The Ghost of 1824: Is America Ready for Another Contingent Election?
Written by: Sam Orlando
The Unexpected Specter of a Congress-Picked President
STAUNTON, VIRGINIA - In the crowded board game room of American politics, one game few want to play is the contingent presidential election. It sounds like a dusty, ancient rule written somewhere in the back of a lost book. Still, in essence, it's the alarming possibility of Congress, an institution many view with skepticism, choosing the next president and vice president if no candidate secures a majority of electoral votes.
Throwback to 1824 and Fast Forward to 2024
Now, you might think, "When was the last time this happened?" It takes us back to 1824 when John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, and Henry Clay split the votes. Ancient history? Maybe. But the closeness of recent presidential races and a potential third-party ticket in 2024, spearheaded by the group No Labels, is breathing life into this old ghost. The thing is, a contingent election occurs when two candidates tie the electoral college, meaning neither candidate would achieve 270. However, a third-party candidate who earned electoral college votes could make this possibility far more likely.
Breaking Down the ‘What Ifs’
Suppose No Labels, aiming for a bipartisan solution, fields a “unity” ticket. Given their accomplishments and their presence on the 2024 ballot in 11 states, they could seriously sway the election. Yet, outright winning 270 electoral votes seems a stretch. That's where the 12th Amendment jumps in, offering Congress the authority to pick the nation's top leaders.
Envision this: The House could deadlock in choosing a president, possibly leaving the Speaker of the House as the default choice. Over in the Senate, if party lines differ from the House, they might hurriedly select a vice president, who could leapfrog to the presidency if the House remains gridlocked. And if you think that’s chaotic, consider the Senate president pro tempore scheming to ascend the ladder if the House stalls and the Senate dawdles.
The Danger of an Unsettled Process
As political analysts mull over the scenarios, the challenge remains: the 12th Amendment is short on details, leaving too much to improvisation. The recent Capitol upheaval serves as a stark reminder of the potential chaos when procedural clarity is missing.
A Nation Holds Its Breath
With four of the last six presidential elections being nail-bitingly close and third-party possibilities on the horizon, the contingent election is no longer a far-fetched chapter from a history book. As the electoral clock ticks, it's essential to address this gap in the process before the nation faces an unprecedented political storm.