Thanks to Rule of Drama
, fictional elections often come down to a tiny handful of votes, or even just a single vote
. This may result in a Dark Horse Victory
or a victory by the candidate commonly reckoned to be the "underdog"
. Sometimes a crooked machine politician
will be unseated, to the shock of everyone.
Then again, sometimes one side just plain gets clobbered
. When that happens, you have a Landslide Election
. If it's really
one-sided, one might even call it a "Curb Stomp Election
". These are not at all
uncommon in Real Life
; the examples could go on and on, but they generally fall under a few basic typesnote
- Seen in many generally authoritarian and totalitarian regimes, whether old or still existing, which still have elections.
- One of the most famous (and most over-the-top) recent examples was the 2002 Presidential referendum in Iraq, which boasted 100% voter turnout, and in which every single voter marked "Yes" to allowing Saddam Hussein to continue as Iraq's leader for 7 more years.
- In 1927, Charles D.B. King put Hussein's rigged election to shame, when he claimed to receive 234,000 votes in the Liberian presidential election. The number of registered voters was less than 15,000. With a margin of victory at least 1460%, the Guinness Book of World Records gives it the title of World's Most Fraudulent Election.
- Many people suspect this to be the cause of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's massive victory in the Iranian presidential election of 2009.
- Inverted with the Burmese elections of 1990, where the National League for Democracy won 392 seats out of 492 (or roughly 80% of the parliament), forcing the military to deny the results so they could keep power. (It helps when, during a democratic election, one of the major parties is the party of democracy, while the other is "hey, we're the army dictators who have been brutalizing the country for a few decades...")
- In the 2013 Azerbaijani elections, a smartphone app showed that Ilham Aliyev won with 72.76% while the nearest opposing candidate, Jamil Hasanli, tallied just 7.4%. Problem was, the app was released a day early and nobody had voted yet...
- In the November 1933 elections the single N.S.D.A.P. list won 92,11% of the suffrage.
The country does have a functioning multiparty system, but...
A party normally in strong contention nominates a more radical or philosophically principled candidate, whose proposals are too far out of the mainstream to garner much public support. He is then thoroughly clobbered by a more pragmatic opponent. Sometimes, however, this defeat is instrumental in securing a victory in some future election; the idealist candidate "rallies the troops", and gets them excited about politics again.
- In 1964, the American Republican Party nominated outspoken Conservative Barry M. Goldwater for President, instead of easygoing moderate Nelson Rockefeller. Goldwater won only six states out of fiftynote , and President Johnson won 61% of the popular vote (still the highest percentage won by any President since 1820).
It probably helped that Lyndon Johnson had recently signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which "outlawed unequal application of voter registration requirements and racial segregation in schools, at the workplace and by facilities that served the general public", gaining much favor even among moderate Republicans. Goldwater had voted against the Act because he genuinely believed it wasn't within the remit of the federal government. This didn't stop his opponents from grouping him with people who used "states' rights" as a cover for racism. As if that wasn't enough, Goldwater didn't do himself any favours by alienating moderate Republicans in his acceptance speech (some of whom went on to support LBJ with the snarky slogan "Even Johnson is better than Goldwater!"), and his tendency to speak off the cuff and make statements like "I sometimes think this country would be better off if we sawed off the Eastern Seaboard and let it float out to sea" and suggesting that the USA should "lob one [nuclear bomb] into the men's room at the Kremlin" allowed Johnson to successfully paint him as a dangerous loony who would start a third world war with the famous "Daisy ad", and incredibly effective parodies of Goldwater's campaign slogan, "In your heart, you know he's right", which was twisted into "In your guts, you know he's nuts", "In your heart, you know he might" and "In your heart, you know he's too far right".
It also helped that Johnson had been president for less than a year, and the electorate wasn't ready to elect a new man when they hadn't even broken in the current one. However, a certain celebrity gave a speech on Goldwater's behalf that kick-started his own political career.
- In the UK, Labour's legendarily poor, curbstomp-inducing campaign in 1983 (which included such promises as dismantling the UK's nuclear arsenal and leaving the EEC after campaigning to stay in it during the 1975 referendum), which Labour MP Gerald Kaufman called "the longest suicide note in history".
Labour had also barely recovered from a 1981 split, when a wing of the Party left and went on to found the Social Democratic Party. In the elections Labour won 27.6% of the vote, an alliance between the Social Democrats and Liberals won 25.4%.
- Prior to the split Labour was actually doing remarkably well with a comfortable poll lead (a while in above 50%). While the split narrowed the polls considerably, Labour stayed ahead and the Conservatives fell to third place. Then came The Falklands War. The Conservatives surged ahead, making the war perhaps the single most important factor in their 1983 victory.
- France in 2002: Far right politician Jean-Marie Le Pen managed to get the second place in the first turn of the presidential election, behind the incumbent conservative president Jacques Chirac, but ahead of the Prime Minister Lionel Jospin (he fell to third place due to massive abstention, vote-splitting on the left among various parties and being perceived as "soft on crime"). The runoff was therefore a contest between a moderate conservative and consummate politician frequently accused of corruption scandals and a far right nationalist accused of xenopobia. As a result, nearly every non-far-right voter decided to vote for Chirac, who got reelected with 82% of the votes.
Still, some French voters weren't happy about the choice offered. This was famously epitomised by a pre-election poster of Chirac with the caption "vote for the crook, not the fascist".
- A similar example to France: in 1991, Louisiana voters also found themselves in a mess after incumbent governor Buddy Roemer placed third in the first round (largely due to a faltering government and a poorly handled party switch), and the final decision came down to Edwin Edwards, a three-term governor (who lost the previous election to Roemer) constantly accused of corruption but minority-friendly, and David Duke, a far-right Nazi-sympathising former Grand Wizard of the KKK. The outcome proved rather predictable: almost everybody closed ranks behind Edwards (he was endorsed locally by his former rivals Roemer and David Treen, and nationally by George H.W. Bush) and he went on to crush Duke by a 61%-39% landslide. As with the French one, bumper stickers expressing the importance of supporting Edwards appeared, two of the most popular being "Vote for the crook. It's important." and "Vote for the lizard, not the wizard".
