Even the election of ‘Rutherfraud’ B. Hayes would not examine to Trump’s 2020 tried election theft

By 1876, the (white) management of Hayes’ social gathering had grown bored with Reconstruction. The Radical Republican Get together of the 1860s was quick fading into the previous. The numerous, albeit incomplete, steps towards full freedom and equality that Black People had taken because the finish of the Civil Conflict, together with the political power they’d gained, have been already being rolled again in a lot of the South, and have been extremely weak in the remainder of the area. With out federal troops on the bottom to assist implement Black rights within the midst of a hostile and highly effective white majority, these rights and that energy would quickly disappear fully within the former Accomplice states.

The Democratic nominee was New York Gov. Samuel Tilden. Tilden played a number one position in bringing down Tammany Corridor’s William “Boss” Tweed and his group, in addition to thwarting the fraud and theft perpetrated by the Erie Canal Ring. He then parlayed his fame as a reformer into the Democratic nomination. Tilden, nonetheless, was no progressive. On financial points, the Democratic Get together of his day was dominated by enterprise pursuits and led by so-called Bourbon Democrats resembling Tilden and, later, President Grover Cleveland.

On racial points, Tilden ran in 1876 on a celebration platform that demanded an finish to each Reconstruction—condemned as “the rapacity of carpet-bag tyrannies”—and the federal enforcement of equal rights for Black Southerners. These rights largely nonetheless existed solely in Louisiana, South Carolina, and Florida—three states the place federal troops remained, and the place white segregationist Democrats didn’t but dominate. Tilden, in different phrases, was instantly allied with Jim Crow segregationists. In truth, Southern Democrats engaged in widespread voter intimidation and violence through the marketing campaign; the notorious Hamburg Bloodbath, carried out by white supremacist terrorists known as “Crimson Shirts,” had taken place in South Carolina simply months earlier, on Independence Day.

Again to Election Day. By late night, it appeared like Tilden would develop into the following president. His lead within the fashionable vote was substantial—he ended up successful 51%-48%, and stays the one candidate to win over 50% of the favored vote and never develop into president. Tilden had already locked down 184 electoral votes, one shy of a majority, and the chair of the Republican Get together decided that the time had come to empty a bottle of whiskey, as his companies now not seemed to be required.


Earlier than Tilden might declare victory, nonetheless, three states—Louisiana, South Carolina, and Florida (an inventory that ought to sound acquainted)—have been “too near name.” I can’t even write these phrases and not using a bleary-eyed, jacketless Steve Kornacki popping into my mind.


Into social gathering headquarters strode Daniel Sickles, a high Republican, who calculated that if Hayes might simply sweep these remaining three states, his social gathering would come out on high. One would possibly name him the Nate Silver of his day—or one would possibly simply name him a man with a pencil who might do three-figure addition. There are different issues one can name Sickles, resembling the primary American to be acquitted of homicide on the grounds of momentary madness: He knocked off his spouse’s paramour, who simply occurred to be the son of the man who wrote our nation’s nationwide anthem. Speak about historic connections.

In any case, as soon as Sickles put out the message on behalf of his incapacitated-by-whiskey social gathering chief: Hayes might nonetheless win. And so the four-month post-election saga started.

Over these 4 months, election integrity was nowhere to be discovered on both facet. Republicans and Democrats alike tried to bribe and steal their option to victory, with {dollars} flowing like water and poll packing containers apparently winding up in the water. In that regard, the election of 1876 seems to be nothing like 2020, the place numerous unbiased election screens have stated that widespread voter fraud merely didn’t happen.

Though either side dedicated widespread chicanery in 1876—in South Carolina, for instance, turnout got here in at a sturdy 101% of the variety of eligible voters—it was racist voter suppression that proved most decisive, in response to Columbia College historian and broadly acknowledged skilled on the Reconstruction period Eric Foner. “This election was flawed from high to backside,” Foner says. “There was violence all through the South towards African American voters to attempt to … make it unattainable for them to vote. If there had been a good election within the South, there is no query, Hayes would have gained by a big margin.”

There have been really 4 states the place electoral votes remained up for grabs. Along with the aforementioned and disputed three, the appointment of a single elector from Oregon was challenged by Democrats as a result of he was a federal worker, one thing forbidden by the Structure. Every of the 4 states’ Democratic and Republican officers merely nominated their very own slate of electors. They did so not on the premise of any goal counting of votes, however as an alternative out of their easy need to win. In Florida, the Democrats “decided” that Tilden had gained by a razor skinny 94-vote margin, however in actuality, we’ll by no means know the precise vote depend. In the long run, Congress needed to determine which units of electors have been the rightful ones.

Greater than two months after the election, a compromise was struck, and Congress created an Electoral Fee—one thing by no means talked about within the Structure—and gave that physique the facility to determine which candidate would obtain the disputed Electoral School votes.

