The 2020 election cycle is not yet as wild as the 1876 election that made Rutherford B. Hayes president.
- The 2020 election cycle is wild, but the 1876 elections were even more contentious.
- In 1876, Rutherford B. Hayes became President despite losing the popular vote.
- That election included allegations of widespread fraud, violence, and was decided by a special Congressional committee.
If you think the 2020 election has been a nerve-wrecking mess that threatens the very foundations of our country, it isn't yet nearly as bad as U.S. politics can get. The most contentious election in American history likely happened about 144 years earlier, in 1876. That year saw the Republican Rutherford B. Hayes become elected President despite losing the popular vote to the Democrat Samuel J. Tilden in an election that had the highest voter turnout in U.S. history at 81.8 percent.
After the first round of vote-counting, Tilden, who was the governor of New York, led Hayes, the Governor of Ohio, by 184 electoral votes to 165. But results from three states were still being disputed with both sides claiming victory – Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina. Oregon's count was also in question on account of a Republican elector being disqualified for holding a government office, with a Democrat elector certified instead.
Remember, both the Republican and Democratic parties of that time were very different. Under the leadership of President Abraham Lincoln, the Republican party banned slavery in the U.S., flirted with progressive economic ideas, and even supported women's suffrage. The Democrats were at the time the party of the defeated South. It's important to note that in the 20th century, the parties switched their bases of support and key positions almost diametrically.
Back in 1876, both parties rushed their representatives to the states where the election was still undecided, trying to affect the counting of the votes. Republicans on the canvassing boards of the states in limbo argued that a tremendous amount of fraud and intimidation took place in specific districts – a cause for invalidating those votes. Indeed, Democratic operatives were known to rely on paramilitary groups like the Red Shirts and the White League to suppress Black and white Republican voters. The groups disrupted their meetings and rallies and was not above using violence.
Samuel J. Tilden | Rutherford B. Hayes. Taken between 1865 and 1880.
Credit: Library of Congress
Once they returned, the Republican-run state canvassing boards managed to disqualify enough votes for Hayes to win in each of the states, getting all of their delegates. This provoked outrage from the Democrats, who certified their own electors. When the electors in the four contested states voted on December 6, 1876, two sets of opposing electors met and cast their ballots, setting up an explosive scenario that had to be resolved by the U.S. Congress.
The situation in the country was tense. Some tried to obstruct Hayes's inauguration, a shot was fired in the direction of his residence, while military force had to be brought in by President Grant around Washington. As America was possibly headed for another Civil War, cooler heads on both sides started to prevail.
To resolve the crisis, a special fifteen-member electoral commission was established that included congressmen and Supreme Court justices. This commission announced their decision just two days before the inauguration. They voted 8-7, strictly along party lines, to give the electoral votes under contest to Hayes.
Unhappy with the outcome, Democrats, who had the majority in the House of Representatives, threatened vote-counting delays, postponements, and filibusters. With Hayes and the Republicans having little sway in the South, they informally agreed to what's been dubbed the Compromise of 1877. Hayes got the 20 electoral votes in question and became President, winning just by one electoral vote. It return, Tilden accepted the results and the Democrats got remaining federal troops withdrawn from the last two occupied Southern states – South Carolina and Louisiana. This effectively ended the period of Reconstruction following the Civil War.
The Republicans also agreed to provide federal subsidies for a transcontinental railroad that would go through the South. While Democrats pledged to support and protect the civil and voting rights of African Americans, after the troops left, they largely abandoned any such pretenses, disenfranchising Black voters and establishing a segregated society with white supremacy at its core.
Chief Justice Morrison R. Waite administering the oath of office to Rutherford B. Hayes, 1877.
Credit: Library of Congress
Hayes was peacefully inaugurated in 1877 and had a modest run as the leader of the country, instituting some civil service and civil rights reforms. After the one-term Presidency, Hayes did not run for re-election and promoted social and educational issues. It is regarded that his main achievement was perhaps restoring faith in the presidency, after the executive power waned in the wake of Abraham Lincoln's assassination.
If you want to know more, check out this great lecture by Professor Michael F. Holt from University of Virginia, who wrote "By One Vote: The Disputed Presidential Election of 1876" on this topic:
Both social media companies plan to implement special protocols on Tuesday as election results begin rolling in.
