By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Under the umbrella of a pandemic, the nasty divide between the Democrats and Republicans has helped fuel this past presidential election into one of the most memorable.
How many U.S. Presidential elections have occurred during a global pandemic, uncertainty with mail-in ballots and such racial tension. I’m sure since 1788 all those factors have impacted different presidential races. But all at once?
Nov. 3 has come and gone and Election Day 2020 is just a chapter in the book called the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. While things settle down from this year’s election, I wanted to take a look back at the 10 most memorable presidential races of all time.
We have to start back at the beginning with our Nation’s first leader George Washington. The 1788–1789 presidential election was the first quadrennial presidential election. It was held from Monday, Dec. 15, 1788 to Saturday, Jan. 10, 1789.
Under the new Constitution ratified in 1788, Washington was unanimously elected for the first of his two terms as president. Our first vice president was John Adams. The first U.S. Presidential Election was memorable for several reasons including spanning two calendar years.
Under the Articles of Confederation, ratified in 1781, the United States had no head of state. Once the offices of president and vice president were established, the Constitution established an Electoral College, based on each state’s Congressional representation. That came to be in 1804 and has been our way of electing a president since the Twelfth Amendment.
10. Rutherford B. Hayes (Republican) vs. Samuel Tilden (Democrat) 1876
Nov. 7, 1876
ELECTORAL VOTE: 185 Hayes, 184 Tilden
The 23rd quadrennial presidential election was the first time the winning candidate didn’t have the most votes from the population. Tilden won the popular vote 4,288,546 to Hayes’ 4,034,311. Hayes won the electoral college by one.
It was one of the most contentious and controversial presidential elections in American history, and gave rise to the Compromise of 1877 by which the Democrats. The close race gave the Democrats a bargaining chip. The party agreed to concede the election to Hayes in return for an end to Reconstruction and the withdrawal of federal troops from the South. After a controversial post-election process. Hayes was declared the winner.
The reason for the uncertainty of the election was the tight electoral vote. Tilden had won 184 electoral votes to Hayes’ 165. That left 20 votes from four states unresolved, Florida, Louisiana, Oregon and South Carolina. An informal deal was struck to resolve the dispute: the Compromise of 1877, which awarded all 20 electoral votes to Hayes. In return for the Democrats’ acquiescence to Hayes’ election, the Republicans agreed to withdraw federal troops from the South, ending Reconstruction.
9. Thomas Jefferson (Democratic-Republican) vs. Aaron Burr (Federalist) 1800
Oct. 31- Dec. 3, 1800
ELECTORAL VOTE: 73 Jefferson, 65 Adams
The “Revolution of 1800” saw Vice President Thomas Jefferson defeated incumbent President John Adams. The election was a political realignment that ushered in a generation of Democratic-Republican leadership.
Adams barely won the honor of being the Nation’s second president in 1796. Under the rules of the electoral system that were in place prior to the 1804 ratification of the 12th Amendment, each member of the Electoral College cast two votes. with no distinction made between electoral votes for president and electoral votes for vice president. As Jefferson received the second-most votes in 1796, he was elected vice president. In 1800, unlike in 1796, both parties formally nominated tickets.
This time the parties would have a ticket with a presidential and vice presidential candidate. The Democratic-Republicans nominated a ticket consisting of Jefferson and Aaron Burr. The Federalists nominated a ticket consisting of Adams and Charles C. Pinckney. This helped shape our current political structure.
8. Abraham Lincoln (Republican) vs. John C. Breckinridge (Southern Democrat)1860
Nov. 6, 1860
ELECTORAL VOTE: 180 Lincoln, 72 Breckinridge
The 1860 United States presidential election was important because it helped shape the nation as treacherous times were ahead. In a four-way contest, the Republican Party ticket of Abraham Lincoln and Hannibal Hamlin were victorious and Lincoln’s election served as the catalyst of the American Civil War.
The Nation was extremely divided during the 1850s over slavery. During the mid-to-late 1850s, the Kansas–Nebraska Act and the Supreme Court’s decision in the 1857 case of Dred Scott v. Sandford continued the division. The political scene featured the Republicans, Southern Democrats, Whigs and Know Nothings.
The 1860 Republican National Convention Lincoln emerged as the face of the party and would become a legend in American folklore.
7. Franklin D. Roosevelt (Democrat) vs. Herbert Hoover (Republican) 1932
Nov. 8, 1932
ELECTORAL VOTE: 472 Roosevelt, 59 Hoover
Three years into the Great Depression, incumbent president Herbert Hoover wasn’t very popular. The country felt it was in need of a change. In a landslide, FDR rose to power and dethrone Hoover.
The election marked the end of the Fourth Party System. Roosevelt united his Democratic party with the “New Deal.” Soon the American people believed in the vision of FDR. Roosevelt went on to win two more presidential elections and lived up to most of his promises. He was the leader of the nation during World War II.
6. Barack Obama (Democrat) vs. John McCain (Republican) 2008
Nov. 4, 2008
ELECTORAL VOTE: 365 Obama, 173 McCain
Prior to this race, every presidential election’s two major candidates were white men. Most of the time it was a quartet of Caucasian gentlemen. But this race features the Democratic favorite Barack Obama, a man of white and African decent. On the other ticket, the vice presidential candidate was a woman named Sarah Palin.
