Two Ways We Have Become Like Antebellum US

We’ve been here before…A Thomas Nast cartoon satirizing the Compromise of 1877 that resolved the 1876 election, published in Harper’s Weekly, February 17, 1877.
 The New York Historical Society—Getty Images

I took a long time on the Civil War Post. Then my girlfriend broke up with me, and I haven’t gotten my life squared away yet, but I thought I’d come back to this topic, and see if I can still follow the thread of my own thought. This is the long but interrupted post I made on the topic if you need a refresher:

The remaining two similarities of these times with Antebellum times.

  • 1) A controversial election is polarizing two different sections of the U.S.
  • 2) At least one side, and possibly both, sides of the conflict feels the other is attempting to undermine their very way of life, destroy their livelihood, and subjugate them to a state little better than slavery.

Let’s dig in.

A controversial documentary purports to prove that there was election fraud in the 2020 election. I haven’t watched it, though at least one very intelligent conservative tells me I need to. I wrote a post where my research convinced me that Biden had won fair and square. Is it possible I was wrong?

The Controversy of the 2020 Election is Similar to the Division Over the Election of Lincoln.

I’ve written a bit about Lincoln, the mythic status he attained, and how in recent times he has become a source of contention and controversy.

There I simply wrote about the controversy of our times. Now I will write about the election of 1860.

The best source I have found on the topic so far has been the book Team of Rivals. This book was in part the inspiration for Steven Spielberg’s film about Lincoln.

“Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.” I feel the same way about people who talk about poverty who have never really been poor.

Modern talking heads often talk as if these were the most polarized times of all, but I beg to differ. I think the Civil War was the time when we were most divided. We could not find a peaceful dialogue about slavery, and that, among other causes, led to actual bloodshed, the bloodiest war for America in her history. The book details the various people who formed the Republican party in response to the terrible injustice of the time. The least of them were men of such greatness, I can only think of one or two politicians today who would even be worthy of changing their chamber pots. Every last one of them sought an eventual end to slavery, but not at the expense of ending the Union. In the short term, they failed. I’ll leave some links here as sources, and I will also be borrowing heavily from Team of Rivals, Carl Sandburg’s Storm Over the Land, and maybe some of Shelby Foote’s iconic narrative history of the Civil War.

Lincoln narrowly defeated Gaston in a hard fought campaign across the frontier. Lincoln’s antislavery platform was contested by hardline provincial voters stumping on a platform of “kill the beast!” Darn it! My overpaid assistants have led me astray again!

According to Team of Rivals, several factors contributed in the 1850s to set up this perfect storm. First you had a society that allowed for upward mobility for people of excellence. Most (but not all) of the leaders in the early Republican party had grown up poor, or at most what might be considered middle class. Lincoln was the poorest of the Team, but he was by no means unique in setting his talents on upward political mobility. Second, these upwardly mobile citizens awakened to the truth that slavery was wrong. Third, the North outpaced the South in both economic and population growth, which threatened the South, which was used to being on an equal footing with the North. In consequence, the South became increasingly upset that their power base was eroding. Several compromises had kept the Union together, but at last those compromises were broken in an effort to placate the South. The passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act was an essential negative inspiration for Lincoln himself.

The Missouri Compromise was thought to have settled the Slavery Issue and laid to rest the bogy man of Civil War. But the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act ended the peace. Now if a territory North of the boundary line for slavery wished to vote to be a slave state they could. A Civil War before the Civil War erupted in Kansas as the two parties literally fought for supremacy, leading to the time of Bleeding Kansas. Border Ruffians for the South, Red Legs for the North robbed, and some say even killed, without mercy. The Truman’s lost some of their family silverware to Red Legs. The main villain in Outlaw Josey Wales is named Red Legs.

When Lincoln heard the news, “he sat on the edge of his bed and discussed the political situation far into the night.” He could no longer trust that the status quo would eventually, naturally, lead slavery to die a peaceful death. Lincoln became a believer that our nation had to either be all slave states, or all free. Like the parable said, a lukewarm nation would be “spewed out of God’s mouth.”

From this point, Lincoln was determined. He had before been happy to settle back into anonymity and live a life of mediocrity as a circuit lawyer. Now he spent all of his free time in the State Library, studying history and law to seek the arguments he needed to persuade his fellows that slavery was an abomination that needed to be destroyed. Peacefully if at all possible, but destroyed nevertheless.

He began debating at state and county fares with the Democratic candidate for the Senate, Stephen Douglas. The Whig party was largely spent, since that party could never really make up its mind about slavery. Frankly, the Democratic Party never did either till after the Civil War, but they had other principles to unite them and so have continued into our time. Lincoln was the de facto independent candidate (the Republican Party did not yet exist). In an age without internet or TV, he rose swiftly from being a has been and also ran, to being second only to Stephen Douglas in people’s estimation to be the next Senator of Illinois. Frankly, he ran a brilliant campaign, and Team of Rivals paints a picture of a man who almost wins, but is deprived of victory by the shadowy back room deals that all too often plague politics.

