Joing us thank you under it may feel like this is the most contentious election - certainly in recent memories.
But we've been here before.
Mo rocca takes us back to the disputed election of 1876.
1876 was a banner year for america, the hundredth anniversary of the declaration of independence ... a nationwide celebration with a full fifth of the country's population descending on philadelphia for the centennial exposition.
But beneath the revelry & there was a deep sense of unease.
Eric foner: this was the depths of a pretty serious economic depression.
There was widespread unemployment.
There were fairly violent labor disputes in various parts of the country.
And, says columbia university history professor eric foner, the country was still feeling the aftershocks of the civil war, which had ended only eleven years before.
Eric foner there was still violence in the south which had existed since the civil war-- because of-- white supremacists' opposition to the giving of citizenship rights to the former slaves.
So-- it was not a tranquil year, that's for sure.
1876 was also a presidential election year - and all of these issues - plus the rampant corruption in the administration of outgoing president ulysses s.
Grant- would factor into the contest.
The republicans ran ohio governor rutherford b.
Hayes mo rocca: was he charismatic?
Dustin mclochlin: i wouldn't say so.
Mo rocca: this is a spectacular porch.
Dustin mclochlin: yeah, hayes joked that he wanted a porch with a house attached.
Dustin mclochlin is the historian at the rutherford b.
Hayes presidential center in fremont, ohio.
Dustin mclochlin: he really exemplified that american tradition of the office seeks you, you don't seek it.
Christie weininger: we have kind of the trifecta over here.
We have general grant, general sherman, general sheridan.
Mo rocca: all great union generals.
Christie weininger: yes.
And all from ohio as well.
Hayes' service as a general during the civil war, says the center's executive director christie weinger, was central to his identity.
Christie weininger: he saw firsthand the passions that were behind the sectionalism that caused the civil war.
So i think that was always in the back of his mind, is how do we make this country feel united again?
Meanwhile the democrats were hungry to reclaim the white house, which they hadn't won in twenty years.
Their candidate, new york governor samuel tilden - a bachelor lawyer - had made his name fighting big city corruption.
Robert yahner: the man was a bit lethargic and quite frankly a lot of people thought he was dull - dull but dedicated.
His home sat across from new york city's gramercy park and is today the national arts club, "overseen" robert yahner.
Mo rocca: well, i have to tell you, this house is kinda nicer than the white house.
Robert yahner: yes, this house is a great tilden legacy.
But neither candidate, says eric foner, was exactly mount rushmore material.
Eric foner: there's another way of putting it.
Both of them were basically mediocrities politically.
Still the turnout that november seventh remains the highest ever for a presidential election.
Mo rocca: the turnout was 82% of eligible voters.
Eric foner: that's the 19th century.// you had two political parties competing throughout the nation, very well- organized, with people very loyal to them.
On election night tilden was ahead in the popular vote by two hundred sixty thousand votes.
Dustin mclochlin: hayes actually goes to bed believing tilden had won and he actually has interviews with reporters saying, "i've lost."
And t republican party has to step in and tell him to stop saying that.
That's because republican officials still saw a narrow path to victory for hayes.
Eric foner: if hayes could carry the three southern states where the results were not yet clear, florida, louisiana, and south carolina, he would win by one electoral vote.
And they just issued a statement, "haye has carried those states and is elected".
And in certain sense it's almost like the 2000 election where bush made a kind of early claim of victory even though it was so divided and gore never quite contested it properly.
And just as in the year 2000, america in 1876 woke up the morning after the election not knowing who had won.
Inauguration back then was in early march, which meant the country had four months to figure out who would be its nineteenth president.
Eric foner: this election was flawed from top to bottom.
Massive voter fraud, says foner, only added to the confusion.
Eric foner: there was violence throughout the south against african american voters to try to make it impossible for them to vote.
Black men - almost all of whom were republican back then - had only recently won the right to vote.
And southern democrats were actively suppressing that vote.
Eric foner: if there had been a fair election in the south, there's no question, hayes would have won by a large margin.
But neither side was willing to concede.
Eric foner: there were democratic newspapers with headlines, march to washington to install tilden as president.
There were republicans saying-- "we're o the verge of another civil war."
Dustin mclochlin: tilden or blood & this idea if tilden is not counted in, we might have another war, to fight here.
Mo rocca: was there a fear that there could be dueling presidencies?
Dustin mclochlin: yes, here were key democrats who asked tilden to take the oath of office anyway.
He refused to do so.
Eric foner: and there were a lotta people who said, particularly businessmen and others who said, "we don't eve care who's elected, but get this settled."
But congress was divided and the constitution offered no clear direction for resolving the impasse.
So in january of 1877, a fifteen member electoral commission was formed.
The eight republicans and seven democrats would determine which candidate won the states in dispute.
Lose q: eric foner: by some coincidence, all the electoral votes are allocated to hayes by a vote of eight to seven in each case.
That's right, the commission voted along party lines.
Maurice rocca: but it's not over yet.
Eric foner: it's not over yet.
The tilden camp cried foul.
With inauguration just days away and the nation on edge, representatives for both candidates met in washington for secret negotiations.
Eric foner ironically, they took place at wormley house, a major hotel in washington, d.c., which is owned by a black man, wormley, probably the most well-to- do african american in the city of washington at that time.
Ironic because the agreement forged there - known as the compromise of 1877 - would have long lasting repercussions for black americans in the south.
Eric foner the democrats will not stop the inauguration of hayes.
They will accept hayes as president.
Hayes will end the remaing reconstruction.
There will be no more republican reconstruction governments in the south.
In other words the republicans get the white house.
The democrats effectively regain control of the american south.
No more federal protection of the rights of recently freed african- americans.
Eric foner: the democrats promise they will respect the basic rights of the former slaves, which they do not do-- at all.
Hayes was certified as president on march 2nd 1877.
Samuel tilden accepted the decision.
Three days later hayes was inaugurated .
Christie weinger: i think if either hayes or tilden had been of-- of the personality that was very aggressive, that was very intense-- that really wanted this presidency for very selfish reasons, i think the whole tenor would have changed.
Today, says christie weininger, president hayes is remembered less for what he did during his single term in office than for the election that threatened to tear apart the country once again.
Mo rocca: are visitors bringing up the election of 1876 more now?
Christie weininger: yes, they're very interested in how divisive the country was then.
And somehow knowing that we've been there before and survived, i think, gives some comfort and some hope to people.
When we come back, a first look at election night headquarters.
Mid morning will return in