Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

McClintock, Lincoln, and Bowing Out Gracefully

I didn’t blog on this, but I was always more optimistic than Peter about Tom McClintock’s chances in California. Back in August, there was plenty of reason to think that Arnold might torpedo his own candidacy, and McClintock clearly has had the best message. Now, thought, McClintock gave it his best shot, but he’s peaked and Arnold is surging. It’s time for McClintock to signal that his voters should vote for Arnold.

McClintock should do this especially if he wants to run for office two or four years from now. This reminds me of one of my favorite lessons from Abe Lincoln, who had to bow out once for the good of the cause. In 1854, to get a railroad bill through, Stephen Douglas acceded to the wishes of fire-eaters in the Senate and repealed enough of the Missouri Compromise to reopen the question whether Kansas and Nebraska should be free- or slave-soil states. That move fractured party alignments in Illinois, as it did throughout the North.

Lincoln did more than anyone else on the hustings in Illinois to explain why Douglas’ bill was disastrous. In the 1854 elections, Whigs and free-soil Democrats made huge gains in Illinois and elsewhere. The Illinois legislature needed to vote that winter to elect a U.S. Senator. I forget the exact numbers, but party-line Democrats had a plurality, but a free-soil Senator could win if six free-soil Democrats sided with the Whigs. There was a deadlock after many ballots, Lincoln got the Whig votes, Lyman Trumbull got the free-soil D. votes, but neither could get a majority. Eventually, Lincoln told the Whigs to throw their votes to Trumbull. It was more important to elect a free-soil Senator than for the Whigs to win.

I’m not sure we can imagine the sacrifice Lincoln was making at the time. Lincoln was an incredibly ambitious man. But in 1854, he had 0 political prospects. He’d been out of Congress for 4 years and he was languishing in private practice. By all rights, he deserved that Senate seat; he’d done more than anyone else in Illinois to explain the case against Douglas. By throwing in the towel, he was throwing away the chance to get back in the game, at a time when the country was hurtling toward the greatest political test any country can experience, a civil war about the nature of the regime. But Lincoln let Trumbull get the office and the honors, because the cause was more important than the man.

In the end, Lincoln’s sacrifice helped the cause -- and himself -- tremendously. Lincoln’s generosity taught free-soil Democrats and Whigs throughout the midwest that they had more in common with each other than they did with party-line Democrats, who took their orders from the fireeaters. That lesson helped the Republican party form. Also, Lincoln had a better chance than other Republicans of winning Democrat votes because Democrats thought fondly of him from 1854 forward. Good lessons for McClintock in 2004.

Discussions - 1 Comment

If "conan, the Barbarian" fancied himself a "free soiler" I could agree with you. The principles were "free soil", and on that issue Lincoln held a common belief with Lyman Trumbull. Based on the "Terminators" stated positions on virtually every plank in the Republican Platform, asking Tom McClintock to throw his support to Arnie would have been like Lincoln instructing his Presidential Electors to cast their ballots for John Cabell Breckinridge, in order to prevent a Stephen Douglas win.

If the point you are trying to make is that the "Black Plowman" is really a Democrat, well, I ceratinly can’t argue that one with you. If, in that case, you think that Tom McClintock’s throwing his support behind the Democrat (in all but registration), Arnie, will bring the Senate somehow the "good well" of Democrats, I believe you taking way too much medicinal "weed". If Arnie is elected as a Republican, his failure (and with his "Euro-left" ideas about government he will fail) the biggest casuality will be the Republican Party in California. I am not sure how this helps McClintock - perhaps you can explain.

I could see your point if Tom and "Conan" shared a "common cause". They don’t. Electing a "Big Government" Republican is not the answer to California’s fiscal problems, and Tom McClintock understands this, obviously better than you do.

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