According to “After the historic debates with Lincoln, Stephen Douglas found himself vilified by Southern Democrats. He tried unsuccessfully to argue that his middle way would enable the nation to pass over the momentary issue of slavery in the territories and thus preserve the Union. But Southern radicals would have none of it. When the Democratic convention met in Charleston, South Carolina, on April 23, both Northern and Southern delegates were ready for a showdown. The traditional rule that a two-thirds majority was required for a candidate to win a nomination enabled Southern Democrats to veto the nomination if they voted as a bloc. The first test came when the Southern delegates insisted on a plank favoring a federal slave code for the territories. Douglas, knowing that he would lose every Northern state if he agreed, refused to endorse the plank. When the delegates defeated the plank by a small majority, fifty Southern delegates, led by Alabama “fire-eater” William L. Yancey, walked out of the convention. Even with these radicals gone, Douglas could not win a two-thirds majority. Neither could anyone else and after fifty-seven ballots, the convention adjourned to meet in Baltimore in six weeks to try again.

“When the badly shattered Democratic Party reconvened in June, there was no hope for unity. A raucous floor fight broke out over which delegates from the Charleston convention should be recognized. When the Douglas forces finally established dominance in this matter, the Southern delegates pushed the slave code plank once again. For a second time, the Douglas forces beat it back and managed to nominate Douglas on a second ballot over John C. Breckinridge, the incumbent vice president…The party platform excluded reference to a slave code in the territories and supported the power of federal authority over the territories…

“Furious Southern delegates, including many who had boycotted the convention, then reconvened at Maryland Institute Hall to nominate John C. Breckinridge as the candidate of the Southern Democratic Party for the presidency….The party platform supported a federal slave code in the territories, the acquisition of Cuba, and the construction of a railroad to the Pacific Ocean.”

The long and the short of it is, the dark horse candidate Lincoln came from behind, helped build the nascent Republican Party on an anti-slavery platform, secured the nomination for Presidential candidate, and won the Presidency, in large part due to the drastic disunity of the Democratic party.

This terrified the South to no end.

A photo of the man that terrified the South so much. This photo was taken in August of 1860. Months later when he was sworn in and gave his historic first Inaugural Address, he he had not yet begun to grow his iconic beard. “Before entering upon so grave a matter as the destruction of our national fabric, with all its benefits, its memories, and its hopes, would it not be wise to ascertain precisely why we do it? Will you hazard so desperate a step while there is any possibility that any portion of the ills you fly from have no real existence? Will you, while the certain ills you fly to are greater than all the real ones you fly from, will you risk the commission of so fearful a mistake?” Later on he states: “Plainly the central idea of secession is the essence of anarchy.”

Carl Sandburg’s Storm Over the Land paints a picture of a world not too different from our modern times. He speaks of “men saying Yes when they meant No and No when they meant Perhaps; of newspapers North and South lying to their readers and pandering to the cheaper passions of party and class interest; of the…ruling classes North and South being dominated…by love of money and power; of the Southern planters and merchants being $200,000,000 in debt to the North…of the Northern manufacturer being able to throw out men or machines no longer profitable while the Southern planter could not so easily scrap his production apparatus of living black men and women…of the …exploitation of man by man North and South; of the…array of propertied interests in the North which would stand to lose trade and profits, land titles, payments of legitimate debts, through a divided Union of States…of the 260,000 free Negroes in the South owning property valued at $25,000,000; of the Southern poor white lacking the guarantees of food, clothing, shelter, and employment assured the Negro field hand; of Northern factory workers paid a bare subsistence wage, lacking security against sickness, old age, unemployment while alive and funeral costs when finally dead…”

Sandburg states that the New York Herald “advised Lincoln to resign in favor of a more ‘acceptable’ man.” The victorious candidate was compared in the same article to Benedict Arnold. Lincoln was heaped with all the execrable vehemence Trump would receive roughly 160 years later.

Lincoln’s home in Springfield Illinois. Not Mar-A-Lago, but not too shabby for the time. Image from the National Park Service. Mary Todd didn’t do too shabby in picking a husband, poor though he had been.

According to Shelby Foote, Jefferson Davis, who had actually striven so long to assuage the fears of his fellow Southerners, telling them that reason would prevail, gave up all hope when Lincoln was elected. “The argument is exhausted…All hope in the Union…is extinguished.” For whatever reason, the opponent was seen as someone beyond reason. Lincoln was perceived by the South as an inflexible tyrant who would run over the South rough shod. He was a devil. He was incompetent.

There had been so much interest in the election that, according to, it is estimated that roughly 80% of all eligible voters turned out. Everyone was afraid of the enemy, and before the shots were fired, the ballot was the cannon that boomed in defense of our liberties.