- Twitter says it will remove or add a warning to tweets that declare election wins before official results are declared, as determined by national media outlets.
- When Twitter users try to retweet, the company will show them a prompt encouraging them to "quote tweet" (and thereby add their own commentary) instead, a move designed to slow the spread of misinformation.
- Facebook plans to display election results, as determined by national media outlets, on posts from candidates who contest the results or declare early wins.
As the results of the U.S. presidential election start rolling in Tuesday evening, Facebook and Twitter plan to remove or modify posts they deem misleading.
Twitter first announced the plans in October, but elaborated on them Monday in a blog post.
The company says it will remove or add a warning to tweets that declare election wins before they're "authoritatively called" by a state election official, or by at least two of the following national media outlets: ABC News, The Associated Press, CBS News, CNN, Decision Desk HQ, Fox News, and NBC News.
"We do not allow anyone to use Twitter to manipulate or interfere in elections or other civic processes, and recently expanded our civic integrity policy to address how we'll handle misleading information surrounding these events. Under this policy, we will label Tweets that falsely claim a win for any candidate and will remove Tweets that encourage violence or call for people to interfere with election results or the smooth operation of polling places."
Twitter also plans to remove or modify tweets "meant to incite interference with the election process or with the implementation of election results, such as through violent action, will be subject to removal."
A few weeks ago, we announced how we will handle Tweets about US election results. We want to remind you what to e… https://t.co/zGNbLXIu2x— Twitter Support (@Twitter Support)1604326131.0
Expect to see Twitter attach warnings — which users must tap through — on "misleading" tweets from candidates, campaign accounts, and accounts with more than 100,000 followers.
Twitter is also trying to make it harder for the average user to retweet misleading tweets by prompting them to "quote tweet" when they click the retweet button. The goal is to add a layer of "friction" that slows the spread of posts deemed misleading.
When people attempt to Retweet a Tweet with a misleading information label, they’ll see a prompt pointing them to c… https://t.co/gQUr2qGTof— Twitter Support (@Twitter Support)1604326139.0
"We hope it will encourage everyone to not only consider why they are amplifying a Tweet, but also increase the likelihood that people add their own thoughts, reactions and perspectives to the conversation."
Another change: Twitter will prevent "liked by" and "followed by" recommendations from appearing in users' timelines. The company notes that, while this feature can help people access viewpoints outside their network, it doesn't "believe the 'Like' button provides sufficient, thoughtful consideration prior to amplifying Tweets to people who don't follow the author of the Tweet, or the relevant topic that the Tweet is about."
If we see content inciting interference with the election, encouraging violent action or other physical harms, we m… https://t.co/FdAz7uUvWX— Twitter Support (@Twitter Support)1604326141.0
"This will likely slow down how quickly Tweets from accounts and topics you don't follow can reach you, which we believe is a worthwhile sacrifice to encourage more thoughtful and explicit amplification."
Twitter's policy changes are the latest in a series that aim to minimize the influence of misinformation on U.S. elections. Of course, Twitter's policies are also likely designed to shield the company from accusations that it's eroding the quality of American political discourse.
Timeline of Twitter policy changes
Twitter listed some of its recent policy changes, the most impactful of which was its decision to ban political ads in late 2019:
- 1/2019 - Issued a comprehensive review of our efforts to protect the 2018 U.S. midterms
- 6/2019 - Launched public interest notice and defined our approach on public interest
- 10/2019 - Banned all political ads on Twitter, including ads from state-controlled media
- 12/2019 - Added Election Labels to candidates' accounts
- 2/2020 - Introduced our rules on and labels for synthetic and manipulated media
- 3/2020 - Held planning exercises to prepare for a variety of Election Day scenarios
- 5/2020 - Added labels and warnings to potentially harmful misleading information
- 8/2020 - Deployed labels on government and state-affiliated media accounts
- 9/2020 - Implemented account security requirements for high-profile political accounts
- 9/2020 - Built a U.S. Election hub containing credible news and voting resources
- 9/2020 - Encouraged voter registration and emphasizing safe voting options
- 9/2020 - Expanded our civic integrity policy to include specifics around pre and post election day
Similar to Twitter, Facebook wrote in a blog post that it will label potentially misleading posts with election results, as determined by national media outlets.
