On election day it is useful and even fun to recall some of the more interesting and controversial elections we’ve had in the nation over the past 200 years. How about the very first one. George Washington in the classic landslide. No one since has ever come close to his win and never will. He was not just elected he was annointed and for good reason. It would be nice if some of our elections since then had such a clear and compelling choice that everyone could rally around. After that first election there really wasn’t any losing, there was no losing side or faction, everyone was happy with the result.
Only a few years later the standoff between Burr and Jefferson produced the highest election drama we have ever had even including the 2000 election year. Their election went to the House of Representatives and required over 2 dozen votes before Jefferson prevailed. The country was so much better off for that result. Burr you recall was tried for impeachment based upon allegations of treason while sitting as the Vice President. More high drama. Now that was an election to remember for all time. Burr was not convicted although the evidence was clear he was pushing for an independent nation in the west to compete with the US. Fortunately he went back to practicing law in New York and won lasting infamy when he shot Alexander Hamilton in their famous duel just across the Hudson from New York City.
In 1864 Lincoln was running for a second term and faced stiff opposition from within his own party and from the Democrats for his war policies which were far from being totally popular in the North. McClellan and Fremont were the early competitors and even in his own cabinet Seward and Stanton harbored greater political ambitions. Why do you think he kept pushing to find a general that could bring some victories? He needed them to support his “base” within the Republican party. He needed a “surge”. Grant finally started delivering those victories at great cost in the late summer and fall of 1864; Sherman helped too with the destruction of Atlanta. The casualty numbers of Grant were not released the way we do them today almost instantly because Lincoln knew they would be depressing to the North and an additional boon to McClellan who advocated a peace with the South. The siege of Petersburg began and the Yankee troops were within miles of Richmond. Lincoln won the election not be a landslide but a significant margin.
Teddy Roosevelt caused quite an uproar in the 1912 election. He was not happy with his successors in the Republican party and certainly didn’t favor the Democratic choice of Wilson. Wilson’s only qualification was being Governor and a college professor from Princeton. Roosevelt formed the Bull Moose party much like Ross Perot of the early ’90s embarked on his third party run. Roosevelt overestimated his popluarity and the Bull Moose party ended up only handing the victory to Wilson. About the same way Perot’s effort handed the election to Clinton in 1992.
The Nixon Kennedy campaign and election in 1960 was much much closer than most histories care to mention. Indeed if not for the corrupt political machine in Chicago run by the first mayor Daley, Nixon would have won the day in a close election. Cooke county went overwhelming for Kennedy–too overwhelming to pass the smell test. The voter fraud was so rampant that many pleaded with Nixon to take his case to the courts. That would have been the first election to go to the Supreme Court rather than the Bush-Gore campaign. After only a few days Nixon declined to sue believing such a suit and the uncertainty it would bring for weeks or even months would be dangerous for the country during the Cold War. Times were very tense then with the Soviets. Getting tough on the Soviets was a major theme of Kennedy. He touted the so called “missile gap” that existed between the US and the Soviets. They supposedly had more missiles than we did and the their lead was growing was the story. It was a major talking point during his campaign and debate with Nixon. He had already been briefed by the security officials and in fact knew that there was no such gap. Nixon couldn’t respond to the arguments of Kennedy without jeopardizing our national security and didn’t do so. That cost him many votes.
Lyndon Johnson had his own very controversial election in 1948. That was when he first was elected to the Senate. Unfortunately there were quite a few dead people who voted at the polls that day in Starr County and other south Texas counties. The State of Texas was completely controlled by the Democrats as was the nation. In spite of many articles and investigations regarding the obvious fraud his election stood. It was a very close race and like Kennedy in 1960 he never would have advanced his political career except on the back of fraudulent votes. You can look up these facts for yourself. They are available.
As a nation we have survived the election of many folks who got there the wrong way or who didn’t perform well in office. If we maintain our heritage, our clulture and core beliefs we will endure for a while yet. If we start becoming something different, men of the “modern world” and our society is no longer based upon Judeo-Christian tenets then we will begin an inevitable downward spiral. Let’s hope that day is not here now.