by das monde
Thu Jun 2nd, 2016 at 10:00:01 AM EST
As all political junkies know, the US president is elected not directly by a citizen vote but by the Electoral College - an archaic original compromise of the Founding Fathers and States. (Yes, we will have a powerful President, but the States will be influential in its election.) There were four presidential elections when the popular vote was different from the elected president: 1824, 1876, 1888 and 2000. Besides, the first few elections were confused by the issue of Vice-Presidency (especially in 1796 and 1800), leading to the more specific 12th Amendment.
The most bizarre elections were in 1824 and 1876, by far. They were also influential or highly educative. If you thought that the 2000 election was a steal...
Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger
Consider the 1876 election
The Reconstruction era after the Civil War was coming to the end, with rising Southern backlash against weighty participation of blacks, carpetbaggers and scalawags. The Republican governments in the South were widely considered corrupt, and with some reasons. Though nothing could match the Democratic corruption machine in New York City.
The Democratic candidate in 1876 was Samuel J. Tilden, prominent for reigning certain order in New York. His main opponent was a moderate Republican Rutherford B. Hayes, representing fading enthusiasm for the Reconstruction, improvement in race equality. Tilden needed to carry a few Northern states, and he achieved his targets: New York, New Jersey, Indiana, Connecticut. It looked like he won the Presidency, breaking the Republican rule of 16 years. But voting results in three Southern States - South Carolina, Louisiana and Florida - were challenged. Additionally, one Oregon elector was questioned. Hayes needed all contested votes to win the Electoral College, 185-184. And guess what...
To resolve the situation, a 15-member Electoral Commission was formed: 5 members from each the (pro-Republican) Senate, the (pro-Democrat) House of Representatives, and the Supreme Court. In all, the Commission had 7 Republican, 7 Democrats, and Justice David Davis was neutral. But he got elected to the Senate by Illinois - so he resigned from the Supreme Court and the Electoral Commission. The replacement could only be a Republican Justice. And for every contested state, the electoral votes were awarded to Hayes by the 8-7 partisan vote.
Behind the scenes, the Compromise of 1877 deal is strongly suspected. In return for the presidency, the Republicans agreed to withdraw Federal troops from the former Confederate states and end the Reconstruction, allowing all segregation and disfranchisement in the South.
The 1824 election
This early election hanged on a resolution of the unique case when no candidate got the majority of the electoral votes. The 12th Amendment prescribes an unearthly procedure:
If no candidate receives a majority of Electoral votes, the House of Representatives elects the President from the 3 Presidential candidates who received the most Electoral votes. Each state delegation has one vote. The Senate would elect the Vice President from the 2 Vice Presidential candidates with the most Electoral votes. Each Senator would cast one vote for Vice President. If the House of Representatives fails to elect a President by Inauguration Day, the Vice-President Elect serves as acting President until the deadlock is resolved in the House.
The other election that came closest to this was 1860
. That campaign consisted of two separate elections basically: between Lincoln and Douglas in the North, and between Breckinridge and Bell in the South. Lincoln swept the North without campaigning or winning anything in the South. 180 electoral votes (out of 303), 40% of the popular vote were enough for him.
By 1824, the Federalist party was dysfunctional for years already (except in high courts). The Democratic-Republican party was dominant, but breaking up. Their congressional caucus nominated William H. Crawford (after a stroke in 1823), avoiding the already Federalist-ish (soon to be National Republican, and then Whig) leaders Henry Clay and John Quincy Adams. Those two were nominated anyway, and Henry Clay counted on the 12th Amendment and his authority as the House Speaker for success. To his agitation, however, Andrew Jackson entered as well - a populist hope of Western settlers and religious, anti-industrial sentiments, a hero of the 1812 War. His portrait is to be replaced soon on $20 bill.
The results of the 1824 election were:
Andrew Jackson - 99 e.v. (41.4%)
John Quincy Adams - 84 e.v. (30.9%)
William Crawford - 41 e.v. (11.2%)
Henry Clay - 37 e.v. (13.0%)
So Clay did not finish in the Top 3 even. But he used his influence to push Adams through the vote in the House, becoming the Secretary of State himself. This suspected Corrupt Bargain was not glorious to both men. The presidency of Quincy Adams is regarded as weak, and Clay was shadowed by it in his several later nominations and candidacies, never succeeding. Jackson founded the Democratic party and soundly won the 1828, 1832 elections.
What for 2016?
The 1824 scenario should be interesting today. With the two major candidates - Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump - exciting more antipathy than support, there is a constitutional possibility to upset them both. A third candidate could gather just a few electoral votes, but if that prevents both Clinton and Trump to reach 270, he/she might win straightforwardly - with courtesy of the House of Representatives, of course. Bah!
Since the House is controlled by the Republicans, this is hardly a route for Sanders. But if establishment Republicans are serious about stopping Trump, what are they waiting for? State registration deadlines are approaching.