How to Lose: A Brief History of the Presidential Concession Speech

Over the past 120 years, there have been 32 concession speeches. By Joe Richman and Nellie Gilles Presidential campaigns are essentially dramas, and for the past century, the moment of closure has come in the form of one simple act: the public concession. There is no legal or constitutional requirement that the loser of a[…]

American Election Campaigns in the 19th Century

Political parties in the 19th century thought of themselves as armies – disciplined, hierarchical fighting organizations. Introduction In the 19th century, a number of new methods for conducting American election campaigns developed in the United States. For the most part the techniques were original, not copied from Europe or anywhere else.[2] The campaigns were also[…]

A Brief History of Voting since the Early Republic

African Americans, women, Native Americans, and citizens between the ages of 18 and 21 had to fight for the right to vote in this country. The Founders and the Vote In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed.” But how[…]

Elections in 1864 during the Civil War

Lincoln was presiding over a bloody civil war with waning popularity. But he steadfastly rejected pleas to postpone the election. Introduction 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[…]

A Brief History of Campaign Paraphernalia from 1789 to the Digital Age

It can be as meaningful to the voters today as the brass buttons were to supporters watching the first president inaugurated in 1789. On April 30, 1789, enthusiastic onlookers filled the streets, dangled out of windows, and perched on rooftops to catch a glimpse of George Washington as he made his way through the streets[…]

Strategy and Manipulation in Medieval Elections

Exploring voting rules and electoral procedures used in the Middle Ages in both ecclesiastical and secular contexts. Abstract When developing electoral protocols, desiderata include a system which is transparent,non-manipulable, honest, and not open to strategizing. However, these desiderata are in tension with each other: Often, transparent electoral procedures are the least strategy resistant, and many[…]

19 Facts about the 19th Amendment

Women’s historic struggles to vote continue to resonate as the country debates who should vote and how. The 19th Amendment enfranchised millions of women across the United States following a seven-decade campaign. The struggle to expand voting rights to women resonates today as the country continues to debate who should vote and how. As scholars[…]

The Late Governor Goebel: Election Disputes and Guns in 19th-Centuy Kentucky

Families were deeply divided after the Civil War and Kentucky was the most violent state in the Union. In the last days of the nineteenth century, Kentucky was the most violent state in the union. New York reported a few more murders, but that’s mainly because in some parts of Kentucky such records were not[…]

How Black Suffragists Fought for the Right to Vote and a Modicum of Respect

Hallie Quinn Brown and other “homespun heroines”. Hallie Quinn Brown knew the power of black women and urged anyone who heard her to let it flourish. Read her remarks from 1889 and you might believe she saw the future or at least had the capacity to call it into being: “I believe there are as[…]

Parlor Politics: The Activist Legacy of Harriet Beecher Stowe

She was a famous activist in her day, arguably the most famous in the world. By Tom Christopher Katherine Kane, executive director of the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center in Hartford, Connecticut, has no doubts. As she escorts me through Stowe’s home, a 4,500-square-foot Victorian “cottage,” Kane points out that the issue at the heart of[…]

A History of Elective Monarchy since the Ancient World

Many kingdoms were elective historically, though the candidates were typically only from the family of the deceased monarch. Introduction An elective monarchy is a monarchy ruled by an elected monarch, in contrast to a hereditary monarchy in which the office is automatically passed down as a family inheritance. The manner of election, the nature of[…]

Winning the Vote: A Divided Movement and the Nineteenth Amendment

Roughly fifty years after a handful of suffragists conceived the idea, it became a hard-fought reality. Introduction In 1869, a bold new idea was born. It would have been inconceivable a few years earlier. Upending everything about the balance between state and federal power, this idea strove to remake American democracy. It proved so vexing[…]

A History of Voter Suppression since the Early Republic

The more that efforts to suppress voting rights in America change, the more they remain the same. From the earliest days of the republic to the present, politicians have sought to limit the ability of non-whites to vote. What has changed is the nature of suppression—either the addition of regulations, or the deregulation of parts[…]

Jimmy Carter and the Myth That Gave the Iowa Caucuses Their Political Power

Iowa is unrepresentative–disproportionately whiter, older, and more rural than the country as a whole. Every four years, the country witnesses what should be an inspiring ritual: Iowans like me brave the cold winter night, gather in school gyms, and talk about politics with their neighbors. But there is another ritual that also merits our attention: the[…]

