Today, we’re featuring an interview with our colleagues at The Daily Signal, Jarrett Stepman and Fred Lucas, who co-host “The Right Side of History” podcast. Lucas and Stepman discuss Lucas’ book “Tainted by Suspicion: The Secret Deals and Electoral Chaos of Disputed Presidential Elections.”
We also cover these stories:
- President Donald Trump’s legal team asserts that Trump won in a “landslide” and they’ll prove fraud stole the election.
- House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., says California Gov. Gavin Newsom “lost a lot of credibility” by dining at an exclusive French restaurant without a mask.
- Republicans on the House Oversight and Reform Committee ask the panel’s chairwoman, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., to hold hearings to investigate violence against Trump supporters during a Nov. 14 march in Washington.
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Jarrett Stepman: This week we’re going to do something a little different. Instead of having our usual guests, we’re going to have Fred [Lucas] be our guest because Fred wrote in 2016 an interesting book that actually deals with what we’re seeing here in current events in 2020.
His book is called “Tainted by Suspicion: The Secret Deals and Electoral Chaos of Disputed Presidential Elections.” We thought that it was perfect to talk about this, given all the controversy over the 2020 presidential election, to give a little overview of elections of the past—many of which I think Americans today don’t know much about, but had huge consequences at the time.
It’s really amazing, Fred, especially going over your book and an article you wrote for The Daily Signal back in 2016, just how many elections have had a huge cloud of dispute, including your famous phrase, which, of course, was uttered by Ulysses S. Grant about the 1876 election, that it had been “tainted by suspicion.”
So, Fred, are election controversies like this particularly uncommon in American history?
Fred Lucas: Oh, well, yeah. I tend to think that the most unprecedented thing about this presidential election is how many times people have said unprecedented. You just keep hearing that.
And if you turn on CNN or MSNBC or probably read The New York Times, you get the impression that a challenge of an election has never been done before. In fact, it was just 20 years ago, literally 20 years ago, that this actually happened with Bush v. Gore in Florida. …
This election’s a lot more like the 1876 election, I think, in the sense that it’s being challenged in multiple states.
This year, of course, it’s Georgia, where they’re doing a recount. Pennsylvania, where there’s litigation and lawsuits going on. Arizona, where they dropped some lawsuits. Michigan, we saw this recent controversy, Wayne County, first they weren’t going to certify. Then they decided to certify for a compromise and some apparent bullying that occurred with Republicans on the certification board there.
But you had similar shenanigans back in 1876. The states that [were] being contested were South Carolina, Florida, Louisiana, and this odd predicament, there was one electoral vote being contested out of Oregon.
But yeah, in the case of 1876, it didn’t go through the courts entirely, though the Supreme Court did have a role in that. They were on this bipartisan Electoral Commission, there were actually five Supreme Court justices, and some of the state courts did rule, make some rulings before it went before this Electoral Commission.
So you did have a sort of a mix and I would also say 1876, that was a less litigious time than 2020 when things are typically settled in courts.
Stepman: Yeah, yeah. That is very interesting, Fred. I think it definitely is a mark of the times that in the 19th Century, most of our political disputes, it was assumed that the legislatures or Congress would essentially solve those disputes as they basically did in 1876.
Nowadays we are more apt to shovel things through the courts up to the Supreme Court level, which, of course, shows the growing power of the Supreme Court and why it’s such an important issue now in the politics of 2020.
But I am a very much amused, especially as you said, if you turn on CNN or MSNBC or most of these networks, you have a number of commentators saying, “Well, this is so shocking. We have a dispute election. This is the end of democracy.”
And I would say, actually, in some ways this is very much democracy in action. I mean, this is the kind of chaos that you get and, of course, high passion is very much a mark of democracy.
I mean, if we wanted a stable and sedate political system, we’d just have a monarchy. We just let the line of succession go to the next in line, the next kin, and have at it.
But this has been the case throughout our history, even though the United States has had, I would say, probably the most stable and successful political system in the world.
There have been so many disputes even going back to the earliest days of the republic and that’s kind of where I want to start with this, Fred.
I mean, you have this great piece that you wrote in 2016 about five disputed elections and you start off with the 1800 election, which I think nearly led to the end of the republic. Can you talk about that a bit, Fred?
