Memorable Elections

Memorable Elections



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The race for the U.S. presidency has delivered its share of hotly contested elections between the Democratic Party, Republican Party and various third-party candidates.

Donald Trump became the fifth president to win despite losing the popular vote in 2016, joining the ranks of George W. Bush (2000)—who didn’t win until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled a Florida recount to be unconstitutional; Benjamin Harrison (1888); Rutherford B. Hayes (1876), who moved to the White House only after a controversial electoral commission helped him overcome a massive popular-vote deficit in 1877; and John Quincy Adams, whose 1824 election was the first year the popular vote was counted.

These presidents aren’t alone in unusual election stories; Harry S. Truman won in 1948 despite the publication of a newspaper that announced otherwise. Here are some of the United States’ most memorable presidential elections.

READ MORE: 7 Firsts in US Presidential Election History

2016

Candidates: Hillary Clinton (Democrat), Donald Trump (Republican), Jill Stein (Green Party), Gary Johnson (Libertarian)
Winner: Donald Trump
Popular Vote: 65,844,610 (Clinton) to 62,979,636 (Trump)
Electoral College: 227 (Clinton) to 304 (Trump)

  • The 2016 election was one of five elections in U.S. history in which the winner of the electoral votes did not carry the popular vote.
  • Hillary Clinton was the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major party.
  • Trump was the first president in more than 60 years with no experience serving in Congress or as a governor (the only others were Dwight Eisenhower and Herbert Hoover).
  • At the age of 70, Trump was the oldest president in U.S. history (Ronald Reagan was 69 when he was sworn in).
  • "Lock her up" and The Clinton email scandal: Clinton’s opponents, referring to her as “Crooked Hillary,” watched carefully as the FBI investigated Clinton’s possible improper use of her personal email server during her time as secretary of state. The FBI concluded in July 2016 that no charges should be made in the case. But days before the election, FBI Director James Comey informed Congress the FBI was investigating more Clinton emails. On November 6, two days before the election, Comey reported to Congress that the additional emails did not change the agency’s prior report.
  • Historic upset: In the days leading up to Election Day, Clinton led in nearly all polls. According to exit polls, however, Trump won thanks to his ability to consolidate the support of white voters and lower-income groups.
  • The Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a report in January 2017 concluding that the Russians interfered with the election. Trump fired former FBI Director James Comey. Then former FBI director Robert Mueller was appointed as special counsel to investigate possible collusion between Russia and Trump’s campaign.
  • Mueller submitted his report to the Justice Department in March 2019, finding no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, but concluding Russian interference occurred "in sweeping and systematic fashion."

2000

Candidates: Al Gore (Democrat), George W. Bush (Republican), Ralph Nader (Green Party), Patrick Buchanan (conservative populist), Harry Browne (Libertarian)
Winner: George W. Bush
Popular Vote: 50,996,582 (Gore) to 50, 465,062 (Bush)
Electoral College: 271 (Bush) to 266 (Gore)

  • The 2000 election was one of four elections in U.S. history in which the winner of the electoral votes did not carry the popular vote.
  • Gore conceded on election night, but retracted his concession when he learned that the vote in Florida was too close to call. A recount of the Florida votes ensued, but was eventually ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • Ralph Nader has formally run for president four times; the first time was in 1996. He was also a write-in candidate in 1992.

READ MORE: How Sandra Day O’Connor’s Swing Vote Decided the 2000 Election

1960

Candidates: John F. Kennedy (Democrat), Richard M. Nixon (Republican)
Winner: John F. Kennedy
Popular Vote: 34,226,731 (Kennedy) to 34,108,157 (Nixon)
Electoral College: 303 (Kennedy) to 219 (Nixon)

  • With his victory by a scant 120,000 votes, the 43-year-old Kennedy became the youngest-ever U.S. president. Nixon was 47–only four years older.
  • Voters feared that Kennedy, a Roman Catholic, might be controlled by the Catholic Church. He was the nation’s first Catholic U.S. (In 2009, Joe Biden became the country’s first Catholic vice president, and the third Catholic major-party presidential candidate in 2020.)
  • Kennedy’s relaxed demeanor and telegenic looks gave him the edge in four televised debates; many credit these debates for his eventual victory.

READ MORE: At the First Kennedy-Nixon Debate, Presidential Politics Entered a New Era

1948

Candidates: Harry S. Truman (Democrat), Thomas E. Dewey (Republican), J. Strom Thurmond (States’ Rights Democrat or “Dixiecrat”), Henry Wallace (Progressive), Norman Thomas (Socialist)
Winner: Harry S. Truman
Popular Vote: 24,179,345 (Truman) to 21,991,291 (Dewey)
Electoral College: 303 (Truman) to 189 (Dewey)

  • Thomas Dewey, the governor of New York, had run for president once before, against Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944, and lost in a close race.
  • Truman, FDR’s vice president, became president on April 12, 1945, after Roosevelt’s death.
  • Truman was seen as an underdog going into the 1948 election—so much so that the Chicago Tribune printed newspapers with the headline “Dewey Defeats Truman.” A picture of the victorious Truman holding the newspaper is one of the most famous photos in U.S. history.
  • Thurmond won 39 electoral votes.

