Today marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln. In commemoration of this bicentennial, I thought we'd look back at the 1860 election that brought Lincoln to office and kick started the slide to Civil War. Obviously there are a number of important points to raise about the 1860 election, most notably the fact that it brought about a new party system with the ascendancy of the Republican party (rising out of the collapse of the Whigs). In the aftermath of the Civil War this party system became highly regionalized with Democrats in control of the "solid South" and Republicans in control of the northeast and midwest. It took a century for the south to become open to voting consistently for Republicans.
As has been discussed a lot on this site, the regional dimension of American politics is of great interest to both John and I. Understanding how regional attachments to parties and ideologies have shifted--and what brought these shifts about--helps us understand many of our history's macro-level changes. These shifts, at the same time, also help explain the success of individual candidates, running in particular places for particular offices, at distinct points in time.
I'll try to find some more Lincoln-related material to post in the days and weeks ahead. Until then, for those of us who are interested in the contours of American political history, we should remember how there are few figures of greater consequence than Mr. Lincoln.
**Graphic courtesy of http://www.uselectionatlas.org/