Division among the Democrats, 1860 and 2008

While I may get some interesting comments over this, I have to say that it is quite interesting to consider the current division among Democratic voters between supporters of Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton. I say that because it makes me think back to the divided Democratic Party of 1860, with Stephen Douglas representing Northern Democrats and Breckinridge representing Southern Democrats. While the nation does not face an issue as divisive as slavery, it is certainly something to think about. It is interesting to consider how, in 1860, the Democratic convention could not agree on a nominee at Charleston, South Carolina, and southern delegates actually walked out in protest.

The convention was forced to relocate to Baltimore, Maryland, seat new delegates, and face another round of walk-outs. Ultimately, Douglas won the Democratic nomination, but the southern wing held its own convention and nominated Breckinridge to represent its interest. The opposition to Douglas by the southern wing was because of Douglas’s support of popular sovereignty with regard to slavery, which the southern wing felt that Douglas should support outright. As we know, the result was the splitting of the Democratic Party that paved the way for Lincoln to win.

Several weeks ago, I compared the situation of the Republican Party on Super Tuesday to the 1860 election. I now argue that it is the Democratic Party that more represents the election. I made the initial prediction at the time because of the results that night and did not see McCain securing the nomination so quickly, nor did I foresee the split in the Democratic Party. The issue of the Florida and Michigan delegates, the recent Rev. Wright situation for Obama, and the passion that Democrats have for both candidates has led to a split in the party. Whether or not the split will be resolved by the convention in Denver is up to the DNC, but if they don’t settle it well, the election will go the way of 1860, with a Republican victory. The only differences will be that there will only be one nominee for the Democrats and no states will probably secede as a result. The one thing that will remain similar between the two years will be a large number of angry voters who did not get their way.

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