READ MORE: 'Dewey Defeats Truman': The Election Upset Behind the Photo

1888

Candidates: Benjamin Harrison (Republican), Grover Cleveland (Democrat), Clinton Fisk (Prohibition), Alson Streeter (Union Labor)
Winner: Benjamin Harrison
Popular Vote: 5,534,488 (Cleveland) to 5,443,892 (Harrison)
Electoral College: 233 (Harrison) to 168 (Cleveland)

  • Harrison lost the popular vote by about 90,000, but was able to win the Electoral College, thanks largely to victories in two swing states: New York and Indiana.
  • Although Grover Cleveland, the 22nd president, lost his re-election campaign in 1888 against Harrison, he returned to the White House in 1893 as the 24th president.
  • Benjamin Harrison was the grandson of President William Henry Harrison, who died of pneumonia in 1841, just one month after taking office.

1876

Candidates: Rutherford B. Hayes (Republican), Samuel Tilden (Democrat), Peter Cooper (Greenback)
Winner: Rutherford B. Hayes
Popular Vote: 4,286,808 (Tilden) to 4,034,142 (Hayes)
Electoral College: 184 (Tilden) to 165 (Hayes)—with 20 votes disputed 185 (Hayes) to 184 (Tilden)—final tally

  • Because of disputed returns from several states and accusations that one Oregon elector was ineligible, neither candidate was able to capture the 185 electoral votes needed for victory. The Senate and House of Representatives deadlocked on how to count the votes and finally agreed to establish an electoral commission, which after an independent member had to drop out, was made up of eight Republicans and seven Democrats. The commission gave the election to Hayes (8-7). Congressional Democrats then used a series of stalling tactics to delay confirmation of the vote. Eventually, in what many believe to be a compromise in which the Republicans agreed to a conciliatory attitude toward the South (in the midst of Reconstruction) in return for a Hayes presidency, some Democrats began to support Hayes. Congress confirmed his election on March 2, 1877.
  • Angered by the results of the election, some Northern Democrats referred to Hayes as “his Fraudulency.”
  • After becoming president, Hayes announced he would serve just one term, and was true to his word.

READ MORE: The Most Contentious US Presidential Elections


Is This the Most Important Election?

Donald J. Fraser has spent a lifetime working in a variety of capacities in government. Fraser holds a bachelor&rsquos degree in political science and a master&rsquos degree in public policy and administration and currently teaches history through U.C. Davis&rsquos Osher Center. He is a regular contributor to the History New Network. Portions of this article are excerpted from his newly released book The Growth and Collapse of One American Nation.

The conventions are now behind us, and the post Labor Day period is often considered the launch of the full presidential campaign season. As in most election seasons, this one is being cast in apocalyptic terms by the two parties. &ldquoDo not let them take away your democracy,&rdquo former President Obama urged during his convention speech. &ldquoThis is the most important election in our history,&rdquo President Trump countered.

Is Trump right? Is this the most important election in our history? Is democracy on the ballot, as Obama claimed? Or is that just a conceit, something we say every four years? Perhaps a look at some other crucial elections in our history will help to enlighten us.

The election of 1800 established the first peaceful transfer of power in the United States, one that almost didn&rsquot happen. Without this, it is hard to see how America would have become a democracy. The election featured two men who were old friends and now political rivals: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. They had faced each other in 1796, with Adams prevailing. Jefferson, who came in second, become vice president based on the original wording of the Constitution, under which electors voted for two people. The one with the most votes became president, while the runner up became vice president.

The two had a brief flirtation with bipartisanship at the beginning of Adams&rsquo term, but things soon fell apart over lingering differences in the direction the new nation should take including over foreign policy. Relations with revolutionary France had fallen apart over the Jay Treaty, which was seen as pro-British. Adams ended up in a quasi war with France and his Federalist Party passed a series of bills known as the Alien and Sedition Acts. The Sedition Act was clearly pointed at Jefferson and the Republicans, making it illegal to publish &ldquofalse, scandalous, and malicious writings against the United States.&rdquo Partisanship had spun out of control by the late 1790s, and actual violence between the two sides, both in Congress and in the streets, broke out.

