• Cockblock the Vote: 1876 – The Kooks of Hazzard

    Whether it's the daily critiques of electronic voting or the California GOP's plan to governate the Democrats' electoral hopes, the average American can't not read a newspaper these days without ignoring news about electoral fraud. But screwing with the vote is nothing new, as we shall see…

    What is it about centennials? Just as 1976 was marred by political disillusionment, terrible hair, and patriotic kitsch, the 1876 presidential election ripped the skanky band-aid off the oozing scabs of the Civil War. Future president Republican Rutherford B. Hayes — running against Democrat Samuel J. Tilden — got his ZZ Top beard in a wad when reports of fraud, bribery, and intimidation surfaced throughout the South. A total of twenty electoral votes were in dispute, mainly in Florida (surprise), Louisiana, and South Carolina, and one in Oregon, of all places (this was not a confused hippie, but a political hack appointed by the state's Democratic governor). This was such a big deal that then-president Ulysses S. Grant sobered up just long enough to have the Army surround DC, ready for trouble that never came.

    After months of negotiation, a 15-member commission gave Hayes a victory with a single electoral vote, the whole thing hinging on an 889-vote margin, making it the closest US presidential election in history until 124 years later, when a bunch of elderly Palm Beach Jews decided to break with tradition (and reality) and vote for Pat Buchanan.

    Many historians agree that the compromise between Democrats and Republicans marked the transition from Reconstruction to the beginning of The Jim Crow Era — a touchstone in the long, storied, bipartisan tradition of Washington throwing black people to the wolves. Before this, African-American Republicans rose to prominence in much of the south, but The Compromise of 1877 led to the removal of Union troops in exchange for the Dems' backing of Hayes. This allowed Democrats — the Lynyrd Skynyrd concertgoers of their era — to effectively put an end to Reconstruction using such sophisticated techniques as sticks, rocks, rope, and fire.

    In addition to good old-fashioned barbarism, these former Confederates used tactics like poll taxes and literacy tests — the latter of which, ironically, their ideological progeny would probably just stare at for a while before rolling them up to snort a line of Oxycontin. This state of affairs lasted until 1965, when Congress passed the Voting Rights Act.

    Tags: Cockblock the Vote, Rutherford B. Hayes, Ulysses S. Grant


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