"If a candidate or party declares premature victory before a race is called by major media outlets, we will add more specific information in the notifications that counting is still in progress and no winner has been determined."
"If the candidate that is declared the winner by major media outlets is contested by another candidate or party, we will show the name of the declared winning candidate with notifications at the top of Facebook and Instagram, as well as label posts from presidential candidates, with the declared winner's name and a link to the Voting Information Center."
Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, plans to temporarily hide hashtags on all "recent" posts, the company wrote on its website:
"Recent posts from all hashtags may be temporarily hidden to help prevent the spread of possible false information and harmful content related to the 2020 US election. Instagram is committed to reducing the spread of false information and giving people accurate information about voting."
After the election, Facebook and Instagram plan to stop circulating all political ads in an effort to block misinformation about the outcome. The company said this ban should last a week.
Partisan division has reached its peak, shows an alarming new study that identifies three crucial components.
- American political polarization has reached alarming heights, shows a new study.
- Democrats and Republicans hate the other side more than they love their own party.
- The polarization grows worse despite the fact that differences between the sides are not so dramatic.
To say that the current election is stressful and divisive is beyond an understatement. The United States is strained at the seams, ready to explode no matter who wins the presidency. A new study shows just how bad it's become, with anger at the opposing party now outstripping the love a supporter might have for their own party. To put it in other words: People hate those on the opposite side of the political spectrum more than they care for their own.
Is this a recipe for disaster? The study describes the current political attitudes in the country as "political sectarianism," linking it to religious fervor. The research also shows that, for many, political identity has become their primary identity.
The study's lead author Eli Finkel, professor of social psychology at Northwestern University, described the dangers of the situation:
"The current state of political sectarianism produces prejudice, discrimination and cognitive distortion, undermining the ability of government to serve its core functions of representing the people and solving the nation's problems," said Finkel. "Along the way, it makes people increasingly willing to support candidates who undermine democracy and to favor violence in support of their political goals."
Finkel's conclusions are based on a survey of dozens of published researched studies, going back to the 1970s. The research drew on the expertise of co-authors from six disciplines: political science, psychology, economics, sociology, management as well as computational social science.
The authors identified three specific behavioral reasons that have led to political sectarianism:
1. "Othering" – seeing the other side as different.
2. "Aversion" – seeing the other side as unlikable.
3. "Moralization" – seeing the other side as immoral.
The scientists found that while people have kept their positive and warm feelings towards their own partisans, the predominant sentiment towards the other party has turned to outright hatred.
The study's co-author James Druckman, political science professor at Northwestern, thinks that not only have things become much worse in the past decade, "there is no sign we've hit bottom."
"As much as the parties differ from one another, partisans perceive even greater differences, believing, for example, that the other party is ideologically extreme, engaged and hostile," explained Druckman. "Correcting these types of misperceptions could partially vitiate sectarianism."
If you've been following the state of the electioneering in the U.S., such a conclusion is no surprise. It has become commonplace for partisans to pour vitriol on those they disagree with, slinging unfounded accusations and personal slurs, unfriending them on social media, yelling at them in the streets. Is widespread violence not far behind?
A President Donald Trump and a former Vice President Joe Biden supporter talk before the Joe Biden Campaign Rally at the National World War I Museum and Memorial on March 7, 2020 in Kansas City, Missouri.
Credit: Kyle Rivas/Getty Images
The authors identified specific causes for the growing political sectarianism:
- "Identity alignment," which has separated political affiliation based on a "mega identity" that stems from racial, religious, educational and geographic differences.
- The rise of partisan media, with the viewers politically split based on whether they follow conservative outlets like Fox News, Breitbart or OAN News versus the liberal-minded CNN or MSNBC.
- "Elite ideological polarization" where both parties cater to the fringe elements who are more ideologically extreme than the center; politicians on both sides have been moving either farther right or farther left.
How do we stop the bitterness and anger from spreading, further endangering our democracy and the very survival of the United States? Perhaps not surprisingly, the researchers encourage dialogue with the other side, along with working to correct misconceptions people have of those on the opposite side of the political spectrum.
"If the differences between Democrats and Republicans really were as extreme as Americans believe, that could help to explain the contempt," Finkel noted. "But these differences exist more in people's heads than in reality. There's a whole lot of common ground, but Americans struggle to see it."
