host
Meet Your Host
Scott Rank is the host of the History Unplugged Podcast and a PhD in history who specialized in the Ottoman Empire and modern Turkey. Before going down the academic route he worked as a journalist in Istanbul. He has written 12 history books on topics ranging from lost Bronze Age civilizations to the Age of Discovery. Some of his books include The Age of Illumination: Science, Technology, and Reason in the Middle Ages and History’s 9 Most Insane Rulers.. Learn more about him by going to scottrankphd.com.
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