As the political pantomime that are the American presidential elections continue to trundle on, it seems that two of the most unlikely candidates are sweeping voters off their feet.
Despite their extreme ideas and even more extreme hairstyles, no one can deny that Senator Bernie Sanders and tycoon Donald Trump have attracted huge numbers of disenfranchised voters demanding real change.
While people may laugh at the idea of a Mexican funded border wall, or a self proclaimed socialist getting into the white house, many famous political figures throughout history had very uncertain starts.
Number 1: Margret Thatcher
Let’s start off this list with one of the most divisive figures in British political history. Depending on who you ask, Thatcher was either a revolutionary or a tyrant, and never more so than during the run up to her election victory.
Following the Second World War, Britain’s political landscape was noticably left-wing, and Thatcher’s plans for privatising national industry and cutting state spending were seen as extreme even by fellow Tories.
In the run-up to the elections a Labour victory seemed a forgone conclusion, until the wave of mass strikes known as the Winter of Discontent crippled the country. Rubbish littered the streets and the dead went unburied as gravediggers and waste collectors stopped working.
The disruption the strikes caused across the country led to a loss of confidence in Labour’s competence and helped lead Thatcher to victory in the 1979 election.
Number 2: Woodrow Wilson
Our next candidate is less divisive but none the less iconic. Woodrow Wilson was both President of the United States during the First World War and the key architect behind the League of Nations, a precursor to the modern UN.
In contrast his rise to power is so convoluted and confusing as to be almost unbelievable, though it does in some ways parallel the race currently being run in the US.
Wilson was the fifth most popular candidate fielded by the Democratic Party in 1912. Ahead of him In the polls were Champ Clark of Missouri, Judson harmon of Ohio, Oscar Underwood of Alabama and William Jennings Bryan of Nebraska.
Fortunately for Wilson these men all hated each other, and through by using their distrust of one another Wilson was to secure enough support to become the Democratic nominee.
However this would have lead nowhere were it not for an outbreak of infighting within the Republican Party. Theodore Roosevelt had fallen out with incumber president William Taft after accusations of vote rigging at the Republican Convention and had chosen to run as an independent.
Roosevelt’s ‘Bull Moose Party’ succeeded on splitting the Republican vote and letting Wilson into the White House almost unopposed.
Number 3: Michel Martelly
Moving from a historical leader to a more contemporary one, our next candidate was until February the serving President of Haiti. Though his term in office has been punctuated by civil unrest and allegations of corruption, his roots are much more intriguing.
Before entering the political arena Martelly was better known for his music and onstage antics, performing a Haitian style of dancehall music known as compas, and has performed with a range of artist including Wyclef Jean, who supported his presidential campaign.
Given the amount of footage of Martelly careering around various events in several stages of undress, it is quite stunning that even with a Fugee’s support, he managed to make it into office.
Number 4: Winston Churchill
Back to the history books for our fourth candidate, to one of the most iconic political figures of the 20th Century. Winston Churchill was the Prime minister that lead Britain through the Second World War, making sterling speeches from behind his hefty cigars.
However in 1939 few could have predicted the extent of his popularity, or how pivotal he would in the coming years. Due to his aggressive distaste for Indian independence, brutality against the Irish and distrust of Germany he was seen as a loose cannon.
Following the resignation of Neville Chamberlain it was expected that Lord Halifax, then the Foreign Secretary, would become Prime Minister. However Halifax chose to step aside and let Churchill become leader, possibly under the impression he could manage him from the shadows.
This fortunately proved to be false as Lord Halifax was a supporter of Nazi appeasement and in early 1940 was considering a deal with Hitler. This deal was soundly dismissed by Churchill, making was with Germany irreversible.
Number 5: Abraham Lincoln
The last candidate on our list is possibly the most iconic American President in history. He ablished slavery in the US, lead the country through the Civil War and possibly hunted vampires. Well the last one may not be true but even so his other accomplishments are quite incredible.
However Lincoln’s legacy didn’t have a promising start, as he was seen as a backwoods unknown with little influence. However as with the others on this list, first impressions count for little.
Honest Abe’s electoral victory was really due to two factors, a home ground advantage and good, old fashioned, vote rigging. The Republican convention was held in Lincoln’s home state of Illinois, and local Republicans did all the could to secure a Lincoln victory. They seated anti-Lincoln delegates away from their undecided fellows, and handed out last minute tickets to Lincoln supporters to swell his numbers.
However the final nail in the coffin was when Ohio delegates were bribed by Lincoln supporter and editor of the Chicago Daily Press and Tribune, Joseph Medill. He promised the delegates that their nominee would have “anything he wants” for their support of Abe.
These are but a few examples of the weird ways in which world leaders have come to power, so when watching current candidates coming out with utter nonsense and wondering how on earth they could become president remember this. Stranger things have happened.
Main image courtesy of Gage Skidmore via Flickr