Lucas: Yeah. And that’s the first election featured in “Tainted by Suspicion,” the book on disputed elections. … That’s actually the second contested election in American history, contested presidential election, because George Washington was, of course, elected twice by acclimation.
But of course, and yet it was very close between [Thomas] Jefferson and [John] Adams in 1796. Adams won. On the rematch in 1800, Jefferson actually won rather convincingly. He had a running mate pre-12th Amendment. So the president and the vice president did not run on a ticket together. It was presumed that the runner-up, as was the case with Thomas Jefferson, would become the vice president.
It was this botched effort where … One person was supposed to withhold his vote from Aaron Burr. He did not and so you had Aaron Burr ended up being tied with Thomas Jefferson 73 to 73 in electoral votes. That’s Senate to the House.
Now, the Federalist House members, they got wiped out in that election, too, pretty much, but they were still in office well into 1801, into March, I believe, at the time. And … a lot of them were believed that they could make mischief.
Aaron Burr seemed like a very unprincipled guy and they thought that he would be pretty mailable, especially if the Federalists were the ones who put him in office. And they really seriously thought about this.
Ended up Alexander Hamilton basically talked the Federalist members of Congress out of this. He, of course, did not like Aaron Burr. That contributed to his ending, demise, I would say, but yeah. Alexander Hamilton was instrumental in costing Aaron Burr the presidency, and later the governorship of New York, as it happened.
So that was an odd election. It was different from the others, I would say, in that the others that are covered in “Tainted by Suspicion,” because you had 1824, which we’ll talk about also, 1824, 1876, and 2000 were all elections where you had basically competing candidates.
1800 was this odd situation where you had two candidates of the same party and the election went into overtime and basically it went from being Adams versus Jefferson to Jefferson versus Burr.
Stepman: It’s an interesting thing. Of course, had the rules stayed the same, the 12th Amendment never been passed, it’s like having 2016, we have Donald Trump as president and Hillary Clinton as vice president. It was definitely a change that was, I think, very necessary, especially with the rise of political parties, that that distinction be made.
… Of course, the Constitution, I don’t think anyone would say it’s absolutely perfect. They went about changing it in the way that it’s supposed to be changed. It was a pretty, I think, universally supported constitutional amendment to change it, but it is quite a dramatic election. Even though it’s very different—to a certain extent—than modern elections, it’s much more partisan.
This is the first time in history you really had one party basically replace another one in power and had that peaceful transition of power.
So there was definitely a lot of passion at the time, despite the dispute, which led to, of course, Jefferson’s famous inaugural, where he said, “We are all Republicans, we’re all Federalists trying to unite the country.”
Even though the country was in many ways very much divided, [there was] the idea that, “Well, we’re all Americans, we’re going to stick by this election no matter what.”
So, definitely set in course [in] the United States that we would ultimately resort to ballots instead of bullets to resolve our disputes, even if those disputes were very ugly and fraught and contentious. So, certainly, I think it’s reasonable to say that’s one of the most consequential elections in our history.
Lucas: Yes. And I mean, to people who aren’t happy about this going into the courts, … what’s the alternative, right? … It either gets litigated or people will fight it out in the streets.
I mean, we did see some violence from Antifa and so forth after the election, but nothing as any kind of grand scale like you might see in some other countries where things spill out into the streets and people have power struggles over who gets to lead the country.
Stepman: Absolutely. So, let’s get to the second election you had on your list, which [is] an election I find incredibly interesting, the 1824 election. Which again, was actually unique in American history in that the election went to the House of Representatives because there was no official winner of the Electoral College.
There were so many different candidates who got just enough votes to actually get into that running. There were three, of course, three candidates who made it into the Electoral College.
The election did not go to the person who had won most of the votes during the election, it actually went to the guy second. Can you describe the 1824 election, Fred?
Lucas: Yeah. It turned out Andrew Jackson actually won a pretty good, I think, something like 43% of the popular vote in a three-way or, actually, a four-way race. Sorry, it became a three-way race after the election, when it went to the House. William Crawford was still technically a candidate. He got enough electoral votes to be the top three, the House to fight among. …
Stepman: It was just a very different time. But William Crawford, by the way, actually suffered a stroke during the campaign and was nearly an invalid. And yet he was still running for president. Obviously, he wasn’t going to have any chance at that point, but shows a lot of people around the country had no idea that he was as sick as he was.
