All over the blogosphere pundits are asking what historical election is the best precedent for 2020. I will offer my opinions on the matter because the game looks fun.
History can offer some great insights into what could happen next year. However, history is not a road map for the future. Thus, any comparisons between 2020 and the past are purely theoretical at this point.
Conversely, history, gut instinct, ideals, and beliefs are all anyone has to rely on going into an election. Fortunately, America’s rich electoral history offers some great comparisons for the 2020 presidential battle.
I think best historical precedents for the 2020 presidential election are:
The last presidential election is the best comparison for 2020 because the country has not changed much in four years.
Moreover, many of the 2020 players; including two candidates; President Donald J. Trump (R-New York) U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), many of the strategists, and most of the voters will be the same. However, the 2016 election was so close even small variations could make a great difference.
Using the 2016 model, the likely outcome in 2020 is a narrow victory in the popular vote. To explain, Hillary Clinton (D-New York) won the popular vote by 2.1% or 2.348 million voters, The Cook Political Report and Time estimate.
The Electoral College; the unelected body that picks the President, is a different matter, however. Trump carried that body with an impressive margin of 306 to 232, The New York Times calculates. To elaborate, Trump won the electoral vote by carrying smaller white majority states.
Interestingly, New York Times number cruncher Nate Cohn thinks both the Democratic margin of victory in the popular vote and the Republican margin of victory in the Electoral College could grow in 2020. If Cohn is right, the 2020 election could lead to greater political polarization.
For instance, Trump could win the Electoral College but lose the popular vote by up to 10 million. Under those circumstances, many Americans will view Trump as an illegitimate president.
Notably, the Civil War broke out because the Southern states refused to accept Abraham Lincoln (R-Illinois) as a legitimate president in 1861. Additionally, a lack of legitimacy has led to military coups, guerrilla, warfare, and civil unrest in many countries.
For instance Venezuela, where two men; Nicolás Maduro and Juan Guaidó, claim to be president. The current chaos in Venezuela includes rioting, civil unrest, military coup attempts, and torture of Maduro’s political opponents.
I think we could think see the 2016 pattern play out in 2020 with different results. Republicans could repeat the Democrats’ 2016 blunder of relying on star power to counter their party’s unpopularity with voters. Meanwhile, Democrats could follow the Republicans’ 2016 strategy of running with an unlikely candidate picked by primary voters.
Interestingly, the numbers from 2016 favor US Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont). The Cooperative Congressional Election Study estimates 12% of Sanders’ primary voters supported Trump in November 2016. To clarify, those voters hated Hillary Clinton more than the Donald.
Since Clinton will not be on the ballot in 2020 those voters will be in play. However, we could see a repeat of such leftist crossover voting if Democrats run a brain-dead centrist like former Vice President Joe Biden (D-Delaware).
Strangely, one electoral comparison many conservatives make is 1968, the year of my birth. I think that’s a poor analogy because there are few good comparisons between the years.
First, in 1968, the economy was good and working for most Americans. Currently, the economy is failing many Americans; such as the 39% of the population the US Federal Reserve estimates lack $400 in extra cash.
Thus, the economy will be a major issue next year, it was not in 1968. Consequently many people are looking for candidates promising lots of government benefits such as Sanders. In contrast, in 1968 middle class voters were angry about increasing welfare.
Second, in 1968, the United States was caught in a bloody, controversial, and unpopular war in Vietnam. Moreover, America was fighting that war with a large drafted army.
Today, America is not at war, and even if we go to war with Iran. That war will be fought by machines; and a small professional military that makes up 0.7% of the national population, Global Firepower estimates. Under those conditions, the war will not affect most voters or the election.
Third, the 1968 election was disrupted by a popular and aggressive third-party candidate; Governor George C. Wallace (D-Alabama). In fact, Wallace’s American Independent Party won 46 electoral votes, 270 to Win calculates.
