Why Veterans Run: The Book


I am delighted to announce the 2018 publication of my book, Why Veterans Run: Military Service in American Presidential Elections, 1789-2016, with Temple University Press (Links: TUP & Amazon & Goodreads)

The book asks and answers important questions about American elections: why have more than half of major-party presidential candidates in American history been military veterans? Why have parties repeatedly nominated those with military experiences? How and why do campaigns trumpet their nominee’s war laurels? How has this pattern changed over time?

After establishing a theoretical framework to contrast different post-war eras, the book analyzes all the top-ballot presidential candidates, from George Washington in the beginning all the way to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in 2016. By examining closely how candidates’ service, or lack thereof, becomes less or more salient during a campaign, the book demonstrates the varied importance that military background played across time. I use both quantitative analysis of public opinion data as well as primary historical sources to answer the puzzle with different analytic strategies.

Here is the catalog copy:

The assumptions that military service helps candidates attract votes—while lacking it harms a candidate’s chances-has been an article of faith since the electoral coronation of George Washington in 1789. Perhaps the most compelling fact driving the perception that military service helps win votes is the large number of veterans who have held public office. Some candidates even exaggerate their military service to persuade voters. However, sufficient counter-examples undermine the idea that military veterans enjoy an advantage when seeking political office.

In Why Veterans Run, Jeremy Teigen explains the tendency of parties to elevate those with armed forces experience to run for high office. He describes the veteran candidate phenomenon by examining the related factors and patterns, showing why different eras have more former generals running and why the number of veterans in election cycles varies. With both quantitative and qualitative analysis, Why Veterans Run investigates each postwar era in U.S. electoral history and elaborates why so many veterans run for office. Teigen also reveals how election outcomes with veteran candidates illuminate the relationship between the military and civilian spheres as well as the preferences of the American electorate.