October 6, 2008

Obama and Lincoln: Comparisons between the Elections of 1860 and 2008

Currently I am reading Stephen B. Oates's With Malice Toward None: A Life of Abraham Lincoln. In his section on the Election of 1860, where Lincoln was elected president, I realized that there are some intriguing similarities between that election and the current one:

Both Obama and Lincoln are from Illinois, but were not born there (Obama was born in Hawaii, Lincoln in Kentucky).

Obama and Lincoln were both lawyers.

Neither has a large amount of experience serving in a national office before running for president. Obama has been a senator for 4 years, and Lincoln served 2 years in the House of Representatives. Both, however, did serve in their state legislatures for a number of years.

Both men became their party's candidate for President at the expense of more-heavily favored candidate. Hillary Clinton was the front-runner for a long time before Obama beat her in the primary. Lincoln beat out Republican heavyweight William Henry Seward. The Republican convention thought Seward's seemingly radical stance on slavery made him unlikely to win. Coincidentally, both Clinton and Seward were senators from New York when they ran for President, and both were forced to campaign for the person who just beat them.

In the main election, their main opponents were more experienced senators who felt that they were somehow entitled to the president (yes, I'm editorializing here). Lincoln's main opponent was Stephen A. Douglas, senator from Illinois (I say main opponent because Lincoln had three to deal with. The Democratic party had split into North and South factions at the convention, with the Northern faction nominating Douglas, and the Southern faction nominated John C. Breckinridge. John Bell represented the Constitutional Union Party).

During the campaign, both Lincoln and Obama were attacked for their lack of experience, and opposition to a war. Lincoln had spoken out against the Mexican-American War. Coincidentally, both the Iraq war and the M-A War happened when the United States invaded a foreign country for no reason.

Both candidates parents have been subject to scrutiny. Obama's father has been accused of being Muslim, and Obama a Muslim by extension. Lincoln was accused of being a bastard, and the identity of his father was brought into question, with some insinuating that his real father was John C. Calhoun, a secessionist before it was fashionable to be one.

It's also interesting that, because of Lincoln's actions, we may see the first black president in American history. It is odd that they would have so much in common.


  1. When Obama wins the election, this post will become an annoying e-mail forward. I look forward to the day when I receive it from someone who has no idea who you are.

    Prepare your submission to Snopes now!

  2. As I was writing it, I actually did think, "Wouldn't it be cool if this ended up on Snopes?" Because it totally would!