Once you get past gender, ethnicity, political affiliation and being presidents, it’s hard to imagine anything those two have in common. I was reading a biography of James Buchanan (Lincoln’s predecessor) as part of a book I am writing. Each had to face opposition that was totally unhinged.
First, a quick history lesson. In the early 1850’s most people believed that the controversy over slavery had been put to rest. Senator Stephen Douglas (a longtime rival to Lincoln) wanted to open up the Great Plains to settlement. He couldn’t get the South to go along without revisiting the question of slavery in the territories. This led to the Kansas-Nebraska Act. This created a total political realignment in a short time. The Republican Party was formed. Their main purpose was to keep slavery out of the territories. Very few were talking about abolishing slavery where it currently existed.
Many people went way overboard in their reaction with Buchanan leading the way. Of course, the political divide got wider and wider. Many southerners went berserk when Lincoln was elected. States started to secede well before his inauguration. Buchanan did nothing to stop it and some of his actions bordered on treason. Clearly the sensible thing to do was wait and see if Lincoln was the wild-eyed monster they thought he was. Instead, they fired on Fort Sumter and started the worst event in our history. In the end, they lost just about everything they held dear. Grover Cleveland was the only Democrat elected president in the next fifty years.
We are seeing much the same thing today. There are many valid reasons for people to oppose Trump’s policies and his persona. Virtually the entire campaign was about vilifying Trump and his supporters. Once he won, they tried wild schemes to keep him out of office. There was talk of impeachment before he was inaugurated. They compared him to Hitler. Since he didn’t start rounding up undesirable, he was just a white supremacist. Then there has been all the resist nonsense. Conservatives call it Trump Derangement Syndrome. I think the name fits.
In an eight-year period Democrats in Congress went from the strongest they had been in fifty years to the weakest they have been in nearly a century. They are operating out of hate and doubling down on the strategies that got them in this mess. Everyone has made up their mind about Trump so negative campaigning won’t work. They need to develop positive reasons to vote for them. They need to woo back the millions of Democrats who voted for Trump. Instead, Hillary Clinton is demonizing them. Nancy Pelosi tells them $1,000 is crumbs. Focusing on hate and fantasizing about a wave election won’t get the job done.
We certainly won’t see another civil war although some in California are talking about secession and Jerry Brown thinks he should have veto power over President Trump. Democrats could potentially face a very grim future. Both parties are moving to the extremes. Nature abhors a vacuum. As I have said before, I think there is a fairly good chance of a new party forming. If that happens, the Democratic Party could become a far-left third party. We would never see another Democrat in the White House.
Democrats should take a look at their 1860 counterparts. They need to decide if they want to focus on venting their hatred or winning elections.