I agree with Doug Ibendahl writing at TheHill.com:
“This is essentially a People’s contest. On the side of the Union, it is a struggle for maintaining in the world, that form, and substance of government, whose leading object is, to elevate the condition of men — to lift artificial weights from all shoulders — to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all — to afford all, an unfettered start, and a fair chance, in the race of life.” — Abraham Lincoln, July 4, 1861, Message to Congress
Two blocks from where I live in Chicago, history was made 156 years ago this past May.
The southeast corner of what is now Lake Street and Wacker Drive in the Loop was the site of the Republican National Convention which nominated Abraham Lincoln for President. The Republican Party was just six years old in 1860 and Chicago business leaders had hastily constructed an all-wooden structure to attract what was only the second Republican National Convention.
Known as the Wigwam, the building was always intended to be temporary, and from all accounts it sounds like it was a bit of a firetrap. But it served its purpose well that year when well over 10,000 delegates and spectators crammed the facility to the rafters.
Lincoln himself did not travel to Chicago and instead remained in Springfield where he anxiously monitored reports from his operatives via telegraph. Back then it was considered bad form for any potential nominee to be present at the convention.
Lincoln eventually secured the nomination on the third ballot. In Lincoln’s time there was nothing resembling the state-by-state primary system we have today. Back then the good-old-boys procured delegates in the smoke-filled rooms.
After the convention the Wigwam saw other uses but it soon fell into disrepair. Fire did finally claim the structure in 1867 (four years prior to the Great Chicago Fire). The only hint remaining of the Wigwam and what happened there is a plaque along the sidewalk in front of a modern office tower at 191 N. Wacker Drive, installed when the location was designated a Chicago Landmark in 2002.
We all know what happened after that 1860 convention. Lincoln went on to become one of, if not our greatest President. He freed the slaves, won the Civil War, and saved the Union.
Grateful African-Americans made the Republican Party their home for generations. And across the country, GOP organizations at all levels still strap themselves to Lincoln’s mantle at every opportunity. Here in his home-state the annual Lincoln Day Dinner is often the only fundraising event a county Republican organization has.
So we all know about the lip service. But how is the Party of Lincoln actually doing in the Land of Lincoln when it comes to preserving the leader’s legacy?
Judging by all of the empirical evidence, not so well.
Read more: TheHill.com
Image credit: drrichswier.com.