Library of Congress


Election... the American Way

Issues from Past Presidential Campaigns

Throughout American history, presidential candidates have stood or stumbled by their stance on political issues. Despite the powers of personality, popularity, and publicity, a presidential candidate who wants to win on election day must win on the issues as well.

  • Slavery, Secession, and States’ Rights

    Washington's association with the victorious and popular stance on issues of independence made him the unanimous choice for president in 1789. Conversely, Lincoln's careful stance on a variety of issues guided him to a meager victory in a year when the country, and its political parties, were ravaged by a maelstrom of complicated and volatile issues. Slavery was one of these issues.

  • Opposition to Corruption

    In addition to war, presidential candidates in American history have based their campaigns and presidencies on issues as various as political corruption, environmental conservation, and foreign policy.

  • Foreign Policy and Peace

    Issues surrounding the aftermath of World War I launched Warren Harding's presidency. The wartime boom had collapsed. Diplomats and politicians argued over peace treaties and America's entry into the League of Nations. Overseas there were wars and revolutions; at home there were strikes, riots and a growing fear of radicals and terrorists. Foreign policy and peace issues have always been important to presidential candidates.

Issues Today

Recent presidential elections have included a range of issues including: taxation, the national debt, education, civil rights, health care, and terrorism. In the upcoming election, which political positions will be rewarded? Which will be punished? What new issues will emerge?