The mainstream media and Democrat politicians have a short memory and seemingly no knowledge of history: Democracy in the United States has always been a topsy, turvy no-holds barred affair
Journalists, pundits, politicians, and anyone else weighing in on the unusual nature of Donald Trump’s continuous attempts to win an election he obviously feels was stolen, would do well to remember the old adage: There’s nothing new under the sun.
In fact, the first Presidential election in the United States with a close, strange result was the actually the first contested election in 1796. It was only the third election ever conducted in the newly formed Union, after George Washington won unanimously twice.
That cycle, John Adams and Thomas Pinckney, members of the newly formed Federalist party, faced off against Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr, the Democratic-Republicans. The election itself contained all the seeds of our modern politics. Presidential candidates didn’t campaign personally in those days, but their surrogates made bold, often-unfounded, evidence-free accusations: Jefferson was a morally compromised atheist, a coward, and a Francophile. Adams was an authoritarian who would bring back the monarchy.
Adams ultimately prevailed with 71 electoral votes, one more than needed to win, but there was a twist: The Electors in 1796 didn’t vote on a party ticket. They each cast two votes, one for President and one for Vice President, but the votes themselves were equal. Jefferson came in second with 68 votes, meaning a member of the opposite party was elected Vice President.
The election itself was incredibly close. Adams picked up three electors in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and North Carolina that voted differently than the rest of the state. If even one of them had flipped, the entire election result would’ve been different. Jefferson himself only received nine more than the Pinckney; if Pinckney had earned the second votes of the Adams electors in New England, he would have been elected president over both Adams and Jefferson.
Adams would go on to be the only President in United States history with a Vice President from a different party, an outright political opponent, each of whose surrogates had savaged the other. Technically speaking, Abraham Lincoln’s re-election in 1864 featured a Republican, Lincoln, with a Democrat, Andrew Johnson, on the same ticket, but they ran as part of a National Unity Party. John Quincy Adams was also no fan of his running mate, John C. Calhoun, but they were marginally in the same Democratic-Republican party.
Back in 1796, Jefferson, ever the masterful political strategist, stayed on as Vice President despite his dislike of the Federalists (personally, he and Adams were friends although their relationship cooled during this period). In fact, he used his position of power to attack Adams even more vociferously, setting the stage for a rematch in 1800.
That election was even crazier, ultimately ending up in the House of Representatives.
The two leading candidates in 1800 were still Adams and Jefferson. Jefferson and his running mate, Aaron Burr, secured more votes in the Electoral College than Adams and his running mate, Charles Pinckney, but there was a problem: Jefferson and Burr were tied in the Electoral College at 73 votes a piece.
Though Jefferson was technically at the topic of the ticket, the same rules applied as in 1796: Electors cast two votes and those votes weren’t distinguished between President and Vice President. In short, Jefferson’s party, the Democratic-Republicans messed up, big time, and the election went to the House of Representatives to pick the new President, between Jefferson and Burr.
It took 35 separate votes to ultimately pick Jefferson. While Jefferson received unanimous support from the Democratic-Republicans, many of whom were terrified of what the truly amoral and self-serving Burr might do in the highest office in the land, the Federalists backed Burr to stymie their main rival. Alexander Hamilton broke the stand off by putting his weight behind Jefferson. Though they were political enemies, Hamilton was equally terrified of Burr. Given that Burr killed Hamilton in a duel while he was Vice President, one can say his fears were justified.
Fast forward to 1824, and the tenth United States election featured fireworks: Andrew Jackson decisively won both the popular vote and the Electoral College vote over John Quincey Adams. Jackson bested Adams by over 10 points in the popular vote and by 15 in the Electoral College. Unfortunately, Jackson didn’t earn a majority of the Electoral College and the final results were determined by the House of Representatives.
Henry Clay from Kentucky, a Presidential candidate himself in the same cycle (he finished fourth), loathed Jackson, saying, “I cannot believe that killing 2,500 Englishmen at New Orleans qualifies for the various, difficult, and complicated duties of the Chief Magistracy,” referring to Jackson’s exploits in the War of 1812. Though the Kentucky State Legislature passed a non-binding resolution urging their House delegation to support Jackson, they flipped and voted 8-4 for Adams instead, flipping the entire election to him and making him the President.
