Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Joseph Smith’s run for the presidency

A few thoughts in honor of Inauguration Day here in the US…

Joseph Smith was actively campaigning for the presidency of the United States when he was killed. (Well, to be completely accurate, others were campaigning on his behalf at the time—he was in hiding and then prison for the last bit there.) He wasn’t a terribly viable candidate in the sense that he was pretty clearly not going to win the election, but there was some serious thought given at the time to the possibility that he could have won Illinois (after all, he commanded a bloc of votes that would have dominated Nauvoo, then easily the largest city in the state, and some other areas).*

As a sidebar, if Joseph Smith had won Illinois, James K. Polk would have still won the election—161 electoral votes to Henry Clay’s 105 to Joseph Smith’s 9—but the shift in votes may have killed Polk’s popular vote plurality (which was 49.54% to Clay’s 48.08%, a difference of only 39,494 votes), especially if a regionally viable third-party candidate like Smith boosted the Liberty Party candidacy of James Birney (who took 2.30%, with 62,103 votes) by eliminating a bit of the “wasted vote” hurdle. Makes for an interesting what-if, to imagine how a Jacksonian (Polk is generally considered the last of the bunch) would have reacted to being a representative of a clear minority.

* This is one of the reasons i nearly consistently refer to the circumstances surrounding Joseph Smith, Jr.’s death as an “assassination”. The political overtones fit for this reason (among others).

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