John W. Eyster: On President's Day and political polarization

 

Knowing the history of “President's Day,” I oppose having this “holiday.”  Growing up, I learned and we celebrated the birthdates of the FIRST President of the U.S., GEORGE WASHINGTON on February 22 and the SIXTEENTH President of the U.S., ABRAHAM LINCOLN on February 12.  I am PROUD to remind you that these dates are still legally required “OBSERVANCE DAYS” for us in WI! I should be sure to make you aware of the fact that SUSAN B. ANTHONY's BIRTHDAY, a required observance day!  Her birthdate is TODAY – the 15th of February!

If you want to review the political background to having “President's Day” as part of a 3-day holiday weekend, I suggest you read Wikipedia's article, “Federal holidays in the United States.”

Pay attention to the “Monday Holiday Act of 1968” as the governing law today.

Following the dynamics of our 2016 U.S. Presidential election with all of the outcry about POLARIZATION and having observed ABRAHAM LINCOLN's 207th birthday last Friday – the 12th of February, I invite you to reflect on the POLARIZATION with our U.S. Presidential election in 1860.  I do not think it is legitimate to identify this year's election dynamic the MOST POLARIZED in U.S. HISTORY.  After you consider the dynamics in 1860, I'd be interested in YOUR comments.  In fact, perhaps you will want to do more research and tell other readers and me which U.S. Presidential election YOU consider MOST POLARIZED.  I hope so.  I'll be reading with interest.

Consider that in 1860 there were 4 major candidates who represented REGIONAL political parties.  Three of those candidates earned Electoral College votes.  There were 303 Electoral Votes with 152 votes needed to win. Voter turnout was 81.2%!  Keep in mind that many U.S. citizens were NOT eligible to vote.  On Susan B. Anthony's Birthday today, remember that WOMEN could NOT vote in 1860.  The voter turnout in 1860 was the 2nd highest voter-turnout in U.S. history with 81.2%.  Highest was 1876 with 81.6%.  And through the 21stcentury, we have held in the 50% range.

Consider the outcome of the election of 1860:

Republican - Abraham Lincoln – 180 Electoral Votes – 18 states – 39.8% popular vote

Northern Democrat – Stephen A. Douglas – 12 Electoral Votes – 1 state – 29.5% popular vote

Southern Democrat – John C. Breckinridge – 72 Electoral Votes – 11 states – 18.1% popular vote

Constitutional Union – John Bell – 39 Electoral Votes – 3 states – 12.6% popular vote

If you want to look at a map of the 1860 election with full analysis of that election, I suggest Wikipedia's article, “United States presidential election, 1860.”

Abraham Lincoln was a MINORITY (popular vote) President of the U.S. having received only 39.8% of the popular vote.  As required by our Constitution, he received a MAJORITY of Electoral Votes, but ALL of Lincoln's Electoral College votes came from NORTHERN – NON-SLAVE states.  The Election of 1860 was divided by sections of the U.S.

The ideological differences among the candidates for U.S. President in 1860 were EXTREMELY POLARIZED.  Abraham Lincoln and the Republicans articulated opposition to expansion of slavery while promising not to interfere with slavery in the states.  Stephen Douglas and the Northern Democrats were ANTI-slavery with support of Abolitionists.  John C. Breckenridge and Southern Democrats were staunchly PRO-slavery.  John Bell and Constitutional Unionists who tried to side-step slavery by putting focus on the Constitution stating their platform simply, "to recognize no political principle other than theConstitution of the country, the Union of the states, and the Enforcement of the Laws"

SLAVERY was the key issue in the U.S. Presidential election of 1860.  Talk about POLARIZATION!  Remember that after Abraham Lincoln was elected on November 6, 1860, the Secession movement started seriously already on December 20, 1860 when South Carolina left the union.  Eventually 11 states would form the Confederate States of America.  Abraham Lincoln was not inaugurated as U.S. President until March 4, 1861.

Lincoln believed that “THE UNION” under the U.S. Constitution was a sovereign nation which could NOT be divided.  The U.S. Constitution was the SUPREME LAW OF THE LAND.  Enforcing the supreme law of the land to defend Fort Sumter in the Charleston, SC harbor, President Lincoln called for troops to recapture Fort Sumter and other federal properties.  The north rallied to the defense of American nationalism.  The Civil War had started.

Our Election of 2016 is divided by ideologies. Do you see parallels with the ideological differences of 1860?  What issue(s) would you identify?  What's the possibility of having more than two (2) major candidates in November 2016?  What about a Democrat, a Republican, an Independent Trump and/or an Independent Bloomberg?

I think our U.S. Presidential election will be as POLARIZED as that of 1860.  Perhaps MORE POLARIZED.  What do YOU think?  Anticipating reading your comments.

In reflection on Lincoln's Birthday last Friday and his legacy, I have to ask whether the POLARIZATION of the 2016 Presidential election will test Lincoln's challenge articulated in his Gettysburg Address asking whether this nation can long endure.  He asserted that WE THE PEOPLE of the U.S. must take increased devotion to the REPUBLIC and called on us to highly resolve:

(1) that these dead shall not have died in vain—

(2) that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and

(3) that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

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