Duke won over half the white vote...note note and, incredibly, eight percent of the black vote!
In what can be either Hilarious in Hindsight or a scarily accurate prediction, the now-defunct Shreveport Journal considered Edwards' career over after his loss to Roemer in 1987 and said that the only way he could win again was if he ran against Hitler. Edwards also got into the act, snarking to a journalist that the only thing he had to do to win was "stay alive".*
- The same thing happened in Romania in 2000: as a result of the then-ruling right-wing coalition collapsing and popular disillusionment, the choice came down to either Ion Iliescu, who had already served as president after Ceaușescu was overthrown between 1989-1996 and remains (to say the least) very controversial over his involvement in the Mineriads, and Corneliu Vadim Tudor, an infamous far-right politician known for nationalism, xenophobia, irredentism (his party is the only one that still advocates reunification with Moldova), and populist anti-Semitic, anti-Roma and anti-Hungarian rhetoric. Predictably, Iliescu defeated Tudor by a 66.8%-33.2% majority, although the election was notable for having a really low turnout.
One candidate is so strong and so popular (sometimes because of a war effort) that the opposition has no chance whatsoever, even though said opposition would probably win against a generic candidate. Often, the main opposition will decline to run against the candidate, or even support it, leaving minor parties to try (and fail) to win.
- Irish politics does this quite often; there's sometimes wide-ranging support for presidential candidates which leaves the election unopposed. The last time this happened was in 2004, where Mary McAleese ran with full backing from Fianna Fail (her old party) and Fine Gael.
- This can happen in almost any country with a "European"-style presidential system (i.e, where the President is head of state - basically an elected constitutional monarch - the American system is different).
- George Washington was both elected and reelected unanimously as the first president of the United States, in 1789 (Congress hadn't yet convened, so it took until the beginning of the next year to hold the election) and 1792; and James Monroe was almost-unanimously reelected as the fifth president in 1820. Both ran unopposed for president (though, in Washington's case, the vice-presidential election was contested the second time around, with George Clinton running against incumbent John Adams and losing 50-77). Washington was the only president in US history to be elected unanimously; and the one elector who voted against Monroe only did so because he believed Washington should retain that singular honor. note Washington himself could have run for more than two terms, and probably have won as many elections as he liked – it wasn't like the commanding general of the army that won America its independence was ever going to lose – but he specifically chose not to, for fear that he would turn the presidency into a de-facto monarchy. His precedent stood for almost a century and a half: although supporters of Ulysses S. Grant tried to renominate him for a third time in 1880, he declined; and although Theodore Roosevelt ran for a third term in 1912, he lost: it wasn't until 1940 that a president – Teddy's cousin Franklin D. Roosevelt – successfully ran for, and was elected to, a third term. FDR then won a fourth term in 1944, but died a few months later. In 1947, the Twenty-Second Amendment to the United States Constitution was passed by congress; and it was ratified by the states in 1951: this amendment prohibited all future presidents from running for more than two complete terms. (Technically, it does allow a president to run for reelection twice, but only if he previously served as president for less than two years.)
- The elections for Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932, 1936, 1940, and 1944 were all political landslides because, let's face it, Roosevelt was and still is very popular. In 1936, the Great Depression was still in full swing and FDR ran on a "we got you Social Security, now let me do the rest" campaign, and simply crushed Alf Landon, who only managed to win Maine and Vermont (notably, a magazine named The Literary Digest actually predicted a Landon landslide after conducting a straw pollnote ; it ceased publication shortly after the election). This also ended Maine's status as a "bellwether state" in presidential politics (the saying went, "As Maine goes, so goes the nation"; Maine's September gubernatorial elections had usually predicted which party would win the November presidential election since 1832), leading FDR's campaign manager James Farley to quip "As Maine goes, so goes Vermont." In 1940, Roosevelt did want to leave office but a certain war was going on and he felt the nation needed an experienced President, so he ran again and won since the economy was mostly fixed by that point. And in 1944, there was the slight matter of a little war going on; indeed, many scholars believe that Thomas Dewey's 1944 campaign was better than his 1948 campaign (see below), but his major problem was running against Roosevelt.
- Richard Nixon's 1972 re-election was primarily because pro-Vietnam War sentiment was still rife and his election team engaging in some of the dirtiest politics known to man. It's suggested that Nixon was an idiot (or, more accurately, paranoid, see his page more info) for breaking into the Watergate because he was so popular he could've won this election without the dirty tricks. The only state to vote against him, Massachusetts, famously produced "Don't blame me, I'm from Massachusetts" bumper stickers during the height of the Watergate scandal.
- There was also an almost perfect storm of catastrophe for the Democratic candidate, George McGovern: He didn't clinch the nomination until the convention because the second-place finisher Hubert Humphrey contested the California primary results.note The fight to actually win the nomination consumed so much attention that his campaign team didn't pick a VP candidate until the convention's second day. They had more than half a dozen people turn the slot down before they essentially picked Tom Eagleton at random. The balloting for President and Vice President took so long that by the time McGovern delivered his acceptance speech, the only U.S. media market where it was still Prime Time was Guam. And, finally, it was revealed that Eagleton had a history of mental health problems, involving institutionalization and electric shock therapy, and McGovern had to dump him, by which time the only replacement he could get was Sargent Shriver, a man whose extensive record of public service did not include any prior elected office. Basically, the last good day of the campaign for McGovern was the California primary. It was all downhill from there. (You can read an excellent—if biasednote —account of McGovern's campaign in Hunter S. Thompson's seminal Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72.)
- Ronald Reagan's 1984 re-election yielded him 525 out of 538 electoral votes, the most taken by any presidential candidate ever, and as a percentage of the electoral college has not been equaled or surpassed by any president since and very few previous. He won about 59% of the popular vote and every state except Minnesota. (The District of Columbia also voted against him). After winning, he famously declared it to be "Morning in America". In this case Reagan took credit for an economic recovery following another economic crisis. Real gross domestic product (GDP) show steady increases and unemployment was decreasing. The voters probably hoped for more growth in voting for him.
