Today Ted Cruz appealed to the Compromise of 1877. Why that isn’t such a good idea.

Earlier today, Ted Cruz invoked the election of the 1876 and the so-called “Compromise of 1877” as a model for dealing with supposed election fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

Watch:

Let’s set the record straight on what actually happened in the Election of 1876 and its immediate aftermath.

Samuel Tilden, a Democrat from New York, won the popular vote by 250,000 votes over Ohio Republican Rutherford B. Hayes. The GOP challenged the Electoral College votes. Tilden won 184 electoral votes (1 short of the 185 needed for victory) and Hayes won 165 votes. But 20 electoral votes were disputed. Three southern states, Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina sent two sets of electoral votes to Washington D.C. Who would get these electoral votes?

In January 1877, Congress created an Electoral Commission made-up of five senators, five representatives, and five Supreme Court justices. This is the commission Ted Cruz referenced in his speech today. Eight members of the commission were Republicans and seven members of the commission were Democrats. The commission voted on partisan lines and gave twenty electoral votes from Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina to Hayes. Democratic congressmen said they would try to block Hayes’s inauguration. This led to the so-called Compromise of 1877, an agreement that gave Hayes the presidency in exchange for a new transcontinental railroad running through Texas, a Southern cabinet member (Hayes appointed a postmaster general from Tennessee), the removal of northern troops from the South, and the right to deal with freed slaves without northern interference.

The Compromise of 1877 brought an end to the Reconstruction era, the post-Civil War movement that freed the slaves and gave them citizenship and the right to vote. The U.S. military, under the direction of the radical Republican Congress, enforced Reconstruction in the South. After Hayes took office, he removed U.S. troops from the South and gave the region “home rule.” In other words, the president abandoned the freed slaves and all those working for racial justice and Black civil rights. With the troops gone, Southern leaders started the work of “redeeming” the region. This meant that they stopped enforcing the 14th Amendment (Black citizenship), the 15th Amendment (the right to vote), and the Civil Rights Acts of 1866. Segregation and Jim Crow would follow. It would last until the 1960s and we are still dealing with its aftermath today.

As South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham said tonight on the floor of the Senate: “if you are looking for historical guidance, this [the Compromise of 1877] is not the one to pick.”

An early critic of political polls

Political pollsters are under the gun again. Some of them did not anticipate Donald Trump’s ability to win votes in the 2020 presidential election. The debate over the usefulness of polling continues to rage in the wake of November 3.

Let’s bring some historical perspective to this topic. Over at Politico, Rutgers University history David Greenberg introduces us to Lindsay Rogers, one of the earliest critics of political polling. Here is a taste:

At bottom…Rogers’ critique wasn’t methodological. At a philosophical level, he rejected the very idea that public opinion was measurable in the concrete way that the pollsters alleged. Public opinion was too inchoate to lend itself to precise measurement, even when fine-tuned with open-ended questions, scales of intensity and other methodological tweaks that had been introduced over the years. Public opinion, he said, wasn’t like distance or mass or other scientifically measurable phenomena; it had no freestanding existence apart from the operation of measuring it. Polling thus pretended to quantify the unquantifiable. Like others in the increasingly data-driven social sciences, Rogers charged, the public opinion analysts were following false gods of methodology. Properly understanding the public required not pseudo-scientific methods but human insight.

Along with many others, [pollster George] Gallup pushed back against Lindsay, calling him “the last of the arm-chair philosophers in this field.” And while Gallup’s name, owing to his lucrative polling business, endured through the decades, Rogers’ faded into relative obscurity. Political science became inexorably more quantitative and data-driven, leaving behind his concerns about its pretensions to scientific status. Moreover, the profits that commercial pollsters reaped — alongside, perhaps, Gallup-like hopes of improving democracy — ensured that the practice of election-season survey-taking would not subside anytime soon. Over the years, critics from both the world of journalism (columnist Mike Royko, polemicist Christopher Hitchens) and academia (political scientist Benjamin Ginsberg, journalism historian W. Joseph Campbell) have kept alive Rogers’ skepticism, but on the whole Americans have continued to be seduced every election season by the pollsters’ allure.

Read the entire piece here.

Joe Biden is president-elect

The Way of Improvement Leads Home blog is calling the race! 🙂

Today marks the beginning of the end of the age of Trump.

I will have more to say about this in the coming days, but right now I am just going to enjoy this great day for the United States of the America.

