Thursday, January 17, 2008

The More Things Change

Driven primarily by dissatisfaction with the war, the Democratic Party picked up 31 seats in the House of Representatives in the off-year election of 1862. In response to the shift, the Salem Advocate wrote:

"We saw the President of the United States stretching forth his hand and seizing the reins of government with almost absolute power, and yet the people submitted. On the 4th day of November, 1862, the people arose in their might, they uttered their voice, like the sound of many waters, and tyranny, corruption, and maladministration trembled."

Sound familiar? A simple date change and this paragraph would have worked just as nicely in the last off-year election.

Also similar to the modern day, Lincoln responded to the result by revamping his strategy, firing generals, and rededicated himself to victory. Although he was not lucky enough to have a Petraeus - it would be another year, almost, before the right formula emerged - ultimately Lincoln's one-mindedness did pay off.

One big difference between then and now: Lincoln's war got bloodier, not less so.

Now, Lincoln is universally regarded as one of the greatest presidents in our history. The point is not to compare Bush to Lincoln. Please. The point is that it's nothing new for a war-time leader to face just as much opposition on the home front than from the enemy. The other point, I suppose, is that history may judge Bush far differently than present day editorial pages.

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