Politics is always dull until it isn’t. That’s just an observation. One of the events that can spice things up is a shock victory. Perhaps it’s due to inaccurate polls or just due to a lack of publicity for the popular candidates. Either way, they don’t happen very often. I guess that’s why they are called political upsets. It’s been said that democratic elections are like boxing matches. Everyone has a fighters chance – one lucky shot could guarantee victory over establishment figures. And that is both the most dangerous and the most vital part of any political system. Democracy is never predictable. Here are my top 10 biggest political upsets ever.
In hindsight, it’s easy to see how Barack Obama became the US president. But his future wasn’t always too certain. When he announced his intention to run as a presidential candidacy, almost no one had faith that he would be successful. The odds were just too stacked against him. Everyone thought Hillary Clinton would be the democratic candidate. For a while at least. Obama inspired millions with his charismatic speeches and bold principals. His winning slogan “Yes We Can” cleared his path to the white house to the point where his main rival, Hillary Clinton, eventually endorsed him. It might even be remembered among other political upsets, as we forget how close the race was between Obama and Clinton.
In 1998, Jesse Ventura ran for governor of Minnesota as an independent candidate. Independent candidates usually have no chance of gaining much of the vote, but people had unusually low faith in Jesse Ventura’s chances as he’s mostly famous for being a conspiracy theorist and a professional wrestler. The man is a joke. So how did he end up winning the election and serving as the 38th governor of Minnesota? It was a grass roots campaign. Upon his victory he gained attention for his line “We shocked the world.” And he certainly did. What makes this more impressive is that his opponents were both influential establishment figures with major backing behind them.
Jeremy Corbyn was a relatively unknown politician in Britain up until last year when he stood for the leadership position of the UK’s second largest political party. When he announced his intent to run for the position, almost no one believed in him. This was partly because almost no one knew who he was – but also because he’s a hardcore socialist. He only just managed to get his name in the competition in time. But his straight-talking and honesty soon made him the popular candidate. He is vocal in his opposition to Britain having a nuclear weapons arsenal, which is never a popular position to take. Despite this, he won the election and is currently serving as leader of the party.
In 1948, Harry Truman pulled off one of the greatest political upsets in recorded history when he was elected as US president. But every major opinion poll and expert study claimed that Truman would lose badly. As a response to this, Truman started making incredibly vicious personal attacks on his opponents. At the time, this didn’t seem to work. But he won the popular vote on the night. It was such a shock victory that most newspapers mistakenly reported that Truman had lost the election. They didn’t have time to register the election result and alter the headlines.
Jimmy Carter became US president in 1977. This was among the most unlikely and bizarre political upsets in memory. He was just a young guy who was only well known in local politics. So he was seen as having no chance in the national stage. His big opportunity came from the notorious Watergate Scandal. The American public was enraged with the establishment politicians, so they were hungry for 3rd part candidates. Candidates who could be seen as outsiders. And luckily for Carter, he seemed to fit the bill. He got the jump start on his rivals, giving over 200 speeches before anyone else even announced they were running!
George Galloway 2005
George Galloway is a really interesting guy. A long time left-winger, he was a member of the British labour party until being expelled over his opposition to the Iraq war. Upon his expulsion from the party he basically swore he would get his revenge. And that’s what he got in the 2005 election, when he retained his parliamentary seat. He did this by founding his own political party and directly competing with his former allies, and successfully so. He has often boasted it as one of Britain’s biggest political upsets ever. He lost his seat in the following election. But he wasn’t done yet. He moved to a different city and won yet another seat in parliament, which was also a traditional labour stronghold. He lost that seat in the following election also. I believe he is now preparing to run for London mayor.
As the post WW1 president, Woodrow Wilson played a significant role in modern history. He came a long way from where he started, as an unknown political candidate. It’s almost certain that he would not have won the 1912 election if it wasn’t for a convenient split in the Republican party. Taking advantage of this, he became the Democratic candidate and positioned himself as a prominent progressive figure. The result of the progressive movement, and the republican split, was Wilson being elected president and the democrats gaining a majority in congress. He gained 41 percent of the vote, which was partly due to his tactic of appealing to minority voters. It just goes to show that careful planning can cause political upsets in times of division.
UK General Election Of 2015
Last year the United Kingdom was stunned by the most dull of all our political upsets of all time. Leading up to the election, all major polls predicted that no one political party would gain a majority, or even close to a majority. But it turned out to be a majority for the Conservative party, who swiftly formed a new government. Everyone was expecting a hung parliament, which is when there is no clear winner of an election. So we thought there would either be another election or a coalition government.
Trump And Sanders 2016
One of the biggest political upsets of all time seems to be happening right now. Donald Trump is the front runner to become the GOP presidential candidate and Bernie Sanders still sands a good chance of becoming the Democrat candidate. This time last year almost no one could have predicted the Trump would be the front runner and almost no one even knew who Bernie Sanders was. Both candidates have won impressive victories in several caucuses in recent months. So those are shock political upsets already! If either of them become president, it will be an incredibly turn of events that I certainly didn’t see coming.
UK General Election Of 1992
This was the mother of all political upsets. Similar to the 2015 election, polls told that the ruling conservative party would fail to gain a majority. To the surprise of Britain they did. Ever since it has been pointed to as an example of how we mustn’t trust opinion polls. In my opinion it was the most dramatic British political event in the last 50 years.