Peter J. Wallison at TCS Daily has a column today about the parallels between the political climate of the American Civil War and the present day conflict in Iraq.
In August 1864, less than three months before the election, Republican leaders visited President Lincoln at the White House and told him that he had no hope of re-election. Their canvassing indicated that the country was so weary of the war that the Democratic candidate would triumph easily. Some Republicans were urging the President, for the sake of the party, to give up the party's nomination—which had been conferred only two months earlier—so a stronger candidate could be nominated.
(The stronger candidates they had in mind were Grant, Butler, or Sherman.)
But rejecting the "counsels of the timid and fearful", the Republican Party stayed the course, while the Democrats nominated George McClellan, the general Lincoln relieved of command because he wouldn’t fight. They denounced the war as "four years of failure", and complained of the administration’s destruction of "public liberty and private right." Their platform called for peace no matter what they had to give up to get it. They were willing to toss out the sacrifice that literally hundreds of thousands of Union troops had made.
But then tragedy struck, at least for the Confederacy and their Democrat sympathizers in the North. On Sept. 1, news reached Washington that Atlanta had fallen to Union forces. That was followed by a string of Union victories and it soon became apparent that the trend was irreversible.
Undeterred, the Democrats stuck to their guns in calling for defeat. And defeat is what they got. In the election, that is.
Alan Nevins wrote a four volume account of the American Civil War. Wallison quotes him:
"[T]he damage done to the Democratic Party by the platform could not be undone. Its silly and evil stigmatization of the heroic war effort as worthless gave the Northern millions an image of the Democratic Party they could never forget. That phrase upon the failure of the war was to echo down the coming decades...and would cost the party votes for a generation."
That was over a century ago. But the Democratic rhetoric sure sounds familiar. Will the Dems learn from past mistakes? It may be too late for them to correct their recent mistakes. Time will tell.
One advantage they have over the Democrats of 1864 is that they have 15 months to recover from their errors, where their historical ancestors only had 3 months.