“Stimulate Every Whig to Turn Out”

Michael F. Holt

in The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party

Published in print May 2003 | ISBN: 9780195161045
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199849635 | DOI:
“Stimulate Every Whig to Turn Out”

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Since Whigs won the presidency in 1840 and 1848 while running military heroes without platforms, historians normally pair those two elections to demonstrate the Whigs' unprincipled expediency, their policies' unattractiveness, and their electoral weakness. In one important respect this bracketing is valid. Aside from the incursion of a separate anti-slavery party into Whig ranks, therefore, the election of 1848 portended the Whig party's ultimate collapse by demonstrating its inability to retain old voters or to mobilize new ones without demonstrating clear differences from Democrats on concrete issues. That fact creates a paradox. To understand how Zachary Taylor won the election, one must understand how the Whigs were able to retain as much of their vote as they did—how they were able to minimize both defections and abstentions. To understand how the election augured the party's demise, one must understand why the Whigs lost the support they did.

Keywords: Whig party; presidency; elections; anti-slavery; Democrats; Zachary Taylor

Chapter.  28370 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas

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