A New Team of Rivals

A New Team of Rivals

Abraham Lincoln won the 1860 presidential election with 39.8 percent of the popular national vote. Four candidates, each representing a different party, received more than one-eighth of the total votes cast, and all four carried at least one state.

America truly was “a divided country” then—to use the phrase so often applied again today. Remembering from his own speech two years earlier that “a house divided against itself cannot stand,” Lincoln devised a plan that could suit America well now.

He built a “team of rivals,” as Pulitzer Prize winner Doris Kearns Goodwin calls it in her book by that name.

Lincoln’s Team

Honest Abe’s first inauguration occurred 162 Marches ago. Shortly thereafter, he began announcing his cabinet appointments. Lo and behold, Abraham Lincoln, The Great Uniter, was able to convince the very people who had run against him for the Republican presidential nomination to join his endeavor to save the country. Further, he even named prominent figures from opposing parties to top leadership posts.

William Seward, Salmon Chase, Simon Cameron, and Edward Bates—all Republicans he had defeated for the nomination—were named secretaries of state, treasury, and war, and attorney general, respectively. Chase, the most bitter rival of them all, later also  was appointed by Lincoln to be chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Prominent Democrats also were chosen for President Lincoln’s team, including Gideon Welles (secretary of the Navy), Montgomery Blair (postmaster general), and later Edward Stanton (who was named secretary of war in January 1862).

Most shocking of all may have been the 1864 decision of Lincoln, a Republican, to switch running mates by selecting Southern Democrat Andrew Johnson of Tennessee as vice president, in order to show a “union” during the Civil War.

In making all of these bold and non-partisan appointments, Lincoln wisely noted that the country was in peril, and at such times we needed the strongest people to be running the government. Beyond the symbolic effect of unification, Lincoln also gave himself access to a wide array of thoughts to moderate his own biases and thereby aid his decision making.

These decisions included the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862, the management of the Civil War through several generals (none of whom did well until Lincoln appointed Ulysses S. Grant), and passage of the Thirteenth Amendment banning slavery.

As Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”

How Lincoln’s Concept Could Play Out with the Next U.S. President

Parallels between the early 1860s and early 2020s are not completely preposterous. Both eras involved or presently experience insurrections, racial disparities, severe political disagreements among the various regions of the country, and disconnects between rural and urban people even in the same regions.

What we need today is another Lincoln. Or, at least America could use a president with the wisdom to unite the country rather than divide it further for political gain.

Channeling Lincoln, a Republican in 2024 (say, for example Florida governor Ron DeSantis) could select a cabinet that looked something like this: Mike Pence as vice president, honoring his prior experience under President Donald Trump, especially Mr. Pence’s demonstrated integrity in the position; current Independent and former Democrat Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona as secretary of the treasury; Democrat Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota as attorney general; and former Trump-appointed U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley of South Carolina or Kansan Mike Pompeo, who filled the same position under President Trump, as secretary of state. President Biden appointee Pete Buttigieg, a Democrat, could stay on in his current role as secretary of transportation.

Alternatively, a Democrat elected in 2024 (such as California governor Gavin Newsom) could appoint a cabinet that includes: Democratic rival Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan as vice president; anti-Trump Republican Liz Cheney of Wyoming as secretary of state; conservative Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia as secretary of the treasury; none other than Republican Ron DeSantis, a former military officer, as defense secretary; and Democratic Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey as attorney general.

You get the idea. Either of our 2024 nominees can be The (Next) Great Uniter, so that our house will continue to stand.

Written by Quentin R. Wittrock, founder of Principle Based Politics. 

Look for his posts each week, as this blog will explore and promote the idea of principle in politics, both as to individual elected leaders and our federal government as an institution.

  • Paul Silseth
    Posted at 02:16h, 15 March Reply

    Wow I read “ team of rivals “ great book
    I also read many of your posts. And many are quite good congratulations.
    This one not so much. Pete and Amy, really?
    Beginning to think you want to give any common sense ( not that there is much out there) away. I am not as eloquent as you so I say no more. But what a downer article. Hopefully next time you will do better.

    • Admin
      Posted at 01:34h, 16 March Reply

      Thanks, Paul. I was trying to make a point that if Lincoln could work with his opposition, maybe our parties should try it. The divisiveness of our times is not as bad as during the Civil War, but still pretty bad. I really appreciate you reading my articles.

  • Doug Fish
    Posted at 02:35h, 15 March Reply

    It’s 2023 – sadly, the ‘kumbaya’ concept has been dead since Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan were respectful philosophical opponents.

    There was a reason the once respected US educational system gave homework assignments… To research and learn on your own. Today, homework in the minds of large swaths of society is the equivalent of corporal punishment.

    Make a decision you can live with and simply get on with your life. The majority operated like that in Lincoln’s day. If incapable of such an overwhelming task, well, you’re on your own. Ask someone for advice? Today, that’s the equivalent of playing spin the bottle at a squatter camp. You get what you pay for – no telling what that is.

    Both camps now are entrenched to a high degree; minds made up. Throw in a profound distrust of politically propelled science and medicine, launched, in earnest about three years ago and there’s no end in sight. Public trust is earned and once it becomes obvious that one’s trust is violated, it should not returned easily, if ever, and especially for those who are quietly hoping for forgiveness of their transgressions already.

    2023 summary of radical qualities includes:

    Behaving like and adult.
    Coming to your own conclusions.
    Not being permanently offended.
    A sense of humor.
    A work ethic.
    Common sense.
    Some basic goddam perspective

    Today’s liberals support many things that, a mere 5-10 years ago, would have been considered illegal to the point of certain and long incarceration such as vicious attacks on citizenry, shopkeepers and on law enforcement, business looted relentlessly and general non prosecuted mayhem.

    Today’s liberals attempt to normalize behaviors perverse beyond belief, school administration drive to separate children from their parents under the guise of education, a.k.a. grooming. They change language when not censoring it and preach the doctrine that everyone is entitled to their own victim-hood plus reparations from innocents.

    Liberals, their moneyed supporters, non-elected bureaucrats and university faculty Bolsheviks are now the most profound threats to individual and civil society in this nation prior to Lincoln when the redcoats were running around the forests of the mid-Atlantic region of North America. Luckily for the founders, their coats gave away their position, as it always does with liberals.

    • Admin
      Posted at 01:46h, 16 March Reply

      Wow, Doug, that’s quite a comment. Maybe I should have you and someone of the opposing viewpoint write guest posts and publish them side-by-side. Obviously, I believe the answer is somewhere closer to the middle.

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