From various writers, we’ve closely covered the election campaign, including a look back at the 1964 Republican convention at the Cow Palace. (more at end)
Now, Talker subscriber Michael Nighan offers an illuminating look back at the elections of 1860 and 1912, both of which bear striking comparisons with 2016.
Readers may recognize Michael from his letters to the City, including a recent one on Bernie Sanders and foreign policy.
Please consider subscribing (sign up to the right). It just means article get sent to your email.
The national government is in a state of near meltdown. One of the country’s major political parties meets in convention to select its presidential candidate. Ballot follows ballot with no candidate winning the necessary number of delegates. As the convention deadlocks and then fragments. Splinter groups organize their own conventions, nominate candidates, and loudly proclaim themselves to represent the “real” party. With the party torn asunder, the candidate of the other major party, while garnering only a plurality of the popular vote, easily wins the White House based on electoral votes.
Such was the case with the Democratic Party in 1860. But will this also be a description of the Republican Party in 2016? Certainly should Donald Trump fail to gain the GOP nomination, his creation of a third party with himself at its head, becomes a distinct possibility, making the victory of the Democratic candidate all-but-inevitable.
Now let’s fast-forward to 1912 and see that this time it’s the Republicans who are being torn apart, the result of a power struggle between supporters of the “establishment” candidate and incumbent president, William Howard Taft, and those of the progressive spokesman, and ex-president, Theodore Roosevelt.
Denied the GOP nomination following a bitter floor fight over the seating of contested delegates, Roosevelt bolts his party and runs as a third party “Bull Moose” candidate. With the Republican Party neutralized, and indeed neutered, Woodrow Wilson and the Democrats sweep into the White House.
Previous denials by Sanders notwithstanding, it doesn’t take much imagination to envision a similar situation at this year’s Democratic convention where Clinton cinches the nomination and the Sanders’ forces stalk out of the hall and begin to cobble together their own third party.
Now put those scenarios together and we have another not-impossible 1860 redux in which FOUR candidates, one each from the major parties and two third party candidates with a large degree of factional support, are all vying for the presidency. Unlike 1860 however, a four-way race in 2016 is likely to result in no candidate achieving the magical 270 electoral votes with the election then being decided by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
And you thought that the Florida ballot problems in the 2000 election caused a mess?
MORE ON THE CAMPAIGN