10 Historic U.S. Elections

Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt

As this very memorable and historic election looms nears, it seems to be a time to reflect on America’s past elections that have changed our nation’s history. Here are 10 historic elections from the birth of our nation to modern times:

Election of 1789

The very first presidential election in the United States of America was held in 1789 and occurred after the ratification of the United States Constitution in 1788. With only 10 of the 13 colonies voting (North Carolina and Rhode Island had not ratified the Constitution yet and New York did not choose electors due to internal disputes), George Washington, of the Federalist Party, was chosen as the first president of the United States with John Adams as his vice president.

Election of 1800

Al Gore
Al Gore

This election is sometimes referred to as the “Revolution of 1800” due to the controversy over the electoral tie vote between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr. Both candidates were of the Democratic-Republican Party, each receiving an equal amount of electoral votes. This led to the passage of the 12th Amendment, which refined the process of the electoral vote for president and vice president. Jefferson won the election of 1800 due to a vote by the House of Representatives.

Election of 1860

After the election of Republican Party candidate Abraham Lincoln as president, declarations of secession were heard from many southern states. The election of 1860 set the stage for the Civil War as the country was divided by their views on slavery.

Election of 1896

The presidential election of 1896 demonstrates the shift in American society from rural to urban. Republican candidate William McKinley triumphed over Democratic-populist candidate William J. Bryan. Bryan represented rural American culture with his campaign that planned to help indebted farmers and those against the gold standard, while McKinley symbolized the shift toward urban culture with a campaign that promoted American industry through his protective tariff.

Election of 1912

Three presidents competed against one another in the Election of 1912. William H. Taft of the Republican Party who was the current president at the time, Theodore Roosevelt of the Progressive Party and a previous president, and Woodrow Wilson of the Democratic Party and the eventual winner of the 1912 election. This was the first election that recognized the need for regulation of capitalism in industrial America.

Election of 1920

James M. Cox
James M. Cox

With the ratification of the 19th Amendment on Aug. 18, 1920, the 1920 presidential election became the first presidential election, women were legally allowed to vote in all 48 states. Ohio newspaper publisher and Republican Warren G. Harding defeated newspaper publisher and Democrat James M. Cox. Harding became the first president to win more than 10 million popular votes.

Election of 1932

In the midst of the Great Depression, Democratic candidate Franklin D. Roosevelt triumphed over Herbert C. Hoover in the election of 1932 because of Roosevelt’s promise of reform with his New Deal policy. His New Deal policies united groups that had not previously been part of the same party. During this election, there was a realignment of political parties that would shape modern politics.

Election of 1960

Democratic candidate John F. Kennedy was the youngest and first Catholic president to be elected, beating out Republican candidate Richard Nixon. The election was also the first election Alaska and Hawaii participated in after being granted statehood in 1959.

Election of 2000

Al Gore
Al Gore

The election of 2000 was the first time the Supreme Court had to get involved in the electoral decision. The Democratic candidate Albert Gore’s campaign sued to have a manual recount of the Florida votes. The Supreme Court decided that the votes in Florida would stand as counted, and Republican candidate George W. Bush won the presidency. Due to this election, voting machines are ever-changing for better accuracy.

Election of 2008

Democratic candidate Barack Obama became the first African American president in the 2008 election, defeating Republican candidate John McCain. Obama received the most votes of any candidate in history with more than 69 million votes.

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Christina Claus
Christina Claus is the former editor of Port Washington News.

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