“Heh heh. Cox. I mean, Mr. Governer.”
~Presidential Debate Proctor, 1920
As we’ve established time and time again, we’re not the best at math, but as far as we can tell, America has been a country for over 150 years, and has had more than 40 presidents. 43 presidents maybe? 45? Either way, it’s less than 50. And that means that anytime you have the chance to become the President of the Most Powerful Country In The World (pre-2008 division), your name will be in the history books, even if it’s just as a footnote.
The problem with being a part of history is that the first and, in some cases only, thing that we see in a history book is the name of the person. Yes, we know that George Washington had fake teeth and liked to stand up on boats, but the first thing we register about him is his name. George Washington. A strong, authoritative name that screams “Presidential.” Now not all of our Presidents were blessed with such a fitting name (looking at you, Herbert Hoover) but they at least managed to have names that didn’t actively get in the way of their political gains.
Which is why we’re here to focus on those whose name did get in the way. The Presidential candidates that got their names on the ballots, failing to realize that maybe they should have changed their name before making the entire population read their name in the polling booth and suppress a giggle. That’s why we present for you…
The Most Unfortunately Named Politicians To Ever Run For President
Politics aside, Barack Obama probably had the most difficult name to overcome on the path to becoming President of the United States. It was less of a “goofy name” and more of an “unfamiliar name.” You had a Kenyan surname following years of “George Bushes” and “Jimmy Carters” and “Oh God, we lost Gerald Ford again, where’s his accountabilibuddy?” And while that’s proof that you can have a name that barely passes the “will it play in Peoria” test and still be elected to the highest office in the land, there are some names that, no matter what kind of campaign they run, are guaranteed to end in an election loss.
Names such as…
Rufus King (Federalist Party, Lost to James Monroe, 1816)
We’re sorry to anyone out there named Rufus, but having the name “Rufus” earns you an automatic spot on this list. And if your name is Rufus King, you’re the king of the Rufuses, so you definitely belong on this list. It’s not even a question. Look at him. He even looks like a Rufus King. Rufus King looks like your friend’s dad named Rufus who is about six months off a divorce, and your friend’s mom already started dating this cool guy who drives a Porsche, while poor Rufus still lives in the singles apartment complex just outside of town and knows which doormen are “cooler” about letting more than the allowed plus-one guests up to the pool on the roof. Rufus King looks like the cuckolded husband of the superfan from Flight of the Conchords, who we’re going to just assume was named Rufus for continuity sake. Rufus King looks like the kind of person who will spend an entire vacation looking slightly panicked and very worried because he can’t for the life of him recall if he remembered to turn off the stove before he left, but who insists he’s fine while mumbling, “Get a hold of yourself, Rufus” under his breath.
Poor Rufus King, he never had a chance.
Now, Rufus King the politician did have a fairly successful career as a member of the Federalist party, and played an important role in the founding of the nation. He was one of the signers of the United States Constitution, served just over one full term in the United States Senate, and was appointed as the Minister to Great Britain on two occasions, first by George Washington, and later by John Quincy Adams. He was a strong opponent of slavery, was twice the Vice-Presidential nominee for Federalist campaigns, and as the last ever Federalist party presidential nominee, lost to James Monroe in the election of 1816, losing by a popular vote of 76,592 to 34,740 with only just over 30% of the vote.
Wait a minute. Holy shit, only 110,000 people voted for President in 1816? That’s crazy. Though we guess if you only allow white landowners to vote, you’ll have less voters. Jesus. Anyway, the point being, not only did Rufus King have the unenviable task of having to face off against one of America’s founding fathers, but he had to do it saddled with the curse of the name “Rufus King.” Poor Rufus.
James M. Cox (Democratic Party, Lost to Warren G. Harding, 1920)
Heh. Cox. We’re goddamn children. Moving on.
Green Clay Smith (Prohibition Party, Lost to Rutherford B. Hayes, 1876)
His name is fucking Green Clay. He was a member of the prohibition party, which of course is strike one two and three, but let’s just focus on that name. Green. Clay.
Fucking Green Clay.
You see, the last name of Smith is boring, but it at least greatly lessens the chance that you accidentally name your child something that will get them made fun of mercilessly in elementary school. You don’t have worry about having the last name of, say, Hitchcock and naming your son “Barry.” Or Mr. and Mrs. Hunt not thinking things through when naming their child Michael. And naming anyone Seymour, especially if their last name is Butts, well, that’s a near damnable offense.
Which is why we must have a stern talking to with Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Not only did they raise a child who would grow up to try to make it illegal for Americans to drink (which is just about the most un-American thing imaginable), but they named their kid Green, which last we checked, is a color, and not a damn name. And then, they had to give him the middle name of Clay to top things off? Green Clay is a thing, it is clay that is the color green. If someone said “this is Green Clay” you’d be like, “Oh shit, what pond did you find that in?” not, “Why hello, Mr. Governor.”