If Biden holds on in Georgia he will be the first Democrat to win the state since Bill Clinton in 1992

Biden took the lead in Georgia early this morning. Right now, at 7:52am on November 6, 2020, Biden has 2,400,580 votes. He has already won more votes in Georgia than any other candidate in American history.

If Biden ends-up winning the state, he will be the first Democrat to do so since Bill Clinton in 1992. Jimmy Carter, a former governor of Georgia, won the state in 1976 and 1980.

Here are some previous results:

2016: Donald Trump (50.44%) over Hillary Clinton (45.35%)

2012: Mitt Romney (53.30%) over Barack Obama (45.48%)

2008: John McCain (52.20%) over Barack Obama (46.99%)

2004: George W. Bush (57.97 %) over John Kerry (41.37%)

2000: George W. Bush (54.67) over Al Gore (42.98%)

1996: Bob Dole (47.01%) over Bill Clinton (45.84%)

1992: Bill Clinton (43.47%) over George H.W.. Bush (42.88%)

1988: George H.W. Bush ( 59.75%) over Michael Dukakis (39.50%)

1984: Ronald Reagan (60.17%) over Walter Mondale (39.79 %)

1980: Jimmy Carter (55.76%) over Ronald Reagan (40.95%)

1976: Jimmy Carter (66.74%) over Gerald Ford (32.96%)

1972: Richard Nixon (75.04%) over George McGovern (24.65%)

1968: George Wallace (42.83%) over Richard Nixon (30.40%) and Hubert Humphrey (26.75%)

1964: Barry Goldwater (54.12%) over Lyndon Johnson (45.87%)

1960: John Kennedy (62.54%) over Richard Nixon (37.43%)

Why is Biden getting most of the mail-in votes?

Several people are asking me why the mail-in ballots are trending heavily toward Joe Biden. I am a teacher, so I thought I would do a quick post for the record:

First, Democrats tend to believe doctors and scientists (like Anthony Fauci) when they say that COVID-19 is spread in crowds. They thus want to avoid the long lines on Election Day and take advantage of the mail-in option. Republicans and Trump voters also believe the scientists and doctors, but they do so in smaller numbers.

Trump told his followers to vote on Election Day. He does not trust mail-in ballots. This is ironic in light of the fact that the mail-in-ballots are helping Trump in Arizona right now, a state with a tradition of mail-in ballots and where Republicans are more comfortable voting this way.

Biden’s popular mandate

Not all the votes have been counted, but Joe Biden has already received more votes for president than any other candidate in American history. Here is Jeva Lange at Yahoo News:

Former Vice President Joe Biden has now received more votes for president than any other candidate in U.S. election history, officially surpassing former President Barack Obama’s 2008 popular vote numbers on Wednesday afternoon. Biden had 69,949,918 votes as of 2:30 p.m. ET with several states still tallying results, while Obama notched 69,498,516 total.

Read the entire piece here.

I join all of those anti-Trumpers who are bothered that the president won so many votes in this election. As Reed Hundt argued today in an interview with Joshua Cohen at Boston Review, democracy was on the ballot in this election. One candidate believes in democracy, the other wants to undermine it.

But once all the votes are tallied, we will have evidence to show that the American people sent a message to Donald Trump in this election. How high will Biden’s popular vote go? Five million? More?

What’s the worst a lame-duck presidency can do?

James Buchanan set us up for a Civil War.

And as Heather Cox Richardson reminds us in this Slate interview conducted by Rebecca Onion, Benjamin Harrison saddled Grover Cleveland with an economic disaster often described as the “Panic of 1893.”

Here is a taste of their interview:

The Republicans pulled out all the stops again for Harrison in 1892, but this time it didn’t work because everyone hated Harrison, thought he’d gone too far, and was packing the mechanics of the system to stay in power. So there was a huge backlash and in 1892, Cleveland was elected—winning the popular vote and the Electoral College. And the Democrats won the presidency, House, and Senate for the first time since the Civil War.

Of course, at the time we had a longer interregnum between election and inauguration—from November to March—and during that time, the Harrison administration deliberately ran the country into the ground. They deliberately did it! It’s in the newspapers. They say to readers, OK, you elected a Democrat. They don’t know how to run the country. They don’t know anything about money; all the money is going to drain out of this country. There’s not going to be anything left. Take your money out of the stock market; we’re headed for a terrible crash. They basically created this crash.

Foreign capital was going home at the same time as Republicans had really deliberately spent a ton of money on things like statues and courthouses and veterans benefits, because they’d been trying to get rid of what was at the time a surplus coming into the Treasury, trying to prove that they needed a tariff to bring in more money. They’d been running a surplus for years, and the Democrats kept going, We don’t need all this money! Lower the damn tariffs!

