Maybe This Wasn’t the Worst Election…

M. Murphy '18

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With all of the madness associated with the recent election, it may seem like the Election of 2016 was one of the most tumultuous in history. However, if we take a look back, we may find that there have been even more shocking and revolutionary elections throughout American history. This one appeared to have a large scope because of the strong media attention, but other elections have had quite a profound effect on our nation.

The Election of 1800, one of the first elections in our nation, is nicknamed the “Revolution of 1800” because several aspects of it were quite eventful. First, the slander that the two parties, the Federalists who supported John Adams and the Democratic-Republicans who supported Thomas Jefferson, was incredibly harsh. For example, Federalists claimed Jefferson would create a reign of terror and Democratic-Republicans claimed Adams was a tyrant. Second, the Election of 1800 took place before the passage of the amendment that made the presidential and vice presidential ballots separate, so electors voted twice. Democratic-Republican electors therefore voted for Jefferson and then voted for his vice-president Aaron Burr creating a tie. The House of Representatives voted 36 times, and under the persuasion of Alexander Hamilton, elected Thomas Jefferson president. The Election of 1800 was likewise “revolutionary” because after hearing that Hamilton had endorsed Jefferson, Burr challenged him to a duel and won. So, though the Election of 2016 was very chaotic, did it involve a tie that took the House of Representatives 36 votes to break? Did it end with a duel that caused the demise of a brilliant founding father? The answer is no. At least our 2016 election had a fair vote with a decisive winner and involved no duels.

Two centuries later, the controversial Election of 2000 ruffled many Democratic feathers in America. Though the campaigning went smoothly between Democratic candidate Al Gore and Republican candidate George Bush, the election itself was very tumultuous. On the actual election day, the total results were so close that they depended on the outcome of Florida, whose own results were almost tied. Because of the misuse of punch cards, Florida’s officials demanded a hand recount to be completed by December 12, 2000. When this deadline came along and they hadn’t finished, it was decided that the winner at that point, George Bush, would get the electoral votes. This election was so disputed because the punch cards in Florida could have possibly led Al Gore to win, yet Bush was elected. In addition, the overall closeness in the results and the fact that Al Gore won the popular vote caused this election to be quite controversial. As we look back at the 2016 election, we should be grateful that we had a decisive result with a clear winner, rather than having to wait five weeks for a result that may not have been completely valid.

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Maybe This Wasn’t the Worst Election…