Nixon is a shifty-eyed goddamn liar. He’s one of the few in the history of this country to run for high office talking out of both sides of his mouth at the same time and lying out of both sides. — Harry Truman
It has been six months since the 2020 Presidential Election, and the nonsense idea that Joe Biden stole the election from Donald Trump still has not waned. Depending on the poll, anywhere from 50% to 90% of Republicans believe that Joe Biden stole the election from Donald Trump. Of course, there still remains no hard evidence to this claim, but that doesn’t matter to the Trump supporter, who has convinced himself that Donald Trump is so popular that the idea of him losing is impossible. (One America News’s “accurate map” for the 2020 Election had Trump winning over 400 Electoral Votes, meaning they thought he won in the biggest landslide since 1988.) MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell even launched Frankspeech.com, allegedly a social media platform, so he could rant non-stop about how the election was stolen from Trump. And, of course, on 1/6/2021 a small group of Republicans and Trump-loyalists stormed the United States capitol as Congress was set to certify the Electoral Votes in hopes of stopping Biden from becoming President. Earlier that day, Donald Trump gave a speech in Washington D.C. specifically telling his supporters the election had been stolen and encouraging them to march to the capitol and express their disagreement.
However, this is not the first time they told this lie about an election being stolen from them, and the first person they told this lie about turned about to be one of the most beloved Presidents in American history: Of course, I’m talking about John F. Kennedy. Although he has since become an American icon, it’s important to remember that Kennedy was nowhere near as popular today as he was during his time as President. At the time of his assassination, Kennedy had an approval rating of 55%, which was relatively low at that time. After the Bay Of Pigs, roughly 30% of Americans disapproved of Kennedy’s performance in office. And Kennedy’s critics were incredibly vocal, to the point where the John Birch Society put an ad in a Dallas, Texas newspaper calling for Kennedy’s arrest on the day of his assassination.
Only winning the popular vote by 0.17% in 1960, Kennedy’s close election (the closest of the entire 20th century, in fact) allowed for Republicans to spread the lie that he stole the election from Nixon, something Nixon honestly believed. As the Republicans told it, Kennedy stole the election from Nixon and his staff encouraged him to challenge the results, but Nixon was worried about a constitutional crisis, so he “took the high road” and refused to allow his staff to challenge the election results.
This story, however, was one fatal flaw: Republicans did challenge the 1960 Election Results at the time. Just like in 2020, no evidence of election fraud was ever found, but that didn't stop Republicans from spreading this nonsense for the next six decades.
The typical targets of this myth are Texas and Illinois, if Nixon had won both of these states he would have had just enough (as in, it would have literally been 270–268) Electoral Votes to win the Presidency.
In Illinois, the myth goes that Chicago Mayor Richard Daley — a powerful Democrat with connections to the Kennedys and, in some versions of the story, the mafia — used his power to flip votes in Chicago so Kennedy could win Illinois. Kennedy only won Illoinis by 9,000 votes, and Nixon would have won Illinois if it weren’t for Chicago. However, no poll at any point in 1960 put Nixon ahead in Illinois, the state was always clearly going to go for Kennedy. Believe it or not, places that elect powerful Democrats as mayor for over two decades straight are rather likely to vote blue on a federal level as well as on a local one. When Daley was first elected mayor in 1955, Chicago had not had a Republican mayor for over twenty years.
Daley was corrupt, nobody is denying that. However, there is no evidence that he used his corruption to help Kennedy become President of the United States.
The other state Republicans point to is Texas, which Kennedy won by 46,000 votes. According to many, Senate Majority Leader and Kennedy’s running-mate Lyndon Johnson had illegal migrants vote for Kennedy at polling stations near the southern border.
Before we continue, it should be noted that Johnson was willing to play dirty, so it’s not as if this was something he wouldn’t do. Johnson infamously stole the Democratic nomination from Coke R. Stevenson during the 1948 Senate Election. One that election, Robert Caro, the historian responsible for the The Years Of Lyndon Johnson book series which brought that fraud to light (although it had been known in some form since 1977 and had been speculated for decades before), famously said in 1990:
People have been saying for 40 years, “No one knows what really happened in that election,’ and ‘Everybody does it.” Neither of those statements is true. I don’t think that this is the only election that was ever stolen, but there was never such brazen thievery.
(It should be noted that Caro also rejects the idea that Kennedy and Johnson stole the 1960 election, despite him being the historian who most thoroughly documented the theft in 1948, which should be a massive shot in the arm to this theory. Caro also believes that the only reason Johnson lost the 1941 Texas Senate race was because the winner, Pappy O’Daniel, engaged in even more election fraud — but that’s another story.)
However, there’s a reason why Johnson only ever had to cheat in one primary election, because while he was polarizing among Texas Democrats for his progressive record, the average Texan still supported him. Johnson earned the nickname “Landslide Lyndon,” after he won the general election in 1948 with 66% of the vote and the 1954 election with 85% of the vote. Kennedy even picked Johnson because Johnson was incredibly popular in the south, who Kennedy was struggling with due to his progressive record.
In the same vein, Johnson would not have needed to steal the 1960 Election, because he was so popular back home. Texas was still a Democratic stronghold at this point, and Johnson getting the position of Senate Majority Leader meant that he was incredibly well known in federal politics already.
The idea that Nixon was advocating restraint is also utter nonsense, actual first-hand sources say it was President Eisenhower who was encouraging Nixon and his staff not to challenge the election results. Eisenhower actually hated Nixon, and Nixon was only put on the ticket because the Republicans needed an aggressive red-hunter (Nixon had made his career as the loudest mouth on the House Unamerican Activities Committee) in hopes of getting the votes of the Joseph McCarthy crowd (a man who Eisenhower also detested).
However, once it was made clear the legal cases wouldn’t go anywhere, Nixon got his friends in the media to print stories making his case. Yes, we are talking about the same Nixon who said this:
The press is the enemy. The press is the enemy. The press is the enemy. . . Write that on the blackboard 100 times and never forget it.
The press is the enemy. You must keep up the attack on the media. You’ve got to keep destorying their credibilty.
The number one advocate being Earl Mazo, a writer for The New York Herald Tribune (which had endorsed Nixon) and author of the 1959 book Richard Nixon: A Political and Personal Portrait, the first biography on Nixon. While editors told later told Mazo he could not continue his “investigation,” which really upset Mazo because he thought the story could win him a Pulitzer Prize, it was too late, and, thanks to him, the lie had already spread. Soon, many local conservative newspapers were spreading The Big Lie, and it became something every Republican believed.
For those who think the nonsense about 2020 will go away, allow me to burst your bubble, it will not. Just as people still believe Kennedy stole 1960, in sixty years, people will believe that Biden stole 2020. All those who know the truth can do is put out the information and hope that enough people go with the evidence.