Does any of this sound familiar? proceeds with “The 1860 election is regarded by most political observers as the first of three “critical” elections in the United States—contests that produced sharp and enduring changes in party loyalties across the country (although some analysts consider the election of 1824 to have been the first critical election). After 1860 the Democratic and Republican parties became the major parties in a largely two-party system. In federal elections from the 1870s to the 1890s, the parties were in rough balance—except in the South, which became solidly Democratic.”

That dynamic would remain solid for almost a hundred years.

Lincoln’s running mate, Hannibal Hamlin of Maine. According to, he was (born Aug. 27, 1809, Paris Hill, Maine, U.S.—died July 4, 1891, Bangor, Maine), 15th vice president of the United States (1861–65) in the Republican administration of President Abraham Lincoln. He was known to love oysters, pickled pigs feet, and the brains of his enemies. Sigh…my overpaid assistants may have gotten some of this wrong…

Shall we do a quick comparison with the Trump elections?

As I’ve already written (along with a million other folks), the 2020 Presidential election results were heavily questioned by Trump and his supporters, and continue to be questioned to this day. The controversy, chaos, and anarchy have split our country in half in ways Lincoln could barely imagine. So far, thankfully, without erupting into Civil War. Let’s dive in.

NPR gives a timeline of the statements Trump and supporters made at the time of the election.

The protest/riot that is the crux of the debate. Image from NPR

At the September 29 Presidential debate “moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump if he was willing to denounce white supremacists. Instead, he told the Proud Boys — which the Southern Poverty Law Center has classified as a hate group associated with white nationalism — to “stand back and stand by.”

On November 3 election night “

The president was widely expected to claim victory on election night, when he might be leading in early ballot counts. At a White House event at 2:30 a.m. ET as ballot counting continued, including in crucial swing states, he falsely claimed victory: “We were getting ready to win this election. Frankly, we did win this election.”

“In the days that followed, Trump supporters mobbed ballot-counting sites.”

On December 1 “Gabriel Sterling, a Georgia election official, made an appeal directly to the president at an Atlanta news conference: “Stop inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence. Someone’s going to get hurt. Someone’s going to get shot. Someone’s going to get killed.”

On December 19 “Trump tweeted about the upcoming joint session of Congress, where the electoral votes submitted by the states were to be formally counted. “Big protests in D.C. on January 6. Be there. Will be wild!” It was one of several times he promoted a rally his allies were organizing.”

On January 2 of 2021 “Trump phoned Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, asking him to change the state’s vote total by just enough votes for Trump to prevail by a single vote. “There’s nothing wrong with saying that, you know, um, that you’ve recalculated.” NPR and others reported the call the next day.

“Raffensperger stuck with the accurate results.

“Also on Jan. 2, before the call was public, the Proud Boys announced that they would attend the Jan. 6 protest.

“Ted Cruz and other senators released a statement saying they would join Hawley in raising objections to the vote count on Jan. 6.”

Then there was January 6.

We don’t need no dedication. We don’t need no vote control. Yeah, it looks like a scene from a surreal music video, but this was the scene January 7 when the ballot boxes were carried by Senate pages at the Capitol. Image from NPR

At 2:24 pm, Jan. 6 “Trump issued a tweet denouncing then-Vice President Pence, who was overseeing the vote count in the Capitol. Pence had declined Trump’s demand that he disrupt the count, insisting on following his duty under the Constitution.

“Immediately afterward, “The crowd goes wild about calling Pence a traitor,” said Ryan Goodman of Just Security. Goodman’s website compiled time-stamped video of a rioter inside the Capitol shouting on a phone: “Can I speak to Pelosi? Yeah, we’re coming, b****. Oh, Mike Pence? We’re coming for you too you f****** traitor.”

While this is the definitive extreme example of denying the results of an election, there is no question the Democrats have been very guilty of the same monkey business in their checkered past. One of the large reasons I think my fellow Republicans have been so willing and even eager to deny the election is because we have had it done to us so many times.

To me, the lies of the Democrats were at least a part of what built up this hate and tension. Let’s take a look at someone willing to call a spade a spade.

Timothy P. Carney of the Washington Examiner writes in an op-ed piece:

“After Trump beat Hillary Clinton in 2016, she declared that Trump was an “illegitimate president.” As the Washington Post aptly characterized it, she also “suggested that ‘he knows’ that he stole the 2016 presidential election.”

“This was in 2019, after Democrats in Congress and hostesses on MSNBC spent years trying to prove a false conspiracy theory that Russia somehow rigged the election in Trump’s favor.

“The previous time the Republicans won, George W. Bush in 2004, Sen. Barbara Boxer and dozens of House members objected to Ohio’s electoral votes going for Bush, even though he won the state by more than 100,000 votes.”