So during the interregnum, as the panic developed, the financiers rushed to Washington and said, DO something! And the secretary of the treasury, Charles Foster, and Harrison said, No, we’re good. Foster actually said publicly that, as he saw it, the administration was only responsible for the economy up until March 4, the day Cleveland took office. He didn’t even manage it—the economy actually collapsed 10 days before Harrison left office.

But if you Google anything, it’s going to say to you, It happened on Cleveland’s watch. But no! It happened on Harrison’s watch! But again—the Republicans wrote the history books.

Read the rest here.

The worst moment of Election Day violence in American history

It happened 100 years ago today in Ocoee, Florida. Here is Gillian Brockell at The Washington Post:

There are at least 129 accounts of what happened that day in Ocoee, and they vary wildly.

Some said the attack was a spur-of-the-moment reaction to a Black man trying to vote. Others said it had been carefully planned by White residents for weeks. Only a few Black folks were killed that day; or, dozens of bodies were piled into a mass grave. Every Black resident who survived fled the day after; or, survivors were harassed, threatened and cheated out of land for the next seven years until they all left.

This is what is certain: 100 years ago, on Nov. 2, 1920 — the same day women voted nationally for the first time — the worst instance of Election Day violence in American history unfolded in a small Florida town west of Orlando.

And the perpetrators got away with what they did for the rest of their lives. There are no roadside markers in Ocoee as you might find in Selma, Ala., no excavation projects to locate the purported mass grave as in Tulsa. Until recently, many descendants of survivors had no idea they were descendants of survivors or that they had been robbed of a valuable inheritance long before they were born.

Now, after years of research, a new exhibit at the Orange County Regional History Center in Orlando has unearthed a crime long buried.

Read the rest here.

The 1860 election led to Civil War, but it was decided fairly

Here is historian Ted Widmer at The New York Times:

On Nov. 6, Lincoln was duly elected. But his percentage of the popular vote was very small (39.8 percent) — below even Herbert Hoover’s in 1932, when Hoover lost in a landslide to Franklin Roosevelt. That led to a new kind of challenge, to build legitimacy, as Washington seethed over the result and pro-slavery thugs promised to prevent Lincoln’s arrival. Some threatened to turn the Capitol into “a heap of ashes.” In Southern cities, gun-toting militias quickly formed, some parading under the Gadsden Flag and its motto, “Don’t Tread on Me.”

Many feared that the District of Columbia would be overrun by private armies, as a former Virginia governor, Henry Wise, threatened. It was whispered that James Buchanan might be kidnapped, so that his vice president, John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky, could be installed — a clean way to reverse the election result. Breckinridge had run as the South’s candidate, coming in second, with 72 electoral votes to Lincoln’s 180. (Two other candidates, Stephen Douglas and John Bell, had divided the vote further.)

Another plot feared by Lincoln supporters was a disruption of the electoral vote count, in Congress, on Feb. 13, 1861. Remarkably, the electoral certificates were delivered to Breckinridge, as the president of the Senate. He might easily have “lost” them, but to his eternal credit, this future Confederate presided over an honest count. Another brave Southerner, Winfield Scott, organized the military defense of the capital, just so Lincoln could have a chance.

It still took some doing to launch the Lincoln administration, and the president-elect had to survive a serious assassination conspiracy on his way to Washington. Even on the day of his inauguration, there were government sharpshooters positioned on top of buildings near the Capitol, with rumors sweeping the crowd that a last attempt would be made to nip his presidency in the bud. But he stood up to his full height as he took the oath of office, and a fever seemed to pass.

Lincoln will remain our greatest president, for his own reasons — the bold actions and the calming words. But he also sits atop our pantheon because this champion of democracy came along at the exact moment when it was most endangered and reminded Americans that a higher standard was possible. That survival, in a moment even more fraught than our own, helped democracy spread far and wide in the 20th century, as Lincoln hoped it would.

It all began with the simplest of democratic ideas: a legitimate election and a fair count.

Read the entire piece here.

Election reform experts: 2020 may be the most secure election in American history

Lawrence Norden directs the Election Reform program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU. Derek Tisler is a fellow with the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program. Here is a taste of their recent piece at Foreign Affairs:

Here, there is some good news. Over the last few years, and particularly since the novel coronavirus struck, election officials nationwide have gone to work to make this fall’s elections resilient. Because of their efforts, the American electoral system is far likelier to dispense with these twin threats than it was just four years ago.

Read the rest here.

