A Short History of Presidential Election Crises

A Short History of Presidential Election Crises
(And How to Prevent the Next One)

Appearance on Democracy Now!
Feb 9, 2021

The historic second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump marks the first time a president will face impeachment after leaving office, and many Republicans claim the trial of a former president is unconstitutional. But most legal experts disagree. "Of course the Senate can conduct this trial," says Alan Hirsch, author and chair of the Justice and Law Studies program at Williams College. He says doing otherwise would give presidents a "get-out-of-impeachment-free card" at the end of their terms. Since the U.S. was founded, the Senate has conducted just three other presidential impeachment trials: Andrew Johnson in 1868, Bill Clinton in 1999 and Donald Trump in 2020. The House's second impeachment of Trump came a week before his term ended for inciting the deadly insurrection in the U.S. Capitol on January 6, which was aimed at stopping lawmakers from counting the Electoral College votes.

Essay on Counterpunch: "The Electoral College Invites Fraud"
Dec 10, 2020

"Donald Trump's insistence that the presidential election was rigged appears baseless. When the Electoral College meets on December 14, electors will presumably cast their votes in accordance with the election results and make Joe Biden the 46th president of the United States. That’s as it should be, but it should not blind us to this disconcerting truth: The Electoral College invites fraud."—Alan Hirsch

Lit Hub Radio
Nov 23, 2020

Interview with Paul Jay on The Analysis
Nov 21, 2020

"The US election system has some wrinkles. It has some real problems. But in 2020, the problem wasn't the system. The reason we aren’t having the transition right now, the reason some of us are still a little bit afraid about how this will all play out is not the system. It’s the president."—Alan Hirsch

Oped published in "The Dallas Morning News"
Nov 17, 2020
"As the author of a recent book on the history of presidential election crises in America, I have been asked repeatedly over the last week how the current situation compares to prior election crises. The answer is that today we have no election crisis. Rather, we face a potential political crisis."—Alan Hirsch

Interview with David Whettstone on WPFW, Washington DC
Nov 16, 2020
"It's time for us to to face up to the fact that we have so many squeaker elections and all the problems that entails because of the electoral college. Everyone’s vote should count the same."—Alan Hirsch

Alan Hirsch interview with Andrew Keen on "Keen On"
Nov 16, 2020

"This is a manufactured election crisis. We have a crisis of Trump."—Alan Hirsch

Alan Hirsch interviewed by Christopher Moore on KDKA, Pittsburgh
Nov 13, 2020

Alan Hirsch interviewed by Christopher Moore on KDKA, Pittsburgh

Alan Hirsch interviewed on WBAI, New York about the Vote Crisis
Nov 11, 2020

"The presidency is not supposed to be achieved through some back-room bargain.  It should be transparent."—Alan Hirsch

Interview with Ian Masters on KPFK Los Angeles
Nov 11, 2020

"It's ominous that only four Republican senators have congratulated President-elect Joe Biden."—Alan Hirsch

Election-eve interview with KPFA
Nov 1, 2020

On the eve of the 2020 presidential election, Alan Hirsch discusses a history of presidential election crises.

Interview on the "America Trends" podcast
Jul 7, 2020

Is America Prepared for a Presidential Election Crises? Larry Rifkin discusses with Alan Hirsch.

Summer recommended reads from Ralph Nader
Jun 9, 2020

A Short History of Presidential Election Crises (And How to Prevent the Next One) by Alan Hirsch. City Lights, 2020. Trump's madness and lying ways makes Alan Hirsch's fascinating history one that can alert us seriously between now and November.

Interview on Writer's Voice Radio
May 19, 2020

With the presidential election looming, many of us fear that the outcome will be disputed. The U.S. electoral system nor the Constitution are likely to help us out.  Alan Hirsch, author of A Short History of Presidential Election Crises, discusses what we can do now. 

The Bay Area Book Festival presents #UNBOUND "Courts, COVID-19, and Voter Suppression"
May 14, 2020
Does voting by mail solve the problems created by Covid-19?  Who would this best serve, and who gets left out?
Alan Hirsch, author of the new City Lights book, A Short History of Presidential Election Crises, joins a panel of experts to answer this question and more, in a roundtable organized by the Bay Area Book Fest!

