Republicans’ desperate final bid to steal the election involves a 200-year-old queer presidential candidate

Lily Wakefield
·2-min read

Republicans are trying to challenge the result of the 2020 US election using a law created because of a 19th century LGBT+ presidential candidate.

As Donald Trump continues to baselessly insist that the presidential election was “rigged”, on Wednesday (30 December) GOP senator Josh Hawley announced that he would challenge president-elect Joe Biden’s win in Pennsylvania when Congress meets to certify the election results Wednesday (6 January).

It is unclear whether the Missouri senator – who last year called the Supreme Court decision to extend anti-discrimination protections to LGBT+ workers “the end of the conservative legal movement” – will oppose the result in Pennsylvania only, or whether he will include other states in his challenge.

“We’ll see about that, we’re working out the logistics of it,” he said, according to Politico.

Hawley is using the Electoral Count Act (ECA) of 1887, which was created to codify the role of Congress in certifying the electoral college votes but also includes procedures for challenging them.

The senator’s challenge means the House and Senate will have to separately debate and vote on the electoral votes in at least one state, essentially choosing whether to uphold Biden’s victory or side with Trump’s claims of election fraud.

Although it is almost certain his challenge will fail, the ECA used by anti-LGBT+ senator Hawley was, ironically, created because of a 19th century LGBT+ presidential candidate.

The ECA was created following the hugely contentious 1876 presidential election, in which Democratic candidate Samuel J Tilden faced off against Republican Rutherford B Hayes.

While Tilden was the apparent winner of the election, the Republicans opposed the result. As the constitution did not specify what to do in the case of a dispute, what followed was chaos. Eventually a deal was made between the two parties, at the expense of Black Americans, and Hayes became president.

If he had won, Tilden would have become the second-ever LGBT+ president of the United States – historians widely accept that James Buchanan, the 15th US president, was gay.

According to LGBTQ Nation, Tilden was described in a newspaper as “a very nice, prim, little, withered-up, fidgety old bachelor, about one-hundred and twenty-pounds avoirdupois, who never had a genuine impulse for many nor any affection for woman”.

Although Republicans at the time suggested that Tilden “courted men” to undermine him, more modern evidence suggests he was likely to have been asexual.

The ECA was created to prevent the confusion, chaos and shady deals surrounding the 1876 election from happening again, however in 2021 this may not be the case.