Lucas: Yeah. Well, Martin Van Buren was running his campaign. It shows you what a political mastermind Martin Van Buren was. He was a Karl Rove or David Axelrod or something of his time before he became president, before he ran for office on his own.
But also [what] was interesting about 1824 is that the Federalist Party by this point—well, it wasn’t … entirely eliminated, but it was basically a nonentity. There were a few members of Congress who identified themselves as Federalists, but it was almost irrelevant.
Most everyone—John Quincy Adams identified himself within the Democratic-Republican Party of Jefferson, basically by point, which shows you how much things had changed over two decades. Everyone was basically of the same party. …
Well, it was called the Era of Good Feelings. … Just giving the setting here, you had three consecutive two-term presidencies, Jefferson, [James] Madison, and [James] Monroe. That didn’t happen again, by the way, until you had [Bill] Clinton, [George W.] Bush, [Barack] Obama, three consecutive two-term presidencies.
But, yeah, their good feeling kind of turned into a sense that people … became angry and frustrated with Washington. They thought Washington was out of touch. Washington had become corrupt. The good old boy system.
And along came Andrew Jackson, who was a military hero but in a lot of ways, I say in “Tainted by Suspicion,” … Andrew Jackson was in many ways the Donald Trump of his day, because he ran against the Washington machine.
He used very colorful language. He was able to get away with things politically that a lot of people never could. The public was willing to give him a pass on a lot of things. And he ended up winning, seemingly winning, and pretty well, this popular vote. He had a plurality of the Electoral College votes, but not a majority.
That’s why it went to the House. And that’s where Henry Clay, the speaker of the House from the great state of Kentucky, he pretty much threw it to John Quincy Adams.
Now, John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay are known to have met. … People said this was a corrupt bargain. There’s a lot of doubt about that since that day.
There’s almost, given the amount of power Henry Clay had as House speaker, he had a lot of influence, he did not like Jackson from the beginning. He was no fan of Andrew Jackson. He didn’t like his style. He didn’t like his policies.
Pretty much John Quincy Adams was pretty much in line with Henry Clay’s views on infrastructure, the American system, getting a sort of a national economy, and so forth. So it was almost inevitable from the beginning that Henry Clay would send the election to John Quincy Adams.
However, this was a rallying cry for Jackson and Jackson supporters [said] this was the corrupt bargain. This is just further proof of how disgustingly corrupt Washington is. …
The Tennessee Legislature nominated Jackson for president in 1825, which was three years before the actual presidential election. And it was basically a three-year campaign in which his supporters galvanized support.
That’s when the aforementioned Martin Van Buren became a Andrew Jackson guy. He saw where the political winds were blowing and he jumped on that bandwagon, basically. And then you had Andrew Jackson’s victory and what was, basically, the birth of [what] became known as the Democratic Party.
Stepman: Yeah, it really is fascinating stuff. Especially, of course, the political fate of Henry Clay, who was one of the most powerful men in America, was speaker of the House, was the youngest speaker of the House in American history.
As you said, he really had no reason politically to vote for Jackson. Jackson was basically a much more, I guess in the terms of the day, a limited government guy [who] did not support the national system of tariffs and infrastructure projects that Henry Clay supported. And Clay, in fact, I think he had a speech after Jackson took Florida comparing Jackson to Julius Caesar unfavorably.
So there doesn’t seem to be much of a reason, I think. It seems like Clay really misstepped and that he became John Quincy Adams’ secretary of state, which, in those days, was considered next in line for the presidency. It’s not like modern times where your president successor, the vice president steps in.
Those days, the secretary of state was really seen as the next in line. And because he took that job, which didn’t end up very well for him, I think he had a pretty miserable time as secretary of state.
He had this accusation of the so-called corrupt bargain, which, from everything I’ve read, from all the historians I’ve read, is not really true, but it’s smacked being true to the majority of the American people. It looked bad.
Lucas: It was not a good look. Right, right. The fact that he even met with John Quincy Adams was probably not a good look. The fact that he took the job.
Now, Henry Clay had said that he did have some reluctance in taking that job because of how he was aware of how that might look. But he also said that he felt that he could hardly turn down the man that he had made president and refuse that job from him, which I can see that rationale as well.