- Across the pond from the United States, the United Kingdom's general election in 1931 is a good example of this. Shortly before the election, the former Labour Prime Minister Ramsay Mac Donald had formed a National Government, which was composed of the Conservative Party, the vast majority of the Liberal Party and a handful of rogue but largely popular Labour M Ps. It was created with the goal of leading the UK through the Great Depression, and when the country went to the polls in 1931, its candidates won 556 of 615 seats in the Commons and an overall majority of 497. The Conservative Party alone won 473 seats (a majority of 331), and 55% of the vote - the only time a single party has won more than half the popular vote under universal suffrage. Labour, the only real party of opposition, suffered the worst election defeat for a major party in history too, losing over 80% (225) of the seats it held at dissolution. Incredibly, only two years earlier, the Conservative leader and former Prime Minister (now de facto Deputy, or even arguably Co-, PM under Macdonald), Stanley Baldwin, had lead his party into an election that saw more than a third of his parliamentary party wiped out. Four years later it was re-elected, this time with Baldwin becoming PM, and won the second largest majority in history despite losing 100 seats. It wasn't until 1945, when the National Government had disintegrated to the point where it was almost exclusively made up of the by-then-unpopular Conservative Party, that it lost power.
- The UK's general election of 2001, with the results being mostly a repeat of 1997. Just 3-4% of the seats in Parliament changed parties - Labour losing 6 seats, the Conservatives gaining one and the Liberal Democrats six - and only 59.4% of the electorate bothered to vote.
- "Hurricane" Hazel McCallion, mayor of Mississauga, Ontario, squeaked into office in 1978 by narrowly defeating Ron Searle, and has stayed there ever since. (As of 2010, she is 89 years old!) She is so popular that for the last few elections she hasn't even bothered campaigning, instead taking a vacation during that time; she is generally elected with 80-90% of the vote. To date no real competitor has ever come up.
- Fun fact? So far Mississauga has only had three mayors since consolidation in 1974. She's the third.
- A similar case with U.S. Senator Ted Stevens, who won his first election (in 1970) by a comfortable margin, and then proceeded to win every election with over 60% of the vote, most of them with over 70%. This was attributed partly due to the state's conservative bent and partly due to Stevens being extremely effective at bringing in "pork"note ; he wouldn't be dethroned until 2008, and died less than 2 years after.
- Singapore, all the way. The PAP remains the most trusted party in the nation's whole history, and has only begun really conceding votes and seats in the last decade.
- Interestingly averted in France in 1965: this was the first direct presidential election in postwar France, and Charles de Gaulle was expected to win handily, seeing as he was the war hero and architect of the Fifth Republic. His opponent was future president François Mitterrand, running on behalf of the CIR, a temporary coalition of all the major non-Communist left-wing parties. De Gaulle was so confident in his victory he only announced his candidacy a month before the vote and didn't campaign actively. Mitterrand surprised everyone and did way better than was expected, grabbing just enough votes to prevent a first-round victory for de Gaulle (44% vs 31%, six points below the required amount) and securing 45% of the votes in the second, considerably narrowing de Gaulle's victory margin to 55%. The lack of a Landslide Election is now considered one of the first signs of de Gaulle's later decline and loss of power.
- Some German Presidents (Theodor Heuss in his second election, Richard von Weizsäcker in both of them, especially the latter.) They got more than 80% of the electors.
- George H.W. Bush's 1988 election had him running as the Vice-President of the very popular Ronald Reagan. Combine this with the good economy, a stable international stage, and an opponent in the boring and unremarkable Michael Dukakis, and it's not hard to figure out who wins. Bush won about 53% of the popular vote, won 40 states, and 426 electoral votes. The campaign famously exploited various mistakes by Dukakis which made many voters distrust the man.
- In the 1848 French presidential election, Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte got 74% of the vote because the royalists thought he would restore order, the workers were won over his progressive economic viewsnote and the farmers knew he was the Bonaparte's nephewnote .
- Similarly, in 1968 De Gaulle dissolved the National Assembly and called snap legislative elections, in the aftermath of the May 1968 revolt. The right-wing parties managed to win 396 out of 487 total seats.
The country has a multiparty democracy, but the main opposition party disintegrates due to internal dissension and a general lack of organisation and purpose. One party will win all the major elections until a viable replacement for the opposition can be found.
- The American Federalist Party collapsed shortly after 1816; James Monroe won the 1820 Presidential election essentially without opposition, winning 228 of 231 electoral votes. Eventually, the Federalists were replaced by the Whigs, who themselves collapsed a few years later and were replaced by the modern Republicans.
- In Canada, when the Progressive Conservatives wound up so hated they got reduced to only 2 seats in 1993 and died off. The Liberals didn't have many problems governing for the rest of The Nineties. At one point, their official opposition was the Bloc Québecois, a party whose main goal is to secede Québec from Canada.
- Not unexpected. Canada was under the effect of a widespread recession which had started in 1987. It had started in the United States and went on to include Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and (to a lesser extent) the rest of Europe and Japan. Unemployment in Canada had risen to unprecedented levels and the governing Progressive Conservatives were accused of failing to do anything about it. While the United States' economy had started recovering by 1992, in Canada the recession lasted to 1995.
- Another thing which didn't help the PC's case was the infamous face ad, which, to many people, appeared to be mocking Chretien for his Bell's palsy. It didn't go over very well with the voters.
- In Australia in 1949, there was a split in the Australian Labor Party, and the splinter group formed the Democratic Labor Party. The Liberal Party won the election, and remained in government until 1972.
- In the 1919 French legislative election, the Bloc National won 433 seats out of 613 because of the Red Scare and the fact the left, then dominated by the SFIO (French Section of the Workers' International), failed to properly respond to accusations of being bolsheviks and failed to reach an agreement with the Socialists and ended up isolating the Radicals, basically opening themselves up to a much worse onslaught from the right.
