After Tea Party Republicans led the GOP to a brutal defeat on the Shutdown, Republicans need to get back to basics and learn a lesson from Abraham Lincoln; “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
On June 16, 1858, more than 1,000 Republican delegates met in Springfield, Illinois, and choose Abraham Lincoln as their candidate for the U.S. Senate, to run against the incumbent Democrat Stephen A. Douglas.
At 8:00 p.m. that night Lincoln delivered his famous address to his Republican delegates gathered in the Hall of Representatives.
"A house divided against itself cannot stand."
June 16, 1858
Lincoln lost that Senate Election to Douglas, but two years later Lincoln defeated Douglas in the Presidential Election, in large part because the Democratic Party was divided against itself over slavery.
Douglas was a short man, but he was called the "Little Giant" because he was such a dominant political figure, who sought compromise.
For example, in 1854 he was the architect of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which created the Kansas and Nebraska territories. That Act basically repealed the Missouri Compromise of 1820 because it allowed white males in the two territories to determine through the ballot box whether they would allow slavery within the territory.
But Southern Democrats didn’t like that compromise, and in the1860 election the Democratic Party was split over the issue of slavery. The Democratic Convention nominated Douglas for President. But pro-slavery Southerners rejected Douglas, and nominated their own candidate, incumbent Vice President John C. Breckinridge from Kentucky.
As a result of the split, the divided Democrats got crushed in the election.
Lincoln won the vote in 18 States, the entire North plus California and Oregon. Breckenridge carried the nine States in the Deep South and Maryland. John Bell, candidate of the Constitutional Union Party, which took a neutral stance on the issue of slavery, carried three States (Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia). Douglas received only 4% of the vote and carried only one state, Missouri, the site of the Missouri Compromise.
Today, the Republican Party seems to be as badly split as the Democrats were then.
Americans hated the Shutdown and 74% of the American people blamed House Republicans for the mess it created.
Republicans have nothing to show for the 16-day government Shutdown except terrible headlines and rotten approval ratings. But what’s worse is that the Republican Party is more dysfunctional and divided than it has ever been, with Tea Party Republicans openly attacking the more moderate members of the Party.
After Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), helped broker a last second deal to end the Shutdown and prevent the government from defaulting on the national debt, Tea Party members accused him of "selling out conservatives".
As Senator McConnell held a press conference Wednesday to announce the bipartisan agreement, Tea Party Senator Ted Cruz (R, Texas) tried to upstage McConnell by holding a press conference simultaneously.
Some of the media even left McConnell’s press conference so they could get a sound bite from Cruz’s press conference. Cruz’s raving make for better TV ratings than McConnell’s calm demeanor.
“Men often oppose a thing, merely because they have had no agency in planning it, or because it may have been planned by those whom they dislike.”
The Federalist Papers, No. 70
Meanwhile, Bloomberg News reports that two Washington-based Tea Party groups have announced that they are supporting efforts to defeat six-term Senator Thad Cochran (R, Mississippi) in next year’s Republican primary, because he voted for the measure to end the Shutdown and avoid a default on the government debt.
But Cochran is not alone. Six other Republican Senators will also have to face a Tea Party challenger in next year’s primaries leading up to the 2014 midterm elections.
History repeats itself and the Republicans today seem to be as fractionalized as the Democrats were in 1860. But as Lincoln said; “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”