Election Day is now upon us. It goes without saying that this has been an unusual election year. First, a woman is running for president, and she was previously a First Lady. Second, a business tycoon is running for president. He has no political experience but says he is running “to make America great again.” Both candidates have expressed their concern over rising health care costs, immigration policies, college loans, and foreign policy. Both have unique plans for the country, and so far, the vote is tied. It will be interesting to see the outcome and how the American people react and unite afterward.
Over the course of the country’s history, many unusual elections have taken place. The musical Hamilton has brought to light the bizarre duel in 1801 between Thomas Jefferson’s vice-president, Aaron Burr, and Alexander Hamilton, who died in the duel. The conflict was brought about when Hamilton decided who would be president: Jefferson or Burr.
When Abraham Lincoln was elected in 1860, he represented the very first candidate of the Republican Party. Lincoln did not win in any southern state, and yet, he won 40% of the popular vote and most of the electoral vote. Prior to his inauguration, he was ushered into Washington D.C. (then known as Washington City) via train, under cover of night, and in a disguise because death threats had been made against him. Lincoln’s election lead to the Civil War, which would ultimately claim more than 620,000 lives over the course of four years.
In 1872, Victoria Woodhull became the first female presidential candidate. Her running mate was Frederick Douglas, an outspoken freed slave and abolitionist. Also in 1872, President Grant, previously General Ulysses S. Grant, who had led the Union army to victory, ran against newspaper mogul Horace Greeley. Oddly, Greeley died before the electoral votes could be dispersed. Grant attended his rival’s funeral.
In 1884, Belva Lockwood ran under the Republican ticket. Her running mate was Marietta Stow, the first female vice-presidential candidate.
Eugene Debs ran for president five times. In 1918, he delivered an anti-war speech, claiming “the ruling class” sent “the working class” to war. He was convicted of espionage and sentenced to ten years in prison, where he conducted his presidential campaign. He didn’t secure enough votes to beat out Warren G. Harding, but the following year, on Christmas Day, Harding commuted Debs’ sentence.
In 1948, Harry S. Truman was predicted to lose to Thomas Dewey. This famous photograph was taken after Truman won the election.
The first televised presidential debates took place in 1960 between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon. Kennedy secured the African-American vote when he helped free Martin Luther King Jr. from prison weeks before the election.
The election of 1964 centered on race and the Civil Rights movement, and pitted Republican Barry Goldwater against Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson. The Democrats’ mudslinging campaign effectively portrayed Goldwater as a racist, which he staunchly denied.
In 1972, Shirley Chisholm became the first major party black candidate for president, and the first woman to ever run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. And in 2008, Barack Obama was elected as the first African American president.
As you can see, America has had an illustrious and, at times, strange history of elections. Many of these examples occurred because of flaws in the electoral system. Unfortunately, for the American people, corruption is still rampant. Last week, my husband saw a woman stuffing an election box. Is Trump correct by saying the election is rigged, or is he paranoid? It will be fascinating to find out tomorrow and in the coming weeks.
Voice your choice. Vote!
For a list of female presidential and vice-presidential candidates, check out:
The ten most bizarre elections in American history: