I could not help but smile as I watched the Republican National Convention on television this evening and saw a Lincoln reenactor in the audience. It made me ponder for a moment if John McCain could be a modern equivalent of President Grant should he be elected. Keeping McCain’s views and Grant’s unfortunate corruption laden administration out of the comparison, I feel that there are many similarities between the two men. Both men served their country honorably. The wars that each served in deeply divided the nation. Like Grant, McCain could be propelled into office by way of his military service, especially in a time of war. While Grant’s war was over, there was still much work to be done in the South. The fact that Grant faced a nation in Reconstruction and McCain faces a nation divided somewhat sectionally over many different issues is something that historians can not ignore. What will be truly interesting is how, if it happens, a McCain presidency would look compared to the Grant administration.
With regard to that, I hope that McCain does not face the same fate as Grant when it comes to corruption. It is unfortunate that Grant’s presidential record was tarnished by this, as one could imagine that he had the potential to be as successful a president as he was a general. Just as some on the Right made comparisons between President Bush and Lincoln and some on the Left compare Obama to Jesus (figuratively), one wonders if the historical community will, given the similarities, consider McCain to be a modern version of Grant.
The events of the past two weeks will ultimately make history, whichever ticket wins. We may either have the first African-American president, or elect the oldest man ever for president along with the first woman vice-president. It is interesting to consider that it has been twenty years since we elected a veteran president (George H. W. Bush in 1988). Like the nation in 1868, we may choose a war hero again to face our troubled times in 2008.