The party which has been governing for the past few years has been doing a spectacularly cruddy job, or at least many people believe that they have. In an election that most people think is long-overdue, the electorate decides to "Throw the Bums Out" in a big way.
- For fifty years after the The American Civil War, the Republican Party dominated federal policy, which was characterized by high tariffs, temperence, and westward expansion. Between 1861 and 1913, only one Democrat (Grover Cleveland) was elected President of the United States.
- The Canadian Federal Election of 1984 saw a crushing defeat of the Liberals, who had been in power for every year but one since 1963, by the Progressive Conservatives, who accused the Liberals of corruption, incompetence, and spendthrift irresponsibility. Evidently, the voters agreed. This is the last time a Canadian party received an absolute majority of the vote.
- The Liberals would get their revenge in 1993. Brian Mulroney, the winner of the 1984 election, wound up so hated that the PCs themselves got curbstomped. Due to a recession which hit Canada particularly badly and an attack ad that appeared to mock Jean Chrétien's facial paralysis, the PCs vote share dropped by 27% and the party reduced from 156 seats to 2 seats. It was one of the worst defeats of a sitting government in the Western World.
- The New Zealand general election of 1990 saw the National Party win 67 of the 97 seats in Parliament, and kick the Labour Party out of government over its wide-sweeping neo-liberal reforms ("Rogernomics") of the past six years.
- And then when the new National government decided to continue the reforms ("Ruthanasia"), New Zealanders lost trust in the two-party system and ended up "screaming" in a 1992 indicative referendum on the voting system - 85% voted to ditch the existing First Past the Post voting system, and 70% nominated the Mixed Member Proportional system as its replacement.
- After 18 years in office, in the UK's general election of 1997 the Conservatives received a massive "don't let the door hit your arse on the way out" notice.
- Other landslide victories for an incoming government can also be found in 1886, 1906 and 1924. In 1886 the Conservatives hammered the Liberals badly; in 1906 the Liberals got their revenge when they crushed the Conservatives (their worst-ever election defeat). Finally, in 1924, the Conservatives returned to power at the expense of the Liberals once again.
- Also, an interesting note, if the Tories in 1997 had lost just 10 more seats, it would have been the worst defeat for a ruling party in 165 years. John Major very narrowly avoided his name being recorded forever in British political history for all the wrong reasons.
- Subverted by the 2010 UK general elections, where everyone was expecting the Tories to do to Labour what the latter did to the former in 1997. Labour had been in government for 13 years, the UK was in the middle of a recession, the Iraq and Afghan wars were still dragging on and Gordon Brown was unpopular. Yet not only did the Tories not win in a landslide, they actually failed to achieve enough seats to govern on their own, and so had to form a coalition with the centrist Liberal Democrats. Labour lost heavily, but kept enough seats for the prospect of an unstable multi-party coalition of Labour, the Lib Dems and the other minor parties with a majority of one or two to be semi-feasible.
- The 1945 General Election probably fits here. Winston Churchill was seen a great wartime leadernote , but voters were sceptical of his ability to govern in peacetime; not least because his policies were really no different from those of Conservative governments of the 1930s that had delivered high unemployment and economic depressionnote . Labour's promise of measures to tackle unemployment, the creation of a welfare state and the construction of decent housing ("a land fit for heroes") proved enormously popular, and almost delivered them a majority of votesnote
- The French legislative election in 1993. By this time, President Mitterrand had been in power for twelve years but his Socialist Party had been weakened by a recession, a split with the centrist UDF party, various scandals, defeats in local elections and a rivalry between Lionel Jospin and Laurent Fabius for succeeding Mitterrand. The Socialists were completely steamrollered, with their vote share dropping from 34% to 17% in the first round and their number of seats reduced from 260 to 53. Among the Socialists who lost their seats were Jospin, Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Francois Hollande.
- The Socialists actually received the most votes of any party on the second round. But the other two major parties, the RPR and UDF had a pact not to run their candidates against each other in the second round. The RPR and UDF took 55% of the vote between them; the Socialists took 31%.
- However, the government of Prime Minister Alain Juppé became so unpopular in its own right that when snap legislative elections were called in 1997, the Socialists made a remarkable comeback, gaining 255 seats (only 5 less than they had held before the 1993 wipeout) and, along with its "Plural Left" allies, 45% and 47% of the vote in the first and second rounds, a sizeable lead over the government. And while the next elections in 2002 and 2007 were lost but nowhere near as landslideily, the Socialists managed another one in 2012, where they won 280 seats and a total of 57% of the vote alongside allied parties, its best result since being established as a party.
- Special mention goes to the 2009 Japanese general election, where the incumbent Liberal Democrats were utterly crushed by the opposition Democrats. It merits mention that until this point, the LDP had ruled Japan for an almost straight 54 years, except for an 11-month period from 1993 to 1994.
- And of course, the US presidential election of 1932. The Great Depression was going on, millions of Americans were out of work, and Herbert Hoover wasn't doing shit. He received a massive "don't let the door hit your ass on the way out" notice - just to rub it in, during the election campaign a man wrote him a letter saying "vote for Roosevelt and make it unanimous".
- The US 1980 presidential election saw Jimmy Carter going into the election with the Iran hostage crisis, a worsening economy at home, inflation, high interest rates and high unemployment all on his watch. He proceeded to get his ass kicked.
- The 2011 Irish general election resulted in ruling party Fianna Fáil being knocked down from 77 T Ds (of 166) to 20 after a really deep recession had shattered confidence in the economy and the party. In Dublin, they dropped from 17 seats to just 1 seat.
- And bear in mind that since the country's first election, Fianna Fáil had won elections fourteen out of twenty-six times on it's own, and another five times as part of a coalition. That's right, they pissed people off who'd been voting for them for nearly a century (the first election was in 1927). And their previous voting percentage was 41.6%- after the election, it was 17%. Yeah, we were pissed.
