Hurrah and Hokum

In the 1840 election, Whigs and Democrats turned out record numbers of voters by appealing to the raw emotions of their followers.

Listen to Episode 22 of Whistlestop:

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If you think that appealing to sentiment over reason is a tactic defined by modern presidential campaigners, think again. In this episode of Whistlestop, we remember the election of 1840, when the Whig Party demonstrated that it had learned a thing or two from the rise of Andrew Jackson’s Democratic Party. With the help of the partisan press and some remarkable showmanship on the floor of Congress, the Whigs succeeded in defining the incumbent, Martin Van Buren, as an effete, rich snob—out of touch with the common white man. In an election that saw record voter turnout, William Henry Harrison proved triumphant and set the stage for many decades of electioneering to come.


Whistlestop is Slate’s podcast about presidential campaign history. Hosted by our political columnist and Political Gabfest panelist John Dickerson, each installment revisits a memorable (or even a forgotten) moment from America’s quadrennial carnival.

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Email: whistlestop@slate.com

Podcast production by Tony Field.