The Way November is Shaking Out

I’m writing and avoiding political shit.  Here’s why:

It doesn’t matter who you vote for in the upcoming election, November 8th, will not be the end of it.  While presidential races are always contentious, in the history of our country, none have been as contentious as this.

If your candidate wins, you’ll tell the other side to suck it up, the election is over.

If your candidate loses, you’ll cry voter fraud and a number of other things.

It’s about more than just “losing” this year.  Both parties have done a lot of fear-mongering and building up the ideal of voter fraud.  Yes, it happens.  No, it doesn’t happen on a scale large enough to actually impact the results of an election like the presidency.  And no, this isn’t an original idea perpetuated by electronic voting machines.

During 2 different elections at the very beginning of our country, (1796 and 1800), Alexander Hamilton, who hated John Adams more than one can imagine, attempted to circumvent Adams from being president or vice president by influence delegates to vote for other people.  However, rumors persisted that Hamilton tried to bribe electors.

That first claim of election fraud was a mere 22 years after the formation of the US.

Then there was the issue of President Andrew “Stonewall” Jackson… Jackson won the 1828 presidential election, but Adams supporters cried foul immediately.  They accused Jackson of a lot of things, including winning the presidency because of the death of his wife and election fraud.  (If you want an interesting biographical read, I strongly recommend reading about Andrew Jackson… His life was quite interesting and he was quite a character)

The most famous case was the one we have all seen the pictures of: Thomas E. Dewey v. Harry S. Truman.  The Chicago Daily Tribune always favored Republican nominees over their Democrat counterparts.  So, on the night of the election of 1948, exit polls suggested that Dewey would overtake the incumbent president Truman.  The Chicago Daily Tribune sent that story to the press.  Along with the fact that the Senate and the House would also become controlled by the Republicans.  Other papers picked up on the story and run with it.  It seemed no one was willing to stop for a moment and take notice that Dewey might have been winning in exit polls, but the race was actually very close when the ballots were counted.  By the end of the night, Truman was returned to the presidency, the Democrats controlled both the House and the Senate, and many newspapers were retracting their stories that Dewey had defeated Truman to become the next president.

In the months after the election, Dewey and the Republicans cried foul, after all, exit polls and analyst Arthur Sears Henning were predicting Dewey to win in a landslide.  What the exit polls failed to account for was who they exit polling… Most of the people they spoke to were Republicans that had voted Dewey.  And Truman only won by a 1% margin of the vote.  When analysts and things finally got to the core of the matter, it wasn’t voter fraud as the Republicans expected, it was the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan.  Just a mere 3 years after that decisive military action, things were already heating up with the Soviet Union.  The US public eventually decided that they would prefer a man they knew would do whatever it took to keep the Communists out of the country.

Finally, we have the irony of the popular vote versus the electoral college vote.  In 2000, George W. Bush became the President of the United States and it was time for the Democrats to cry foul.  Bush won the electoral college vote, but Gore won the popular vote.  This means that when all the US votes were tallied, Gore had more.  However, Bush won key states that held large amounts of electoral votes primarily Texas and Ohio… Then came Florida and their wishy-washy voting.  Whatever happened in Florida confused the entire country.  Even as a historian, I’m not sure I understand it.  What I do know is the Supreme Court had to get involved and we had lots and lots of recounts, and in the end, it was decided that Bush had won in Florida and he became president.  And if you thought the 1% margin of difference was small in the case of Dewey v. Truman, it was only 0.5% for the 2000 election with Gore have 48.4% of the popular vote and Bush have 47.9% of the popular vote.  It was also the closest the electoral college has ever been with Bush getting 271 votes and Gore receiving 266; that’s the number of votes carried by states like Utah, Nebraska, New Mexico, and West Virginia… So a state that small could have made all the difference in the 2000 election. (There have been 4 presidents to win the electoral college, but lose the popular vote: John Quincy Adams – 1824, Rutherford B. Hayes – 1876, Benjamin Harris – 1888, and George W. Bush – 2000… all were plagued with allegations of fraud, however, none so much as 1824 when JQA actually lost both the popular and electoral to Andrew Jackson, but neither candidate reached the required 131 electoral votes and so the House of Representatives took a vote and made JQA president)

As we move towards Tuesday, support your candidate, go out and vote, and if your candidate loses, be gracious about it and don’t immediately start spouting the party line that it was rigged.  Every election in the United States, including the first one that George Washington won, has been accused of being rigged and mired in accusations of fraud.  Yep, that’s more than 300 years of people spewing forth that the election was rigged and if it weren’t for “voter fraud” their candidate would have won.  It’s hard to imagine that every presidential election for the past 300 years has been rigged and won through fraud…

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  1. Such a great post and a reminder that the electoral college votes actually decide the presidency – which is why it’s really more important to pay attention to your local state votes and less on the presidential election.


  2. Joan

     /  November 7, 2016

    Thank you for the perspective. It’s going to be a rough one regardless of who wins.

    Liked by 1 person


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