- Within Quebec, the 2011 federal election proved to be this for the NDP. While the Tories won a healthy but hardly spectacular (in normal circumstances) majority in Canada as a whole, the race in Quebec was really between the sovereigntist (read: nationalist/separatist) Bloc Quebecois and the soft-federalist New Democratic Party (both parties are leftish and vaguely social-democratic; what distinguishes them in Quebec is their position on sovereignty). Before the election, the Bloc had previously had 47 of 75 seats from Quebec (2/3s). After the election, the Bloc had four of 75—the remaining 43 all went to the New Democrats. The NDP also took 7 of 14 Liberal seats in Quebec, and 5 of 10 Conservative ones, for a total of 59 seats—just under 80%. Yeah, it was that kind of election.
- One Quebec riding was deemed so pro-Bloc that the NDP only run a token candidate in it. The candidate was a 24 year old woman with almost no political experience and did not even live in the riding. She did not campaign and cast an early absentee ballot so she could spend election day on vacation in Las Vegas (she had bought the plane tickets before the election was called and did not see a reason to change her plans). When she actually won the seat, everyone was dumbfounded and the NDP leadership publicly promised that they would make sure she that she took her new duties seriously.
- Perhaps the most internationally famous example is the first multi-racial parliamentary election in South Africa in 1994, in which around 80% of the population was entitled to vote for the first time ever (and another 11% for the first time on the same terms as white people), with the end of apartheid, and every election post-apartheid since. The African National Congress - the party led by Nelson Mandela - won 252 of 400 seats and 62.65% of the popular vote and the National Party, which had governed for 46 years without interruption, retained only 82 of the 232 seats it was notionally defending with 21 of 103 incumbent National legislators losing their seats. Unsurprisingly, there was very little opposition to the ANC from the major parties, and the outcome of the election was a foregone conclusion from the start of the campaign. The ANC has repeated this success at every election since, winning larger majorities in 1999 and 2004, and only losing seats for the first time in 2009 (but still finishing with more seats than the party had in '94). A serious, viable national opposition party has yet to arise to replace the now-defunct Nationals.
- The Democratic Alliance has been steadily increasing its vote at the past three elections, now governs several cities, and has a serious chance of breaking the ANC's monopoly on South African governance by 2020. Of course, that is if the president, who now has the power to change the constitution unilaterally, actually lets them...
- The 2011 Southern Sudanese independence referendum was a variant of this. 99% of the voters went for independence, and really, considering what the northern state had been doing to the Southnote , you can't blame 'em.
- Spanish politics tend to work like this, with power alternating between the Socialist Party and the People's Party not because the opposition party has a particularly good candidate, but because voters are so fed up with the party in power. The Socialists, who had won four straight elections since 1982, were finally defeated in 1996 because of corruption scandals as well as a crisis which had put lots of people out of work, though a Scare Campaign successfully erased the PP's lead in opinion polls and delivered a narrow victory with less than 500.000 votes intead. The People's Party took power and was reelected in 2000, but lost the election of 2004 just a few days after the March 11 bombings in Madrid due to its insistence in blaming the attack on the Basque terrorist group ETA insted of Al Qaeda, a move that was interpreted by many as an intention to mislead for a political gain. The Socialists regained power and were reelected in 2008... and lost the next election in 2011 quite miserably because of another economic crisis which put millions out of work.
- The Saar referendum in 1935, where the Saar, an industrial coal producing nation of Germany which had been run by the French since the Treaty of Versailles, decided its future. This was the only time the Nazi party was ever given something close to a democratic endorsement - 90% of Saarlanders voted to return to Germany (and in this case, it was more to do with loyalty to Germany than necessarily Hitler).
- In 2012, in the Australian state of Queensland, the Australian Labor Party was reduced from 51 seats (out of 87) to only 7. The Liberal National Party won 78 seats, and Katter's Australian Party won 2. It got worse for the Labor Party when one LNP member defected to the KAP, and predicted more would follow, raising the possibility of KAP replacing Labor as the official state opposition.
- The Hungarian election of 2010. The Socialist Party was thrown out of government because of its handling of the economic crisis. Fidesz, the opposition, got 53% of the votes in the PR list and won outright in 119/176 of the single member consituencies (which requires a majority on a 50% turnout). Fidesz managed to get a supermajority of 68% of the seats, but some have pointed out that had the Hungarian system been purely first-past-the-post, Fidesz would have got over 90% of the seats.
- Ironically for such an ill-regarded President, Warren Harding's election in 1920 was a landslide by all means: campaigning on a "return to normalcy" after the unpopular U.S. intervention in World War I, the post-war recession, the bungling of the League of Nations treaty, and just the plain hatred of Woodrow Wilson at the time, Harding carried over 400 electoral votes and 60.3% of the popular vote.
A major party winds up getting split between two factions, allowing another party to come up the middle and win easily. May or may not overlap with Type 3, above.
- The US presidential election of 1912 (very sorry) had the Republicans split between the conservative wing, led by William Howard Taft, and the liberal wing, led by Theodore Roosevelt. After losing the Republican primary, Roosevelt founded his own party called the Progressive Party. The resulting split of Republican voters allowed Democrat Woodrow Wilson to come up the middle and win 40 states, and 435 electoral votes.
- The UK election in 1983 (already mentioned above) also counts as this; looking beyond the unpopular candidate, Labour, and the Left in general, were undergoing a lot of factionalisation at the time. Several members of Labour's moderate wing broke off to form the Social Democratic Party, which formed an alliance with the older Liberal Party (and later merged to form the Liberal Democrats). The Conservatives actually received less votes in 1983 than in 1979, but Labour lost far more votes to the SDP-Liberal Alliance.
- As pointed out above, Jospin flunked out in the first round of presidential elections in 2002 because too many of his supporters split and voted for other left-wing parties instead of supporting him.
- Again from an American Presidential election, President Ronald Reagan absolutely crushed Walter Mondale in 1984. President Reagan probably would have won no matter what, but Mondale's nasal speaking voice, hesitant phrasing, and inability to "spin" his message, particularly when contrasted with the ultra-smooth skills of "The Great Communicator", turned an ordinary defeat into a Landslide Election.
- Also not helping Mondale was the fact he was Jimmy Carter's Vice President considering the conditions that led to Reagan's beatdown of Carter in 1980.