The researchers also suggest other measures like adjusting social media algorithms to prevent the spread of false or hyperpartisan information, incentivizing politicians to reach out to a wider group of Americans, instituting campaign finance reforms, and preventing partisan gerrymandering.
If you're wondering how the U.S. compares to other countries, research from Brown University released in January 2020 found that the polarization in the U.S. has increased much more from the late 1970s than in the eight other countries the scientists studied—the U.K., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Switzerland, Norway and Sweden.
Check out the new study "Political sectarianism in America" published in the journal Science.
States set their own voting laws, so where does this make voting easiest?
- A new report out of Northern Illinois University lists how easy it is to vote in each state.
- The report can be compared to previous indexes, showing where it is getting easier and more difficult to vote.
- The authors also note that dramatically improving the ease of voting is simple and cost effective.
Deciding how to vote has taken on another meaning this year, with an unprecedented number of Americans voting by mail in hopes of avoiding the pandemic. Given the highly variable nature of voting regulations in the United States, some areas are seeing improvements in the ease of voting while others are finding out there is only one drop box for absentee ballots per county.
As part of their regular efforts to rank voting procedures, a team of researchers has listed all 50 states in order of how simple or difficult they make voting and highlighted the extreme fluctuations that some states have made over the past four years.
How the Laboratories of Democracy do with the whole “democracy” thing.
Political scientists Scot Schraufnagel of Northern Illinois University, Michael J. Pomante II of Jacksonville University, and Quan Li of Wuhan University in China compare the ease or difficulty of voting in each state with their "Cost of Voting Index."
As in previous years, the research team created an index allowing them to rank each state's laws and regulations concerning aspects of voting.
This included considerations of when voters had to register by, if felons could vote or register, if registration drives were allowed, if automatic registration policies existed, if voting was a state holiday, how many voting stations were in each state, how complex it is to request a mail-in ballot, how long polling stations are open, how many documents are needed to register and vote, and other such concerns.
Taken together, these questions consider all facets of being able to vote, from how difficult it is to register to the trouble of actually getting your ballot, either by mail or in person. Each issue was broken down into various considerations and scored. Those considerations that made voting more difficult (for example, a rule not allowing felons to register to vote while in jail) earned more points than those that made voting more accessible.
For determining how polling hours and the number of days polls were open impacted voters, the average number of poll hours and the number of early voting days were reverse coded, meaning that more time to vote contributed to a lower score.
After scoring the states, the researchers organized them in a convenient list with the states where voting is most straightforward on top.
Where democracy is easiest to do
A map showing where voting is easy (low numbers) and where it is more difficult (high numbers).
Northern Illinois University
As you can see from the above map, Oregon retained its top spot on the strength of its automatic voter registration policies, extensive vote by mail program, and myriad opportunities to vote early. Washington and Utah, with their similar vote by mail programs, round out the top three.
Despite lacking the same vote by mail programs as the previously mentioned states, Illinois made it to fourth place on the strength of its absentee voting policies.
The other end of the scale features Texas, Georgia, Missouri, and Mississippi. Texas earned its low score partly because of its declining number of places to vote and registration cut off 30 days before the election.
Where are the ratings going up? Where are they going down?
By comparing these results with those of 2016, it is no issue to see where voting is getting easier and where it is getting more difficult. Perhaps more importantly, it allows us to see what policies can cause which outcomes.
Those interested in making it easier to vote in their state can look to the reforms passed in Virginia and Michigan for inspiration. This year, Virginia's state government passed a slew of reforms making voting more accessible, including an automatic voter registration law and the designation of election day as a holiday. This allowed the state to move up 37 spots to its current position of 12.
Michigan passed similar reforms by referendum in 2018, allowing it to move up 32 spots to 13.
They can also take heart at the authors' references to studies showing that some of these reforms, such as online voter registration, actually reduce the administrative costs of running elections, making them very attractive for those interested in governmental efficiency. Additionally, lead author Scot Schraufnagel suggests that making it simpler to vote can increase turnout.
On the other hand, if you want to make it more difficult to vote, the index shows you how to achieve that too.
West Virginia, Missouri, and Iowa all fell 19 spots over the last four years. Co-author Michael J. Pomante explains that these declines are caused in part by the lack of "a willingness to modernize their policies to ease the difficultly of voting and stay current with election law trends we see in many other states."