This was the setting as the election of 1800 unfolded. Surprisingly, Jefferson and his vice-presidential candidate, Aaron Burr, tied with 73 electoral votes, while Adams received 65 electoral votes. The election was thrown to the House, but the Federalists began to consider extraconstitutional means to deprive Jefferson of the presidency. Jefferson then warned Adams that this &ldquowould probably produce resistance by force and incalculable consequences.&rdquo Ultimately Jefferson emerged as the winner after thirty-six ballots. While Adams peacefully gave up power, he refused to attend Jefferson&rsquos inauguration. As David McCullough has written, the &ldquopeaceful transfer of power seemed little short of a miracle&hellipand it is regrettable that Adams was not present.&rdquo

The election of 1860 took place when the future of the nation was literally at stake. Abraham Lincoln, a man who had risen from humble circumstances, had become one of the leaders of the new Republican Party in the 1850s. Lincoln wanted to stop the spread of slavery into the new territories that had been obtained during the Mexican-American War. His main rival for power, Stephen Douglas, believed that each territory should vote on whether to allow slavery, that popular sovereignty was the answer. Lincoln&rsquos response is instructive. &ldquoThe doctrine of self government is right---absolutely and eternally right&mdashbut it has no just application&rdquo to the issue of slavery, which Lincoln believed was morally wrong.

Lincoln, the dark horse candidate for the Republicans, emerged on the third ballot at the convention in Chicago. Douglas won the Democratic Party nomination, but it was a pyrrhic victory. The Democrats from the South had walked out of the convention and nominated Vice-President John C. Breckenridge as their candidate. To make matters worse, a fourth candidate joined the fray as John Bell of Tennessee ran for the Constitutional Union Party. Ultimately Lincoln prevailed in the election, winning solidly in the North and west, but barely gaining any votes in the South. By mid December, South Carolina seceded from the Union and the Civil War began in April when southerners fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor.

The question at the start of the war was would the Union survive, but ultimately the next four years of Civil War would lead to the elimination of slavery in the United States and &ldquoa new birth of freedom&rdquo for the nation, as Lincoln framed it at Gettysburg. The question of who can be an American, of who is part of the fabric of our nation, continued to evolve. During a brief period known as Reconstruction, America began to live up to its founding creed, that all are equal. Amendments were added to the Constitution which formally ended slavery, provided for birthright citizenship and equal protection under the law, and allowed black men to vote. But the era was just a blip in our history, and the era of segregation and Jim Crow laws soon emerged and would not be removed until the Civil Rights protests of the 1960s.

The 1932 election occurred against the backdrop of the Great Depression. Herbert Hoover had been elected in 1928 as the &ldquoGreat Engineer.&rdquo He had made a fortune as a geologist in mining and then had become involved in public affairs. &ldquoThe modern technical mind was at the head of government,&rdquo one admirer wrote of the president. Hoover has often been cast as being a disciple of laissez faire when it came to the economy, but he in fact believed in &ldquogovernment stimulated voluntary cooperation&rdquo as historian David Kennedy has written. He took many actions early in the crisis, like getting businesses to agree to maintain wages and urging states and local government to expand their spending on public works. But Hoover was limited by his own view of voluntary action and could never bring himself to use the federal government to take direct action to fight the depression.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt had no such qualms. A rising politician in the early part of the 20 th century, FDR had been struck down by polio in 1921. It made him a more focused and compassionate man who identified with the poor and underprivileged, as Doris Kearns Goodwin argues. Roosevelt began with some bold pronouncements, talking about &ldquothe forgotten man at the bottom of the economic pyramid&rdquo and of the need for a &ldquonew deal for the American people.&rdquo Those two words, which James McGregor Burns has written &ldquomeant little to Roosevelt and the other speech writers at the time,&rdquo soon came to define Roosevelt&rsquos approach to the depression. FDR swept to victory, winning almost 60 percent of the popular vote and 42 of the then 48 states. The election established that the government had a responsibility for the well being of the people of the nation. FDR would eventually adopt the Four Freedoms as part of his approach, which included the traditional support for freedom of speech and worship, but also freedom from want and fear.

The 2020 election features each of the elements that made these prior elections so important. Democracy and the peaceful transfer of power are clearly on the line. Donald Trump has already called into question the fairness of the election, especially over mail in voting, and has begun once again to claim that he will lose the election only if it is rigged. One can imagine Trump refusing to leave office if he loses a close election to Joe Biden.

The unity of our nation is also as stake. Trump &ldquois polarization personified&rdquo who has &ldquorepeatedly stoked racial antagonism and nativism,&rdquo political scientist Suzanne Mettler and Robert C. Lieberman write. Trump has even been encouraging violence on the part of his supporters over Black Lives Matter protests. &ldquoThe big backlash going on in Portland cannot be unexpected,&rdquo Trump tweeted regarding the violence perpetrated by his supporters.