- Or that Mondale often got eclipsed by his much more popular VP pick, Geraldine Ferraro, in his own campaign materials. Several women's groups famously wore buttons reading Ferraro and What's His Name.
- An example of failure to spin: he publicly admitted that whoever became president was probably going to have to raise taxes, and while he was being honest about this responsibility, he emphasised that he couldn't expect Reagan to be so honest. The voters interpreted this as "Mondale promises to raise taxes!". Reagan did end up raising taxes in the end, for what that's worth.
- The 2008 US Presidential Election has been described as this, especially internationally (the US is further to the right than most of the world). Whilst John McCain isn't necessarily boring or uncharismatic per se, Barack Obama, with his famous posters, simply slogan and spotless grin, ran perhaps the most dynamic election campaign in US politics since World War II, and McCain couldn't compete. Whatever side of the aisle your sympathies lie, Obama 2008 was one of the most impressively constructed campaigns ever and is still studied by campaign theorists not just in the two US parties but across the world.
- The economic meltdown in September 2008, combined with general anger over the Bush administration's handling of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, didn't help at all either. Indeed, many said that the Democratic primary (which was very close between him and Hillary Clinton) was the real race because of George W. Bush and by extension, the Republican party's unpopularity.
- The McCain Campaign tried to create a game change by nominating Sarah Palin for VP. This backfired into a repeat of Geraldine Ferraro, when Sarah Palin turned out to be much more popular with the Republican base then McCain himself. Her short political career, her having only recently been elected Governor of Alaska after holding a job as mayor, undercut McCain's primary attack on Obama for lacking experience.
- There was also the problem of Palin making repeated public gaffes and demonstrating an utter lack of even basic knowledge on matters of foreign policy, beginning with her disastrous interview with Katie Couric.
- Same with Canada in 1984, where John Turner's really old age, lack of charisma and archaic language (he called unemployment relief programs "make-work programs", not helping his case with young voters) proved no match for Mulroney.
- The USA, 1948. Incumbent Harry Truman is very low in the polls, there's been a three-way split in the Democratic party and his loss appears unstoppable. Problem was, Republican candidate Thomas Dewey was advised to not do anything that could screw up his candidacy. He wound up becoming infamous for platitude-filled speeches that didn't even say what would happen if he'd be president note . On the other hand, Truman decided eh, what the hell, might as well unleash a brutal campaign mocking Dewey and the Republicans at every turn and campaigning all across the country. Nobody thinks he has a chance. Result? Truman wins (and proves that the prevent defense is a fail in politics, at least) while the Chicago Tribune gets to eat their words and name a trope simultaneously.
- The 2011 elections in Scotland produced a record win to the highly charismatic Alex Salmond's SNP at the expense of the dull as ditchwater opponent Iain Gray's Labour (oftentimes referred to as "who?"). Made all the more notable in that the Scottish Parliamentary system was set up (some might say rigged—although the Germans who invented it might take offense) specifically to prevent any party getting a landslide vote, to the point where when polls began to show the lead Salmond was predicted (and the polls actually fell short of the actual height of real support) pollsters scrambled to work out why their surveys were throwing up such bizarre results and what was wrong with their weighting-formulas. The SNP in the end wiped out all of its opposition, and managed to force all three main other parties into humiliating leadership elections.
- The Canadian Liberals faced this problem doubly in 2011. On the right, Prime Minister Stephen Harper isn't actually that great of a communicator—instead, he runs an extremely tight ship, which combined with the excellent work of the spin doctors to produce an incredibly coherent Tory message. On the left, Jack Layton is well-known for his affability—and had public sympathy thanks to his well-known health problems (he would die of cancer four months after the election)—and when you compare Layton to the pedantic, professorial style of Michael Ignatieff...well, it's hardly a contest. No wonder the Liberals were pushed down to third literally for the first time ever.
- The 2003 Ontario election wound up being this after the Conservatives issued a press statement calling Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty an "evil reptilian kitten-eater from another planet". It made them look nuts, and things pretty much snowballed from there.
- The 2002 Irish General Election saw a Fianna Fáil led goverment under the popular Bertie Ahern face off against a potential coalition of Fine Gael under Michael Noonan and Labour under Ruairi Quinn. With the economy in good state the opposition would probably have lost anyway but Noonan and Quinn made things worse by being unable to agree to a pre-election pact, meaning they fought the election as two seperate parties rather than a potential goverment in waiting. Noonan's total lack of charisma did little to help and the result was a near meltdown for Fine Gael, which lost over 40% of its seats.
- The incumbent UK Conservative government in 1964 had suffered some difficulties such as the Profumo Affair, but it was the lack of charisma of their leader, Alec Douglas-Home, which really sealed their fate. The Labour Party under Harold Wilson (a man for the TV age) won power for the first time in 13 years. To be accurate, Wilson only won a narrow majority, which proved so difficult to manage that he called another election in 1966, where he won a real landslide victory.
- Both of Bill Clinton's U.S. presidential election victories. In 1992, he was up against incumbent George H. W. Bush. During the town hall televised debate, Bush was asked (by a member of the audience) how the national debt and the recession personally affected his life. As he got out of his chair, he famously glanced at his watch, thus giving the impression that he really did not want to be there. To make matters worse for Bush, Clinton then proceeded to give a very good answer that made him seem in touch with ordinary Americans. Clinton won a decisive victory on election day. Then, four years later, his Republican opponent was the equally uninspiring Bob Dole, whom Clinton also defeated by a comfortable margin.
- The 2013 mayoral election in New York City saw the charismatic Progressive Democrat Bill de Blasio running an energetic, populist campaign which mobilized voters to give him nearly three-fourths of the vote against his dull, unremarkable opponent Joe Lhota (whose statement that he'd allow kittens to be run over if it meant the subway could have good service obviously didn't help).
