Monthly Archives: October 2016

The Election of 1860

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Election day took place on Tuesday, November 6, 1860. In one of the strangest and most critical elections in the history of the United States, Republican Abraham Lincoln won the presidency, beating Democrat Stephen A Douglas, Southern Democrat John Breckenridge, and Constitutional Unionist Edward Everett. There are 6,498,243 people registered to vote, accounting for 20.7% of the total population. Women could not vote, thus excluding almost half of the population. Male slaves and the majority of free black men were also excluded as were most all Native Americans. Many states also required a man to own property in order to register to vote. Of the men eligible to vote, about 81.2% actually did, the second highest percentage of voter turnout in American history. At this time a little over a third of the total population live in the New England states, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania combined.

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Lincoln received 1,865,908 votes, 39.8% of those cast. He carried 18 states, including California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin.

Stephen Douglas received 1,380,202 votes, 29.5% of the those cast but he won only the state of Missouri.

John Breckenridge received 848,019 votes, 18.1% of those cast. He carried 11 states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas.

Edward Everett received 590,901 votes, 12.6% of those cast and carried the states of Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia.

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Regional differences, particularly over the expansion or limitation of slavery and the question of states rights, are extremely divisive. The divisions are evident in the results: Lincoln won all the Northern states; Breckenridge won the deep South and the slave-holding states of Maryland and Delaware; Lincoln won no Southern states; the other candidates won no Northen states.

In the Electoral College, based upon state results, Lincoln had 180 votes, Breckenridge 72 votes, Bell 39 votes and Douglas only 12.

Of the Congressional races, once South Carolina seceded on December 20, 1860 and other Southern states followed, newly elected Congressmen and Senators never took their seats in the new Congress and most Southern members left Washington. By April, 1861, the shooting had begun.

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1856 Election

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Election day took place on Tuesday, November 4, 1856. The Democrat James Buchanan won the presidency, defeating Republican candidate James C Fremont and Whig-American candidate and former President Millard Fillmore. [The Whig-American Party was a combination of remaining Whigs with two small third parties.] There were 5,135,114 people eligible to vote, accounting for only 18.0% of the total population. Women could not vote, thus excluding almost half of the population. Male slaves and the majority of free black men were also excluded as were most all Native Americans. Many states also required a man to own property in order to register to vote. Of the men eligible to vote, about 78.9% actually did.

Fremont received 1,340,668 votes, 33.1% of those cast. He carried 11 states, including Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin.

Fillmore received 872,703 votes, 21.5% of those cast. He carried the state of Maryland.

Buchanan received 1,835,140 votes, 45.4% of those cast. He carried the other 19 states.

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There were close contests in four states. In Iowa Fremont won 48.8% of the vote and carried the state because Fillmore received 10.5% of the vote which hurt Buchanan. However, Buchanan won California with 48.4% of the vote, Illinois with 44.0% of the vote, and New Jersey with 47.2% of the vote because Fillmore won 32.8% of the vote in California, 15.7% in Illinois and 24.3% in New Jersey, thus hurting Fremont in those states, proving that third parties can and do make a difference.

Real and divisive issues included the expansion of slavery, the bloodshed in Kansas, the validity of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 and enforcement of the Fugitive Slave act of 1850. Democrats attacked the new Republican Party as “Black Republicans” saying they wanted to curtail or, worse yet, abolish slavery and involve free black people in American society, particularly by allowing inter-racial marriage which was a trumped-up charge. Abolitionist Frederick Douglass criticized the Republicans for failing to take a strong stand on behalf of black people. The Democratic governor of Virginia claimed that “If Fremont is elected, there will be a revolution.” Northern businessmen feared that the Republicans would have an adverse affect on the economy so they contributed large amounts of money to the Democrats.

“The Black Republicans must be, as they can be with justice, boldly assailed as disunionists, and this charge must be reiterated again and again.” ~ Democratic candidate James Buchanan

“Nothing is clearer in the history of our institutions than the design of the nation, in asserting its own independence and freedom, to avoid giving countenance to the Extension of Slavery. The influence of the small but compact and powerful class of men interested in Slavery, who command one section of the country and wield a vast political control as a consequence in the other, is now directed to turn back this impulse of the Revolution and reverse its principles.” ~ Republican candidate John C Fremont

“We Fremonters of this town have not one dollar where the Fillmoreans and Buchaneers have ten each.” ~ New York newspaper editor Horace Greeley

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Based upon the states carried by each candidate, in the Electoral College Buchanan received 174 electoral votes, Fremont received 114 electoral votes, and Fillmore received 8 electoral votes. In Congressional races, the Democrats won 50 additional seats in the Hose of Representatives while the Republicans gained 7 additional seats in the Senate. This would be the last presidential election the Democrats will win until 1884.

The Election of 1852

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Election day took place on Tuesday, November 2, 1852. The Democrat Franklin Pierce won the presidency, beating the Whig candidate Winfield Scott and Free Soil candidate John Hale. There were 4,539,713 people registered to vote, accounting for only 18.2% of the total population. Women could not vote, thus excluding almost half of the population. Male slaves and the majority of free black men were also excluded as were most all Native Americans. Many states also required a man to own property in order to register to vote. Of the men eligible to vote, about 69.6% actually did so.

