Here's a confession.
Two or three times this week, I've used the great oxymoronic term "magnificent catastrophe", always in connection with Ovide LaMontagne's ill-fated gubernatorial campaign from 1996.
Here's the confession. While I love that phrase, I didn't invent it. In fact, it's from a book which I read several years ago. "Magnificent Catastrophe" has been floating around in the back of my mind for years, and while I was fairly sure what it referred to, I thought I'd google it just to be certain.
Magnificent Catastrophe is a book about one of our country's most controversial elections, but rather than just give it to you, let's play another round of trivia.
As written by Edward J. Larson, Magnificent Catastrophe refers to which election?
A. 1800--Jefferson (Burr) v. John Adams
B. 1824--John Quincy Adams v. Andrew Jackson
C. 1876--Rutherford B. Hayes vs. Samuel Tilden
D. 1912--Woodrow Wilson v. Howard Taft v. Theodore Roosevelt
E. 2000--George W. Bush v. Albert Gore
The book is in fact subtitled, "The Tumultuous Election of _____, America's First Presidential Campaign."
Fill in the blank with 1800 and you've got your non-Ovidian Magnificent Catastrophe. Remember it was the election Jefferson had clearly won against Adams, but Aaron Burr (Jefferson’s vice presidential candidate) received the same number of electoral votes, thus throwing the election into the House of Representatives where some Federalists tried to make Burr rather than Jefferson President, a magnificent catastrophe as related by Larson.