In 56 quadrennial presidential election, the United States finally elected a non-white person to the top spot in the Nation.
Obama won a decisive victory over McCain, winning the Electoral College and the popular vote by a sizable margin, including states that had not voted for the Democratic presidential candidate since 1976 (North Carolina) and 1964 (Indiana and Virginia). Obama tallied 69.5 million votes and would go on to win re-election four years later.
5. John Adams (Federalist) vs. Thomas Jefferson (Democratic-Republican) 1796
Nov. 4- Dec. 7, 1796
ELECTORAL VOTE: 71 Adams, 68 Jefferson
Jefferson won the rematch in 1800 but Adams took the third quadrennial presidential election. It was the first contested American presidential election, the first presidential election in which political parties played a dominant role.
After the Washington Era came to an end, who would lead the country? The 1796 election was the only presidential election in which a president and vice president were elected from opposing tickets. Incumbent Vice President John Adams defeated former Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson.
The campaign was fierce with Federalists attempting to identify the Democratic-Republicans with the violence and the Democratic-Republicans accusing the Federalists of favoring monarchism and aristocracy. Once the smoke cleared, Adams was elected president with 71 electoral votes, one more than was needed for a majority.
4. Donald Trump (Republican) vs. Hillary Clinton (Democrat) 2016
Nov. 8, 2016
ELECTORAL VOTE: 304 Trump, 227 Clinton
Business mogul, professional sports owner, actor and even reality-TV star were previous professions of Donald Trump. Meanwhile career-politician Hillary Clinton had position herself to be the first woman ever elected president of the United States.
In an upset, Trump took office as the 45th president, and Mike Pence as the 48th vice president. Clinton did make history by being the first woman to win the popular vote with 65.9 million compared to Trump’s 63 million.
3. Harry S. Truman (Democrat) vs. Thomas E. Dewey (Republican) vs. Strom Thurmond (Dixiecrat) 1948
Nov. 2, 1948
ELECTORAL VOTE: 303 Truman, 189 Dewey, 39 Thurmond
Sometimes newspapers screw it up. The iconic picture of Truman holding up the paper with declaring Dewey’s victory and his big smile is memorable. Sorry The Chicago Daily Tribune to bring that back up.
That mix up helps us remember the 41st presidential election as one of the biggest upsets ever. Incumbent Truman defeated Dewey. Truman had ascended to the presidency in April 1945 after the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Defeating attempts to drop him from the ticket, Truman won the presidential nomination at the 1948 Democratic National Convention.
Then a third party emerged from the South with the Dixiecrats led by South Carolina’s Thurmond. The Dixiecrats hoped to win enough electoral votes to force a contingent election in the House of Representatives.
The Progressive Party, not led by Flo, was launched by Henry A. Wallace. Dewey, who was the leader of his party’s moderate eastern wing and had been the 1944 Republican presidential nominee was the favorite.
Defying the predictions, Truman won the election with 303 electoral votes to Dewey’s 189. Truman won nearly half of the popular vote compared to Dewey’s 45 percent.
2. John F. Kennedy (Democrat) vs. Richard Nixon (Republican) 1960
Nov. 8, 1960
ELECTORAL VOTE: 303 Kennedy, 219 Nixon
The first “TV-election” in American history. The race was close with Kennedy winning the seat. Kennedy defeated incumbent Vice President Richard Nixon of the Republican Party. This was the first election in which fifty states participated and the last in which the District of Columbia did not.
It was also the first election in which an incumbent president was ineligible to run for a third term because of the term limits established by the 22nd Amendment. President Dwight D. Eisenhower had to give up his seat.
Kennedy won the Electoral College 303 to 219 and narrowly won the nation’s popular vote by 112,827 votes. Both candidates would go down in U.S. History for infamous reasons. On Nov. 22, 1963, Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. In 1968, Nixon was finally elected to the top spot in the nation. Then had to resign in August 1974 because of the Watergate scandal.
1. George W. Bush (Republican) vs. Al Gore (Democrat) 2000
Nov. 7, 2000????
ELECTORAL VOTE: Bush 271, Gore 266
My first time voting for the president of the United States was the 54th for the nation. From Ronald Reagan to Bill Clinton, when I woke up Wednesday morning I knew the president-elect.
But this election was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court and wouldn’t be settled until Dec. 12 of that year. Bush v. Gore, was an actual official court case, 531 U.S. 98 (2000). The U.S. Supreme Court settled the recount dispute in Florida’s 2000 presidential election. Those 25 electoral votes would determine the first president of the new millennium.
Thanks to this memorable election, we got terms like old voting machines, dimpled chads and hanging chads. Media outlets declared legions to political parties and we’ve been suffering with unbalanced TV news ever since.
THOMAS SELLERS JR. is the editor of The Millington Star and both the sports editor and a weekly personal columnist for West 10 Media/Magic Valley Publishing. Contact him by phone at (901) 433-9138, by fax to (901) 529-7687 and by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.