Prior to COVID-19, Trump&rsquos economic and tax policies favored the already wealthy and contributed to an ever-worsening growth in income inequality. To their credit, the president and his party supported an aggressive initial stimulus package to assist businesses and individuals. The extent to which the Republican Party will continue to support aggressive government action in response to the economic damage caused by the coronavirus, in order to aid the middle and working classes rather than the wealthy, is an open question.

President Donald Trump may indeed be right, this is the most important election in our history. Just not for the reasons he believes.


20th Century

In the 20th century, there were two very close elections. In 1960 a little over 100,000 votes ended up separating Vice President Nixon and Senator Kennedy. When it became apparent that Kennedy had won Illinois Nixon conceded. There have been some references made to the similarities between the 2000 election and Nixon's concession. The similarities are limited. Kennedy held a lead in the popular vote throughout, and in the state most in question- Illinois Kennedy won by 8,000. Even if Nixon had carried Illinois, he still would have lost.

The 1976 election between President Ford and Governor Carter was close in the Electoral College, but Carter won by a commanding 2,000,000 votes in the popular votes.

The closest election in US history began with a night of errors for the major networks. The first error occurred when they declared that Al Gore won the State of Florida. That victory it seemed made an electoral victory by George Bush unlikely. As the night went on the networks retracted their call and placed Florida in the undecided camp. Later in the night, it became clear that the Florida decision would determine the elections. A little after 2 AM Eastern Time the networks made their next mistake, declaring the State of Florida for George Bush. That declaration set in motion a concession phone call by Gore to Bush. As Gore was about the make his concession speech, word reached him that the State of Florida was indeed too close to call.
Gore called Bush back and recanted his concession, and the recount stage of the Florida election was on. Most Americans went to sleep believing that Bush had won, they woke up to learn that the election had not been decided. The margin between Bush and Gore was 537 votes out of a total of 6,000,000 cast. The Gore campaign demanded a recount in many areas of Florida the Bush campaign tried to block in court. The Gore campaign won motion after motion in local and Federal courts to allow the recount to continue, so finally, the Bush campaign then turned to the US Supreme Court. Most experts on the Supreme Court did not believe it would agree to hear the case, but it did. It then rendered one of the most controversial decisions in its historic ruling that the vote recount must be stopped. The vote of the justices was strictly along party lines, with justices appointed by Republicans voting to end the recount and those appointed by Democrats for the count to continue. Bush thus was awarded the electoral votes of Florida and won the presidency.


Top 10 Historic Midterm Elections

Congressional elections, held in the middle of a president’s term, are usually referenda on a president and his policies. Only twice has a president’s party gained seats in his first midterm election. But among all midterm elections, some have been more consequential than others.

1858: the House is divided. Facing a recession and a nation bitterly divided over slavery, President James Buchanan (D) lectures the people on the virtue of thrift and backs a dubious pro-slavery constitution for the nascent state of Kansas. As the Democrats fracture, the Republican Party, founded only four years before to prevent the expansion of slavery, takes a plurality in the House of Representatives. Many Southerners say they’ll secede if a Republican is ever elected president. And after Abraham Lincoln (R) wins in 1860, they do.

1874: deconstruction. Two years after President Ulysses S. Grant (R) is re-elected, scandals in the White House, a financial panic and concerns over post-Civil War governance in Southern states cost the Republicans 96 seats and their majority in the House, which they have controlled since 1858. When disputed electoral votes cast the result of the 1876 presidential election into doubt, Congressional Democrats are strong enough to force a compromise: Rutherford B. Hayes (R) enters the White House and federal troops leave the South, effectively ending Reconstruction.

1994: Republican revolution. After President Bill Clinton (D) takes three tries to find a suitable attorney general nominee and falls short in efforts to overhaul health care and eliminate the ban on gay men and lesbians serving in the military, the GOP takes both houses of Congress for the first time since 1952. The Democrats’ loss of 53 House seats and 7 Senate seats is a “bloodbath,” analyst Kevin Phillips writes. Pundits advise Clinton to tack to the center they also note increasing partisanship in Washington. He takes the advice and wins re-election in 1996 … and two years later the GOP-led House impeaches him on charges related to the Monica Lewinsky scandal. The Senate acquits him.

1826: era of hard feelings. The founding feud of the United States, between advocates of limited and less-limited government, seems to fade in the so-called Era of Good Feelings, from 1815 to 1825. “Party spirit had indeed subsided through the Union to a degree that I should have thought scarcely possible,” John Quincy Adams, an active-government advocate, observes in 1817. Actually, party spirit is just reorganizing the Federalist Party has collapsed and the Democratic-Republican Party is splintering. Adams takes the White House in 1824 as a National Republican. In 1826, his party loses both houses of Congress. In 1828, the new Democratic Party, organized under the energies of Martin van Buren, runs Adams enemy Andrew Jackson for president and begins a whole new era.

