Other elections were contested without intervention by Congress. Some Republicans suspected John F. Kennedy’s 1960 victory was due to fraud and filed lawsuits, but Richard M. Nixon turned down the effort. George W. Bush won the presidency over Al Gore in 2000 only after the Supreme Court decided a five-week recount battle. Four years later, some Democrats opposed Bush re-election when Congress got the vote, but the move was unsuccessful and was rejected by the losing candidate, John F. Kerry.
However, the fireworks of 1876 were like no other, and not just because it marked the country’s centenary. Then, as now, the election controversy had its roots in a large division in American society. Almost a decade after the end of the civil war, the country remained shattered by geography, economy, class, and above all race.
The party that ended slavery briefly won the presidency that year, but the white supremacists got what they wanted in the long run by agreeing to accept defeat in exchange for the end of rebuilding, which ended up being 90 years legalized segregation and oppression instituted by newly liberated blacks in the south.
Two governors from the north took part in the competition, whose fate would be decided by the southern states. Hayes, the Republican, had served as Union General during the Civil War. He fought in Antietam and was wounded four times in the course of the conflict. As a two-term congressman and three-time governor of Ohio, he was a low-key figure, “a magical lantern image with no surface to show yourself on,” as Ambrose Bierce, the famous soldier and writer of the era.
Tilden, the Democrat, was a lawyer and crusade reformer in New York who helped bring down Tammany Hall’s boss, Tweed, and bring that to the governorship. With a drooping left eyelid, he looked “like a man who desperately needs a good night’s sleep,” as Roy Morris Jr. put it in Fraud of the Century, his report on the 2003 election battle.
The elections were full of intimidation, fraud and efforts to suppress the black voice. In South Carolina, white “gun clubs” massacred dozens of black residents to scare others not to vote. In Florida, Democrats, who are heavily armed black voters and others, landlords, shopkeepers, doctors, and lawyers, levy a 25 percent fee on anyone suspected of voting Republicans. On the other hand, the state railroad fired employees who participated in democratic rallies. And votes are said to be for sale at $ 5 each.