Why the 2020 Election aftermath is not as heated as the bitter 1876 race

President Donald Trump has filed 26 lawsuits challenging the 2020 election results based upon dubious allegations of fraud and as of yesterday, he has lost 25 cases and only won one, with the one victory having no impact on what the majority of Americans, the media (including Republican friendly Fox News), and leaders worldwide have concluded–which is that Joseph Biden is the President-Elect of the United States of America.

While Mr. Trump’s challenge in courts of law and public opinion have left some Americans worried that he will not cede power once the Electoral College certifies the results on December 14th, the simple truth is that much of Trump’s rhetorical defiance and the tacit support from Republican Congressional allies will come to a halt once all legal avenues are exhausted during this same period.

Such was not the case, however, in the late fall of 1876 when the disputed presidential race between Republican Rutherford B. Hayes and Demcorat Samuel Tilden threatened to destabilize a Republic only 11 years removed from the bloody Civil War.

That November, Tilden, the former Governor of New York, won the popular vote over Hayes, the former Governor of Ohio, by a margin of 4,288,546 to 4,034,311. During this era, there were only 369 Electoral College voters and the winner needed 185 votes to clinch the presidency.

Prior to the 1876 Election, Federal troops had been withdawn from each of the former Confederate States save three: Florida, South Carolina, and Louisiana. With most of the former Confederate military and government leaders having sworn loyalty oaths to the United States in order to have their states readmitted, these same men began a slow but systematic march towards wresting control away from a Republican Party that was numerically in the advantage due to millions of formerly enslaved Black men having been sworn in as citizens per the 14th Amendment to the Constitution that was passed in 1868, and due to their being granted the right to vote per the 15th Amendment that was passed in 1870.

In addition to those political rights, the Reconstruction era for Blacks included gaining some confiscated lands from Confederate loyalists, the establishment of the “Freedmen’s Bank” and a number of business enterprises, and the founding of a number of schools that would comprise still prominent Historically Black Colleges and Universities like Howard University (named for Freedmen’s Bureau leader, General Otis Howard), Morehouse College, Hampton University, and Clark College (now Clark Atlanta University).

But it was the ceding of political power to Northern “Carpetbagger” Republicans and Black men that did not sit well at all with the former Confederate hierarchy. Black men had been elected to Congress across the South and two, Hiram Revels and Blanche K. Bruce, served in the United States Senate from Mississippi. P.B.S. Pinchback, a Black man, briefly served as Louisiana’s 24th governor. Most southern state legislatures were filled with Black representatives since most of the white men at the time, loyal Democrats before the war and rebellious Confederates during the war, were still badly outnumbered at the ballot box.

The change began in 1876 and in the days following the election, allegations of ballot box stuffing were levied in Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina, thus leaving those states Electoral College votes in doubt. It is important to note that since Federal troops were still in those three states and Republican governments were still in control, the doubt in the outcome provided Southern Democrats and their northern and western allies an opportunity to wrest control away from the Republican Party in the long-term–even if it meant a presidential loss for Democratic nominee Tilden.

And so it was that a “Compromise” was struck while a bipartisan congressional commission debated whether 30 Electoral College votes would go to Rutherford Hayes or Samuel Tilden, the latter whose 184 EC votes left him but one vote shy of clinching. Surreptitiously, Mr. Hayes’s supporters met with moderate Southern Democrats and promised that if they backed Hayes in the Electoral College– despite his having lost the popular vote– that a President Hayes would then end remaining Federal oversight in the South, thus paving the way for the Democratic Party to take total control over southern politics just as it had prior to the Civil War.

Per their agreement, Rutherford B. Hayes was inaugurated as the 19th President of the United States. True to his word, by year’s end, all remaining Federal troops were removed from the South. By decades end, the Democratic Party was firmly in control throughout the South and over the next 10 years, the Southern states would implement “Jim Crow” laws that led to rigid segregation and discrimination against Blacks that would remain in effect until the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964–and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Acts, I remind, that were signed into law by a Southern Democratic President, Lyndon B. Johnson, who remarked that by so doing, he knew that he had delivered the South into the Republican Party’s hands–a mass exodus tinged with irony that the “Party of Lincoln,” one that had advocated for so many gains for newly freed Blacks during Reconstruction, was taken over by Southern Democrats and Dixiecrats opposed to Black civil rights.