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'I Have Never Heard Of Anything Like This Happening': A Look At Past Contentious Elections

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Wednesday's violence at the Capitol is being called the worst assault on American democracy in recent history.

The Presidential election of 1876 is marked as one of the most contentious elections in American history and the last time the political divide led to such violence. From 20 years ago with Bush and Gore to Adams versus Jefferson more than 200 years ago, the move to the White House has not always been friendly.

"We have these laws to prevent exactly this kind of response, which is a mob determining who will be in power," said Eric Rauchway, UC Davis distinguished Professor of History.

Rauchway says the closest we have come to the continuous transfer of power we are seeing today was back in 1932 when President Hoover lost to Franklin Roosevelt.

"He (Hoover) threatened to veto things during the transition and prevented legislation the last days he was in office," he explained.

Even then Rauchway said the struggle for power never went this far.

"He (Hoover) didn't try to whip up the mob against the installation of his successor. Indeed he participated in the peaceful handover of power," said Rauchway.

Protestors as recently as the 2000 election have disrupted the process to determine the presidential winner.

"A group of protestors succeeded in terrifying Miami-Dade vote counters in stopping their recount," explained Rauchway.

UC Davis Law professor Ash Bhagwat explains Wednesday's riot at the US Capitol was historic for all the wrong reasons.

"I have never heard of anything like this happening," he said.

Bhagwat believes the United States has been a successful democracy because of the constitution.

"Democracy doesn't work if people who lose elections don't concede power. That is the definition of democracy," he said.

Even if rioters attempt to overtake the National Mall on inauguration day, Bhagwat says they can't stop what has already been decided.

"If things really went south, newly-elected President Biden can take the oath of office anywhere he wants. There will be a transition of power on January 20," he said.

This is the first time the U.S. Capitol has been breached since the British attacked in 1814, according to the UC Capitol Historical Society.

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