Stepman: It is interesting, even in victory for John Quincy Adams, he had basically a terrible presidency with four years, he was being undermined. He had, essentially, a lot of people who were favorable to Jackson working as administration. …
It seemed to really build when Jackson, when his supporters thought that the presidency essentially had been stolen from them, it allowed them to create a groundswell of support for the 1828 election.
It’s almost as if John Quincy Adams never really got his fair chance at the presidency because there was such a cloud hanging over it. And because he really didn’t have a huge amount of backing.
I mean, people respected John Quincy Adams, but he didn’t have the kind of passionate love or hate that Jackson did. It seemed with Jackson, you either loved him or you hated him. There was a lot of passion. Not so much for John Quincy Adams, which really made him suffer in the 1828 election.
Lucas: Yeah, yeah. And basically for that time period, when there were no really competing political parties, that the nation was essentially divided, philosophically divided, based on, are you pro-Jackson or are you anti-Jackson? And eventually you did have the National Republicans and later the Whigs that emerged to challenge the Jacksonian Democrats, later just the Democrats.
… Basically, Jackson was just such an overwhelming personality and, in a sense, he was very much like Trump. But as you said, … in some ways, you could probably compare the presidency of John Quincy Adams to Trump in some sense that there was this constant sense of people declaring him illegitimate for his entire time in office, trying to constantly undermine him at every turn. … I think there’s a lot of historical comparisons to be made on both sides.
Stepman: Yeah, for sure. So, let’s get to the 1876 election, because I think, actually, if you ask the average American what they think of the 1876 election, I don’t think they could maybe even name the candidates.
But this is really one of the most dramatic elections in all of American history. I believe it still holds the record for highest turnout of voters in American history. I think there were something like 82% of registered voters, which is staggeringly high.
A decade after the Civil War that was probably the most contested in our history and probably the closest to an election being, I mean, you even say in many parts of the country, illegitimate.
Talk to us about this incredible election, Fred.
Lucas: Well, yeah. This is this election, I would say, giving some backdrop here as well. This was little over a decade after the end of the Civil War.
There was actually a feeling going into 1876 that there was going to be sort of this yearlong centennial celebration about America. That America was in some way sort of coming together after this awful bloody conflict. And that you did have these two candidates, … they didn’t really disagree on that much.
Rutherford B. Hayes was the governor of Ohio. He was a reform-minded Republican. Sort of moderate Republican, but conservative on fiscal and pro-business issues.
You had the New York governor, Samuel Tilden. [He] was sort of a, in some ways, a conservative Democrat. I mean, maybe sort of a forerunner to what Grover Cleveland was philosophically.
He took on Tammany Hall. … He didn’t believe in that old machine-style corruption. And that’s why he became the presidential nominee. He was seen as this sort of heroic reformer.
Then the election happened and the country was just thrown into division. It looked like Rutherford B. Hayes went to bed that night believing he had probably lost the election and Samuel Tilden thought he had won.
But Daniel Sickles, who was a Republican operative, started actually looking at the telegraphs and the results coming in, started telegraphing these other Republican operatives and governors—some of them were military governors in states like South Carolina, Florida, and Louisiana—about if you can hold your state, Rutherford B. Hayes can be president.
And this is actually where the book gets its title, which, during the heat of the 1876 dispute, President Grant wrote one of his generals to say, quote, “No man worthy of the office of president should be willing to hold it if counted and/or placed there by fraud. Either party can afford to be disappointed in the results, but the country cannot afford to have the results tainted by suspicion of illegal or false returns.”
I basically felt like that was a characterization that maybe applied to all of these elections, because we talked about certainly the 1824 election people felt like John Quincy Adams was there because of the croak bargain and [in] this case, Rutherford B. Hayes finally did win, as we talked about a little bit earlier, after an Electoral Commission with five House members, five senators, and five Supreme Court justices. And then that had to be decided ultimately by Congress.
And then also the Bush v. Gore in 2000. I mean, there were a lot of Democrats that felt that Bush was put in office through some sort of chicanery.
I am sure that you’re going to have close to half the country, if [former Vice President] Joe Biden, which it looks that way right now, ends up being president, will feel that he was put there through fraud. So these were presidencies that were, some ways, tainted by suspicion, I think.
Stepman: Yeah, I think it is interesting, especially given at that time … a lot of ballot security was not fantastic. I mean, there was a lot of accusation of ballot-stuffing.