It is worth noting that this report was published on October 13 and was based on information collected before that time. Some of the ratings might be slightly outdated in light of shifting rules on where and when ballots can be returned in some states. However, the report does include a separate section for changes made in response to the pandemic.
Curiously, while many states in the middle of the pack moved around dramatically in the rankings due to their responses, the top and bottom four appear to have remained the same.
How straightforward voting is in the United States is highly variable based on where you live. While some states strive to make it as easy as possible, others retain laws making participation in our democracy burdensome and time-consuming. This index provides a way to understand how our democracy evolves over time and what makes it more accessible to more people.
What will be done with that information is up to the people.
Younger Americans support expanding the Supreme Court and serious political reforms, says new poll.
- Americans under 40 largely favor major political reforms, finds a new survey.
- The poll revealed that most would want to expand the Supreme Court, impose terms limits, and make it easier to vote.
- Millennials are more liberal and reform-centered than Generation Z.
A new nonpartisan poll of Americans under 40 finds they want serious reforms in the American political system. The survey, conducted by the University of Massachusetts Lowell, showed great support for expanding the Supreme Court, terms limits, and abolishing the electoral college.
In particular, the researchers looked at opinions from 1,503 people between 18 and 39 years old, representing millennials – those born from early 1980s to mid-1990s, and the succeeding Generation Z – those born in the mid-to-late 1990s until early 2010s. Overall, most everyone agreed that the political system is quite broken, with only 24 percent having trust in the government. Interestingly, millennials appear more liberal-minded and want reforms more than the younger cohort.
The majority of the polled (52 percent) were in favor of upping the number of Supreme Court justices from nine to 13, with 66 percent of the millennials and 62 percent of the Gen Z'ers supporting. Seventy-two percent of all surveyed wanted to do away with lifetime appointments of the justices and impose term limits. Seventy-nine percent of the millennials and 62 percent of Gen Z approved this measure. Eighty-four percent of all surveyed wanted Congressional term limits.
Political science professor John Cluverius, associate director of the UMass Lowell Center for Public Opinion, which carried out the poll, sees a correlation between the views of the younger Americans and the politics in the run-up to the 2020 elections:
"It's no coincidence that as Joe Biden's lead has grown in the polls, the more comfortable Americans are with expanding the size of the Supreme Court," said Cluverius in a press release. "As the chance of Trump holding a second term and appointing more justices dwindles, the opposition to court-packing dwindles as well. Saying Americans are opposed to expanding the court used to be conventional wisdom; now it's a commonly held misconception."
Americans under 40 also want to eliminate the Electoral College and rather pick Presidents by popular vote, with 58 percent overall in favor to the idea. That includes 64 percent of millennials and 54 percent of Gen Z people polled. Sixty-nine percent of all adults also like the idea of "no excuse" absentee balloting for any voter. Additionally, 71 percent of millennials would rather see more than two political parties being competitive in the U.S., compared to 61 percent of all and 59 percent of Gen Z participants.
On the issues of social justice and the Black Lives Matter movement, the poll found 8 percent fewer overall saying that Black people are treated less fairly than whites, in contrast to a similar poll from August. Forty-three percent of the respondents had such opinions, with Gen Z'ers leading in this belief at 54 percent.
Joshua Dyck, director of the Center for Public Opinion and associate professor of political science, commented that the ideological divide didn't break down in an expected way:
"What I find most interesting is that it is not always the youngest Americans who espouse the most liberal viewpoints," he shared." Here we see millennials, the oldest of whom are about to turn 40, as the driving force behind the vision for a more progressive future."
The poll also revealed that the vast majority of Gen Z (84 percent) and millennial (85 percent) responders are very likely to believe that human activity contributes to climate change. They also think the U.S. government has not done enough to combat it, with 64 percent of Gen Z'ers and 65 percent of millennials holding such views.
Americans under 40 are also largely in favor of canceling all student loan debt, with 66 percent of Generation Z and 66 percent of millennials supporting. In a telling comparison, the older generations are less on board, with Gen X'ers (those born from mid-60s to early 1980s) split, with 51 percent favoring the idea. Only 38 percent of the Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) and 31 percent of the Silent Generation (born 1928 to 1945) back the notion.
Check out the detailed results of the poll.