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Did this all start with Jefferson?

Plato thought that political leadership should be the place for the best and the brightest.  Thomas Jefferson was the second US Vice-President . . . but it was a different job back then.  The candidate with the most votes got the presidency, the runner-up became vice-president.  Obviously, they didn’t run on the same platform, or as members of the same party. 

The article at americanacorner does a nice job of describing the politicization of American politics that came after 8 years of George Washington:

“For the most part, the election split along geographic lines with Adams and the Federalists capturing the north and Jefferson’s Republicans the southern states plus Pennsylvania. The final tally of electoral votes was 71 for Adams and 68 for Jefferson.

This election was held under the original rules of the Constitution in which the top vote getter (Adams) was declared President and the second highest (Jefferson) was named Vice President. Naturally, having the President and Vice President from opposing political parties was a recipe for trouble.

Although this problem was fixed in 1805 with the passage of the Twelfth Amendment to the Constitution, it would prove to be a very real problem for the newly elected President, as Vice President Jefferson worked to undermine the Adams’ administration for the next four years.

Jefferson went so far as to hire newspaper editors to run anti-administration articles, and he met secretly with French officials to keep them informed of decisions made by Adams and the federal government. Not exactly a devoted subordinate.

The Federalist party tended to be pro-British and favor a strong central government. They wanted a standing army and centralized control of the economy. Conversely, Jefferson’s Republicans were fanatically pro-French despite the bloody French Revolution, and they favored strong states’ rights. It was like mixing oil and water.”

The election of 1800 came along, and Jefferson became the third US President.  This was the election where the electoral college came up with a tie vote, so the election was decided by the House of Representatives – and the Brittanica United States presidential election of 1800 | Candidates, Results, & Facts | Britannica covers this long-ago decision:

“The 1800 election was a rematch between Adams and Jefferson, and to forestall the recurrence of the same situation from the 1796 election, the parties sought to ensure that all their electors were united. On the Federalist side Adams ran with Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, while Jefferson’s running mate was Aaron Burr.

As in the previous elections, there was no popular vote. Instead, the state legislatures appointed electors, and the Democratic-Republicans swept most of the South, including all the electors from Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia, while Adams ran strong in the northeast, capturing all the electoral votes from Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Vermont. With Burr, a New Yorker, on the ticket, Jefferson won that state, and the electors from the remaining states (Maryland, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania) split their votes. The Federalists, realizing the potential for a tie, arranged for one of their electors, from Rhode Island, to cast a ballot for John Jay. All of the Democratic-Republican electors, however, cast their ballots for Jefferson and Burr, and since electors could not indicate a presidential or vice presidential choice, the result was a tie.

The House of Representatives chooses

Under the existing rules, a tie was to be decided by the lame-duck Federalist-controlled House of Representatives, with each of the 16 states casting a single vote. Almost all the Federalists wanted to coalesce behind Burr rather than elect their political enemy Jefferson, but Alexander Hamilton, a Federalist and longtime enemy of Burr’s, tried to engineer support for Jefferson. Still, Burr maintained that he would not challenge Jefferson—an assertion that Jefferson did not wholly accept.

Voting in the House of Representatives began on Feb. 11, 1801, and on the first ballot Jefferson was the choice of eight states, while Burr was supported by six (all with a Federalist majority among their congressional representatives), and two were split. After more than 30 more ballots held over the next several days, the results were the same. Finally, after 36 ballots and with Federalists in Maryland and Vermont abstaining, giving those states to Jefferson, Jefferson was elected president (with Burr as vice president) on February 17 by a majority of 10 states to 4 (Delaware and South Carolina cast blank votes). The election was a catalyst for the adoption of the Twelfth Amendment (1804), under which electors would cast separate ballots for president and vice president.”

The tie wasn’t between Adams and Jefferson – it was between Burr, the vice-presidential candidate, and Jefferson.  That twelfth amendment seems like a pretty good idea when you think of the possibility of having President Trump and Vice-President Hillary, or President Biden and Vice-President Trump.  Still, the record shows that intense political feelings and election chicanery has been with us for a long time . . . and that the best and brightest of the founding fathers still had some serious and hostile disagreements.

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