Elections in the US have turned into bitter, rancorous affairs where each side castigates the other’s as manifestly unfit to hold office. Have there been elections, either in the US or abroad which were marked by an attitude of “well, honestly I’d be happy if either/any of the candidates won” by the majority of people on both sides? Ones where the electorate has a hard time choosing because all the (viable) candidates are really good?
Well there was the first US election for President.
This was before parties in the US and the electors made GW a unanimous vote. John Adams got half the votes to be the first VP in the odd election system used that year. Most of the candidates were highly respected. Even Governor George Clinton was not vilified. There was some rancor but pretty mild.
I’m not aware of any elections where it could be said people would be happy if either candidate won. If that was the case why have more than one candidate? The example of Geo. Washington’s election is the only case even close to that.
As for our elections suddenly being so bitter, while I wouldn’t disagree there is more disgust with the current POTUS than normal at this early point in his term, nastiness in US elections is nothing new. Take the Election of 1884 as an example. James G Blaine and Grover Cleveland engaged in very nasty jabs at each other. Blaine’s people accused Cleveland of having an illegitimate child and Cleveland’s camp called Blaine a crook.
If you were asking about the last election where most of the population considered both major party candidates to be decent and honest men then I would say you have to go back to 1956 when Eisenhower was reelected over Adlai Stevenson. While the two sides had major differences I’m not aware of any particularly nasty rhetoric from that race.
You might look at this post on polling results since 1984. For example in 2000 Gore had a strongly unfavorable rating of only 16% while Bush had a strongly unfavorable rating of only 4%:
How weird does this map look? Remember, Red = Republican and Blue = Democrat (as is usually done today).
George H. W. Bush vs Michael Dukakis in 1988.
The perfect candidate would combine Bush’s foreign policy expertise with Dukakis’ domestic policy.
Isn’t asking about ‘both sides’ a little bit off in here? After all, if someone really doesn’t care which candidate wins, they might just vote for neither, or vote for a third party to send a message about what they want since they don’t care about the main candidates. A good number of people who don’t vote do so because they really don’t care who wins, though it’s possible they’re thinking “they’re both awful” instead of “they’re both OK”. I mean, the majority potential votes in the last election went to neither major party candidate, and neither major party got a majority of votes cast.
I think figuring out what really counts for the question might be more interesting than the actual answer.
But there was a pretty nasty and dishonest smear campaign against Dukakis. Willie Horton comes to mine.
The 1904 election comes kind of close to the Ops question. Teddy was immensely popular and neither he nor Alton Parker sunk to dirty politics at all.
Yep, the shift in party allegiances hadn’t happened quite yet. The electoral map pretty much looked like that up until 1968 when Nixon’s Southern Strategy basically broke the South wide open. Actually, other than Arizona the only states Goldwater carried in 1968 were in the Deep South.
I remember in 1980 when Reagan won and several Southern Democrats switched to become Republicans. Phil Gramm is the first one that comes to mind.
Yeah, but that’s weird in a different way-- the US looks very unified in that map.
The last Democrat elected from Alabama in the Senate is Richard Shelby, who changed to Republican after the 1994 midterm Republican avalanche.
In 1820, there was no serious opposition to re-electing Monroe. He was thought highly of, and there was no effective political party in opposition to his anyway.
Obviously, there has NEVER been a time when ideologues thought “Well, if the guy from the other party wins, that’ll be fine with me.” But there have certainly been MANY races in which large chunks of the public thought, “They both seem like decent men, and America will probably be all right whoever wins.”
In 1940, FDR’s opponent was a liberal Republican, Wendell Willkie. FDR seems to have liked Willkie, and actually gave him a few diplomatic duties during WW2. Obviously, the Democrats wanted to win in 1940, but few regarded Willkie as a horrible man or a potentially disastrous preident.
Heck, while the far left loathed Richard Nixon, most Americans watching the 1960 debates probably thought Nixon and John Kennedy BOTH seemed like smart, capable young men who’d do a good job.
I think your “I’d be happy if either/any of the candidates won.” is skewing the answers, somewhat. Based on simply your thread title, I would agree that 1956 (and 1952?) would have been the answer to the question. Looking at Electoral College maps only represent how the people eventually voted, without noting the hostility (or lack) displayed toward the candidates by the general populace. Stephenson was mocked, lightly, for being an egghead, (wonk in the language of 2016), but there was not a general antipathy against him; he simply could not overcome the immense popularity of Ike. I would not see the 1960 election in the same way; Kennedy’s Catholicism was still a lightning rod for a great many anti-papist feelings.