Last night, as the wind blew out of the west and showers threatened I heard some loud booms, then smaller ones off to the southwest. Had the civil unrest started? Were the local religious fanatics attacking city hall with bombs and bullets, formalizing their protest on the mask mandate? Had the local militia finally gotten organized enough to mount an attack on the old Federal Building (now owned by the local hospital)? Nope, it was just a “homecoming” celebration at the University, fireworks and all.
You might sense that I feel conflict amongst our citizens. You might feel it too. There is pressure mounting as the presidential election approaches.
But a little perspective might be in order. The times, pandemic and all, ain’t so bad.
Just think how this young country got off the ground in 1800. The framers had thrown this thing called the electoral college into our Constitution but they hadn’t thought out the wrinkles. The scheme back then was that state electors would vote for 2 candidates; the one with the most votes became President, runner up got Vice President. The 1800 election resulted in an electoral college tie between Jefferson and Burr. The House of Representatives did their Constitutional duty and decided for Jefferson, though Burr never forgave Hamilton when he threw Federalist support to Jefferson in the House. Three years later, Burr shot Hamilton, and now we can all see the musical on the internets.
Congress then amended the Constitution and “ironed out” the electoral voting. It remains “ironed out”.
Only 24 years later (1824) the House got to decide another Presidential race when four candidates (all in the same party) split the ticket. It took a month of back room deals, but Adams prevailed. Jackson was so pissed he resigned his Senate seat and vowed to come back in 4 years. And he did. No one was shot.
But the 1860 election did lead to shots fired. Sumpter, Bull Run, Gettysburg, remember? Even our president got shot and killed. Those were high conflict times.
But the shenanigans of 1876 take the cake. They make our current Presidents claims of coming voter fraud, refusal to admit defeat should he in fact lose, and calls to militants to “watch out” at the polls sound like bluff. The 1876 election was a donnybrook between Republicans and Democrats, though the labels were almost as tribal then as now. Democrats dominated the South, and a few Northern states. The Democrat (Tilden) won the popular vote, but couldn’t muster enough electoral votes, because, for some reason, four states were slow counting and then Oregon disqualified an elector.
Then, back room deal of all time, a “Commission” struck a deal to give the Presidency to Hayes, the Republican for the guarantee of removal of all Federal Troops from the Southern states. It was the end of reconstruction.
Jim Crow came home to roost. It was another 90 years before civil rights would be brought to the South. When it was, the Democrats lost that electoral vote block.
I’ll skip Bush v Gore, Truman and Dewey, but the point is: I’m not sure anybody’s way of life is threatened today like it was when slaves were the wealth of the Southern plantation owners. Maybe todays rich see Bernie’s socialist tendencies as a threat. Maybe todays wealthy venture capitalists could rouse up the white crackers to take up arms to protect their wealth.
Maybe they would have the success the 1860 plantation owners did, who got southern poor men to fight and die defending their right to own slaves, their wealth. Maybe that’s why Democrats nominated Biden. Who knows.
But those first cannon shots fired at Fort Sumpter in Charleston harbor back in 1860 were touched off by cadets from a local college, The Citadel.
You might see why civil unrest came to my mind. But it was just homecoming, with no football game.