However, the numbers show Wallace did not help Democrat Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey (D-Minnesota) beat Republican Richard M. Nixon (R-California). To explain, Nixon won by 301 Electoral College votes in 1968. When Humphrey’s 191 Electoral Votes are added to Wallace’s 46, the result is 237.
Thus 1968 shows the belief a Third Party could skew the election is wrong. In reality, Wallace; the last Third Party candidate to carry states, did not win enough votes to influence the election’s outcome.
Republicans like Rod Dreher and Pat Buchanan who look to 1968 should be careful what they wish for. In 1968, Nixon’s victory did not help Republicans in Congress. For instance, Democrats won a clear majority 243 to 192 of the seats in the 91st House of Representatives in 1968. In addition Democrats had a clear majority; 58 to 42, in the 91st US Senate.
Thus, if 2020 as 1968 comes true could see President Donald J. Trump (R-New York) with Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress. Currently, the pundits and number crunchers think that is unlikely, but these are the same people who assured us Trump could not be President. That sounds like a prescription for gridlock and impeachment attempts to me.
Republicans could hate a 1968 outcome, because Trump could sell them out to get legislation passed. Remember, if he wins in 2020 Trump will not have to worry about reelection. So the Donald will no longer care what Republican primary voters think.
We need to look to 1876; America’s Centennial Year, because it is one of four presidential elections in which the winner of the popular vote lost the Electoral College. The others were 1888, 2000, and 2016.
Significantly 1876 was one of two presidential elections with a contested outcome. We must examine 1876 because America’s leaders resolved the dispute with an interesting but disgusting political deal.
In 1876, Democrat Samuel J. Tilden (New York) won a majority of the popular vote: 4.3 million. However, Republican Rutherford B. Hayes (Ohio) won the Electoral College by one vote, 185 to 184, 270 to Win calculates. Democrats disputed the election because Hayes received 4.036 million votes, or 260,000 less than Tilden, The Encyclopedia Britannica estimates.
Things got messy when activists challenged the electoral results in four states; Oregon, Louisiana, Florida, and South Carolina. Consequently, there was no clear electoral majority.
This analogy is important because in 1876, Republicans accused Democrats of suppressing African-American votes in Florida, South Carolina, and Louisiana, Digital History reports. Today, Democrats, media like The Washington Post, and liberal groups like The Brennan Center for Justice are alleging widespread Republican purges of blacks and other like Democratic supporters from the voting rolls.
Meanwhile, Republicans are accusing Democrats of voter fraud. Moreover, vote fraud allegations clouded the outcome of at least House of Representatives race in North Carolina in 2019. Consequently, a Republican political operative is facing ballot fraud charges, NPR reports.
Given these circumstances, an 1876 style dispute is possible in 2020. Disturbingly, party leaders settled that dispute with the loathsome Compromise of 1877 in a backroom meeting at Wormley’s Hotel in Washington DC.
In detail, Republicans agreed to withdraw federal troops from the South paving the way for a purge of blacks from the voter rolls and political office. This led to the ugly system of institutional racism popularly called Jim Crow and lynching. To explain, without the Army, African-Americans had no protection from white thugs. In exchange, Democrats accepted Hayes as President.
Fortunately, present realities make Jim Crow II unlikely. To clarify, the Democrats cannot win without African American votes; so they are unlikely to sell blacks out. In contrast, Republicans could win without blacks in 1876, so they sold them out.
On the other hand, Trump could sell conservatives out. The President is a former Democrat, who used to voice many liberal political positions. For instance, Trump praised Britain’s single payer healthcare system on The Dave Letterman Show on 8 January 2015.
Given his history, President Trump could agree to sign Medicare for All, a $15 minimum wage, an assault weapons ban, or Basic Income legislation in exchange for Democratic acceptance of his second term for instance.
Something else to remember, is the 22nd Amendment bars Trump from seeking a third term. Consequently, the Donald will be thinking of his historical legacy, rather than the 2024 primary. Thus, Trump will have no reason to please Republican primary voters.
