With Bated Breath! Americans Again Relive the Quadrennial Tensions

I assume you like I have always dreaded this time of year when Congress meets to decide who will become president of the United States. I never quite figured it out totally how the election meant nothing; the Electoral College meant nothing; and all that counted was  whether Congress approved of the election results. You know, it wasn’t the people electing the president but Congress.

I think the first time I was cognizant of it was when Ike, the time when as young teenagers we went around shouting “I like Ike” without really knowing what it meant. We did know Ike was a great general who led us through WWII to victory. It was only natural that we liked him. Who after all does not like a winning general. No one ever went around shouting they liked William Westmoreland who had a noted career in the military but did not do to well in the Vietnam War not understanding the politics behind it.

The thing I most remember about Ike’s 1956 election was the discussion that there was no chance Congress would not approve Ike. That was because Richard Nixon Ike’s vice-president was going to decide who won and especially since Ike had won every state except seven Southern states that had voted for Adlai Stevenson. It was almost a carbon copy of what happened four years earlier. I never understood how the Democrats thought Stevenson had a chance after having lost so badly the first time.

Then the next time the Senate met to decide who won the presidential election was in 1960 I suspect there is not a person who was alive and cognizant of the happenings in the Senate who would not have that date solidly imprinted in their minds like December 7 or September 11. The nation was on tenterhooks as vice-president Richard Nixon sat in the  presiding seat in the Senate as he opened the envelopes deciding if he won the presidential election. Kennedy had a decent lead but his opponent was the guy opening the envelopes.

You must remember how for weeks leading up to this moment the newspapers speculated that he might decide that the electors who voted for Kennedy had won because of “illegal votes” and he would award himself their votes and thus the victory. Remember his famous statement: “I did not become vice president to merely open envelopes.”  In retrospect I recall breathing a sigh of relief when Nixon did not do anything other than open the envelopes but you have to concede it was a tense time.

Then the 2000 presidential election. You know the one that George Bush won over Al Gore with 271 electoral votes to 266 for Gore. You must remember that. The U.S. Supreme Court had stopped the Florida vote counting. Bush was ahead by a little over 500 votes. The Senate had to certify the vote on January 3, 2001. Remember the huge clamor in the country over this. The networks had wall to wall coverage of whether the guy who was opening the envelopes and had a big beef with the way the count ended, Democrat Al Gore who was Bill Clinton’s vice-president, would award himself the victory. Obviously he could easily award the four New Hampshire votes to himself since about 7,000 votes separated him from Bush and some alleged the difference was caused by fraud, or was it voters from Montreal coming over the border, or dead folk voting.

Remember the debate in Congress over it. The Senate had 50 Democrats and 50 Republican senators. Gore himself would be the deciding vote. I expect none of us slept that night awaiting the outcome of that session. Even though it was 20 years ago it seems like yesterday.

Of course everything above is nonsense. Few knew there was such a meeting. In the past things were on the level and the Electoral College vote was accepted. Suddenly it no longer is. It’s a strange new world in America. It is not one that reflects a true democracy where the losing party wants to win by fraud and corruption. When did we descend to this??

3 thoughts on “With Bated Breath! Americans Again Relive the Quadrennial Tensions

  1. I would like to read Menken and listen to Mort Sahl, Lenny Bruce, and George Carlin today.

  2. When people in this country voted in a man who had never held public office before. Donald Trump is great salesman who was born on third base.In the same way Howie Carr writes, Donald Trump talks. I would have loved to read what the late great author George Higgins would have thought about Donald Trump. Looking forward to your book getting wide release. Regards to the new year.

    1. Norwood:

      Thanks – Higgins would be quite surprised at what was going on in America now – so would many of the other great newspaper column writers who had an idea what it meant to live in the America where even with all its faults it was still the best place in the world to live. I really am at a loss to understand the folks who want a dictatorship under Trump. Where would that lead us.

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