The Democratic-controlled Home appointed 5 members, as did the Republican-controlled Senate, and every social gathering chosen two Supreme Courtroom justices. These 4 justices selected the ultimate “unbiased” member from amongst their remaining colleagues; and, after he was elected to the Senate, the justices selected his substitute—a Republican. He voted with the opposite seven Republicans proper down the road, and the Fee awarded all 20 of the excellent electoral votes to Hayes, giving him 185 to Tilden’s 184, and making him president. Congress signed off on this ridiculous choice simply two days earlier than Inauguration Day, capping off probably the most drawn-out election in our historical past. At each step, partisanship dominated the vote-determination course of.

The so-called Compromise of 1877 contained one other, unwritten factor. As beforehand famous, the Democrats have been on document as wanting the remaining federal troops within the South to be withdrawn. It’s no coincidence that the one ex-Accomplice states the place Hayes even had an opportunity of successful have been ones the place federal troops have been nonetheless deployed as occupying forces. Democrats—the social gathering of the Klan on the time—knew that if Hayes as president introduced the removing of these troops, that was a cut price nicely value taking … and so they offered out Tilden. However much more importantly, the compromise marked the final step within the federal authorities’s complete abandonment of roughly 4 million African People residing within the South. Each events shook palms, and collectively, they ushered within the Jim Crow period and all of its cruelty.

What occurred with the election of 1876—and which resembles most what Trump has been haplessly making an attempt to do since Election Day—was the utter partisanization of the method of states certifying which candidate gained. The sort of professionalism and upholding of oaths we’ve seen this yr from election officers have been nowhere to be discovered within the post-Election Day Hayes-Tilden conflict.

The aforementioned Roy Morris wrote that Hayes—who got here to be often called “His Fraudulency” or “Rutherfraud B. Hayes”—ended up within the Oval Workplace due to a choice issued by an appointed physique, whose members acted in a fashion “each bit as partisan and petty because the shadiest ward heeler in New York Metropolis or probably the most unreconstructed Insurgent in South Carolina.”

We in 2020 are extraordinarily lucky that some Republican officers refused to place social gathering first. Though you’ve probably heard of Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, there are different, lesser recognized Republicans like Aaron Van Langevelde, certainly one of 4 members of the Michigan State Board of Canvassers, who additionally deserve nice credit score for rejecting Trump’s baldly partisan entreaties.

A greater technique of electing presidents wouldn’t include the vulnerabilities that ours does. It will not have chokepoints the place partisanship and a willingness to steal victory can, on the very least, trigger chaos and confusion and, with the involvement of sufficient corrupt people, really swing the outcomes. As Michael Li from the Brennan Heart for Justice notes, “It’s simple to chortle on the Trump challenges, simply because they’ve been so on the market. However what’s scary, is you step again from {that a} bit and see how many individuals have been prepared to go together with it till pretty deep within the course of.” Too many are nonetheless “going together with it” as of this writing.

High Republicans resembling Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, and others, have made one other flawed comparability: Specifically, that the crap the Orange Julius Caesar has been pulling since Nov. three is actually no totally different from the recount and associated authorized challenges Al Gore pursued in 2000. There’s, nonetheless, no comparability. Barry Richard, who in 2000 represented Gore’s GOP opponent George W. Bush, clearly summarized why: “There (are) not plenty of similarities. In 2000, there was clearly an issue with the faulty ballots. No person was claiming fraud or improprieties. It was all about how we made certain all people’s vote counted.”

Extra broadly, Gore didn’t stage any of the ridiculous voter fraud prices of the sort Trump’s crew has made this time round—did you hear the one which Borat sequel star Rudy Giuliani spit out concerning the meals vans that supposedly smuggled in votes in Detroit? What, did they slip a poll inside every Coney dog?

What Gore did was merely ask for the votes to be counted correctly in a single state the place there actually have been issues with the mechanics of counting—hanging chads, anybody?—and the place the margin between him and Bush got here right down to lower than a hundredth of a p.c—537 votes out of six million forged, to be actual. Plus, successful that state’s electoral votes would’ve given Gore the presidency. Sure, it took some time, however he by no means questioned the integrity of the votes, merely whether or not he or Bush bought extra of them.

The convoluted, undemocratic Electoral School system that enables fashionable vote losers like George W. Bush and the Orange Menace to develop into president is a travesty. Inside it, nonetheless, the one factor that’s imagined to function with out an excessive amount of controversy is that voters determine which candidate receives the Electoral School votes awarded by every state. As soon as the counting of votes is full, certification must be comparatively uncontroversial, with state officers merely signing off on the decision rendered by voters (although Trump will certainly attempt to complicate issues).

Within the weeks since Election Day, nonetheless, we’ve all seen The Man Who Misplaced The In style Vote (Once more) do his damnedest to deprave that certification course of and steal the presidency. Though he has failed, if he ever opened a historical past ebook and realized what occurred after the election of 1876, which will nicely have given him hope that he would possibly succeed.

This time, fortunately, it seems that historical past is not going to repeat itself.

Ian Reifowitz is the writer of  The Tribalization of Politics: How Rush Limbaugh’s Race-Baiting Rhetoric on the Obama Presidency Paved the Way for Trump (Foreword by Markos Moulitsas).

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