What do yard signs tell us about the election?

I’m not a lawn-sign guy, but my neighbor, a staunch Democrat, covers her lawn with them. I went over there the other day and took the above selfie.

Over at Politico, Tim Alberta offers three interesting observations about this presidential election:

  1. “Yard signs are telling us something.”
  2. “Turnout is going to make historians do a double take.”
  3. “A Biden blowout will divorce Trump from the GOP establishment–and quickly.”

Here is a taste of the section on yard signs:

I’ve paid an unhealthy level of attention to yard signs over the past year, and particularly since Joe Biden sealed the Democratic nomination this summer. Having logged many dozens of hours this summer and fall driving around the country, two things have stood out.

First, the Trump/MAGA signage has multiplied in mind-boggling ways. Four years ago, it felt like the Republican nominee had reached a saturation point with his name dotting the landscapes of American communities. Not even close. This is obviously ballparking, but whereas in 2016 it seemed like we saw Trump logos on every ninth or 10th lawn, we now see them on every fifth or sixth lawn in those same neighborhoods. It’s a remarkable testament to the passion of the president’s base; it also indicates that the “shy Trump voter” is a thing of the past. The people who flew his flag in 2016 are still doing so; they’re now joined by countless more MAGA devotees, voters who might have once had reservations about Trump, or at least reservations about showing their support for him, but are no longer holding back. Whether the president wins a second term or not, this display of fervency reinforces my belief that we have never seen a politician with such a cult following, and we probably never will again.

The second thing that’s been striking is the Biden signage—not the volume of it, but rather the location. There’s no question Biden banners (and, more recently, Biden/Harris banners) are far outpacing the number of Clinton signs I saw four years ago. But that’s really not saying much. No, what’s been truly interesting is where the Biden posters are popping up. Just in the past few weeks, I’ve seen signs boosting the Democratic nominee (and affiliated liberal causes) in the blue-collar pockets of mid-Michigan and eastern Ohio; in the wealthy, well-educated, heavily Republican suburbs of Milwaukee and Cleveland; in the remote, rural towns of central Pennsylvania; and along the dusty desert highways of northern Arizona. When I say I’ve seen signs in these places, I don’t mean a couple small placards scattered here and there; I mean a conspicuous pattern of support, spread across areas where you wouldn’t expect to find it. And it hasn’t just been pro-Biden material; it’s been Black Lives Matter signs and LGBTQ rainbow flags and banners endorsing scientific expertise and women’s rights.

Read the entire piece here.

My daughter sent me this pic she took while visiting a friend in Latrobe, Pennsylvania:

On “October surprises”

 

Sun, Oct 1, 1905 – Page 35 · The San Francisco Call (San Francisco, California) · Newspapers.com

Here is CNN on “October Surprises“:

The term “October surprise” wasn’t initially political, according to Merriam-Webster. In the early 20th century, an October surprise advertised in a newspaper signified department store clothing sale that fell during autumn.

The term took on a political meaning during the 1980 presidential election, when it was first used by William Casey, Ronald Reagan’s campaign manager, according to Smithsonian Magazine.

That year, Reagan was facing President Jimmy Carter, and the overarching headline all year was the continuing Iran hostage crisis, when a group of Iranian students stormed the US Embassy in Tehran and took a group of Americans hostage. Reagan’s campaign feared that Carter would announce a breakthrough in negotiations right before Election Day. According to Smithsonian Magazine, Reagan and his campaign staff wanted to preempt such a late-stage victory in the polls — an “October surprise.” “The biggest fear in Ronald Reagan’s inner circle is that President Carter will get an unexpected boost in the campaign from an ‘October Surprise,'” the Washington Post wrote at the time. Reagan won the election, and minutes after he was inaugurated in January 1981, the Iranian government freed American hostages who’d been held in Tehran for over a year, the magazine reported.

Read the entire piece here.

When the United States held elections in the middle of a Civil War

1864_US_election_poster

As historian Calvin Schermerhorn writes, the “1864 elections went on during the Civil War–even though Lincoln thought it would be a disaster for himself and the Republican Party.  Here is a taste of his piece at The Conversation:

The outlook was not promising in 1864 for President Abraham Lincoln’s reelection.

Hundreds of thousands of Americans had been killed, wounded or displaced in a civil war with no end in sight. Lincoln was unpopular. Radical Republicans in his own party doubted his commitment to Black civil rights and condemned his friendliness to ex-rebels.