Green Clay fought in the U.S.-Mexican War as a second lieutenant before taking up law, and later politics, in his native Kentucky. He served in the Kentucky House of Representatives for two years, and eventually managed to become commissioned as a brigadier general of volunteers during his term, because politics and the military worked a whole lot differently back in 1862. He didn’t fight in the Civil War itself, but after it ended he was appointed to serve as the Territorial Governor of Montana before becoming the closest thing to a prominent political figure the Prohibition Party could muster (in losing to Rutherford B. Hayes, one of the more “yawn, who” Presidents we’ve elected, he managed to muster up all of 9,737 votes, which means it’s very possible that people drunkenly writing in “whiskey!” got more votes than him.) And while he was never going to succeed with views like “America shouldn’t be allowed to drink alcohol” the damn Play Doh name didn’t help him.
Silas C. Swallow (Prohibition Party, Lost to Teddy Roosevelt, 1904)
Now, we know it’s juvenile to giggle at someone named swallow, but come on, people. You can’t blame us. We have here yet another member of the Prohibition Party, though this time it’s even more embarrassing because he had the audacity to try to beat Teddy Roosevelt, who probably beat him in the Presidential Debates by challenging him to a drinking contest and watching him wilt like a sunflower at dusk. When you get over the fact that this Methodist preacher whose only involvement in politics came from his ill-fated 1904 run under the banner of “booze is bad,” his name is sheer poetry, as far as train wreck names go. Silas C. Swallow sounds like a cartoon name someone makes when trying to write a not-very-subtle satire making fun of Methodist prohibitionists. The more we say Silas C. Swallow out loud the more we wonder if everyone he ever met, including his family, broke out in laughter the third time they tried to say the whole thing, or if society was that much more polite back in the early 20th century.
Like, if we ever were given a ride in a time machine, and landed in 1904, our first reaction would be, “Jesus Christ, of all the years to go to, you had to pick one of the most boring. There’s nothing cool going on in 1904.” Our second reaction would be, “Oh shit, but Teddy Roosevelt is here? Can we hang out with him and hunt bears?” And then finally we’d go around to people in Washington, D.C. with a picture of this guy saying, “Silas C. Swallow. Please tell us that you get why that name is funny. Please, we need this, we’re stuck in 1904 and we didn’t realize how dependent we were on having internet access be a thing that exists until this very moment, we’re so fucking bored! We need something to amuse us, just tell us what you think of the name Silas C. Swallow!”
He also legit looks like he’s in charge of the Planet of the Apes. Like, the original one. The Charlton Heston one. Tell us we’re wrong, readers. Tell us we’re wrong.
Wendell Willkie (Republican Party, Lost to Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1940)
Wendell Willkie is not the name of a real human being. Wendell Willkie is the name Roald Dahl would give the villain in one of his books. “Oh no, it’s Wendell Willkie of the traveling slaughterhouse, let’s run away, Prissy the Magical Talking Cow!” Wendell Willkie is a name that demands a twirlable mustache and a top hat. Wendell Willkie sounds like a fictional baseball player from the 1920’s. FDR was one of the most popular Presidents in American history, and having him run against a corporate lawyer who had never held political office and who was named, in case you missed it, Wendell fucking Willkie is like having Michael Jordon play a one-on-one game against a corporate lawyer named Wendell fucking Willkie. We’re not even kidding, Willkie, today, would have about the same chance of beating Michael Jordan in basketball as he did defeating FDR with the name Wendell Willkie, and Wendell Willkie has been dead for 70 years.
No contest. Game over, man.
Horatio Seymour (Democratic Party, Lost to Ulysses S. Grant, 1868)
They say you shouldn’t trust someone with two first names. If that’s true, what do you do with someone who has two super nerdy first names? What do you say to someone running against Ulysses “Immune To Bullets When Drunk” Grant whose name sounds like it spent all of high school stuffed in a locker? Like, we know that with politics as well as athletics, anything can happen and that’s why you play the game, but come on Horatio, there’s no reason to even show up. Just, go home man. Nerd.
Horatio Seymour, who served twice as Governor of New York, probably was a real badass when it came to his career as a statesman. He had to have been, with a name like that. He had to live his life with a real “Girl Named Sue” anchor strapped around his neck, but we’re just thinking he might have overexerted himself just a wee bit thinking he’d be able to lead the free world. Better luck next time, Horatio, maybe then you can change your name to something cool like “Dylan,” wait until you’re going against someone not named Ulysses S. Grant, and maybe run a damn comb through your hair, for God’s sake. We’d even be your campaign adviser. You know, if it were 1872. And you weren’t saddled with that joke of a name.
God. Horatio Seymour. Come on, man. Come on.