September 22, 1992|By Theo Lippman Jr.

This is the 52nd presidential election.

The 22nd, in 1872, was a throwback to one-party, two-faction days. Despite his having presided over the worst scandals in the nation's history, Grant was renominated unanimously and harmoniously only because liberal Republican critics had bolted the party and nominated New York editor Horace Greeley.

The liberals wanted civil-service reforms to end the scandals, amnesty for ex-Confederates to end Reconstruction and division, and an end to favoritism to railroads and other corporations in the West. (Greeley meant his famous ''go west, young man'' for individuals.) The regular Republicans copied the liberals' calls for reforms, though hardly convincingly. Democrats put forward no candidate or platform, endorsing Greeley and his platform in a curious six-hour convention in Baltimore.

The economy held good, Grant was believed to be above his cronies' scandals, and he was re-elected by a larger popular and electoral vote margin than in 1872. (Greeley died before the Electoral College met, so his November votes went to others.)

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