- The 1872 U.S. presidential election saw Ulysses S. Grant easily romp to victory over the frail, sickly Horace Greeley; Grant won 31 states and over 80% of the electoral vote - just to add insult to injury, Greeley would die a little after the election, but before the Electoral College met, and thus received zero electoral votes.note
- The 2004 US Senate election in Illinois probably fits here. Barack Obama had been leading his initial challenger Jack Ryan (no, not him) in the polls, but then Ryan dropped out after a sex scandal and was replaced with Alan Keyes, a Maryland resident (cue accusations of carpetbagging) known for using extremist right-wing rhetoric. Obama won the election with 70% of the vote.
In fiction, of course, a Landslide Election
averts deciding by one vote, so it is most often used for comedy
, rather than for drama
. When used for drama, it can serve to illustrate how much the villain has made himself beloved by the public
(perhaps thereby proving that Democracy Is Bad
), or serve as a cathartic final victory for the good guys, proving that they have triumphed beyond doubt. This is probably a more realistic way to show that the heroes have "won" than having them win by a narrow margin, since an election won by a very narrow margin generally does not give the winner a "mandate" to do what he wants, and one may rest assured that a significant portion of the electorate will probably resent the fact that he took office.
Because this deals with the results of elections, expect spoilers
. Also, since these are so much more common in Real Life
than in fiction, only truly exceptional
real-life examples should be listed- it will vary depending on the electoral system in question, but ideally, shoot for a threshold of victory with at least
70% of the vote.
Compare Down to the Last Play
- Transmetropolitan has a landslide election in the Smiler vs. Beast election, with 48 of the 50 states going to the Smiler.
- In PS238 the class president election between American Eagle and US Patriot Act ends in a landslide election for... Tyler Marlocke, who wasn't even on the ballot. Everyone else in the class voted for him as a write-in candidate because they couldn't stand either of the official candidates.
- In The Smurfs comic book story "King Smurf", the nameless Smurf wins the election by an overwhelming majority, with his opponent Brainy Smurf only getting two votes to prove how unpopular he was with his constant nagging and moralizing.
- In Mega Man Defender Of The Human Race, Mitchell Deacon wins his seat as governor by a landslide, and it's predicted former governor George Cochran will easily win his bid for President.
- In the film version of The Last Hurrah, Frank Skeffington expects to win re-election handily, and we are given little reason at first to suppose that he won't win by a landslide. In the end, the vote is a landslide victory- for Skeffington's opponent, Kevin McCluskey. The change in mood at Skeffington's headquarters as the returns come in is a highlight of the film.
Live Action Television
- A landslide is predicted at the end of Don Quixote, U.S.A., when the narrator has assumed the identity of a Caribbean insurgent, overthrown the dictator, and announced free elections. He refers to Johnson's election and says he'd be happy with sixty percent of the votes; his right-hand man says they'd have to run a crooked election to get less than ninety percent. The actual election results are never shown, but the narrator is still president years later. (The Woody Allen movie Bananas was partly inspired by this book, though obviously with a rather different ending.)
- At the end of Storm of Swords, the third book of A Song of Ice and Fire, the Night's Watch needs to vote for a new Lord Commander. They've spent nine days with about nine or so candidates and none even coming close to the necessary two-thirds of the votes. King Stannis demanded on the tenth day that the Night's Watch would choose a commander, or they wouldn't eat. Earlier that day, Sam convinced the two leading candidates to support Jon Snow, and his friend Edd offered Jon's name for consideration that night. On the tenth night of the voting, a very surprised Jon Snow wins. By a lot.
- In the New Jedi Order novel Destiny's Way, one of the B-plots involves the New Republic Senate trying to pull itself together after the loss of its capital, Coruscant. The first major step is replacing the Chief of State, who was killed in the attack. The initial voting comes out with four candidates of note: Cal Omas (good), Fyor Rodan (bad), Ta'laam Ranth (pragmatic), and Pwoe (really bad; he's noteworthy mostly for having previously declared himself Chief of State, calling the election illegal, and receiving three votes in total). The three main candidates are pretty much even through the first portion of the book, with Ranth quickly falling back and planning to cut a deal with whoever pulls ahead to make a coalition government. Then the Smuggler's Alliance steps in and strategically undercuts Rodan's support, mostly by revealing proof of his supporters' corruption and abuses of power, or blackmailing those supporters with the same. Once Omas jumps ahead of the other two, various individual Senators begin breaking ranks and coming over, hoping for favors once he's in the top seat, and Ranth withdraws in his favor — leading Omas to win by 85% of the vote.
- In 1828: The Arkansas War it's mentioned that no-one ever runs against the Arkansas Confederacy's founder Patrrick Driscol in the elections for the chieftaincy of the Arkansas chiefdom. This bothers Driscol to no end, since he is a fervent democrat and republican who hates everything that smacks of autocracy and at one point he punches out a man who jokingly refers to him as "The Laird of Arkansas".
Manga and Anime
- The 2002 Presidential Election on The West Wing was originally predicted to be close, but instead turned into a Landslide Election after President Bartlet eviscerated Governor Richie in the debate.
- The usual aftermath is averted, however: while Bartlet is a compellingly charismatic leader who wins all his personal elections comfortably, his party never manages to profit from it, and he has to govern with a hostile congress throughout his term of office. Disappointed party members accusingly call him "The lonely landslide". Of course, if the Republicans didn't have power throughout the series, it would have undermined their status as the opposition, since audiences tend to root for the underdog.
- The "Election Night Special" sketch on Monty Python's Flying Circus featured a possible example; Silly candidate "Tarquin Fin-tim-lin-bin-whin-bim-lim-bus-stop-F'tang-F'tang-Olé-Biscuitbarrel" defeated Sensible Candidate Alan Jones, 58% to 42% - quite a big swing considering that the Sensible Party previously held the seat. Both men thoroughly crushed the "Slightly Silly" independent, Kevin Phillips-Bong, who received zero votes.
- Blackadder the Third featured a by-election in the rotten borough of "Dunny-on-the-Wold"; Baldrick was elected by 16,472, with zero votes cast in opposition. Not surprisingly, the election was fixed; Blackadder took the place of the only eligible voter (who "accidentally brutally cut his head off while combing his hair") and the returning officer (who "accidentally brutally stabbed himself in the stomach while shaving").
