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Abstract

“I’ve never seen anything like this.” “Is this the end of the country?”

In 2016, it seemed that both of those statements, or something similar, was on the tongues of nearly every American. No matter who you supported, there seemed to be something entirely new about the election cycle that the nation found itself in. There is no doubt that for this generation, the 2016 election is a watershed moment for the United States. For the U.S., however, watershed moments in democracy are not the exception but the rule. To fully understand how our democracy transitions, one must return to the election of 1828 and the first monumental shift in American politics. It was a battle for an evolving electorate between a stuffy, intellectual elite and a volatile man of the people. The rules for a presidential election shifted dramatically in 1828. After it was completed, many, including the defeated candidate, believed that the nation would not be able to survive, adopting an apocalyptic tone to their message. In many ways, this rhetoric emerged because it appeared that the country was taking a step back from the perceived progressive march that it had been on. Is such a progressive march only a myth that cannot be achieved? This paper will investigate such a claim while arguing that for all that seemed new in 2016, it was another iteration of a transition in the grand American experiment.

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