Remember the President is Donald J. Trump, proud author of The Art of the Deal. My suspicion is the Donald will deal because he likes being President and wants some positive praise in future history books.
The other contested Presidential election was 2000. Vice President Albert Gore Jr (D-Tennessee) won the popular vote, but George W. Bush (R-Texas) won the Electoral College by a 271 to 266.
Many people still contest the 2000 election because of a confusing 36-day recount that settled nothing. To explain, media outlets called the election for Gore after initial counts gave the Vice President a clear popular victory in Florida.
In detail, Bush received 50,456,02 popular votes to Gore’s 50,996,582. However, a group of newspapers disputed 60,000 ballots in Florida, CNN reports. The dispute led to a confusing recount.
Controversially, the US Supreme Court ended the recount on 13 December 2000 by overturning a Florida Supreme Ruling. Many Democrats still think the Supremes handed the election to Bush because the five Republican Justices voted to suspend the recount. Yet, four Democrats voted to sustain it in Bush V. Gore.
Notably, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor reportedly now regrets her ruling against the recount. To elaborate, author Evan Thomas claims O’Connor regrets Bush v. Gore in his biography: First: Sandra Day O’Connor.
Conversely, an analysis of the recount results by the BDO Seidman accounting firm indicates Bush probably won the popular vote, CNN claims. Thus, the entire 2000 recount controversy was possibly meaningless.
Challenges to the 2020 results could lead to recounts and court cases. However, there is no guarantee the U.S. Supreme Court will intervene. Chief Justice John Roberts hates controversy and likes to keep the court of politics. Tellingly, on 27 June 2019, the Supremes ruled five to four to stay out of an election issue; gerrymandering, The New York Times reports.
Hence, there is a strong possibility Roberts will tell the politicians to settle the mess themselves – as they did in 1876. Moreover, I think the Roberts Court could use the recent gerrymandering cases; Thursday, Rucho v. Common Cause, No. 18-422, and Lamone v. Benisek, No. 18-726, as precedents for staying out of the 2020 election.
To explain, in those cases the Supremes ruled elections are a political affair that courts should stay out of. Thus I think a repeat of 2000 is unlikely in 2020, because the current Supreme Court views elections as a political issue judges should far away from.
Finally, the anti-climatic presidential election of 1888 sets a rather interesting precedent for 2020. To explain, in 1888, a popular President Grover Cleveland (D-New York) won the popular vote but lost the Electoral College.
In detail, Cleveland won the popular vote by a margin of 5.4 million to 5.439 million or 48.7% to 47.8%, History Central estimates. However, Benjamin Harrison (R-Indiana) won the Electoral College by 233 votes to 168, 270 to Win calculates.
Yet there was no controversy in 1888 because Cleveland graciously accepted the election results. Interestingly, Cleveland made an unprecedented comeback in 1892.
In fact, the 1892 Presidential Election was a rematch of the 1888 contest. Cleveland challenged Harrison again and won handily.
To explain, Cleveland won the popular vote by 5.57 million to 5.176 million, and the Electoral College by 277 to 145, 270 to Win estimates. Thus, Cleveland is the only former president to make a successful comeback after losing reelection in U.S. history.
Given this pattern, the loser of the 2020 contest could return and win in 2024. However, I think the age of some of today’s candidates make such a second act unlikely.
To explain, President Trump is 73, US Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) is 77 years old, and former Vice President Joe Biden (D-Delaware) is 76 years old. Therefore, the death or withdrawal because of health, by a candidate is a likely outcome that could change the entire race in 2020.
The historical precedents for 2020 are as confusing as the presidential electoral process itself. Thus, history shows your guess about the outcome of the 2020 election is as good as mine.
Unfortunately, history shows the results of the 2020 presidential election are likely to be a confused mess. Thus, Americans need to get ready for political chaos and bitter feelings that could last for years in 2020.