Needless to say Jackson was incensed, accusing Adams and Clay of striking a “corrupt bargain.” He had his revenge four years later by trouncing Adams in 1828, ushering in the era of Jacksonian Democracy. The percentage of the voting population almost tripled between 1824 and 1828, from 3.4% to 9.5%.
Fast forward to 1860: Lincoln won the election somewhat decisively because the three other candidates split the votes. While he barely garnered 40% of the votes nationwide, that was forgivable given that he wasn’t even on the ballot in ten Southern states including Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.
Still, his next closest competitor received less than 30% of the votes, and it was enough that Lincoln earned a majority in the Electoral College. Interest in the election itself was incredibly high with a turn out of 82.1%. Of course, Lincoln’s win wasn’t without consequences: The country descended into Civil War.
Eleven years after the war, the election of 1876 was complete with widespread voter intimidation and fraud, especially in the former slave holding states. Republican Rutherford B. Hayes faced off against Democrat Samuel Tilden. The early returns indicated a Tilden victory, but three Southern states, Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina, had Republican dominated election boards that invalidated enough votes to swing the election to Hayes, giving him a 185-184 majority in the Electoral College.
The situation was so crazy, however, that competing sets of election returns and Electoral College votes were sent to Congress. Congress decided to form a bipartisan commission of 15 members and Supreme Court Justices to decide how to proceed. The commission originally included seven Democrats and seven Republicans, plus one independent.
The independent, however, Justice David Davis of Illinois, resigned after being chosen to serve in the Senate. Much to the chagrin of the Democrats, he was replaced by a Republican, and the committee ultimately voted 8-7, handing victory to Hayes. The Southern Democrats were only mollified by an agreement to end Reconstruction and military occupation in the South, a bargain that had monstrous consequences for the black community for close to a hundred years.
In 1888, there was a massive bribery scandal: The Democrats published a letter from the Republican National Committee promising funds and instructions to bribe voters. Amazingly, the Republican Candidate, Benjamin Harrison went on to defeat Grover Cleveland in the Electoral College, even though he lost the popular vote.
The election of 1960 was widely seen to be stolen in Texas and Illinois. The election of 2000 was close enough that the outcome hung, literally, on dangling chads, pieces of paper not quite poked through by voters. In 2004, Democrats claimed Diebold voting machines were hacked in Ohio. We all know the aftermath of 2016 and now 2020.
Well, we all know it, but the mainstream media doesn’t seem to be aware that strange, contested, challenging elections have happened frequently in American history. It’s 2020 or nothing. Either that, or they are intentionally forgetting.
Today, CNN regularly reports the country is in crisis because of Donald Trump and his voters. Fifteen years ago to the day however, however, they simply reported that the “Democrats challenge Ohio electoral votes.” The article published on January 6, 2005 notes, “Alleging widespread ‘irregularities’ on Election Day, a group of Democrats in Congress objected Thursday to the counting of Ohio’s 20 electoral votes, delaying the official certification of the 2004 presidential election results.”
Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee reported “numerous, serious, election irregularities.” Tubbs Jones, the co-chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, told reporters, “How can we possibly tell millions of Americans who registered to vote, who came to the polls in record numbers, particularly our young people…to simply get over it and move on?”
Does that sound familiar?
At the time, Senator Barbara Boxer said, “This is my opening shot to be able to focus the light of truth on these terrible problems in the electoral system. While we have men and women dying to bring democracy abroad, we’ve got to make it the best it can be here at home, and that’s why I’m doing this.”
These objections were supported by none other than future President, then-newly-minted Senator, Barack Obama. In these crazy times, we should all agree with Nancy Pelosi, who said this in 2005 when Democrats were objecting to the election results:
“Today we are witnessing Democracy at work. This isn’t as some of our Republican colleagues have referred to it, sadly, as frivolous. This debate is fundamental to our democracy. The representatives of the American people in this house are standing up for three fundamental American beliefs: The right to vote is sacred; that a representative has a duty to represent his or her constituents; and that the rule of law is the hallmark of our nation.”
Though she has certainly changed her tune, the Republic will survive.