Despite this widespread corruption, why was Grant re-elected in 1872? Why wasn’t a Democrat elected president until 1884?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The period after the Civil War was a period in which the Republican Party was able to dominate presidential politics.  Grant’s ability to get reelected stems largely from this overall Republican dominance.  Even though there was corruption in Grant’s administration, most Americans still preferred the Republican Party.  The most important reason for this continuing Republican success was their ability to paint the Democrats as the party of “Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion.”

In the period after the Civil War, many immigrants were flooding into the United States.  There was a great deal of concern about these newcomers among “native” Americans.  They were particularly worried about Catholic immigrants at a time when the country was dominated by Protestants and Catholicism was seen as an anti-democratic religion.  Nativists also believed that Catholics were subservient to the Pope and were therefore not true Americans.  In addition, many Americans were worried about excessive drinking among immigrants.  Fear of immigrants helped push many people towards the Republican Party because the immigrants were strong supporters of the Democratic Party.

The third strike against the Democrats might have been the most important for Grant’s reelection in 1872.  We must remember that this was a mere seven years after the end of the Civil War.  There were still many in the North who were very angry about the Civil War.  The fact that Grant was a Civil War hero helped make him popular, particularly among those who saw the Democrats as traitors.

There are a few other factors that mattered.  For example, the economy was strong and voters are typically inclined to reelect a president when that is the case.  Grant had also lowered taxes and tariffs, causing people to be happy with him.  This combination of overall Republican dominance and factors specific to 1872 allowed Grant to overcome the scandals in his administration.

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