Pivotal U.S. Elections: Then and Now

Regional Forums

Pivotal U.S. Elections: Then and Now is a series of public forums across Texas that analyze the political forces, issues, and consequences of critical presidential elections in U.S. history and their relevance to current conditions of our national life. The inaugural forum, "The Election of 1860 and Its Contemporary Significance," was held on April 19, 2016, at The University of Texas at Austin.

In September and October, Humanities Texas will present six Pivotal U.S. Elections forums in College Station, San Antonio, Dallas, Houston, Corpus Christi, and El Paso.

These programs are free and open to the public. Texas teachers who attend a forum will receive CPE credit and may apply for travel stipends (up to $200 each) and substitute reimbursements.


College Station

"American Democracy at Issue"

Join the Melbern G. Glasscock Center for Humanities Research, the Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs, and Humanities Texas for a discussion about the elections of 1896, 1932, 1948, and 1968, as well as their parallels to subsequent elections and their relevance today.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016
3:30 p.m. : Reception
4:00–6:00 p.m. : Public forum

@ Annenberg Presidential Conference Center
Texas A&M University

Participating scholars include H. W. Brands (The University of Texas at Austin) and Katherine R. Unterman, George C. Edwards III, and Terry Anderson from Texas A&M University. Andrew S. Natsios, director of the Scowcroft Institute, will serve as moderator.

Visit the Glasscock Center website for more information on each presentation and to register online.

Free parking is available in front of the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum.


San Antonio

"The Election of 1876 and Its Contemporary Significance"

Join the Department of History at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) and Humanities Texas for a discussion about the election of 1876 and its contemporary significance.

Thursday, September 29, 2016
5:00–8:00 p.m. : Public forum

@ Aula Canaria Auditorium, Buena Vista Building (BV 1.328)
The University of Texas at San Antonio, Downtown Campus

Participating scholars include John Reynolds and Omar Valerio-Jiménez from The University of Texas at San Antonio and David Crockett and Claudia Stokes from Trinity University. Gregg Michel, chair of the UTSA history department, will serve as moderator.

Refreshments will be provided courtesy of the Office of the Vice President for Community Services.

If you plan to join us for this event at UTSA, RSVP to bmacias@humanitiestexas.org so that we may update you with the latest program information.

Free parking will be available in the Cattleman Square parking lot on Buena Vista Street. Guests may park in any unmarked space in this lot. You do not need to display a permit or have a ticket validated.


Dallas

"The Election of 1912 and Its Contemporary Significance"

Join the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University (SMU) and Humanities Texas for a discussion about the election of 1912, its parallels to subsequent elections, and its relevance today.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016
3:30–6:00 p.m. : Public forum

@ McCord Auditorium, 3rd Floor, Dallas Hall
Southern Methodist University

Participating scholars include Thomas J. Knock and Crista DeLuzio from SMU and Kenyon Zimmer from The University of Texas at Arlington. Brian Franklin, associate director of SMU's Center for Presidential History, will serve as moderator.

If you plan to join us for this event at SMU, RSVP to willheath@humanitiestexas.org so that we may update you with the latest program information.

Free parking will be available for the event. Print this parking permit and place it on your dashboard. The permit lists several garages and lots you can park in. The closet one to the event is Airline Parking Center. You can find Dallas Hall as #1 on the north end of this map.


Houston

"The Election of 1932 and Its Contemporary Significance"

Join the University of Houston (UH) and Humanities Texas for an evening of discussion about the election of 1932 and its contemporary significance.

Thursday, October 6, 2016
5:00–7:45 p.m. : Public forum

@ Honors Commons, 2nd floor, M. D. Anderson Library
University of Houston

Participating scholars include Sarah Ehlers, Brandon Rottinghaus, and Nancy Beck Young from the University of Houston. Leandra Zarnow, also from the University of Houston, will serve as moderator.

Refreshments will be provided courtesy of the Center for Public History, the Honors College, and the Departments of English, History, and Political Science at UH.

If you plan to join us for this event at UH, RSVP to ktyler@humanitiestexas.org so that we may update you with the latest program information.

Free parking will be available at the Welcome Center Garage. Validated parking passes will be available at the event for use when exiting the garage.


Corpus Christi

"The Election of 1912 and Its Contemporary Significance"

Join the College of Liberal Arts at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (TAMUCC) and Humanities Texas for an evening of discussion about the election of 1912 as well as its parallels to subsequent elections and its relevance today.

Monday, October 17, 2016
4:30–6:30 p.m. : Public forum

@ Lone Star Ballroom, University Center (UC 142A)
Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi

Participating scholars include David Blanke, Jen Brown, and Anthony Quiroz from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and Gretchen Murphy from The University of Texas at Austin. Nick Jimenez, editorial page editor emeritus for the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, will serve as moderator.