Winfield Scott received 1,386,942 votes, 43.9% of those cast. However, he carried only Kentucky, Massachusetts, Tennessee and Vermont.

Franklin Pierce received 1,607,510 votes, 50.8% of those cast. He carried the 27 other states but by narrow margins in Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Michigan, New York, North Carolina and Ohio. In Ohio he won by only 47.8% of the votes because the Free Soil Party with its anti-slavery platform won 9.0% of the vote, thereby costing Scott the state and its 23 votes in the Electoral College.

John Hale received 155,799 votes. The Free Soil Party did well in Massachusetts (22.2% of the vote), Vermont (19.6%), Wisconsin (13.6%) and New Hampshire (13.0%) with a respectable showing in Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, New York, Ohio and Rhode Island (all Northern states).

Several smaller third parties won a combined total of 11,480 votes.

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The Democrats called Winfield Scott “Fuss ‘n Feathers,” a prima donna with a penchant for fancy uniforms resulting in a “Reign of Epaulets” and described him as “weak, conceited, foolish, a blustering disciple of gunpowder” and hostile to immigrants.

The Whigs labeled Franklin Pierce “the Fainting General” [like Scott he had commanded troops in war against Mexico, 1846 to 48]. They posed the question “Who is Franklin Pierce?” to suggest he was an unknown with not proven track record of political service. They attacked the Democratic Party as “the do-nothing school of politicians” who were not interested in American free workers, concerned first and foremost with the propertied interests of the South.

Real issues concerned the Compromise of 1850 and enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act. These matters in particular helped to make this the last election in which the Whig Party participated as it floundered and dissolved with Southern Whigs joining the pro-slavery Democratic Party and Northern Whigs either joining a third party movement or, like Attorney Abraham Lincoln in Illinois, joining the new Republican Party.

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The publication of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 2 volume book form in March of the year added fuel to the fiery debate about slavery. Also the year saw the death of two major political figures– Henry Clay of Kentucky on June 29th and Daniel Webster of Massachusetts on October 24th, nine days before the election.

Based on the states carried, Pierce received 254 votes in the Electoral College while Scott received only 42. Additionally, the Democrats won 3 additional seats in the Senate and an additional 19 in the House of Representatives.

The fate of the Whig Party in 1852 and the four following years causes me to wonder if this year and the next four will see a similar dissolution of the Republican Party. Could it be that the current Republican candidate has headed the party of Lincoln into a train wreck?

This Election Year

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Of the political writing abounding right now, this is among the very best which I have seen:

TRUMP, THE WORST OF AMERICA

By Charles M Blow

New York Times, October 17, 2016

Donald Trump has virtually stopped trying to win this election by any conventional metric and is instead stacking logs of grievance on the funeral pyre with the great anticipation of setting it ablaze if current polls turn out to be predictive.

There is something calamitous in the air that surrounds the campaign, a hostile fatalism that bespeaks a man convinced that the end is near and aiming his anger at all within reach.

As his path to victory grows narrower, his desperation grows more pronounced.

Last week a steady stream of women stepped forward to accuse Trump of some form of sexual assault, abuse or inappropriate behavior. Trump’s response has been marked by a stunning lack of grace and dignity, let alone contrition or empathy, a response much like the man himself.

Instead, he is doubling down on sexism.

On Thursday, Trump said of the People magazine reporter who accused him of forcibly kissing her: “Look at her. Look at her words. You tell me what you think. I don’t think so.”

He said on Friday of the woman accusing him of groping her on an airplane: “Believe me, she would not be my first choice, that I can tell you.

He also said of Clinton, “When she walked in front of me, believe me, I wasn’t impressed.”

His response to these charges has been surprisingly — and perhaps, revealingly — callow. He has mocked, whined, chided, bemoaned and belittled. It’s as if the man is on a mission to demonstrate to voters the staggering magnitude of his social vulgarity and emotional ineptitude. He has dispensed with all semblances of wanting to appear presidential and embraced what seems to be most natural to him: acting like a pig.

Furthermore, everything is rigged against him, from the media to the election itself. He’s threatening to sue The New York Times. He says he and Clinton should take a drug test before the next debate.

These are the ravings of a lunatic.

Trump is back to carelessly shooting off his mouth and recklessly shooting himself in the foot.

It is sad, really, but for him I have no sympathy. He has spent this entire election attacking anyone and everyone whom he felt it would be politically advantageous to attack. Trump, now that you’re under attack, you want to cry woe-is-me and have people commiserate. Slim chance, big guy.

The coarseness of your character has been put on full display, and now the electorate has come to cash the check you wrote.

 

Trump now looks like a madman from Mad Men, a throwback to when his particular privileges had more perks and were considered less repugnant. He looks pathetic.

He is a ball of contradictions that together form a bully, a man who has built a menacing wall around the hollow of his self. He is brash to mask his fragility.

But in a way, Trump was authentically made in America.

