This is the Biggest Election in 160 YearsRoundup
tags: Civil War, 2020 Election, 1860
Manisha Sinha is the Draper Chair in American History at the University of Connecticut and the author of The Slave's Cause: A History of Abolition.
The 2020 presidential election is one of the most crucial in American history.
The so-called Revolution of 1800 put Jeffersonian Republicans in charge and drove the Federalist Party to extinction.
In the presidential election of 1824, supporters of Andrew Jackson, who won the popular vote, claimed that John Quincy Adams became President through what many of them called a "corrupt bargain" with Henry Clay, when Clay got his electors to support Adams.
The contested elections of 1876 marked the formal end of Reconstruction in the former Confederacy because of yet another shady deal that put a Republican in the White House but gave southern Whites free rein to install a brutal regime of racial subordination and terror.
None of these elections however bear the same weight as the presidential election of 1860, which decided the fate of the American republic. And in 2020, the stakes seem almost as high.
Historical analogies rarely work in simple parallel ways. 2020 is not 1860 even though we may find some resonance of our current condition in the past. There is no active secession movement ready to take states out of the Union in case Joe Biden is elected to the presidency. While some may threaten or incite violence, we can ill imagine a long drawn out Civil War over the results of the presidential elections. The real fear among many Americans today is the possibility of widespread electoral fraud and interference, something that never entered the political equation in 1860.
The one underlying commonality that binds these two historic presidential elections is the conviction that it is American democracy -- rather than just opposing presidential candidates -- that is on the ballot. The election of 1860 that elevated Abraham Lincoln to the presidency was no ordinary election. For the first time, a President was elected on an antislavery platform, though not one that called for complete abolition. It also marked the last time in American history that a new political party, founded in 1854, was successful in winning the presidency.
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