Those days, you had a lot of places where you didn’t have official ballots. People could just put on a piece of paper who they were voting for. You had … a Democrat ballot with all Republicans on it and vice versa to try to trick voters.
Lucas: There was actually immense voter fraud in the Southern states. … You had Republican boards that were appointed, and often cases, military appointed, in those Southern states that threw out a lot of Democratic votes because … you had Democrats that were voting multiple times in those states for Tilden.
You also had massive, massive voter suppression by Democrats. And this was real voter suppression. It’s not asking someone for a photo ID. This is suppression by violent lynching, violent attacks, and so forth. So this was a major problem.
People say today that the vote totals came in, that Samuel Tilden had a pretty sizeable popular vote lead over Rutherford B Hayes. There is no way to know what the real popular vote was in that election. It was just so fraught with problems, particularly in those Southern states, the former Confederate States where some Reconstruction was going on.
But yeah, the Electoral Commission basically voted along 8 to 7, generally a party-line vote, to award all those electoral votes to Hayes. And then it went to Congress.
Similar to today, if this were to somehow go to Congress, the Senate was controlled by Republicans. The House was controlled by Democrats. Under the bill this Electoral Commission that was passed, both Houses would accept it, but Democrats tried not to. They tried numerous delay tactics. They thought that they could extend it over the deadline.
Maybe the speaker of the House at the time actually thought maybe they could push it over the deadline and force a new election. Even other Democrats in his caucus weren’t with him on that.
And then you finally have, basically, right up to the cusp of the inauguration, they … approved the Electoral Commission’s recommendation and made Hayes the president.
This only happened, though, after what was called the Compromise of 1877, where you had a group of Republican congressmen, senators, and House members meet with a group of Southern Democrats at … a hotel called the Wormley House in Washington, D.C. And they basically hashed out this deal, worked on it all night.
The bottom line was that Democrats would not support the delay tactics in the House if Hayes would agree to a withdrawal Reconstruction, pull the federal troops out of the Southern states. And so that basically happened.
A lot of people look to hold Hayes in pretty low regard for making this deal, and Republicans for making this deal. If you really consider what was the alternative, certainly, if Samuel Tilden had become president, things would have been much worse in the South. So I think this was probably the best alternative they could have turned to.
Stepman: Yeah. Another so-called corrupt bargain that, to a certain extent, for the sake of the country, especially when you consider what had happened just a decade earlier with the Civil War, it’s a case where both solutions are bad ones, but sometimes you really do have to take the lesser of two evils.
It’s hard to see the political situation at that time ending up sparkling. I mean, one way or another, I think Hayes was already considering a drawback of Reconstruction policy. So he was already pretty moderate on that issue. There wasn’t a whole lot that they could have done.
And the fact is, I mean, the country went basically four months without knowing who the president was going to be, which is … Especially when we’re talking about just days after the 2020 election, people are saying, “Well, this is just ridiculous. You know, the president hasn’t conceded, and blah, blah, blah.”
I mean, this is four months after a Civil War, which, nearly half the country split off from the Union. We have this incredible dispute. I could see why, especially, people were living in 1876, this was the most momentous election in American history. And obviously today it’s, I think, not all that well-known, but it seems like the country was really on edge.
Lucas: Yeah. Joseph Pulitzer, who’s of course known for the Pulitzer Prize, was in the early stages of building up his vast newspaper empire at the time. But he was also very active in Democratic politics.
And he called for 100,000 armed Democrats to descend on Washington and demand that they put Samuel Tilden in the White House, in his phrase, “to honor the wishes of the people.” And you had other people marching through Washington, saying, “Tilden or blood.”
So yeah, there were people making these strong, powerful threats if their guy didn’t get in office. So yeah, I mean, you see a little bit of that today with the Antifa movement and so forth.
Stepman: Yeah. If anything, I think that the lessons of 1876, or the importance, of course, of ballot security and trusting the votes that actually take place, I think that’s incredibly important. Also, the Electoral College, too.
There’s so many talks about moving toward a popular vote. … We do have a federal system based on the states, if there are irregularities and states have done a bad job, and there are illegitimate votes, or votes not being counted in states, it’s basically limited to those states, rather than a larger problem.
So definitely a lot of lessons learned there in 1876. That was incredibly ugly, but the republic survived. The republic survived and went on, despite the mess that was created.
Let’s move on a bit to, well, nearly a century later, to the next disputed election that you have on your list, which is the 1960 election.
