Joe Biden and Donald Trump cast the die Super Tuesday for the unpopular rematch of a sitting president against the president he defeated, the likes of which the nation has seldom experienced.

Election day is still eight months hence, on Nov. 5, which Trump hyped “as the single most important day in the history of our country.”

That discounts the Declaration of Independence signing. The Civil War’s start and end. Pearl Harbor. V-E and V-J days. Just to mention a few enshrined historic dates.

Trump’s accurate about the crucial governing choice voters face: A swing to his hard-right policies or staying the course with Biden’s centrist-left approach.

They are consequentially different.

Yet neither approach guarantees historic national change unless voters also elect a supermajority Senate and majority House aligned lockstep with the next president’s agenda.

That’s not likely to happen.

But if it does, and the Congress and president disregard the Constitution’s guardrails, the Supreme Court serves as a check on unrestrained power under our system of three separate but equal branches of government.

So if you are thinking about leaving the country or storming the Capitol should your candidate lose in November, hold off. The world’s oldest democracy has survived worse stresses and remained a giant of freedom and liberty.

A more realistic Nov. 5 long-shot is a tie or no-winner general election. In either case, the U.S. House picks the next president. It has happened only twice, and each time it involved multiple candidates.

Given public opinion polls show the majority of voters prefer an alternative to the Biden-Trump rematch, third party candidates are sure to appear on the November ballot. They will widen the choice and maybe even win enough electoral votes to deny Biden or Trump the 275 majority needed to win the election.

The movement “No Labels” plans to nominate a presidential candidate with national recognition (retired Navy admiral and author William McRaven?) and the Libertarian Party is talking with outlier candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., nephew of assassinated President John F. Kennedy.

Kennedy, an environmental lawyer and vaccination skeptic, withdrew last October from the Democratic presidential race, saying he would run as an independent. He has not said he would accept the Libertarian nomination if offered. But he appeared recently at the party”s annual convention in California. It also appears his best path forward to get on all 50 state ballots in November.

If the presidential election becomes a three or four candidate race with the two major party candidates remaining unpopular, an Electoral College scramble becomes plausible. Here’s what happened in the two hard-fought presidential elections decided by the House in the early 19th century.

In the year 1800, electors voted separately for president and vice president. Incumbent Federalist President John Adams faced Democratic-Republican Vice President Thomas Jefferson, who Adams had defeated four years earlier. In the rematch, Jefferson and his vice president mate Aaron Burr tied with 73 electoral votes each. Adams trailed with 65 votes.

The tie sent the decision to the House, with each state allowed one vote. It took 36 ballots to break the tie that gave Jefferson one more vote for president than Burr, who became vice president. Federalist Alexander Hamilton, who disliked Burr and later died by his hand in a pistol duel, leveraged influence for Jefferson.

In the 1824 election, Massachusetts Rep. John Quincy Adams, son of former President Adams, emerged the winner in another heated election decided by the House even though he captured far fewer popular and electoral votes in the general election than Tennessee Senator Andrew Jackson. Candidates Secretary of State William Crawford and Kentucky Rep. Henry Clay also received electoral votes, resulting in no one receiving the requisite Electoral College majority.

By then, the 12th Amendment on House procedures for electing the president had been changed to require the top three electoral vote recipients to be on the House ballot. Crawford, who finished third in electoral votes, had suffered a stroke and became a nonfactor as the House considered Adams and Jackson for president. Though not on the House ballot, Clay threw his backing behind Adams, who won by a single vote over Jackson.

The Adams-Clay arrangement came to be known as the “Corrupt Bargain” when President Adams appointed Clay to the Office of Secretary of State. Four years later Jackson crushed Adams in the rematch presidential election.

The 2024 presidential election may not be the single most important day in U.S. history, but it may be a historic recurrence.

Bill Ketter is senior vice president of news for CNHI. Reach him at

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