For the life of me, I just don’t get why the mainstream press and Hillary Clinton are so outraged over Donald Trump’s refusal in the debate last night to accept the results of the presidential election in advance. What’s wrong with waiting to see if an election is crooked before agreeing to abide by its results? Or are Clinton and her acolytes in the mainstream press suggesting that the United States, as the exceptional nation, simply does not have crooked elections, like unexceptional countries do?
As a native Texan, I’m reminded of Lyndon Johnson’s 1948 runoff campaign in the Democratic Party primary for the U.S. Senate in Texas against former Texas Governor Coke Stevenson. The election is detailed in Robert Caro’s second biographical volume on Johnson, Means of Ascent. A nice review of Caro’s account of the election is found in a 1990 New York Times article entitled “How Johnson Won Election He’d Lost.”
As the results in the runoff election were being tallied, Stevenson was winning by 20,000 votes.
Then vote totals came in from San Antonio, which Stevenson had carried by a 2-1 margin in the initial election. The tally showed that in the runoff, Johnson carried San Antonio by 10,000 votes. Later that night, election tallies from South Texas precincts narrowed Stevenson’s lead to 854 votes.
On the day after the Saturday election, election officials in South Texas discovered that one particular precinct had not been counted. Most of its votes went for Johnson. On Monday, there were new vote totals being reported from counties in the Rio Grande Valley. By Tuesday, Stevenson’s margin had narrowed to 349 votes, and the state’s Election Bureau announced that Stevenson had won the election.
But then on Friday — seven days after the runoff election — South Texas’s Jim Wells County, which was controlled by a powerful rancher named George Parr, a close friend of Johnson, sent in an amended election report. Suddenly Stevenson was no longer winning. Johnson had won the statewide election by a margin of 87 votes.
Stevenson decided to contest the election. Johnson’s victory, however, was affirmed in a 29-28 vote of the Texas Democratic Party’s executive committee. Stevenson didn’t stop there. He filed suit in federal court and secured an injunction against Johnson’s name appearing on the ballot in the general election until the matter could be investigated and resolved. The injunction was voided by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black after Johnson’s lawyer, Abe Fortas, filed a petition in the high court. After he became president, Johnson rewarded Fortas with an appointment to the Supreme Court, where he served from 1965-1969, when he was forced to resign due to ethics violations.
Many years later, Caro conducted a detailed investigation into the election. He secured a sworn statement from a man named Luis Salas, who had been the election judge in Precinct 13 in Jim Wells County. Knowing that Parr was not above murdering political opponents, Salas had waited until both Parr and Johnson were dead before talking about how the election had been stolen for Johnson. Salas confirmed that Johnson’s vote totals had been padded with enough names of the dead and others to give him his margin of victory.
Johnson went on to win the general election and become a U.S. Senator from Texas. In 1960, he was elected vice president. On November 22, 1963, he assumed the presidency on the assassination of President Kennedy. In conjunction with his national-security establishment, he plunged the nation into a disastrous war in Vietnam that took the lives of more than 58,000 American men and millions of Vietnamese people. On the domestic side, he pushed and signed into law two of the most expensive and disastrous socialist programs in U.S. history — Medicare and Medicaid, which succeeded in destroying the finest healthcare system in history.
Was Stevenson wrong to contest the election? Why shouldn’t a candidate contest an crooked election result when he has rightly won the election? Just think: If Coke Stevenson had prevailed in his election contest, in an election that he rightly won, the nation would almost certainly have been spared the agony of Johnson’s crooked, deadly, and destructive presidency.