A major political issue that began in 1789 separated the Republican and Democratic parties long since it was debated. This issue, a tariff, imposed a fee on all imported goods, which was beneficial for the North, but unfortunate for the South. The tariff's main purpose was to protect the nation's industries from foreign competition and the presidential election of 1888 was one of many elections that had a controversy on this issue.
The presidential candidates for the election of 1888 were Benjamin Harrison, a Republican; Grover Cleveland, a Democrat; Clinton Fisk, a Prohibitionist; and Alsen Streeter, a Union Laborer. This election was a sectional election, which is why there were so many candidates. Benjamin Harrison's nomination for the election of 1884 was unsuccessful but Harrison was a more notable candidate for being nominated for the Republican Party in 1888. Grover Cleveland, an incumbent, was nominated by the Democratic Party for re-election in the 1888 presidential campaign.
The Republicans, including Harrison, focused on the issue of the tariff which turned out voters in industrial states. Harrison's campaign strategy was one of the first of its kind. He conducted what is called a "front-porch" campaign which is one where the candidate remains at home, or close to home, and gives his speech to those who come to visit. Harrison ran a well financed campaign, one of over 400,000 dollars. His campaign slogan was "Rejuvenated Republicanism" which came from a statement made by Harrison during his nomination. He placed more emphasis on government activism, believing that government should play a large role in industrialization. He also had a strong nationalistic view which shows in a quote from him. "Unlike many other people less happy, we give our devotion to a government, to its Constitution, to its flag, and not to men."
Grover Cleveland was running for a second term and was a spirited candidate, but he stuck to the tradition that presidential candidates didn't publicly campaign. Cleveland played up his strong record on civil service reform and reduction on the tariffs. He argued that the tariff was unnecessarily high and that it was unjust taxation. When Republicans told him that he had given them an effective issue for the campaign, he replied, "What is the use of being elected or re-elected unless you stand for something?" Cleveland advocated state's rights, and opposite of Harrison, he believed government shouldn't be used to speed economic growth.
The results of the election were ones that don't happen often. Although Cleveland gained the majority of the popular vote, Harrison won the majority of the electoral vote which has happened only twice before this election. Harrison gained 58% of the electoral vote, by a margin of 233 to 168 but he only had 48% of the popular vote, most of which came from the North. Cleveland, on the other hand, had 49% of the popular vote, most of which came from the South. The South once again stuck to the strategy of "Solid South" but unlike popular belief, the North could have the same effect on a candidate. The swing vote states of New York and Indiana were also a major contribution to Harrison's victory.
All in all, the election of 1888 had many controversial issues, not all of these issues were solved by the end of election. Harrison's victory was believed to be a start of a new Republican era. The two candidates had opposite ideas and ways of campaigning so the election could have gone either way. But in the end, Harrison came out on top.
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