Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Tilden Supporters Riot!

I thought it would be fun to imagine supporters of Samuel Tilden's 1876 presidential campaign going as nuts as supporters of Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign. Tilden's fight with Rutherford B. Hayes was every bit as contentious as Clinton/Trump, after all. Here's my artist's imagined view of angry Tildenites in the streets:

"No Rest Till Tilden!" would be their slogan.
You know, blocking horse and buggies, trying to block locomotives (unsuccessfully---ew), chanting "Ruther's a Mother!" and so on.

But the more I read about the 1876 election, the more I realized that there wasn't much point to the humorous juxtaposition.

Tilden won the popular vote but not the electoral vote; as far as that goes, it is similar to Clinton's apparent popular victory / electoral loss. It was not the first time that had happened, but rather the second, the first being John Quincy Adams's victory in 1824 over three rivals---even though Adams trailed Andrew Jackson in both the popular and electoral vote. (It was complicated.)

The 1876 election was not a good parallel, though, for several reasons---one being accusations of cheating in the favor of Democrat Tilden, including the massive disenfranchisement of blacks in Southern states. What I'm hearing this year is less yelling about cheating and more disgust with the electoral college.

I'm in favor of the electoral college, which prevents California from voting to pee in Montana's corn flakes (to borrow from Jonah Goldberg). And David French makes a valid point, that the campaigns were run by the rules in place. Were the presidency decided by straight ballot, the campaigns would have been run differently.

Our current discontent, although inflamed by an irresponsible media and misinformation spread at the speed of social media, is not something new. The 1876 election was even closer than the current one, and also had another complication in that Congressional action was not a clear solution: "With control of Congress split between a Democratic House and a Republican Senate, disagreement about exactly who could count the votes produced a constitutional crisis that evoked threats of armed violence from some Democratic quarters."

And yet that did not happen in 1876. It didn't happen in 1888, when Harrison beat Cleveland. It didn't even happen in 2000. Have we fallen so far in 16 years that we're going to have violence in the streets? On behalf of Hillary Clinton? 

Surely two lousy candidates like her and Trump are not worth coming to blows over, let alone jeopardizing lives. We survived four years of such unbearable beasts as Rutherford B. Hayes; we can survive Donald Trump.


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