I personally verified the veracity of the last statement here

Then he lists several other times Democrats have cried fowl and never recanted:

Rep. Maxine Waters, a California Democrat, promoted a conspiracy theory whereby enough votes were switched from Kerry to Bush by voting machines and enough voters were wrongly purged from voter rolls that it “could have been” determinative of the result in Ohio and, thus, the whole presidential election.

And the time before that? Well, famously, Al Gore sued in Florida and in the Supreme Court to overturn George W. Bush’s insanely narrow victory in that state. Democratic congressmen, even after the lawsuits ended, called the result a “coup d’etat.” They also challenged the electoral votes.

Why do I bring up the distant past? Because Democrats continue to peddle the line, which would be called “dangerous” if a Republican made the same argument, that Bush “stole” the 2000 election.

Watch this video of Terry McAuliffe in 2004 , claiming Republicans stole the 2000 election. McAuliffe, who has never recanted that false claim, is now the Democratic nominee for the governor of Virginia and has the backing of the entire Democratic establishment.

That’s because the Democratic and liberal establishment say the same thing as McAuliffe:

20 years later, McAuliffe will not retract his claim that the 2000 election was stolen. Whereas Youngkin said onstage this week that Biden won.— Dan McLaughlin (@baseballcrank) October 1, 2021

Does your Tired Blogger agree or disagree with these folks. That isn’t the point. The point is, a party that has cried foul on twenty two years of elections does not make Republicans who believe Trump won feel they have any need to relent in their case.

Honestly, as I have blogged in the past, I think Trump lost fair and square.(You can read about it hear But whether I am right or whether I am wrong, I can’t unequivocally condemn fellow Republicans who honestly (if in my opinion incorrectly) believe Trump won the election when I am confronted with a Party of Democrats who have been unwilling to face reality for two thirds of my fairly long adult life.

Stitt and Trump are both asking “Oklahomans voted for this dumb-ss?!? Image from Market Watch.

Finally, we get to Politico. I have to say, my Google searches half make me believe the conspiracy theorists. I had to dig down several pages to get through all of the pages proving that Trump didn’t really win to finally get to a page about some honest-to-God election fraud. Feast your eyes!

MICHAEL GRAFF and NICK OCHSNER report that Mark Harris had lost his primary bid to be the nominee for Congress by a few hundred absentee ballot votes. He started working with the man who had gotten those votes against him, a man named McCrae Dowless. They worked together over the next 18 months.

“But fraud involving absentee ballots is a real thing. It just looks nothing like the lurid tales spun by people like Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell. The story of what happened in the race for North Carolina’s 9th District shows just how rare and also how basic and local election fraud really is. What happened in Bladen County in 2018 wasn’t carried out by sophisticated computers from a foreign land, but by low-level operatives with handwritten lists and spreadsheets in a forgotten stretch of eastern North Carolina where the median household income is $36,000 a year, where the most prominent employer is a hog-slaughtering plant and where folks were desperate enough to knock on doors and ask for people’s votes for candidates they didn’t know.”

This Bladen County socialite was unavailable for comment on the election.

After much detail you can read on the site, it is revealed “Dowless sent a small army of people to knock on doors, convince people to fill out an absentee ballot request form, and then follow up after the ballots arrived to make sure they actually voted. The workers drove down dirt roads and knocked on doors, not out of a love of politics or a sense of civic engagement. They did it for the cash. Dowless paid roughly $200 per stack of request forms.”

“Bladen County saw 647 absentee ballots cast in the 2018 primary. Dowless couldn’t claim credit for all of them, but many came from people in and around Bladenboro, near his house. These were votes from people he knew, and people he was certain would bubble in the circle he wanted them to bubble. There wasn’t any single way folks knew who Dowless wanted them to vote for. It was a combination of techniques: who he talked about when he was hanging around the convenience store and the local barbecue restaurant; who he put campaign signs out for; whose sticker was on the back of his car.”

Long and the short, Dowless seams to have made a lot of money to make sure a certain candidate won, and the methods were not exactly legal.

I relay this so that you know…Trump may be wrong about his election, but voter fraud does happen. Don’t be fooled. While I believe the numbers were vastly inflated in Trump’s claims, it does happen. How often it happens… is hard to tell. There are not many convictions, according to Politico and the FBI website. But it is no unicorn. So I think people can be forgiven their suspicions. What we have to ask ourselves is this. Is what is going on bad enough to make it worth breaking up the Republic?

I’m going kinda long, so I will write about the second point One (Possibly Both) Side(s) Feel as Though the Other is Undermining Their Very Livelihood, as The South Felt the North was Attempting to Impoverish Them With Forced Emancipation, on the next post, which I hope to have published Monday.

So, till the Party’s quit lying to us, make mine Marvel!

Lies lies, and more damn lies.

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