The 2016 Presidential election has defied logic. Throughout the campaign we’ve had stories regarding lost or deleted emails of a sensitive or classified nature. A fake university. Questions regarding speaking fees paid by financial companies. Non-disclosed tax returns. Scandalous recordings. The labeling of opposition followers as “deplorable”. Accusations of sexual assault. The discovery of shocking audio recordings. And a blizzard of information (some of it false) spread around regarding positions on the 2nd Amendment, immigration, race, policing, and ties to the Russian government. So, obviously 2016 has been the worst election ever. And I almost forgot to mention the accusation of pimping out an American girl to a Russian Czar.
Oh, that’s right. The pimping scandal was in 1828. The truth of the matter is that Presidential elections in the U.S. have nearly always been sprinkled with deceit, flat-out lies, disparagement, and dirty tricks. With twenty-four hour news cycles, the rise of biased media outlets, and the proliferation of social media, it may seem like elections are worse than ever. But, here are some examples that suggest the run for the big office has never been rosy.
1800 – Thomas Jefferson vs. Aaron Burr
It was a tie. Of all things, it was a tie. At the time, states could pretty much hold their elections anytime between April and October and then, to drag this one out even more, the resulting tie stretched the campaign out another seven weeks. A conclusion was finally achieved when Jefferson won through a vote in the House. The best part was that the 12th Amendment did not yet exist, so Jefferson then had to work with Burr who had automatically become the Vice-President. That must have been awkward. Of course, Burr went on to shoot and kill Alexander Hamilton and planned on raising his own army in order to invade Mexico, so if Burr gave Jefferson an occasional cold looks then Thomas still got off fairly easy. Jefferson did try to get Burr convicted of treason, but Burr was a slippery sucker.
1828 – Andrew Jackson vs. John Quincy Adams
These two were NOT cozy. Jackson had suffered a controversial defeat to Adams in 1824 and the old soldier had not taken it well. By the time the rematch occurred four years later, Adams was being accused of pimping out a girl and Jackson’s wife had been publicly labeled as a bigamist since she had married Jackson before her divorce was final. Rachel Jackson died right after Jackson’s victory in the election and Jackson blamed Adams and the negative publicity for her demise.
1860 – Abraham Lincoln vs. John Breckinridge
For over a decade, the issue of slavery had been polarizing the nation. Breckinridge’s Southern Democratic party couldn’t even get out of their own convention before 51 Southern Dems walked out. Lincoln wasn’t even the front-runner at the Republican Convention, but the other candidates managed to piss-off various factions within the party and Lincoln was viewed as a highly articulate moderate (largely due to the debates against Stephen Douglas in 1858).
Of course, Lincoln went on to win the nomination and ultimately the election. You might say the result was continuous since seven states declared their succession from the Union before Lincoln was even inaugurated.
1876 – Rutherford B. Hayes vs. Samuel J. Tilden
This one came down to 20 contested electoral votes in four different states, including Florida. Why is it always Florida? Anyway, a compromise was reached in which the Democratic candidate Tilden (who had polled better than Hayes leading up to the voting) would acquiesce if the Republicans agreed to withdraw Federal troops from the South, ending Reconstruction. Although this election is rarely discussed these days, consider this: It was the first time a candidate won more than half the popular vote but lost due to electoral votes. Also, it resulted in military forces being withdrawn from a huge portion of the U.S. And this part should make us feel ashamed. The voter turnout was over 81% of eligible voters. 81%.
So, is the Presidential election of 2016 really the worst? I’m not so sure. Andrew Jackson didn’t have access to CNN reporters. Breckinridge had no access to a private jet he could use to zip around the nation and badmouth Lincoln. And THANK GOODNESS Aaron Burr didn’t have a Twitter account. Seriously… that dude was crazy.
Has this election been pleasant? No. Has it been scary? You betcha (apologies to Sarah Palin). Have we hit rock bottom? It may be a matter of historical perspective.
Feel free to comment below! (but bashing of either of the current candidates will probably be deleted)
J.J. Hensley is the author of RESOLVE, a Thriller Award finalist which is set against the backdrop of the Pittsburgh Marathon, Measure Twice, Chalk’s Outline, and other works. Hensley is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service.
Watch for my new book, BOLT ACTION REMEDY, in 2017!
An addict is killing Pittsburgh city officials, but Homicide Detective Jackson Channing has his own addiction.
In the Pittsburgh Marathon, more than 18,000 people will participate. 4,500 people will attempt to cover the full 26.2 miles. Over 200 of the participants will quit, realizing it just wasn’t their day. More than 100 will get injured and require medical treatment. One man is going to be murdered. When Dr. Cyprus Keller lines up to start the race, he knows a man is going to die for one simple reason. He’s going to kill him.
And look for my short story FOUR DAYS FOREVER in the LEGACY anthology