More Americans today, of course, remember this one, between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, that Kennedy ultimately won. But this was not exactly an undisputed election by any stretch. There were a lot of accusations that improprieties had taken place. Can you describe that, Fred?
Lucas: Yeah, I do. I mean, I do have it in this book, and it gets into that this was an under-the-radar dispute. It’s widely believed that the postelection here was widely viewed as one of Richard Nixon’s finest moments, and in a sense it was.
But he did give the approval for Republican lawyers, Republican operatives, to really dig into this, and look into some of the fraudulent things that were happening in Illinois and in Texas. And there were actually a few more minor lawsuits that were taking place.
It, of course, did not go to the Supreme Court, or didn’t reach the level of anything that we saw in 1876 or 2000, but there was some post-litigation. Actually, a lot of people know the story about the Daley machine. Dead people voting.
There was actually a reporter with the New York Herald Tribune at the time who was really digging into a lot of the stuff. And the New York Herald Tribune at the time was a very pro-Republican newspaper, and they were getting all kinds of scoops on this. And it was starting to get a lot of attention.
Richard Nixon eventually asked the reporter not to cover this, and then the reporter said, “Yeah, sorry. I’m going to keep doing it.” And then Nixon actually contacted the Herald Tribune, and the Herald Tribune newspaper basically killed it, said, “We’re not going to go into this anymore.”
Nixon believed that it would make the country look weak and illegitimate in the eyes of the Soviet Union, which was a major deal at the time. If the U.S. elections look illegitimate, then the Soviets could have a way of saying, “Yeah, they’re not a democratic country like they claim to be.” So that was a major, major issue at that time.
Stepman: Yeah. It seems that … it wasn’t just simply in Illinois that you had accusations. It seems like there were a number of other states—of course, Texas being among them, Lyndon Johnson being a power broker there. …
In fact, it seems that there was a little bit of organization from Nixon and his campaign to potentially challenge a number of states. I think New Jersey was on the list, too, where you had disputed results.
So it seems like Nixon was putting out feelers to possibly challenge this election, but thought better of it through his campaign. Can you describe that? … Nixon … definitely eventually conceded, but it seems like he was putting out some feelers.
Lucas: Yeah, he did concede fairly early, but yeah, he was essentially putting out feelers. Some lower-level lawyers were doing small-level lawsuits, making some challenges. As you mentioned, Illinois, Texas, New Jersey, where there were some irregularities. I mean, there were a lot of irregularities there.
There have been studies, and I mentioned this in “Tainted by Suspicion,” that there’ve been a couple of studies that sort of looked at what were pretty obvious fraudulent votes, and that determined Kennedy probably would have managed to win if you took those out.
He might’ve actually lost the popular vote, but he might’ve managed to still win the election, which, by an even closer margin then, he did. Up to that point, I think that had been the closest election, just vote by vote. If one vote per precinct had switched, it would’ve installed Nixon into office.
Stepman: Would it be fair to say that there was, whether Nixon could have actually pulled this out, definitely some malfeasance taking place, because it seems in Chicago in particular—
Lucas: Yeah, it was flat-out corruption. I mean, the Daley machine, they were putting dead people on the rolls. I mean, it was discovered that something like 100 people were marked down to have voted and they lived in one house and it turned out it was an abandoned house.
There were just numerous things all across. Similar in Texas, LBJ’s stomping ground, where, I mean, you would think they would win Texas with LBJ on the ticket and not throw LBJ a notoriously close election in Texas, and he won his first House seat by one vote, literally.
And this was a time, I mean, a lot of people try to say that there was this dramatic switch in 1960. It’s important to know here, Texas, as an example, this was a time when the South, going back to the ’50s, maybe even earlier, certainly with [Dwight D.] Eisenhower, a lot of Southern states were starting to trend Republican and some even earlier than that. But post-FDR, the South was starting to trend to Republican.
That’s another story all in itself though, but yeah, it was clear. There were problems galore out of 1960 and I also have, in the book, it was this incidental thing, but there was this odd situation out of Alabama, while we’re talking about the South, odd situation in the state of Alabama, in which people basically could vote for the Democratic ticket or a slate of electors, but they took Kennedy’s name off because they didn’t support his civil rights stance.
