The Most Important Election in History?

Today is Election Day, and both President Trump and his opponent, Joe Biden, have touted this as the most important election in history. It’s nice to know they both can agree on something.

Their agreement has a familiar ring to it, also, because both Trump and Clinton said the same thing, four years ago. And Obama and Romney said it in 2012. Obama and McCain proclaimed this in 2008. And, and . . . ad infinitum.

It seems these presidential fuckers try to get us so scared, each election cycle, that by election day we’re convinced our very lives, livelihoods, and liberty are on the line.

For instance, if Biden wins this election, we can expect our country to plunge into a depression, while power-hungry Democrats destroy our democracy and turn us into a totalitarian, Marxist state, controlled by China. According to Trump.

But if Trump wins, we can expect millions of Americans to die of Covid, while we lose our health care, our planet melts, and our Commander-in-Chief gives away our country to Russia. According to Biden.

I’m frickin’ shaking like a hanging chad. If only they could both lose, is my desperate wish. But after I slap myself in the face a few times to dispel my hysteria, I realize that maybe the Donald and Joe are exaggerating. Only time will tell, but this is probably not the most important election in history.

It does beg the question, though. If this doesn’t turn out to be our most important election in history, which election was?

I think a good argument can be made for the election of 1788. After all, it was our first election, and helped established precedent for all future elections. But as elections go, it was a real yawner. George Washington ran virtually unopposed, and was unanimously elected, garnering every single electoral vote.

A much more exciting year was the election of 1860. This was a 4-way contest between Abraham Lincoln, John Breckinridge, John Bell, and Stephen Douglas. Lincoln won with 40% of the popular vote, and 180 electoral votes of 152 needed. Southern states were so incensed at his victory that seven of them seceded from the Union before he could even take office. And within two months after his inauguration, four more had seceded, propelling us into a prolonged civil war.

Personally, I think the election of 1860 was our most important election in history. It’s pretty hard to top a civil war. So unless today’s election also triggers a civil war, our current exercise in voting won’t hold a candle to 1860.

As for the least important election in our history, I think we have to go back exactly 200 years, to the election of 1820. This occurred during the so-called Era of Good Feelings, in the aftermath of the War of 1812. Americans were unified, and partisan politics was at a low ebb. James Monroe ran for reelection without any major opponent, and won 80.6% of the popular vote, along with all but three possible electoral votes.

But the Era of Good Feelings met a sudden death just four years later, during the election of 1824. This was probably our most exciting election in history.

Four candidates ran a cutthroat race. 131 electoral votes were needed to win, and every candidate came up short. Andrew Jackson got the most votes, winning 41% of the popular vote, and 99 electoral votes. John Quincy Adams came in a fairly distant second, with 31% of the popular vote, and 84 electoral votes. Secretary of Treasury William H. Crawford came in third, with 11% of the popular vote, and 41 electoral votes. And sucking hind tit was Henry Clay, with 13% of the popular vote, and 37 electoral votes.

Because nobody won a majority of the electoral votes, this election had to be decided by the House of Representatives, among the top three finishers.

Henry Clay was the Speaker of the House. Since he had finished fourth, he wasn’t in the running. But as Speaker of the House, he could be a king maker. Adams allegedly made a “corrupt bargain” with Clay. Conspiracy theorists of the day alleged that Clay agreed to use his influence in the House to get Adams elected, in return for an appointment to Secretary of State. Whether that was true or not, the House did vote the second-place Adams in as president, and first-place Jackson lost.

And true to his alleged corrupt bargain, Adams appointed Clay to be his Secretary of State.

It sparked a national uproar. Jackson’s supporters were apoplectic. And the nation sympathized with Jackson, believing he’d been cheated out of the presidency.

Jackson responded by building a political apparatus that would later become known as the Democratic Party. This machine went to work on President Adams, making him as miserable as possible, and preventing him from accomplishing almost anything. And in 1828, this machine helped Jackson defeat Adams by a landslide, installing him as our seventh president.

Pundits warn we could very likely have a similar election this year, to 1824. There are many signs that the election results may be close and hotly disputed. And this could throw it to the House of Representatives. Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi seems to have it in for Trump, so who knows what would happen?

These are interesting times. I doubt this is the most important election in our history. But I would agree that it could become our most exciting.

Categories: History

51 replies »

  1. this was wonderful to read, I appreciate all the research you did. It does help to put today’s most important election of all time into perspective.

    I do feel kind of important though, living in the state that everyone says is the most critical one for the election… 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Excellent article. I think I’m going to pass it along to some friends. Just yesterday, I was explaining to someone (a little younger), about “Commies”, JFK, Johnson and Vietnam, Nixon and Agnew and an un-elected Ford and a pardon, Carter and Iran, Reaganomics and Contras, “Read my lips”, Bill’s BJ and Hillary’s back room dealings, etc… Amazingly, the US is still here. And somehow, I suspect it will still be here tomorrow, and with all the same problems… regardless.

    Liked by 3 people

      • Going back to my college days and an instructor who was really into having students “go to the source”, I ended up reading about fifty letters between Jefferson and Adams, and some others, and much of Joseph Story’s work including, “Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States”, for my work in the class. It was not at all what I had expected. Ever since, I’ve always been of the impression that much “American History” is simply revisionism to fit the prevailing themes of the times.

        “Democracy” was simply a kludge to the original system and intent, worked in over time in order to appease popular discontent. The US was never intended to be run by popular vote. The whole points of the Electoral College and the Senate was to have the invested from various states participate in something with more in common with a Soviet or Chinese Politburo. Individual guarantees of benevolent governance were simply through a form of popular representation that could prevent looting of the government coffers, and by those rights amended to the Constitution. Nobody originally planned for “parties” or the need to run large election campaigns.

        I’m no Constitutional expert, but I’ve always thought this resulted in a flawed system. On one hand, the system was originally designed to protect property rights. But then, it was been put into the hands of an electorate who didn’t necessarily benefit from those rights. The solution to preserving the intent was to make sure that possible choices were limited enough to keep out populists and the disenfranchised, and to manipulate the message to keep everyone thinking otherwise. The result is that we’re left voting for our choice of the “least bad” candidate since no one actually represents the “every-man”. And that regardless of who wins, nothing beyond popular political perceptions actually changes.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Good post. I agree that history is constantly reinterpreted to support whatever beliefs are current at the time of reinterpretation. I have seen a lot if changes in my lifetime. More changes are being pushed now to fit agendas all over the place.

    I am not in favor of a direct vote for the president with the winner the person with a plurality of the votes, known as first past the post. The drafters of the constitution were not in favor of that either, so I agree with them on that point. I think the House should elect the president for a single term of six years. No second term. Removal from office by a two thirds vote of the house.

    I believe it matters a great deal as to who wins elections. Even close elections.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks. Yes history is subject to the interpretations of those currently writing it, and no doubt reflects their agendas to some degree.

      I have mixed feelings about the Electoral College. It’s a boon to state’s rights, though, and I do like the idea of state’s maintaining some autonomy from Washington.

      So you want the House of Representatives to elect the president? That sounds like a parliamentary system, to me. I think that would require a major rewrite of the Constitution.

      Liked by 2 people

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