Congressional Democrats are currently working diligently to pass a major election “reform” bill so that no person’s right to vote can be suppressed, which liberals allege is happening in every election, especially in red states. In order to safeguard this sacred right from those nasty conservatives who are trying to take squash it, Democrats are proposing what is essentially a federal takeover of the electoral process.
But this move is not unprecedented in American history. We’ve been here before, in 1890.
From Lincoln’s election in 1860 until Grover Cleveland’s win in 1884, the presidency was in the hands of the Republican Party. The GOP also controlled Congress for many of those years.
After Cleveland’s one-term Democratic interlude, Republicans re-captured the White House in 1888. Also controlling Congress, Republicans wasted little time getting their big government agenda back on track. And one effort was to take control of elections so that Democrats would never be back in power.
An 1890 bill authored by Congressman Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts would have given the federal courts jurisdiction over state and local elections as well as registration efforts, presumably to aid disenfranchised blacks in the South, who voted Republican in those days.
But the more-conservative Democrats feared the measure would enhance the GOP’s hold on power through fraud. Southerners, reminded of the hated days of Reconstruction, were outraged, calling the act the “Force Bill.” It passed the House by a close party-line vote but later died in the Senate.
Grover Cleveland, then enjoying his first retirement, called the proposal to control elections “a dark blow at the freedom of the ballot.”
Read about this story and many others in my new book on the Last Jeffersonian President, Grover Cleveland.