By the time you are reading this, our current Presidential election may be decided. Probably not, though. Both candidates will contest this one down to the swearing in ceremony on Jan. 20 more than likely. There's never been an election like this one. Or has there been? Well, let me tell you a story.|
In 1876, Rutherford Hayes, Rep. & Samuel Tilden, Dem. ran hot and heavy campaigns. During this time, Reconstruction in the South was a very divisive issue. After the votes were tallied, Hayes polled 4,033,950 votes to Tilden's 4,284,885. Tilden had 184 Electoral votes (one short of a majority) to Hayes's 163. Four states where the voting was contested, Florida, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Oregon, controlled 22 Electoral votes. If all 22 went to Hayes, he would win; Tilden only needed one of these votes to win.
Congress tried to settle it all, but the GOP controlled the Senate and Democrats the House, so they deadlocked. Congress then created a 15 member bipartisan commission to resolve matters. It consisted of 5 Republicans, 5 Democrats, and 5 Supreme Court Justices (2 GOP, 2 Dem.s, and the 5th intended to be non-partisan - but who was, in reality, a secret Republican acceptable to the Democrats). The last Justice was where the whole election hinged upon.
The commission unanimously awarded Oregon & South Carolina votes to Hayes, and Louisiana's votes went to Hayes on a 8-7 vote. Hayes probably would have won these states without the commission's votes, but Florida was still hotly contested. So how did this turn out?
Well, when the commission makeup was being decided, the GOP promised Southern Democrats at least one Cabinet post, Federal patronage, subsidies for improvements, and the key promise that Federal troops would be withdrawn from the South and Reconstruction ended. In exchange, the Southern Democrats allowed the supposedly independent last Justice, a closet Republican, to be chosen. Of course, when the commission voted about Florida, it went strictly upon Party lines: 8-7 for Hayes. A shady backroom deal had settled the Election for Hayes, 185-184. True to GOP promises, Hayes removed Federal troops and ended Reconstruction, which left Southern Democrats free to enact segregation laws, and allowed other measures (like the KKK) to control the black population, which caused much turmoil and evil towards blacks in our country for almost the next 100 years. The GOP knew this, but let it happen all because they wanted to be in power.
Could a shady deal happen again today? Unlikely because the media would probably expose it, but it is possible. Hold on to your hats, folks, and watch this one closely. History may indeed repeat itself.