Review in "Midwest Library Review"
Apr 1, 2020

"A Short History of Presidential Election Crises: And How to Prevent the Next One is an impressively timely (given the 2020 Presidential election cycle) and seminal work of meticulous and informative scholarship that should be considered as an essential and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library Contemporary Political Science collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, political activists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject . . . "

Interview on "Forthright Radio"
Apr 17, 2020

Ralph Nader recommends "A Short History of Presidential Election Crises"
Apr 10, 2020

"Republicans falsely claim that mail-in voting opens the door to widespread voter fraud. Voting fraud is as rare as whooping cranes. Trump lies about mail-in voting fraud because he knows the higher the voter turnout, the more likely it is he and the Republicans could lose (See: A Short History of Presidential Election Crises: And How to Prevent the Next One by Alan Hirsch, Chair of the Justice and Law Studies program at Williams College)."

Essay on "Lit Hub"
Apr 10, 2020

"Are American Elections at Risk Because of the Coronavirus? Alan Hirsch on how to Save Ourselves from the Worst"

Gizmodo / Giz Asks: Could Trump Cancel the Election Because of the Coronavirus?
Apr 6, 2020
If the lockdown somehow stretches through November, could the election be suspended? Are protocols in place for a situation like this? For this week's Giz Asks, we reached out to a number of experts for their opinion.
"The states basically conduct 50 separate elections (actually 51, including the District of Columbia), with the results aggregated. It is easy to imagine a situation in which some states are unable to conduct the election while others insist on doing so."—Alan Hirsch

Interview on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour
Apr 6, 2020

Ralph welcomes Constitutional scholar Alan Hirsch to talk about how best–amid a pandemic—we can still conduct a legitimate presidential election.

Interview on "Tuesday Buzz" WORT Madison WI
Mar 31, 2020

Interview with Stan Woodard who broadcasts from his home, while he shelters in place.  Begins at 16 minute mark.

Interview on "Gorilla Radio" CFUV, Victoria, BC
Mar 31, 2020

Those praying the US presidential campaign would finally end already may have found a receptive ear above, (or wherever these kinds of entreaties are heard). But, as the old saw warns, they might want now to have more carefully wished.

With the Democratic Party postponing 14 state primaries, (as of this writing) there are now growing calls for both parties to cancel national conventions and end campaign appearances.

It would be an unprecedented move that could well effect the way democracy is done in America for this election, and beyond 2020.

Alan Hirsch, is an Instructor in the Humanities and Chair of the Justice and Law Studies program at Williams College, and author of numerous works of legal scholarship and many books, including 'For the People: What the Constitution Really Says About Your Rights', 'Impeaching the President: Past, Present, and Future', and the just released, 'A Short History of Presidential Election Crises (and How to Prevent the Next One)'.

His articles appear at, among other places, the Washington Post, LA Times, Newsday, and Common Dreams, where I found his recent article, Is America Prepared for a Presidential Election Crisis? Hirsch asks "what if" Covid-19, or some other external forces, drive November's poll into the shadows, or worse, onto the internet?

Interview on "Letters & Politics" KPFA Berkeley
Mar 30, 2020

Alan Hirsch discusses how to elect a president in the time of the Coronavirus, with host Mitch Jeserich.

Interview on "The Carney Show" KTRS St Louis, MO
Mar 27, 2020

Interview begins at the 1 hour & 8 minute mark. Alan Hirsch discusses problems beyond the Coronavirus that could affect our elections. 

