One Crazy Election
The election of 1860 was as tense and encompassed almost as many different and disparaging views as 2016. There were four candidates to choose from that year that represented four different political parties. (Look, I know that picture is not the best not all will be grand! Just roll with it.) Here were the contenders.
The Constitution Party
John Bell from the Constitutional Union party was from Tennessee. He managed to carry 3 states (Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia) with 39 electoral votes. The party was made of former Whigs, former Know Nothings and some Southern Democrats. It was named for their single party platform, “to recognize no political principle other than the Constitution of the country, the Union of the states, and the Enforcement of the Laws”. Since the 1860 election revolved around the issue of slavery (it did whether you agree or not) they decided to take no stand on the issue. They hoped to avoid Southern secession by kicking the proverbial can down the road.
Democratic Party (North &South)
At the 1860 Democratic National Convention held in Charleston that year, the proceedings became fractious over the question on the extension of slavery into the new territories. Many delegates walked out splitting the party in two. A second convention was held later that year in Baltimore Maryland.
The Northern Democratic candidate was Stephen Douglas from Illinois. He managed to win 1 state and 12 electoral votes. Missouri if you must know. This defeat pretty much ended a long political career. Douglas and his branch favored Popular Sovereignty. This would allow the new territories to decide for themselves if they would join the Union as free or slave states.
The Southern Democrats, who favored not only expanding slavery in the territories but also reopening the international slave trade were represented by John C. Breckenridge of Kentucky. He managed to win 11 states (guess which ones) and 72 electoral votes.
The Republican Party
The big winner was the brand spanking new Republican Party that ran on a platform that was firmly anti-slavery. Their candidate was Abraham Lincoln of Illinois who managed to win 18 states (all northern) and 180 electoral votes. His election was seen by the southern states as a sign that the days of slavery were to be numbered. Pushing them to take action. We know how that turned out.
It is interesting when you look at the stats from that election that even if you add the votes of all three opponents together, Lincoln still won handily:
Electoral vote: Lincoln 180 All Others Combined 123
States Won: Lincoln 18 All Others Combined 15
Though he would have lost the popular vote:
Popular vote: Lincoln 1,865,908 All Others Combined 2,819,122
When you watch the news tonight just be glad that we have winnowed it down to a two-party system. Elections should be much less crazy now, right? (I apologize to all the Libertarians, but seriously unless you get serious the best you can be is a spoiler.)