A look back into America’s past elections


Photo courtesy of United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division

Sakina Ghatalah, Contributing Writer

As the 2016 presidential election comes to a close, the 45th president of the United States will be Donald Trump. The election was one to remember, and it is crucial to recall past elections and use them as a precedent. Although, occasionally reminiscing at memorable moments in history may do all Americans good.



A notable moment in the 2000 election that garnered a sizable amount of attention was  George W. Bush winning the presidential election, but not by the votes of the people. The popular vote went to Al Gore, but the Electoral College was in favor of Bush, and he won 271-266.

Controversial debate was brewing as critics were opposed to the presidency of Bush over Al Gore. Especially since in their eyes, Al Gore seized the election. Among them is sophomore Shreya Mukherjee due to her belief that Al Gore was the clear winner of the 2000 presidential election in the eyes of democracy.

“It’s unfair because the people themselves voted for Al Gore, so their true wishes weren’t represented in the presidency,” Mukherjee said. “Although, if results were differing, it’s unknown the possibilities that could have occurred.”



The 1960 debate between candidates Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy was the first of its kind as it was the first televised presidential debate. The unique aspect of this specific debate was that those watching the debate on television perceived the winner as Kennedy, while those listening through radios believed Nixon to be the clear winner.

The unconventional method of broadcasting the event was the reasoning behind this odd result as Kennedy, wearing make-up suitable for the lights and cameras, was relaxed and composed in contrast to his opponent. Nixon appeared to be unshaven, weary, and sweating in the eyes of many spectators. Kennedy etched his mark in the country’s history as the youngest elected and first Catholic president of the United States.



Another defining moment in the records that altered our nation’s DNA was the 1860 presidential election with Abraham Lincoln against three other candidates. In those times, a highly controversial debate was brewing over slavery, and Lincoln was at the center of it as he advocated for a country without slavery. He defended his claims fiercely and questioned the fundamental principles on which the Declaration of Independence was formulated, all while pointing out the hypocrisy of the democracy America created.

During his time in office after being elected, Lincoln passed the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing floods of slaves from rebelling states. Later, he promoted the rights of African Americans, including the right to vote. The Civil War, the dispute that killed the highest amount of soldiers and almost separated the United States, was fought under the command of the 16th president because of his views on slavery.


1700s to Early 1800s

Venturing even deeper into the history of America, if examples set by our Founding Fathers are analyzed closely, there are many vital changes that occurred which were considered unorthodox centuries before, but stand powerfully today. For instance, the peaceful transition of authority from Federalist John Adams to Democratic-Republican Thomas Jefferson. There was no war, outrage, nor violence due to the legitimate results that democracy induced.

Jefferson set many commendable ideals for future generations with his tolerance for other parties. He did not wipe out the Adams presidential cabinet despite the fact that the majority were Federalist, and he ultimately kept many of Alexander Hamilton’s plans for America’s financial situations intact as they provided the best for the country.

Jefferson, determined to solve a problem with his head and not to be led by his emotions, improved the country in various ways, as social studies teacher James Han said.

“His legacy was a little bit of a conflicting one; he made the Louisiana Purchase and doubled the size of the US; he was a believer in free public education and freedom of religion. But the moral issues of slaves during that time makes it conflicting in that way,” Han said. “His precedents were the idea of life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and the ideals of freedom that were included in the Declaration of Independence and are important values that we still believe in today.”

The United States could have been a completely different country if it were not for the strong roots fashioned by the original men who gave large portions of their lives to the cause of a free America. George Washington, a former general, set several standards for later generations to come. Being the only president to be unanimously elected, he is seen as a great figure in history.

Washington, prior to stepping into office, created a cabinet, a tradition that has stayed intact since. He also retired after two terms, marking that as the maximum amount of years for a president. In doing so, Washington warned future generations about getting involved with other nations too deeply in his farewell address, advice that was strictly enforced until World War I by the form of isolationism.

Many confirm George Washington as one of the most popular leaders in history, and freshman Steven Thomas believes in this notion.

“He fought a war that secured our freedom, and he showed great humility,” Thomas said. “He could’ve done more years in office, but he stepped down after two terms because he didn’t want to be like a monarch, which is pretty admirable.”