The Electoral College and the Disputed Election of Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876

As the favorite son of Ohio, Rutherford B. Hayes had much in his favor. The Campaign and Election By 1875, the Republican party was in trouble. A severe economic depression followed the Panic of 1873 and scandals in the Grant administration had tarnished the party’s reputation; falling crop prices, rising unemployment, and corruption in high[…]

Adams and Jackson: The Electoral College in the Elections of 1824 and 1828

The year 1824 was a political turning point in which none of the old rules applied. The Campaign and Election of 1824 Although John Quincy Adams should have been the heir apparent to the presidency as James Monroe’s secretary of state, the year 1824 was a political turning point in which none of the old[…]

How the Midwest and South Gave Truman His Razor-Thin 1948 Victory

He won the support of Roosevelt’s “New Deal” coalition: labor, Blacks, Jews, farmers from the Midwest, and a number of southern states. Introduction Democratic Party’s poor showing in the 1946 mid-term congressional elections—in which the Republican Party took control of both the Senate and the House of Representatives for the first time since 1928—considerably dimmed[…]

Voices, Votes, Victory: Presidential Campaign Songs since George Washington

Lyrics ranged from broad satire to sincere political expression, demonstrating just how effective a messenger music can be. Early Rally Songs “Washington’s March” America’s earliest presidential elections were simple contests in which the candidate who garnered the most votes won. With impassioned partisan races yet to emerge, political songs were expressions of patriotism. “The Favorite[…]

Roosevelt’s Smashing of Landon in the 1936 Presidential Election

Roosevelt won the greatest electoral landslide since the beginning of the two-party system in the 1850s. Introduction The 1936 United States presidential election was the 38th quadrennial presidential election, held on Tuesday, November 3, 1936. In the midst of the Great Depression, incumbent Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt defeated Republican Governor Alf Landon of Kansas.[…]

Electing Members of Congress in the Early Republic

Procedures for electing members of Congress in the early republic greatly differed from the single-district system that is in use today. By Philip LampiHistorian Until 1825, the U.S. government did not require that local election officials formally report the results of their contests to any state or federal officials. Without official sources of election returns,[…]

Political Parties in the Early American Republic

This was a period of great experimentation and change in the development of political parties. The framers of the federal Constitution had not anticipated the development of permanent political parties. Parties were considered “factions,” dangerous and illegitimate alliances that pursued their own self-interest at the expense of the common good. National leaders were expected to[…]

Voting in Early America

The first representative assembly in English America convened in Jamestown’s church July 30, 1619. By Ed Crews Among the first things the Jamestown voyagers did when they set up English America’s first permanent settlement was conduct an election. Nearly as soon as they landed—April 26, 1607, by their calendar—the commanders of the 105 colonists unsealed[…]

The Birth and Growth of Gerrymandering in Early America

Gerrymandering, the politicians’ practice of drawing district lines to favor their party and expand their power, is nearly as old as the republic itself. Elbridge Gerry was a powerful voice in the founding of the nation, but today he’s best known for the political practice with an amphibious origin. Long and thin, the redrawn state[…]

Elbridge Gerry’s Monster Salamander that Swallows Votes

Examining the two-hundred-year-old creation of Founding Father Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts. By Harlow Giles Unger As Americans prepare to vote in local and state elections on Election Day, tens of thousands–even millions–will find their votes chewed, swallowed, and discarded by a monstrous “salamander”—the two-hundred-year-old creation of Founding Father Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts. Gerry created the[…]

The Election of 1828: It’s Always Been Ugly

Andrew Jackson and his supporters felt that the 1824 Presidential election had been stolen from him, which made the 1828 election contentious from the start. By Benjamin Shaw As the presidential election of 1828 approached, the nation’s emotions were running high. Andrew Jackson, the former Governor of Tennessee, was to challenge incumbent president John Quincy[…]

The Election of 1824: The ‘Corrupt Bargain’

John Quincy Adams was the last of the “notables” that began with George Washington. Introduction Only twice in U.S. history have fathers and sons been elected president: most recently George W. Bush, son of George H.W. Bush, preceded by John Quincy Adams, son of John Adams. John Quincy Adams was elected in 1824 through one[…]