Quirky Facts About Every U.S. President
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A president is expected to be strong, serious, noble, and deliberate. But that doesn't mean there's no room for quirkiness. All throughout American history, presidents have had unexpected habits and occasional eccentric behavior. Take William Henry Harrison, the 9th president, who kept a pet goat in the White House. And although there may not seem to be many similarities between presidents and Las Vegas stand-up comedians, Ronald Reagan, the 40th president, has been both.
Why Do Americans Vote On Tuesdays?
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Some traditions are so ingrained in our culture that we don't stop to question why they exist. Such is the case with the American tradition of voting on Tuesdays. Getting people to the polls can be tricky in and of itself, so why add the hurdle of voting in the middle of a work week?This tradition dates back to 1845, when a law was passed by Congress to establish the Tuesday after the first Monday in November as the day for presidential elections. Before then, states set their own election dates, so elections would be held at different times around the country. The legislative branch soon followed: Tuesday was designated as election day for U.S. House members in 1875, and for senators in 1914.But why Tuesdays, you ask? Because America was largely comprised of agrarian Christians who based their schedules around both the Sabbath and travel convenience. Sundays were dedicated to church, and people needed a day (Monday) to travel to their county seat. You might fight traffic to reach your polling place, but imagine how much worse the trek was in 1875.
The Horseshoe Theory Says Right And Left Wing Are More Similar Than You Think
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Traditionally, the political spectrum is illustrated as a straight line, with liberalism on the left and conservatism on the right, each ideology getting more extreme as it gets closer to the end of the spectrum. According to French philosopher Jean-Pierre Faye, that all checks out except for one important difference: the spectrum is not a line, but a horseshoe. This horseshoe theory of political ideology says that the radical left and the radical right are much closer to each other than they are to the political center.
Even While In Space, Astronauts Can Vote
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Your local polling place is probably just right around the corner. For astronauts, not so much. But travelers to space don't have to miss out on putting their two cents into politics—they can vote from space. The first person to vote in space was David Wolf, an American aboard Russia's Mir space station in 1997, who cast a vote in a local election. In 2004, Leroy Chiao voted in the U.S. presidential election from the International Space Station. But how does it work? NASA Mission Control at the Johnson Space Center in Houston sends digital ballots to eligible astronauts in space. Once they cast their votes, the ballots are sent back to NASA along the same secure path. NASA then sends the ballots directly to voting authorities. Texas legislators passed a law in 1997 to allow this system to happen. Learn more about what happens in the process in the video below.
If Everyone In The U.S. Government Is Killed, There's Always The Designated Survivor
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Imagine if the unimaginable happened: every member of the federal government is gathered in a single location, and there's a nuclear strike. Or a massive earthquake. Or a meteor impact. It would kill everyone in charge of leading the country, and the government would unravel. Luckily, the U.S. government has thought of a solution for such a problem: the designated survivor. This may sounds like something out of a TV show, and, yes, it's the basis of the drama Designated Survivor, but that show is based on a very real concept. Before an event where the country's leadership will converge in one location—such as The State Of The Union or a presidential inauguration—the President and top presidential aides choose someone to skip the event, just in case catastrophe strikes. The designated survivor is usually a member of the Cabinet, though for the past decade, a second survivor from the congressional leadership has also been assigned. When every other official is heading toward the big event, the designated survivors are escorted to a secure government facility to wait out the time before the President is safely in the White House. Despite this big responsibility, there's no guarantee the designated survivor will actually become president if the worst happens. That's up to the order laid out in the Presidential Succession Act, which determines the exact line of succession in executive power. If the Secretary of Agriculture was the designated survivor, for instance, but the Vice President survived, the VP would still become President if disaster struck. Learn more about presidential succession and the U.S. government in the videos below.