Theo Lippman Jr.

September 09, 1992|By Theo Lippman Jr.

This is the 52nd presidential election.

The 13th was held in 1836. In 1828 and 1832 Andrew Jackson had created a Democratic Party based on the votes of ''the common man.'' His opponents coalesced into a new party, the Whigs, so-named because Jackson's critics, invoking Revolutionary-era rhetoric, said he was making the presidency too ''royally'' powerful.

Rather than back a single opponent for Jackson's hand-picked successor, Vice President Martin Van Buren of New York, the Whigs supported regional tickets in New England, the West and the South. They believed this would throw the choice back into a House of Representatives somewhat resentful of the growing power of the White House.

Regional friction had been growing as fast as class differences in the 1830s. Southern slavery and its extension into the territories was increasingly debated. Many Southerners did not feel Van Buren was sufficiently pro-States' Rights. But he was a great political organizer and manipulator, and though his popular vote fell dramatically in Southern states, he still carried most of them and won 170 of 294 electoral votes against his three Whig opponents.

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