So, at the same time, the Democratic governor at the time calls for people to vote Democrat in order to make a strong stance against those rascally Republican civil rights positions. So yeah, it was an odd time. It was an odd time, I guess.
Stepman: No kidding. It is worth noting that Nixon did quickly concede this election, but he was a fairly young man at this point. It seems that to a large extent, he was definitely trying to set up a future presidential run at this time, as he did, and ultimately won in ’68, had a lot of political reasons to bow out and then reignite his presidential ambitions for the future.
Lucas: It’s believed that John Mitchell, who went on to be a notorious figure, but at the time, just a longtime Nixon political adviser, told him after the 1960 election, as they were counting votes, that Democrats stole this fair and square, and you just got to kind of move on. There’s no challenging it.
So that’s something. Yeah, and Nixon, he did run for governor of California in 1962, thinking that that could be his comeback, and that didn’t work out, but he still managed to come back in 1968 and then, well, made some mistakes after that, but that’s a whole other story.
Stepman: So, let’s get to our final one because we’ve gone for a long time here, but of course, one that most Americans today remember, which is the 2000 election, Bush v. Gore, famously coming down to Florida. Of course, the hanging chads became a part of the American lexicon.
For those who don’t know, could you explain what happened there with the 2000 election, how that ended up ultimately going to George W. Bush instead of Vice President [Al] Gore?
Lucas: Well, yeah. That’s a very dramatic election in and of itself. I think there are some similarities to the 1876 in the sense that a lot of people viewed there not being that much difference between the two candidates. George W. Bush was considered a pretty moderate Republican, Al Gore was a somewhat centrist Democrat coming off the centrist Clinton-Gore ticket.
But on election night, Gore ended up conceding to Bush until his campaign was informed that Florida triggers an automatic recount if it’s below 2,000 votes. So he was stopped from giving his concession speech, and then ended up calling Bush, unconceding the election. And from there, it went on through courts.
The Gore team was actually the first to bring it into state courts. Rhetorically, the Gore campaign was saying, “We want every vote to count,” but then they were actually only litigating for recounts in heavily Democratic-leaning counties because they were looking to basically find more and more and more votes.
Arguably, a person might say the same thing about Trump today, that he didn’t want to keep massive amounts of ballots from coming in, but it also seemed that he wanted more votes counted in Arizona. So, I mean, that’s basically how politics works, I guess. But yeah, Gore’s team was essentially trying to find votes wherever they could.
There was actually a point in this where Bob Beckel, who became a pretty famous pundit, but he was a Gore political operative at the time, he talked about, quote, “kidnapping electors.” And basically this was, they were going to try to dig up dirt on Republicans who were in the Electoral College and sort of corner them and, “You might want to vote for Al Gore when it goes to the Electoral College.”
But a Wall Street Journal story exposed that and then they backed off that. But ultimately, this worked its way through the state courts. There were a couple different lawsuits and they got merged into one lawsuit when the U.S. Supreme Court took the case, Bush v. Gore, and from there the court ruled.
Actually, everybody says it’s 5-4. The initial decision was 7-2, that it violated the equal protection one man, one vote law. However, there was 5-4 decision as to basically how to alleviate that, whether they should allow more counting or a statewide recount and so forth and so on. So yeah, basically, after the court ruled, most of Gore’s legal options were spent and he conceded, but that was a 36-day election.
We’re not anywhere, at the time we’re recording this at least, we’re not anywhere near 36 days. Again, back to that unprecedented point, you had 1876 went on for several months, 2000 went on for a little over a month, 1824 went up until February. Same with 1800. So, we’re not in uncharted waters.
In all likelihood, the 2020 election is going to be decided by Dec. 8. And I would certainly guess it’s going to be decided by the time the Electoral College meets on Dec. 14.
Stepman: Yeah, for sure. I think one thing can be said is Gore pursued every political and legal avenue to victory before eventually conceding, I believe, on Dec. 13 to George W. Bush. He certainly fought it out as hard as he could in as many ways as he could before finally bowing out of that election.
Well, Fred, thank you so much for talking to us about your book. It’s very interesting, particularly noteworthy right now. Again, it’s called “Tainted by Suspicion: The Secret Deals and Electoral Chaos of Disputed Presidential Elections.” It’s definitely worth a read right now and in the future. This is certainly not the first disputed election, and let’s be honest, it likely won’t be the last either.
Lucas: Thanks for taking the time with it.
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