America has a habit of romanticizing the playboy as much as the cowboy, but there is often something untoward about the playboy, unseemly, predatory and broken

For years, Trump built a reputation on shuffling through women, treating his exploits with jocularity and having too much of America smiling in amusement at the bad boy antics.

But he’s not a kid; he’s a cad.

And he seems constitutionally incapable of processing the idea that wealth is not completely immunizing, that some rules are universally applicable, that common decency is required of more than just “common” folks. He seems genuinely offended that he should be held to the same standards of truth, decorum and even law as those less well off.

Trump is in fact the logical extension of toxic masculinity and ambient misogyny. He is the logical extension of rampant racism. He is the logical extension of wealth worship. He is the logical extension of pervasive anti-intellectualism.

Trump is the logical extension of the worst of America.

With him you get a man who believes himself superior in every way: through the gift of fortune and the happenstance of chromosomes. He believes the rules simply don’t apply. Not rules that govern the sovereignty of another’s body, not rules that dictate decorousness.

And the Republican Party was just the right place for him to park himself.

When you have a political party that takes as its mission to prevent government from working instead of to make government work, a party that conflates the ill effects of a changing economy with the changing complexion of the country and is still struck by fever over the election of President Obama, Trump is a natural, predictable endpoint.

Furthermore, Trump is what happens when you wear your Christian conservative values like a cardigan to conveniently slip off when the heat rises.

Trump is fundamentally altering American politics — coarsening them, corrupting them, cratering them. And America, particularly conservative America, has only itself to blame.

Republicans sowed intolerance and in its shadow, Trump sprang up like toxic fungi.

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The Tyrant at the Gates

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Trump, the tyrant at the gates

“Do you remember, your President Nixon? / Do you remember, the bills you have to pay / or even yesterday?” — David Bowie “Young Americans,” March 1975

It was an extraordinary thing to behold. A candidate for a major American political party stood on the stage at an American university during a televised debate and threatened to jail his opponent if he won the presidency.

This is what Third World despots do before their countries spiral into civil war. As an electoral gambit, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump asked voters to endorse his political vendetta by promising that a guilty verdict for his Democratic opponent will be baked into whatever investigation his attorney general and special prosecutor hired to do the actual dirty work come up with.

It was a monumental display of his ignorance of U.S. history or the constitutional limits on presidential power. It was also a peek into what Mr. Trump’s governing style would be if ever given the opportunity to run our democracy into the ground as efficiently as the casinos and other businesses he’s failed at over the decades. He’s an autocrat unmoored from any sense of constitutional reality or history.

With morally dubious enablers like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani cheering him on, Donald Trump would transform the Oval Office into a venue for score-settling that wouldn’t stop with jailing Hillary Clinton.

Is there any doubt that the birther fever he has temporarily set aside would return, backed by the full fury of presidential authority? Within minutes of being sworn in, Donald Trump will order his Justice Department to begin scouring the academic and personal records of his predecessor for proof that he was the undercover Muslim operative born in Kenya the vindictive new president always believed him to be.

The autocratic style that has made him a terrible businessman, but a successful reality TV star, was on full display over a weekend that would have shattered a more conventional candidate’s sanity and political career. Mr. Trump’s use of four women from the Clintons’ past as stage props to highlight their exploitation of women was so grotesque and hypocritical that it was impossible to come up with a precedent in American history.

Even before the 11-year-old tape of Donald Trump’s sexual assault braggadocio became the weekend’s big story, the candidate had already declared his independence from any notion of judicial fairness on Friday by relitigating the 1989 Central Park Five case when he pronounced the exonerated men guilty as originally charged.

Though the five men received a settlement from New York City for $41 million for convictions that sent them to jail for as long as 12 years when they were teenagers for a brutal gang rape they did not commit, Mr. Trump still refuses to be swayed by the confession of the actual rapist or the DNA evidence. He stands by his original full-page ad in New York newspapers calling for the restoration of the death penalty so that it could be used on the five teenagers who were coerced by the police into the confessions despite the lack of physical evidence.

Mr. Trump has proved himself impervious to facts and laws that don’t fit his preconceived notion of justice. For him, justice is merely an extension of a brutal, all-encompassing will to power. The law is nothing more than what he says it is and the U.S. Constitution merely a wish list of conventional legal niceties he’s free to ignore.

As Donald Trump glowered and paced the stage Sunday night looking for any advantage over a foe he senses has already beaten him, the only thing he felt he could reasonably offer the American people in exchange for their precious votes was the promise of a return to the days when President Richard Nixon used government agencies to pursue vendettas. His was a promise to jail Hillary Clinton by hook or crook. It is morally indistinguishable from his insistence that the Central Park Five are guilty despite the evidence.

The scary thing is that such perversions of justice and blatant abuses of power do appeal to a segment of voters nostalgic for the kind of leadership Mr. Trump is willing to offer.

There are Americans who want to be ruled by a democratically elected despot who will patrol Washington on their behalf, rounding up and jailing those they believe once mocked and marginalized them. These are the people Donald Trump is depending on to turn out on Nov. 8 in sufficient numbers to plunge us into the Dark Ages.