Interview with Ian Masters on "Background Briefing," KPFK Los Angeles
Mar 22, 2020

We begin with how the coronavirus has wiped the Democratic primary election campaign from the headlines as the contagion intensifies and the possibility of the November elections being cancelled or modified arises. Alan Hirsch, Chair of the Justice and Law Studies program at Williams College and author of the new book A Short History of Presidential Election Crises (And How to Prevent the Next One), joins us to discuss how our broken healthcare system and our broken election systems combine to produce an unprecedented threat to American democracy itself. He has an article at Common Dreams "Is America Prepared for a Presidential Election Crisis? If we are smart, we will take appropriate measures before the next crisis" and we assess the challenges of voting by mail or online under a national lockdown (or even a declaration of martial law, assuming Trump does not cancel the elections). And because the Electoral College narrows the presidential contest to a few states, this allows Russian and other hackers the opportunity to change votes and call into question the accuracy of the count thus compounding the chaos and confusion. After four presidential elections so far in our history, Americans have awakened the day after the elections without knowing who won and without a reliable mechanism to resolve the uncertainty. But we have never had a president like Trump who displays despotic tendencies, has a disregard for the law and democratic values and, according to testimony before Congress from his long-time lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, will not leave the Oval Office if he is defeated at the polls.

Interview on KCBS San Francisco, Bay Area
Mar 21, 2020

The impact of the coronavirus has already been felt in our electoral process, with multiple states choosing to postpone their primaries. If the virus requires a long term response, that impact may also be felt in November's general election.

KCBS Radio Anchor Melissa Culross was joined by Alan Hirsch, Chair of the Justice and Law Studies program at Williams College and author of a new book A Short History of Presidential Election Crises.

Feature on the LA Progressive
Mar 21, 2020

What if, on account of the Coronavirus, we attempt to hold the 2020 presidential election entirely on-line or through the mail, and it turns into a logistical nightmare?   What if hackers succeed in changing votes from one candidate to another, calling into question the accuracy of the electoral count?

Interview on "Rising Up With Sonali"
Mar 17, 2020

"President Donald Trump has joked multiple times about running for a 3rd or 4th term. The coronavirus pandemic has sparked some Republicans to call for a postponement of the 2020 general election. And some primary races have already been postponed due to the virus. In a good year the US suffers from numerous barriers to voting, problems with voting machines, voter ID laws, and even foreign interference. The strength of our democracy relies on the trust of its citizens that elections are properly conducted. Now, a new history book explores the many chapters of Presidential election crises in the US with some solutions for our current era."

Essay on Common Dreams "Is America Prepared for a Presidential Election Crises?"
Mar 12, 2020

"What if, on account of the coronavirus, we attempt to hold the 2020 presidential election entirely on-line or through the mail, and it turns into a logistical nightmare?  What if a major terrorist attack prevents holding the election on November 3? How about if, on Election Day, destructive weather prevents voting in some states? And what if hackers succeed in changing votes from one candidate to another, calling into question the accuracy of the electoral count?"

Kirkus * Starred Review

"The noted law historian, author of Impeaching the President, examines the handful of seriously problematic presidential elections in American history and what the Constitution elucidates about the process of undoing such an event—namely, nothing. Like many historians and political analysts, Hirsch believes the Electoral College is direly flawed and should be abolished. In his latest book, he begins with an overview of the presidential election process, set out in Article II of the Constitution, which was soon to be revealed by Alexander Hamilton as a 'defect.' In the election of 1800, between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr, each received the same votes, and the crisis resulted in the 12th Amendment, creating a distinct ballot for president and vice president. However, in 1824, the race between John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson resulted in a tie and had to be brokered by the House of Representatives, as per the Constitution. It came down to the wheedling of charismatic Speaker of the House Henry Clay to throw his support behind Adams—perhaps in return for his appointing him secretary of state, the so-called 'corrupt bargain.' In the 1876 election, Samuel Tilden received 250,000 more votes than Rutherford B. Hayes, yet three states were ‘too close to call’ (South Carolina, Florida, and Louisiana)—an eerie similarity to the future 2000 nail-biter between Al Gore and George W. Bush, which came down to one state, Florida, and was thrown to the courts for a decision. Hirsch quotes election law expert Edward Foley: ‘the Hayes-Tilden dispute exposed structural frailties in the nation’s constitutional order that . . . were unchanged in 1876 and remain unchanged today’—decidedly unnerving news as we approach the 2020 election. In the concluding chapters, the author delineates the ‘fraud and chaos’ rampant in the EC and argues for a constitutional amendment for handling future crises. A highly relevant study featuring much food for thought and prospects for change."Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review