John Douglas Burwin (b. April 11th, 1939) was the 40th President of the United States, serving between January 20th, 1993 and January 20th, 1997. Prior to the Presidency, Burwin was the Governor of Sequoyah, serving from 1982-1990. Burwin is significant as the first Southern Democrat elected since Richard Russell in 1952, and the first Democrat to win a Presidential election since Adam Eisler in 1976, and the only Democrat to ever win the Presidency without also winning the popular vote.
Burwin's Presidency saw a major "realignment" in foreign policy towards the Western Hemisphere, including free trade agreements and a deepening of relations with hemispheric neighbors, and the United States helping broker an end to the devastating Arabian Civil War that caused the mid-1990s oil crisis. Burwin's administration also helped pass, after several failed attempts under both Democratic and Nationalist administrations, a nationalized universal health care plan with a mix of public and private options, administered mostly by states but underwritten federally. Despite these achievements, recession near the end of his term and a series of severe scandals both in terms of his administration's conduct and his well-known extramarital sexual dalliances created a firestorm of controversy, including attempts to deny him renomination in 1996 by conservative Democrats. He was defeated in a landslide by former California Governor Steve Martin in the 1996 Presidential election, and later pardoned by Martin when he was indicted on numerous charges stemming from his Presidential conduct.
Legal Career and Congress
Burwin graduated from Virginia Law School in 1962 and returned to Sequoyah to practice law as a public defender in Sparks County. After six years as a public defender, Burwin married fellow UVA alum and scion of the prominent Sullivans of New England Wendy Sullivan in 1969 and they moved to Sequoyah City, where Burwin became a defense lawyer, attracting statewide interest in 1971 when he defended two black men, Ray Waybury and Eddie Johnson, who had allegedly raped and murdered two white college students who were walking home from a party at the private, Methodist-run Sequoyah City University (SCU). Burwin successfully argued for the acquittal of Waybury and for a sentence of twenty years for Johnson, after the prosecution had sought the death penalty. The case became known as the University Two killings and while polarizing the city vaulted Burwin to prominence in Sequoyah politics.
His history as a public defender and his notoriety for successfully poking holes in the dubious case of the prosecution put Burwin at the forefront of potentially seeking the seat for Sequoyah's 1st District, based around Sequoyah City and the immediate area. However, Burwin decided instead to run for the state Senate in 1972.
Governor of Sequoyah: 1982-1990
1992 Presidential Campaign
Burwin, as early as 1990, was reportedly planning his election committee. He was, however, by no means considered a front-runner; New York Governor Mario Cuomo, former Michigan Governor Jim Blanchard and 1988 Vice Presidential Candidate Terry Connors were expected to lock horns in the coming battle. Due to the rising unpopularity of President Redford, especially following the early 1991 John Lipcourt scandal, Democrats were pouncing at the opportunity to run in an election they expected to win. Even fringe candidates, such as both of Joseph Kennedy, Jr.'s sons running against each other despite representing the same state, were common.
Burwin's edge over both Cuomo and Connors was his appeal to the Democratic South, which had strongly abandoned even its Nationalist candidates following two decades of support for civil rights from the National Party. While integration was a long-closed issue, equality was still a hot-button issue and Bill Cosby's 1991 assassination had left the Civil Front, and the civil rights movement as a whole, swirling and searching for leadership. Redford's attempted assumption of that role had made him unpopular in the South, a region he desperately needed to appeal to as the economic sector in the Midwest and West weakened.
Burwin was a conservative Democrat and he ran as one; while personally supportive of integration, even having fought cases for minorities in the 70's and having made equality in Sequoyah his goal as Governor to bring black voters to the Democratic Party, Burwin recognized the shifting attitude in the South towards protecting economic power instead of subjugating racially. Even before critical primaries had begun, Burwin had positioned himself in the South as the go-to man; on top of that, he began making forays to the left-leaning liberals of New England and the West Coast that he would forward their economic goals as well. By the time the harsh 1991 recession hit in the fall of '91, Burwin had built up a strong grassroots campaign in the North and was the toast of the town in most Southern states.