A Parallel in American History
In the 1800 United States presidential election, there was a tie in the electoral votes between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr. At the time, each member of the Electoral College cast two votes for president, the candidate with the most votes becoming president and the runner up vice president. Given that both Jefferson and Burr received 73 electoral votes each, the tied election then became the responsibility of the House of Representative to decide. However, after 35 ballots in that body to try to settle the election, the two candidates remained tied and the election undecided.
The tie in the Electoral College was largely the result of some failed political maneuverings on behalf of the Democratic-Republicans to attempt to elect Jefferson and so other political maneuverings were undertaken to break the tied vote in the house. Chief among those to undertake these political maneuverings to settle the tie was Alexander Hamilton.
In the election, Hamilton had supported Federalist candidate Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, but Pinckney only received 64 electoral college votes. With his candidate out of the race, Hamilton knew that the United States was going to be under the leadership of either Jefferson or Burr, the former being Hamilton's political enemy, the latter being a man he did not see fit for the presidency.
In short, Hamilton decided that the United States would be better off under a Jefferson presidency than a Burr presidency, and so Hamilton used his influence to have the house of representatives vote for Jefferson, which they did on the 36th ballot, electing Jefferson as president and Burr as vice president. What is interesting and is applicable in the 2016 presidential election is Hamilton's rationale for wanting to elect Jefferson over Burr.
Although Hamilton disagreed with Jefferson on almost all matters of policy, when it came to comparing Jefferson with Burr he said that Jefferson was "by far not so dangerous a man" as Burr. Hamilton would rather have a president with "wrong principles" than a president who had "no principles". And so Hamilton did what he believed was right for his country, even though it would require electing his arch-nemesis to the highest office in the land.
History Repeating Itself
Although there are no Electoral College ties to break at present, the lesson above is important as Utahns face a similar choice in 2016. It is no secret that there is not a whole lot of enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton in Utah; for various reasons many Utahns don't like her and or they do not subscribe to her ideas for governing the nation. But in Utah there is also widespread dislike of Donald Trump, and not just in democratic leaning Salt Lake City. Trump is widely viewed as an arrogant phony with a short fuse who will say or do whatever to get attention. In short, he is viewed as a man who would be dangerous to put in the Oval Office.
The purpose of this post is not to say that Hillary's policies are right or wrong, only that she has been guided by principles of public service throughout her life whereas Trump's only principle seems to be aggrandizing and enriching himself. Beyond that, Hillary is experienced in all the areas pertaining to the responsibilities of the presidency, whereas Trump is ignorant of some of the most basic things a president should know. These things and others are the reasons why various Republicans are saying it would be dangerous to put Trump in the White House and why they will vote for Clinton over him.
I say to Utah that it is fine to believe that Hillary Clinton has wrong policies, but it is really worth it to vote Republican just because that is your political party and you dislike the idea of voting for a Democrat? Do you really want to play a part in a Donald Trump presidency?
Another Lesson Drawn from 1800
There are those who will say that there is another way to address the problem of Trump: to vote for a third party candidate instead of Hillary. Another post shall give attention to that idea, but for now, let this post end on another lesson from the election of 1800 that is applicable to this election:
Even though the Federalists believed Jefferson was better for the United States than Burr, they still feared what Jefferson would do once in office. However, their fears of a revolutionary, extremist Jefferson went unrealized as Jefferson's actions in office were far more practical and moderate compared to some of his rhetoric before he shouldered the burdens of the White House. The same will be true of Hillary Clinton should she win. She will make her mistakes in office like all other presidents. But like Jefferson in his day, Clinton has extensive government experience and deep knowledge of domestic policy and international relations, even having served in the same capacity beforehand, that is, as secretary of state. Trump, as a presidential candidate, didn't even know some of the basics about the Constitution.
Utah, the choice doesn't often get much clearer than it is this year: we must go blue this November; we must play our part in electing Clinton over Trump.
This was reposted with permission from Utah Blue 2016
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