The presidential election of 1868, between General Ulysses Grant and former-Governor Horatio Seymour of New York, was decided by a mere 300,000 votes out of nearly 6 million.
A brilliant Radical Republican strategy designed to keep the defeated South in political vassalage was enacting black male suffrage in occupied Southern States, while disenfranchising as many white males as possible. This enabled Grant to defeat Seymour with an all-important swing vote provided by 500,000 freedmen.
Shilling for voting blocs was not new in America by Grant’s time: Lincoln himself purchased a Springfield, Illinois German-language newspaper with which to hawk his campaign and corner the German vote. One hundred years later, Kennedy’s party used a voting bloc to defeat Richard Nixon.
Fine Election Strategies
“The finest election strategies,” John F. Kennedy remarked after the 1960 campaign, “are usually the result of accidents.”
One further consequence of the Nixon/McCarthy attack [on Democrat Adlai Stevenson] could not have been more brilliant had it been planned. On October 24 . . . [Dwight] Eisenhower said that if elected, he would “go to Korea.” Implicit therein was the promise to seek a negotiated end to the Korean War. It was electrifying.
As always in the United States there was a real difference between the vocal commitment to the heroic and warlike stance and the deeper commitment to peace. Meanwhile, so frozen was the Democratic position by now that we did not even recognize the power of the Eisenhower initiative. And the response [by Stevenson], when it came, was pathetic in its stereotype. “The root of the Korean problem does not lie in Korea. It lies in Moscow . . .”
[Regarding the later election campaign of John F. Kennedy in 1960, author Galbraith states further:] “During the campaign that year Martin Luther King had been jailed in Georgia, and there was much favorable reaction when, at the urging of staff members, Kennedy promptly telephoned Mrs. King and Robert Kennedy as promptly telephoned the judge” (Ambassador’s Journal, 1969, pg. 6).
Kennedy’s phone call “received considerable attention in the African-American community, and some commentators argue that the impact on African-American voters helped Kennedy with the election.”
It is reported that Robert Kennedy called the judge and berated him – King was released the next day. Both Kennedy brothers had expressed concerns about King’s association with known-communist like Bayard Rustin, who served as King’s mass demonstration organizer.
(A Life in Our Times, A Memoir: John Kenneth Galbraith, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1981, excerpts pg. 299)