- Mr. Lindermann in the first season of Heroes uses Micah's technopathic ability to manipulate the electronic voting machines and fix Nathan Petrelli's election to Congress into a landslide victory.
- In British drama series The Amazing Mrs Pritchard about an 'ordinary' woman with no political experience who starts a new political party the titular character ends up winning the General Election with 54% of the vote seats and 378 seats with the Conservatives and Labour reduced to less than 270 seats between them.
- An episode of Barney Miller took place on election day. Inspector Luger is a strong proponent of a good friend of his who is running for office, even though the only thing that anybody else can remember about the candidate is that he was accused of being involved with bribery and corruption in the sanitation department (the Inspector's awkward attempts to defend the candidate on the grounds that "they couldn't prove any of that" only seem to confirm the truth of the accusations). Not surprisingly, the candidate loses by a margin of more than 5 to 1.
- On Dan For Mayor by election day Dan is expected to lose by a landslide with the polls showing him at less than 5% support. His main concern at that point is to actually come in second place so he can claim that he was a 'runner-up candidate'. The subversion comes right before the results are made official when the front-runner concedes the election since she has just been offered a position in the federal government. Dan does not want the job anymore but the only other candidate left is Wheelo The Clown.
- The election of David Palmer in-between Seasons 1 and 2 of 24 saw him with with a 60% share of the popular vote for very much the same reasons that Barack Obama would later win the 2008 election in real-life, namely an excellent campaign together with an uninspired opponent.
- Though the exact results aren't revealed, Allison Taylor is said to have scored a similarly decisive victory prior to Season 7, due to a combination of being the first female nominee for president, and incumbent president Noah Daniels deliberately running a poor campaign due to his disillusionment with the office.
- Seemingly played in one episode of the short-lived sitcom Down Home. Protagonist Kate runs against her ex-boyfriend in a mayoral election. After particularly revolting mud slinging from both sides, the election occurs and the previous mayor comes to Kate to inform her she's won the election two-to-one.
Kate: Wow, I thought that after that debate, people would be too disgusted to vote.
Mayor: Well, when I said "two-to-one"...
Pulls three ballots out of his pocket.
- The Skins election for Student President; Naomi is the intelligent, politically inclined, idealistic, injustice hating candidate who thinks she might be able to use the position to make a difference - up against Cook, whose slogan is "vote for me - I don't give a fuck either", and Upper-Class Twit Crispin. Since all the students know that the election is largely a show for something that'll look good on the school's OFSTED report, they buy into Cook's anarchic philosophies instead. The teachers attempt to rig the result by stuffing the ballots for Cook into Harriet's bra, and declaring Naomi the winner. Naomi overheard their whole plan though, and since this is injustice hating Naomi we're talking about she pulls out all the votes in front of everybody and gracefully concedes defeat. And Cook promptly starts a riot.
- When we first meet Haruka in Mai-HiME, she's the student council's disciplinary executive which appears to be a means by which she can foist her own ideas about "morals" and "values" onto the rest of the student body. Neither the Student Council President or Vice President (Shizuru and Reito) seemed inclined to stop her. As an omake and subsequent episodes show Haruka originally ran against Shizuru for Student Council President, largely on the same platform that she's enforcing now. She lost by a landslide (817 votes for Shizuru vs. 12 votes for her) since the average student isn't particularly interested in a Moral Guardian hovering over them. Shizuru keeps Haruka around to do the unpleasant tasks for the Student Council so she can keep her hands clean. An early hint that Shizuru is not quite all sweetness and light.
- That's how Medaka Kurokami becomes the student council president in Medaka Box, winning with 98% of votes. Her campaign for reelection was nowhere that easy.
- The South Park episode "Douche and Turd" featured an election for the position of "school mascot" between the title characters. The whole episode appeared to be a set-up for a Decided By One Vote scenario, with An Aesop about the importance of voting. After Stan is finally persuaded to cast his vote, which he does for the Turd Sandwich, the Giant Douche wins the election, 1410 to 36. To make matters worse, a messenger arrives just after the results are read to tell the characters that outside circumstances had rendered the whole election unnecessary, and neither candidate would take his place as mascot.
- The Simpsons saw Sideshow Bob (a convicted felon) defeat incumbent Mayor "Diamond" Joe Quimby (also a convicted felon) in a shocking upset landslide. It was later revealed that Bob had fixed the election.
- The episode "E Pluribus Wiggum" also saw Ralph Wiggum win the first Presidential Primary in the United States by a massive landslide. The voters, fed up and angry, deliberately chose to vote for the biggest moron they could find.
- The episode where a new class president would be elected was this. Only because two people in the entire class voted, resulting in "one for Martin, two for Martin!"
- An episode of Rocko's Modern Life had Ed Bighead winning the election (after a giant smear campaign against Rocko) with hundred of thousands of votes and only two votes for Rocko when campaigning for the city dog catcher. (The two votes being Rocko himself and Filburt - Heffer broke down and cried that even he couldn't vote against Ed after his campaign.)
- An episode of Blinky Bill featured an election for club president that Danny Dingo won by 47 votes to 2, even though there were only six club members.
- On the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero episode "Cobra's Candidate," a mayoral candidate just discovered by his constituents to be working with Cobra loses by a margin of 2 to 2.1 million, with his only two votes suggested to have come from his wife and mother. They turn out be from Tomax and Xamot, who promptly rip up their ballots out of frustration.
- In Gravity Falls, the 8th & 1/2 President Quentin Trembley won by a landslide — as in all the other candidates were literally buried by a landslide.
- In The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3, Princess Toadstool wins an election over King Koopa with 6 million votes. Koopa's lone vote was his own, meaning not even his children or his minions voted for him!
- A similar joke was used in a Rocky and Bullwinkle short, where Bullwinkle is running for club president. He's the first on the clubhouse on voting day when Boris calls to tell him he won by a landslide... because a landslide has buried the clubhouse, making Bullwinkle the only one able to vote. Too bad he voted for Rocky.