Presidential Campaigns During Times of Crisis: Learn History, Take Comfort, and Find Inspiration for Your Homeschool
This present coronavirus crisis is new territory for homeschooling families. Together, we’re learning how to calm fears, ease nerves, and make sense of all that is happening.
It’s important for our families to know that this isn’t the first crisis that America has ever been through. It’s also not the first crisis that we’ve endured during an election season. Our country has seen many challenges, even greater than this one.
Learning about history can give us comfort and perspective. Crises come, and crises go. Yet, elections have happened. The rule of law has prevailed. Our country has persevered. Our leaders have inspired the people in the midst of challenges.
At Silverdale Press, we want to equip your homeschool family to study the election, including the history of presidential campaigns and elections. Our Presidential Election Unit Study 2020 for your homeschool is filled with history. You’ll learn about the history of campaigns and elections during both times of crisis and times of peace.
Did you get our free lesson on the primaries? This year’s primary season has been disrupted in unprecedented ways. This is the perfect time to learn more about the primaries with your family, as you’re hunkered down at home. Don’t wait! Get your copy today.
In this newsletter, we give you a mini lesson on presidential campaigns during times of crisis. Keep reading for key terms and an activity you can do with your homeschool family today. The activity will keep you busy, entertained, and learning history as you are hunkered down at home.
1. Abraham Lincoln versus George McClellan in 1864
It is hard to imagine a more difficult time for America than 1864. The country was nearing the end of a brutal and devastating civil war, through which Lincoln vowed to preserve the Union and enforce America’s laws. The war took the lives of 600,000 Americans.
It was nothing short of a miracle that the election of 1864 even happened. The crisis of war was so serious, people talked about postponing the election. But in the end, the election was held, even though Lincoln thought he would lose.
Abraham Lincoln was the incumbent (the person running for office who already holds the position). He ran against George McClellan, former commander of the Union forces. Lincoln had fired McClellan for not pursuing the Confederate army after the devastating battle at Antietam. He was also up against people in his own party, known as Radical Republicans, who thought he wouldn’t do enough to fight for the political rights of newly freed slaves.
In the election, Lincoln carried all but three of the participating states and won 212 Electoral College votes out of 233. (The Electoral College is the body of people representing the states who formally cast votes for the president and vice president). This was a huge sign that Americans had confidence in Lincoln.
When Lincoln took the stage at his second inauguration (the formal admission of the new president to office), he spoke these words:
“Fondly we do hope—fervently do we pray—that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man’s two-hundred-and-fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn by the lash shall be paid with another drawn by the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said ‘the judgements of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.’”
Lincoln asked his fellow countrymen to carry on in the struggle. “With malice to none, with charity to all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right.”
2. Herbert Hoover versus Franklin Roosevelt in 1932
During the 1932 campaign season, Americans were enduring another crisis. The Great Depression began just seven months after Herbert Hoover became president. Hoover had been known as the Great Engineer, because of his brilliant career in mining and business and as “Food Czar” during the Great War.
As brilliant as he was, Hoover wasn’t able to fix the growing number of Americans who were out of work and short on food. More than 11,000 banks had failed, destroying Americans’ savings. “Hoovervilles,” clusters of dirty shacks where the poorest now lived, had sprung up all over the country. Turned-out pockets of men’s trousers stood for “Hoover Flags,” as they waited in bread lines. The national mood had soured.
In 1932, Hoover ran against Franklin D. Roosevelt. One magazine called the election a choice between the “great glum engineer” and “the laughing boy.” Roosevelt was called “the laughing boy” because he ran an optimistic campaign. He flashed a big smile to crowds whenever he could. He flew to the Democratic convention in Chicago to proclaim, “a new deal for the American people.” The crowd of delegates (the people who select the nominee at party conventions) wildly cheered him. Franklin Roosevelt carried the election in a landslide, taking the Electoral College by 472 votes to Hoover’s 59.
When Roosevelt took the stage at his first inauguration, he said this:
“Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory.”
3. Jimmy Carter versus Ronald Reagan in 1980
As in 1932, the 1980 presidential campaign pitted an optimist against a pessimist. Ronald Reagan showed voters an optimistic temperament when he ran against President Jimmy Carter. But, like Hoover, Carter had grown pessimistic and defensive. The economy was already shaky when Carter took office. Inflation was high. People were paying more for everything from gasoline to sugar. Industries sat idle. Iran held fifty-two American citizens hostage. Carter tried but, in the end, could not get Iran to release the hostages.
Reagan came across as relaxed and confident in the presidential debates. In his closing remarks, he asked Americans to make their decision based on Carter’s record. “Are you better off than you were four years ago? Is there more or less unemployment in the country than there was four years ago? Is America as respected throughout the world as it was?” For voters who answered “no,” Reagan was their choice.
Reagan won in a landslide. He won 489 Electoral College votes to Carter’s 49.
When he took the stage to speak at his first inauguration, he said these words:
“It is no coincidence that our present troubles parallel and are proportionate to the intervention and intrusion in our lives that result from unnecessary and excessive growth of government. It is time for us to realize that we’re too great a nation to limit ourselves to small dreams. We’re not, as some would have us believe, doomed to an inevitable decline. I do not believe in a fate that will fall on us no matter what we do. I do believe in a fate that will fall on us if we do nothing. So, with all the creative energy at our command, let us begin an era of national renewal. Let us renew our determination, our courage, and our strength. And let us renew our faith and our hope.”
Learn history. Take comfort. Find inspiration. Get your copy of the Presidential Election Unit Study 2020 today! It’s perfect for homeschool families and co-ops.
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