2002: odds defied. Historically, the party of the sitting president loses ground in midterm elections. But in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks, Republicans counter the trend, gaining six seats in the House and two in the Senate with the help of aggressive campaigning by President George W. Bush. (This was the second time a president’s party gained House seats in his first midterm election. The first was the Democrats’ gain of nine seats in 1934 under Franklin Delano Roosevelt.) Bush, who took office in 2001 by virtue of a Supreme Court decision, now has majorities in both chambers (the Senate was split 50-50, leaving Vice President Dick Cheney with a tie-breaking vote) and a claim to a popular mandate as he pursues homeland security initiatives and a global war on terror.


SDP wins - Crosby, 1981

The Social Democratic Party (SDP), set up in 1981 by the breakaway "gang of four" Labour politicians, pulled off several by-election victories over the next few years.

Crosby, on Merseyside, was the first with former cabinet minister Shirley Williams - one of the gang - winning by a majority of more than 5,000, overturning a Conservative majority of more than 19,000 at the 1979 general election.

The Tories took back the seat at the 1983 general election.


Is This the Most Important Election?

Donald J. Fraser has spent a lifetime working in a variety of capacities in government. Fraser holds a bachelor&rsquos degree in political science and a master&rsquos degree in public policy and administration and currently teaches history through U.C. Davis&rsquos Osher Center. He is a regular contributor to the History New Network. Portions of this article are excerpted from his newly released book The Growth and Collapse of One American Nation.

The conventions are now behind us, and the post Labor Day period is often considered the launch of the full presidential campaign season. As in most election seasons, this one is being cast in apocalyptic terms by the two parties. &ldquoDo not let them take away your democracy,&rdquo former President Obama urged during his convention speech. &ldquoThis is the most important election in our history,&rdquo President Trump countered.

Is Trump right? Is this the most important election in our history? Is democracy on the ballot, as Obama claimed? Or is that just a conceit, something we say every four years? Perhaps a look at some other crucial elections in our history will help to enlighten us.

The election of 1800 established the first peaceful transfer of power in the United States, one that almost didn&rsquot happen. Without this, it is hard to see how America would have become a democracy. The election featured two men who were old friends and now political rivals: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. They had faced each other in 1796, with Adams prevailing. Jefferson, who came in second, become vice president based on the original wording of the Constitution, under which electors voted for two people. The one with the most votes became president, while the runner up became vice president.

The two had a brief flirtation with bipartisanship at the beginning of Adams&rsquo term, but things soon fell apart over lingering differences in the direction the new nation should take including over foreign policy. Relations with revolutionary France had fallen apart over the Jay Treaty, which was seen as pro-British. Adams ended up in a quasi war with France and his Federalist Party passed a series of bills known as the Alien and Sedition Acts. The Sedition Act was clearly pointed at Jefferson and the Republicans, making it illegal to publish &ldquofalse, scandalous, and malicious writings against the United States.&rdquo Partisanship had spun out of control by the late 1790s, and actual violence between the two sides, both in Congress and in the streets, broke out.

This was the setting as the election of 1800 unfolded. Surprisingly, Jefferson and his vice-presidential candidate, Aaron Burr, tied with 73 electoral votes, while Adams received 65 electoral votes. The election was thrown to the House, but the Federalists began to consider extraconstitutional means to deprive Jefferson of the presidency. Jefferson then warned Adams that this &ldquowould probably produce resistance by force and incalculable consequences.&rdquo Ultimately Jefferson emerged as the winner after thirty-six ballots. While Adams peacefully gave up power, he refused to attend Jefferson&rsquos inauguration. As David McCullough has written, the &ldquopeaceful transfer of power seemed little short of a miracle&hellipand it is regrettable that Adams was not present.&rdquo

The election of 1860 took place when the future of the nation was literally at stake. Abraham Lincoln, a man who had risen from humble circumstances, had become one of the leaders of the new Republican Party in the 1850s. Lincoln wanted to stop the spread of slavery into the new territories that had been obtained during the Mexican-American War. His main rival for power, Stephen Douglas, believed that each territory should vote on whether to allow slavery, that popular sovereignty was the answer. Lincoln&rsquos response is instructive. &ldquoThe doctrine of self government is right---absolutely and eternally right&mdashbut it has no just application&rdquo to the issue of slavery, which Lincoln believed was morally wrong.

