Presidential Elections Past and Present

Dr. Steven J. Callis

            The current U.S. presidential campaigns have certainly stirred the emotions of the American people.  Accusations and scandals are in the headlines constantly.  Truth seems to be obscured, and both of the main parties have had their share of embarrassing moments.  The candidates, their staff and families, the parties, and the media all have been blamed for this nation-dividing campaign.
            However, history has recorded previous election tidbits that parallel this election season.  For example, in light of our “early voting” option, t
he US Constitution does not state when Election Day should be, so in the early 1800s, people could vote from April to December.  In 1845, Congress decided that voting day would be the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.
            In reference to race and gender, t
he first woman to run for US President was Victoria Woodhull in 1872, nearly 50 years before the 19th Amendment allowed women to vote in presidential elections.  Her running mate, Frederick Douglass, was the first African-American ever nominated for Vice President.

            Media has come to play a significant role in our election process.  The ultimate “whoops” moment in a US presidential election happened when the Chicago Daily Tribune headline mistakenly declared that Dewey beat Truman in 1946.

            Mudslinging is not new to politics.  During the John Quincy and Andrew Jackson election year, Jackson called John Quincy a pimp, and Quincy called Jackson’s wife a slut and his mother a prostitute.

            Congress gave Native Americans the right to vote in presidential elections in 1924; however, some states banned them from voting until the 1940s.  American women won the right to vote in 1920. In 1872, Susan B Anthony, a white social reformer and feminist activist, was arrested for attempting to vote in the presidential election.

            The United States presidential election of 1876 was held on Tuesday, November 7, 1876.  It was one of the most contentious and controversial presidential elections in American history. The results of the election remain among the most disputed ever.  In four states, each party reported that its candidate had won.  The question of who should have been awarded these 20 electoral votes is the source of the continued controversy.

            Admittedly, ours is not a perfect system.  It seems that as one glitch is resolved, we find new ways to confuse the process.  Could this be the reason for low voter turnout in presidential elections?  It is a concerning fact that, despite the billions of dollars spent on campaigns, roughly half of the American population does not care enough to vote.

            My vote seems like a small grain of sand on the coastal beaches, but it is a vote – my vote.  It matters to me who leads our nation, and the direction our country takes for the betterment of society and the world.  It matters to me that we faithfully build upon the foundation laid by our founding fathers and for which our veterans and active military fight to preserve. 

            I refuse to take this privilege and responsibility lightly.  If you have not already voted, I urge you to take advantage of this opportunity to stand up for your beliefs.  May God’s hand of grace and mercy be upon this United States of America.

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