Ken Burns Offers a Quick Refresher Course in 11 Past Elections Where, Yup, Our Whole Future Turned Out To Be At Stake

Since every voting event this side of American Idol has been cast by someone as “the most important election of our lifetime,” Ken Burns has decided to remind us that we’ve tackled some pretty significant political decisions in the past as well.

Specifically, Burns has used his Unum website to assemble clips from 11 previous elections, all of which have been covered in his various PBS mega-documentaries over the years.

Richard Nixon, who ran on a platform of “peace with honor” in Vietnam, talks with South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu after his election.

We start with Thomas Jefferson’s election in 1800 and run up through Richard Nixon’s election in 1968, with stops for Abraham Lincoln, the Roosevelts and others.

Each segment averages around four minutes, so these are the short versions. But they pack plenty of firepower.

Remember the Alien & Sedition Act, which gave the government the power to deport all foreigners and arrest people who criticized the government? That was the tipping point that got Jefferson to run.

Remember the election of 1864, during the Civil War, when Lincoln’s opponent, General George McClellan, argued that the Union should make peace with the South even if the Union hadn’t won?

Then there was 1928, when the election was largely a referendum on whether the sale of alcohol should remain illegal. The drys backed Herbert Hoover and won. The battle, that is. They won the battle. We all know how the war turned out.

And how about 1960, when baseball star Jackie Robinson supported Nixon because Republicans had often had more of a commitment to civil rights?

It’s a splendid way to keep things in perspective — and remember that voting itself is the great American victory.

Here’s the link:

David Hinckley wrote for the New York Daily News for 35 years. Now he drives his wife crazy by randomly quoting Bob Dylan and “Casablanca.”

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