Momentum was building to replace him on the ballot with Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase. A pamphlet went viral arguing that “Lincoln cannot be re-elected to the Presidency,” warning that “The people have lost all confidence in his ability to suppress the rebellion and restore the Union.” An embarrassed Chase offered Lincoln his resignation, which the president declined.

The fact remained that no president had won a second term since Andrew Jackson, 32 years and nine presidents earlier. And no country had held elections in the midst of civil war.

Read the rest here.

Historian Allen Lichtman makes his call

Here is The New York Times:

Right now, polls say Joe Biden has a healthy lead over President Trump. But we’ve been here before (cue 2016), and the polls were, frankly, wrong. One man, however, was not. The historian Allan Lichtman was the lonely forecaster who predicted Mr. Trump’s victory in 2016 — and also prophesied the president would be impeached. That’s two for two. But Professor Lichtman’s record goes much deeper. In 1980, he developed a presidential prediction model that retrospectively accounted for 120 years of U.S. election history. Over the past four decades, his system has accurately called presidential victors, from Ronald Reagan in ’84 to, well, Mr. Trump in 2016.

In the video Op-Ed above, Professor Lichtman walks us through his system, which identifies 13 “keys” to winning the White House. Each key is a binary statement: true or false. And if six or more keys are false, the party in the White House is on its way out.

So what do the keys predict for 2020? To learn that, you’ll have to watch the video.

Watch

Presidential historian: when Trump attacks, Biden should stay quiet

linoln_biden (1)

Today, The Washington Post published another interesting piece from Jeffrey Engel, director of Southern Methodist University’s Center for Presidential History. (Some of you will recall that we talked with Engel about Trump’s impeachment in Episode 61 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast).

Using the presidencies of Washington, Lincoln, FDR, Engel gives presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden some political advice. Here is a taste of his piece, “The louder Donald Trump complains about Joe Biden, the quieter Biden should be“:

One need not support Joe Biden to discern history’s applicable lesson for him. Standing on the cusp of yet another existential crisis, as the covid-19 pandemic and a reckoning over long-standing structural racism further strain an already fractured electorate, Biden’s best argument for unseating the incumbent is how Americans have fared on President Trump’s watch. Like Hoover and Buchanan before him, or the Articles of Confederation for that matter, it’s hard to claim that Trump has offered the steady and unifying presence Americans demand in turbulent times. Even his most avid supporters would not apply the word calm to the president’s news conferences or tweets.

Trump, and the anxiety he engenders even in the best of times, is therefore Biden’s most valuable electoral asset. Every reelection campaign is ultimately a referendum on the incumbent, and Trump dramatically fails Ronald Reagan’s famous test: Are Americans better off today than when he took office? They are hardly more at ease. No matter the ultimate efficacy of his pandemic policies, our current commander in chief has been less an unshakable keystone than a powder keg of his own.

Read the entire piece here.

Wartime President?

It is unlikely that Trump can run on the economy in November. He has failed to convince anyone but his base that he is doing a good job on this coronavirus crisis.  But perhaps he can run in November as “wartime president.”

Here is a taste of Gabby Orr’s and Lara Seligman’s piece at Politico: “Trump team’s new mission: Defend the ‘wartime president‘”:

When America is at war, voters prefer not to swap presidents in the middle of battle. James Madison sailed to reelection after launching the War of 1812. Abraham Lincoln delivered his second inaugural address a month before the Civil War effectively ended at Appomattox, Va. In the shadow of World War II, Franklin D. Roosevelt notched a third term. And the year after deploying troops to Iraq, George W. Bush defeated a war veteran, Democrat John Kerry.

What if the enemy is invisible? Not a foreign country or the perpetrators of a brazen terrorist attack but a lethal disease that forces Americans to shelter in place indefinitely as their health, jobs and wages hang in the balance?

After fumbling his administration’s initial response to the devastating spread of COVID-19, and dismissing the threat of the novel coronavirus for months as it spread from China, Trump has turned to the one concept that seems to work politically to overcome monumental challenges. Days after he declared a national emergency to help combat the pandemic, the New York businessman — who famously avoided the Vietnam draft multiple times — informed Americans on Wednesday that he is now “a wartime president” and said the country should prepare to fight.

“Every generation of Americans has been called to make shared sacrifices for the good of the nation,” Trump said at a White House briefing featuring Defense Secretary Mark Esper, U.S. Veterans Affairs chief Robert Wilkie and members of the administration’s coronavirus task force.

“Now it’s our time,” Trump continued, recalling the bravery America showed during World War II. “We must sacrifice together,because we are all in this together, and we will come through together.”

Read the rest here.