A Cloud Over the Election?
Welcome to U.S. History
As it becomes more and more obvious that Russia manipulated the 2016 election to insure the candidate it preferred would be elected, U.S. citizens should not be shocked. Since the earliest years of our Republic intrigue and shady politics have plagued the Presidential election process. We have had extremely contentious, as well as questionable or “manipulated” Presidential elections, in 1800, 1824, 1876, 1972, 1980, 2000, and, of course, 2016. In case you’re not familiar with those elections, let’s take a look.
This very contentious election (the 2nd between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams) was ultimately determined in the House of Representatives because Jefferson and his Vice Presidential candidate (Aaron Burr) both received the same number of electoral votes (electors did not specify if their vote was for “President” or “Vice President” --- therefore Jefferson & Burr received the same number of votes for President – a problem rectified by the 12th Amendment in 1804). After 35 votes by the House of Representatives that ended in a tie, Jefferson was named President on the 36th ballot (supposedly because Burr’s old New York City rival, Alexander Hamilton --- no fan of Jefferson --- threw his support to the Virginian! We all know about that duel several years later.) Another significant feature of the 1800 election was that Jefferson won because of the 3/5th’s Compromise --- which counted every 5 slaves as THREE (white) voters in the South, thereby increasing the number of Representatives (and Electors) in the Southern states. The Democrats dominant hold on the White House continued through the election of Lincoln in 1860.
The famous “corrupt bargain” election --- in which Andrew Jackson won the most popular votes and the most electoral votes --- but not a majority of Electors, thereby sending the election to the House of Representatives for the 2nd time. The House, controlled by Speaker Henry Clay, a long time rival of Jackson, gave the election to John Quincy Adams. Subsequently, Clay was appointed Adams’s Secretary of State (seen as a steppingstone appointment to the White House) and all hell broke loose. There was no hard evidence that Clay and Adams had struck a deal ---- but . . . .
Now here’s one that actually was fixed! Samuel Tilden, a New York Democrat won the popular vote and won the electoral vote --- but was ONE electoral vote shy of having a majority (even though he was 19 electoral votes ahead of Rutherford B. Hayes, the Republican from Ohio)! There were “uncounted electors” from Florida, South Carolina, and Louisiana, as well as one contested elector from Oregon --- totally 20 Electoral Votes. Since there is no Constitutional Provision for such a situation (as there wasn’t in 2000) the Senate created a “commission” of 7 Republicans, 7 Democrats, and 1 independent to decide each electoral vote and determine who the winner of the election was.
As it turned out, all 20 votes went to Hayes (who promised to remove Federal troops --- who were protecting newly enfranchised Black citizens --- from all the Southern States, if elected). Needless to say, the electors from Louisiana, Florida, and South Carolina, along with the one from Oregon all went to Hayes!
While everyone remembers Watergate as synonymous with “corruption” few remember that the burglary of Democratic headquarters which started the unraveling of the Nixon administration was part of a concerted strategy to fix the 1972 election. A strategy that succeeded, by the way. Nixon’s “dirty tricksters” had successfully removed Maine Senator Edmund Muskie from the running by way of their spurious “Canuck letter” (a supposed “eyewitness” letter to the New Hampshire Guardian before that state’s primary, claiming Muskie had referred to the New Hampshire French-Canadian population as “Canucks.” Nixon staffers wrote the letter.) as well as their planted “fake news” stories that Muskie’s wife was a serious alcoholic who enjoyed telling dirty jokes and using profanity. This led Muskie to break down in tears at a campaign event while defending his wife and later withdrawing from the race. The fix was in and it worked.
While Jimmy Carter was not popular folks don’t remember that the Iranians controlled this election, to a certain extent, by holding 52 Americans hostage. Had the Iranians negotiated a release with Carter, who knows how the election might have gone (or if the failed rescue mission had succeeded). That the hostages were released moments after Ronald Reagan finished his oath of office tells you all you need to know about this election. A foreign power had control over the outcome --- and they knew it!
“Hanging chads” in Florida, where Jeb Bush was Governor, and the Supreme Court got to decide the election. With a Republican Secretary of State in Florida in charge of the “recount,” the agony went on for 36 days, despite Gore winning a half million more popular votes than Bush nationwide. The Supreme Court decided along party lines, 5 to 4, that George W. Bush was the winner. Should Gore have contested further, demanding another recount? Who knows --- as it turned out fishy Florida, with its Dolphins, Marlins, and Rays, got to name the 42nd President of the United States.
In our age of cyber snooping and hacking, every election from this point on has the potential to be de-legitimatized in some way, shape, or form. We have to hope that “our” tech guys are simply better than their “tech” guys --- and that our candidates play within the rules.