Lincoln, the dark horse candidate for the Republicans, emerged on the third ballot at the convention in Chicago. Douglas won the Democratic Party nomination, but it was a pyrrhic victory. The Democrats from the South had walked out of the convention and nominated Vice-President John C. Breckenridge as their candidate. To make matters worse, a fourth candidate joined the fray as John Bell of Tennessee ran for the Constitutional Union Party. Ultimately Lincoln prevailed in the election, winning solidly in the North and west, but barely gaining any votes in the South. By mid December, South Carolina seceded from the Union and the Civil War began in April when southerners fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor.

The question at the start of the war was would the Union survive, but ultimately the next four years of Civil War would lead to the elimination of slavery in the United States and &ldquoa new birth of freedom&rdquo for the nation, as Lincoln framed it at Gettysburg. The question of who can be an American, of who is part of the fabric of our nation, continued to evolve. During a brief period known as Reconstruction, America began to live up to its founding creed, that all are equal. Amendments were added to the Constitution which formally ended slavery, provided for birthright citizenship and equal protection under the law, and allowed black men to vote. But the era was just a blip in our history, and the era of segregation and Jim Crow laws soon emerged and would not be removed until the Civil Rights protests of the 1960s.

The 1932 election occurred against the backdrop of the Great Depression. Herbert Hoover had been elected in 1928 as the &ldquoGreat Engineer.&rdquo He had made a fortune as a geologist in mining and then had become involved in public affairs. &ldquoThe modern technical mind was at the head of government,&rdquo one admirer wrote of the president. Hoover has often been cast as being a disciple of laissez faire when it came to the economy, but he in fact believed in &ldquogovernment stimulated voluntary cooperation&rdquo as historian David Kennedy has written. He took many actions early in the crisis, like getting businesses to agree to maintain wages and urging states and local government to expand their spending on public works. But Hoover was limited by his own view of voluntary action and could never bring himself to use the federal government to take direct action to fight the depression.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt had no such qualms. A rising politician in the early part of the 20 th century, FDR had been struck down by polio in 1921. It made him a more focused and compassionate man who identified with the poor and underprivileged, as Doris Kearns Goodwin argues. Roosevelt began with some bold pronouncements, talking about &ldquothe forgotten man at the bottom of the economic pyramid&rdquo and of the need for a &ldquonew deal for the American people.&rdquo Those two words, which James McGregor Burns has written &ldquomeant little to Roosevelt and the other speech writers at the time,&rdquo soon came to define Roosevelt&rsquos approach to the depression. FDR swept to victory, winning almost 60 percent of the popular vote and 42 of the then 48 states. The election established that the government had a responsibility for the well being of the people of the nation. FDR would eventually adopt the Four Freedoms as part of his approach, which included the traditional support for freedom of speech and worship, but also freedom from want and fear.

The 2020 election features each of the elements that made these prior elections so important. Democracy and the peaceful transfer of power are clearly on the line. Donald Trump has already called into question the fairness of the election, especially over mail in voting, and has begun once again to claim that he will lose the election only if it is rigged. One can imagine Trump refusing to leave office if he loses a close election to Joe Biden.

The unity of our nation is also as stake. Trump &ldquois polarization personified&rdquo who has &ldquorepeatedly stoked racial antagonism and nativism,&rdquo political scientist Suzanne Mettler and Robert C. Lieberman write. Trump has even been encouraging violence on the part of his supporters over Black Lives Matter protests. &ldquoThe big backlash going on in Portland cannot be unexpected,&rdquo Trump tweeted regarding the violence perpetrated by his supporters.

Prior to COVID-19, Trump&rsquos economic and tax policies favored the already wealthy and contributed to an ever-worsening growth in income inequality. To their credit, the president and his party supported an aggressive initial stimulus package to assist businesses and individuals. The extent to which the Republican Party will continue to support aggressive government action in response to the economic damage caused by the coronavirus, in order to aid the middle and working classes rather than the wealthy, is an open question.

President Donald Trump may indeed be right, this is the most important election in our history. Just not for the reasons he believes.


6. 2010 Maryland State Governor Election

The 2010 Maryland State Governor Election was held on November 2nd, 2010 to elect the Governor alongside the members of Maryland General Assembly. Martin O’Malley and Anthony G Brown, the incumbent Governor and Lieutenant Governor, pursued a successful reelection on a Democratic ticket, becoming the first candidates in the history of Maryland Gubernatorial elections to receive more than one million votes on the way to defeating the Republican candidate, Robert Ehrlich, by almost 15% of the votes. The Republican candidate resorted to Voter Suppression techniques where the Democrat’s African-American voters were tricked into staying at home with the claim that their candidate had won thus there was no need of them coming to vote. The message reached about 112,000 voters with majority failing to vote. Some members of Robert Ehrlich’s campaign team were convicted of fraud in 2011 because of the calls.