If you plan to join us for this event at TAMUCC, RSVP to mhuber@humanitiestexas.org so that we may update you with the latest program information.

Free parking will be available at the Bayside Parking Garage. To get there, take the first entrance to campus from Ocean Drive. At the garage, you will be issued a barcode ticket. Bring that ticket to the event, and we will replace it with a pre-paid ticket to use when you exit.


El Paso

"The Election of 1980 and Its Contemporary Significance"

Join the College of Liberal Arts at The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) and Humanities Texas for an evening of discussion about the election of 1980, its parallels to subsequent elections, and its relevance today.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016
3:00–5:30 p.m. : Public forum
5:30–6:00 p.m. : Reception

@ Undergraduate Learning Center 106
The University of Texas at El Paso

Participating scholars include Charles Martin, Stacey Sowards, and José D. Villalobos from The University of Texas at El Paso. Patricia D. Witherspoon, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts at UTEP, will serve as moderator.

If you plan to join us for this event at UTEP, RSVP to ktyler@humanitiestexas.org so that we may update you with the latest program information.


The public forum series Pivotal U.S. Elections: Then and Now has been made possible in part by a Humanities in the Public Square grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Celebrating 50 Years of Excellence.

Pivotal U.S. Elections: Then and Now has been made possible in part by a Humanities in the Public Square grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
During the 1948 election, in which incumbent President Harry S. Truman ran against Republican Thomas E. Dewey, many predicted that Dewey would win. The Chicago Daily Tribune was so confident of Dewey's victory that they printed the front-page headline "Dewey Defeats Truman" on election day before any polls closed. As the votes were tallied, however, it became clear that Truman would be re-elected. That issue of the Daily Tribune is shown here, held aloft by a victorious Truman. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

From a Currier & Ives campaign banner for the 1876 Republican presidential ticket depicting Ohio governor Rutherford B. Hayes and William A. Wheeler. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

The Election of 1876

The election of 1876 was one of the closest and most controversial elections in United States history. The electoral votes of three states—Florida, South Carolina, and Louisiana—were in dispute, with each party claiming to have won, while one electoral vote from Oregon was also disputed over technicalities regarding the elector. The awarding of just one disputed electoral vote to Democrat Samuel Tilden, the popular vote winner, would have guaranteed him the election. Instead, a congressional committee voted on a party line to award all disputed votes to the Republican, Rutherford Hayes, a contentious and divisive decision that only became acceptable to the Democratic Party with Hayes's agreement to end Reconstruction.

This cartoon by Clifford K. Berryman shows three presidential candidates on the eve of the contentious 1912 election: former President Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and incumbent President William Howard Taft. The cartoon reveals the anxiety underneath the confident public persona each candidate projects. U.S. Senate Collection, Center for Legislation Archives, National Archives and Records Administration.
The first presidential election after the advent of the Great Depression, the election of 1932 ushered in Franklin D. Roosevelt and his New Deal and ended the era of Republican electoral dominance preceding it. This landslide election was the first of five consecutive White House victories for the Democratic Party, and the beginning of the New Deal Coalition, which would dominate both the Democratic Party and electoral politics for years to come.

The Election of 1912

In the election of 1912, the Democratic Party broke the monopoly Republicans had held on the White House since the Civil War. Incumbent president William Howard Taft was the Republican nominee. Former president Theodore Roosevelt, who felt that Taft had been insufficiently progressive during his first term, formed the Progressive Party, or "Bull Moose Party," and ran as its candidate for president. Eugene V. Debs also ran in the 1912 election as a socialist. A division emerged among Republicans between those who supported Taft and those who supported Roosevelt. In the end, Woodrow Wilson, the Democratic governor of New Jersey, won the White House. The split of the Republican Party in the election of 1912, and the subsequent dominance of the Republican Party by conservatives, led to many progressives joining the Democratic Party.

From a Punch cartoon by Leonard Raven-Hill depicting the perceived aggression between William Howard Taft and Theodore Roosevelt, 1912.
Ronald Reagan giving his acceptance speech at the 1980 Republican National Convention. National Archives and Records Administration.

The Election of 1980

The election of 1980 saw incumbent Democratic President Jimmy Carter lose in a landslide to Republican candidate Ronald Reagan. Carter's administration had been characterized by ineffective foreign policy and a weak economy, and Reagan easily defeated him. Reagan threaded together many elements of conservatism in his campaign, emphasizing family values, lower taxes, and anti-Soviet rhetoric. His election constituted a realignment known as the "Reagan Revolution," marked by a shift to the conservative end of the political spectrum.