The nomination of Abraham Lincoln for President of The United States by the Republican party was a shock to most of the country, especially to the Eastern Republican establishment. On Capitol Hill, word of Lincoln’s nomination “was received with general incredulity.” Democratic newspapers fried him incessantly calling him a “third rate western lawyer.” Stating: “The conduct of the republican party in this nomination is a remarkable indication of a small intellect, growing smaller.” Rejecting Seward and Chase, “who are statesmen and able men,” the Herald continued, “they take up a fourth rate lecturer, who cannot speak good grammar,” and whose speeches are illiterate compositions…interlarded with coarse and clumsy jokes.” Not content to deride his intellect, hostile publications focused on his appearance. “Lincoln is the leanest, lankest, most ungainly mass of legs, arms and hatchet-face ever strung upon a single frame. He has most unwarrantably abused the privilege which all politicians have of being ugly.”
More violent attacks appeared in the Charleston Mercury, which scornfully asked: “After him what decent white man would be President?” “Seward”, the paper insisted, “had been “thrust aside’ because he lacked the necessary nerve to carry through measures of Southern subjugation,” Lincoln, on the other hand, was “the bean ideal of a relentless, dogged, free soil border-ruffian.” “He was “an illiterate partizan,” claimed the influential Richmond Enquirer; “possessed only of his inveterate hatred of slavery and his openly avowed predilections for negro equality,”
That convention was in 1860. We know the rest of the Lincoln story.
On Wednesday November 9, 2016, the American electorate woke up to the unlikely and stunning news that the brash, irreverent Donald J Trump had been elected President of The United States of America. Trumps campaign showed him to be immature, arrogant and incapable of demonstrating the dignity we have grown used to expecting in our Commander-in-chief. Mitt Romney, Republican candidate for president in the 2012 election, called Donald Trump “a phony and a fraud,” saying “his promises are as useless as a degree from Trump University. “Dishonesty is Trump’s hallmark,” Romney continues, pointing to his “bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogany, the 3rd grade theatrics.”
The republican elite refused to endorse Trump once he had won the nomination. All but one of the primary candidates, Mike Huckabee, refused to endorse or support Trump. Just weeks ahead of the inauguration Garrison Keillor reflects the state of the liberal psyche in a syndicated op-ed. “Eighty thousand trump voters gave us this man which shows you how much damage a few people can do.” Calling Trump a “showman and emperor-elect” who parades “in the nude while his congressional courtiers admire him and the nation drifts towards the rapids.”
The 62 million-plus voters who propelled Donald Trump into office are giddy, walking around with a new spring in their step as they watch the President-elect build his cabinet. He is surrounding himself with smart and talented men and women whose rise to positions of influence have come on the wings of real world experience and common sense, not pie-in-the-sky ideology. For eight years this nation has stumbled through political chaos on the shoulders of a man whose only experience was that of a community organizer; a man whose significant trademark as president was to show us how to draw a “floating” red line in the sand.
Who is this man Donald Trump? Will he hasten America’s drift to the precipice as Keillor suggests or will he be the unlikely president who will restore sanity to a nation in distress.
Don’t rule out history writing the story of the brash, braggart who righted the ship and kept America from going over the edge as Abraham Lincoln, over screams of 1860’s Democrats, abolished the scourge of slavery.