History of elections

Although elections were used in ancient Athens, in Rome, and in the selection of popes and Holy Roman emperors, the origins of elections in the contemporary world lie in the gradual emergence of representative government in Europe and North America beginning in the 17th century. At that time, the holistic notion of representation characteristic of the Middle Ages was transformed into a more individualistic conception, one that made the individual the critical unit to be counted. For example, the British Parliament was no longer seen as representing estates, corporations, and vested interests but was rather perceived as standing for actual human beings. The movement abolishing the so-called “ rotten boroughs”—electoral districts of small population controlled by a single person or family—that culminated in the Reform Act of 1832 (one of three major Reform Bills in the 19th century in Britain that expanded the size of the electorate) was a direct consequence of this individualistic conception of representation. Once governments were believed to derive their powers from the consent of the governed and expected to seek that consent regularly, it remained to decide precisely who was to be included among the governed whose consent was necessary. Advocates of full democracy favoured the establishment of universal adult suffrage. Across western Europe and North America, adult male suffrage was ensured almost everywhere by 1920, though woman suffrage was not established until somewhat later (e.g., 1928 in Britain, 1944 in France, 1949 in Belgium, and 1971 in Switzerland).

Although it is common to equate representative government and elections with democracy, and although competitive elections under universal suffrage are one of democracy’s defining characteristics, universal suffrage is not a necessary condition of competitive electoral politics. An electorate may be limited by formal legal requirements—as was the case before universal adult suffrage—or it may be limited by the failure of citizens to exercise their right to vote. In many countries with free elections, large numbers of citizens do not cast ballots. For example, in Switzerland and the United States, fewer than half the electorate vote in most elections. Although legal or self-imposed exclusion can dramatically affect public policy and even undermine the legitimacy of a government, it does not preclude decision making by election, provided that voters are given genuine alternatives among which to choose.

During the 18th century, access to the political arena depended largely on membership in an aristocracy, and participation in elections was regulated mainly by local customs and arrangements. Although both the American and French revolutions declared every citizen formally equal to every other, the vote remained an instrument of political power possessed by very few.

Even with the implementation of universal suffrage, the ideal of “one person, one vote” was not achieved in all countries. Systems of plural voting were maintained in some countries, giving certain social groups an electoral advantage. For example, in the United Kingdom, university graduates and owners of businesses in constituencies other than those in which they lived could cast more than one ballot until 1948. Before World War I, both Austria and Prussia had three classes of weighted votes that effectively kept electoral power in the hands of the upper social strata. Until the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 in the United States, legal barriers and intimidation effectively barred most African Americans—especially those in the South—from being able to cast ballots in elections.

During the 19th and 20th centuries, the increased use of competitive mass elections in western Europe had the purpose and effect of institutionalizing the diversity that had existed in the countries of that region. However, mass elections had quite different purposes and consequences under the one-party communist regimes of eastern Europe and the Soviet Union during the period from the end of World War II to 1989–90. Although these governments held elections, the contests were not competitive, as voters usually had only the choice of voting for or against the official candidate. Indeed, elections in these countries were similar to the 19th-century Napoleonic plebiscites, which were intended to demonstrate the unity rather than the diversity of the people. Dissent in eastern Europe could be registered by crossing out the name of the candidate on the ballot, as several million citizens in the Soviet Union did in each election before 1989 however, because secret voting did not exist in these countries, this practice invited reprisals. Nonvoting was another form of protest, especially as local communist activists were under extreme pressure to achieve nearly a 100 percent turnout. Not all elections in eastern Europe followed the Soviet model. For example, in Poland more names appeared on the ballot than there were offices to fill, and some degree of electoral choice was thus provided.

In sub-Saharan Africa, competitive elections based on universal suffrage were introduced in three distinct periods. In the 1950s and ’60s, a number of countries held elections following decolonization. Although many of them reverted to authoritarian forms of rule, there were exceptions (e.g., Botswana and Gambia). In the late 1970s, elections were introduced in a smaller number of countries when some military dictatorships were dissolved (e.g., in Ghana and Nigeria) and other countries in Southern Africa underwent decolonization (e.g., Angola, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe). Beginning in the early 1990s, the end of the Cold War and the reduction of military and economic aid from developed countries brought about democratization and competitive elections in more than a dozen African countries, including Benin, Mali, South Africa, and Zambia.

Competitive elections in Latin America also were introduced in phases. In the century after 1828, for example, elections were held in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, and Uruguay, though all but Chile reverted to authoritarianism. Additional countries held elections in the period dating roughly 1943 to 1962, though again many did not retain democratic governments. Beginning in the mid 1970s, competitive elections were introduced gradually throughout most of Latin America.


Davis is back - Haltemprice and Howden, 2008

Former shadow home secretary David Davis caused huge surprise when he resigned as a Conservative MP. He ran again on a platform of defending "British liberties", having been critical of the Labour government's anti-terror legislation.

Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats declined to put up a candidate. Mr Davis returned as Conservative MP with a 15,355-vote majority.

He accused Labour of "spectacular cowardice", but Home Office minister Tony McNulty called the by-election "a vain stunt that became and remains a farce".


The Courts

If the next president serves two terms, as six of the last nine presidents have done, four currently sitting justices will be over age 86 and one over age 90 by the time that presidency ends&mdashprovided that they have not died or resigned.

The political views of the president have always shaped presidential choices regarding judicial appointments. As all carry life-time tenure, these appointments influence events long after the president has left office. The political importance of these appointments has always been enormous, but it is even greater now than in the past. One reason is that the jurisprudence of sitting Supreme Court justices now lines up more closely than in the past with that of the party of the president who appointed them. Republican presidents appointed all sitting justices identified as conservative Democratic presidents appointed all sitting justices identified as liberal. The influence of the president&rsquos politics extends to other judicial appointments as well.

A second reason is that recent judicial decisions have re-opened decisions once regarded as settled. The decision in the first case dealing with the Affordable Care Act (ACA), NFIB v. Sibelius is illustrative.

When the ACA was enacted, few observers doubted the power of the federal government to require people to carry health insurance. That power was based on a long line of decisions, dating back to the 1930s, under the Constitutional clause authorizing the federal government to regulate interstate commerce. In the 1930s, the Supreme Court rejected an older doctrine that had barred such regulations. The earlier doctrine dated from 1905 when the Court overturned a New York law that prohibited bakers from working more than 10 hours a day or 60 hours a week. The Court found in the 14 th Amendment, which prohibits any state from &lsquodepriving any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law,&rsquo a right to contract previously invisible to jurists which it said the New York law violated. In the early- and mid-1930s, the Court used this doctrine to invalidate some New Deal legislation. Then the Court changed course and authorized a vast range of regulations under the Constitution&rsquos Commerce Clause. It was on this line of cases that supporters of the ACA relied.

Nor did many observers doubt the power of Congress to require states to broaden Medicaid coverage as a condition for remaining in the Medicaid program and receiving federal matching grants to help them pay for required medical services.

To the surprise of most legal scholars, a 5-4 Supreme Court majority ruled in NFIB v. Sibelius that the Commerce Clause did not authorize the individual health insurance mandate. But it decided, also 5 to 4, that tax penalties could be imposed on those who fail to carry insurance. The tax saved the mandate. But the decision also raised questions about federal powers under the Commerce Clause. The Court also ruled that the Constitution barred the federal government from requiring states to expand Medicaid coverage as a condition for remaining in the program. This decision was odd, in that Congress certainly could constitutionally have achieved the same objective by repealing the old Medicaid program and enacting a new Medicaid program with the same rules as those contained in the ACA that states would have been free to join or not.

NFIB v. Sibelius and other cases the Court has recently heard or soon will hear raise questions about what additional attempts to regulate interstate commerce might be ruled unconstitutional and about what limits the Court might impose on Congress&rsquos power to require states to implement legislated rules as a condition of receiving federal financial aid. The Court has also heard, or soon will hear, a series of cases of fundamental importance regarding campaign financing, same-sex marriage, affirmative action, abortion rights, the death penalty, the delegation of powers to federal regulatory agencies, voting rights, and rules under which people can seek redress in the courts for violation of their rights.

Throughout U.S. history, the American people have granted nine appointed judges the power to decide whether the actions taken by elected legislators are or are not consistent with a constitution written more than two centuries ago. As a practical matter, the Court could not maintain this sway if it deviated too far from public opinion. But the boundaries within which the Court has substantially unfettered discretion are wide, and within those limits the Supreme Court can profoundly limit or redirect the scope of legislative authority. The Supreme Court&rsquos switch in the 1930s from doctrines under which much of the New Deal was found to be unconstitutional to other doctrines under which it was constitutional illustrates the Court&rsquos sensitivity to public opinion and the profound influence of its decisions.

The bottom line is that the next president will likely appoint enough Supreme Court justices and other judges to shape the character of the Supreme Court and of lower courts with ramifications both broad and enduring on important aspects of every person&rsquos life.

The next president will preside over critical decisions relating to health care policy, Social Security, and environmental policy, and will shape the character of the Supreme Court for the next generation. Profound differences distinguish the two major parties on these and many other issues. A recent survey of members of the House of Representatives found that on a scale of &lsquoliberal to conservative&rsquo the most conservative Democrat was more liberal than the least conservative Republican. Whatever their source, these divisions are real. The examples cited here are sufficient to show that the 2016 election richly merits the overworked term ‘watershed’&mdashit will be the most consequential presidential election in a very long time.