Barack Obama is a Democrat. Most people know this. What many people may not know is that the man Mr. Obama looks to for the most political (and now presidential) inspiration and guidance was a…. Republican!
That’s right. Barack Obama’s hero, Abraham Lincoln, was a Republican. Lincoln wasn’t just any ole Republican either. He was among the founders of the Republican Party and was the first Republican to be elected President.
The Republican Party was founded in 1854 in Ripon, Wisconsin. Its principal goal was to stop the expansion of slavery into the western territories. Lincoln had been involved with the Whig Party, which was disintegrating due, in large part, to sectional rivalries. Since Lincoln was personally opposed to slavery, he found the Republican Party platform much to his liking.
The first Republican to run for President was John C. Fremont, and that was in 1856. But Fremont’s appeal was largely regional, and he was defeated by James Buchanan. By 1860, however, things would be different.
Before Lincoln ran for President in 1860, he campaigned in his home state of Illinois for the US Senate. Back then, senators were chosen by their state legislatures. Lincoln was the Republican nominee for Senate, but since the Republican Party was so new, he lost. Nevertheless, the series of debates Lincoln had with Democratic Party opponent Stephen Douglas aroused great interest in the country.
Lincoln followed by his Senate campaign with a series of pamphlets and speeches that captured the nation’s attention. He became one of the leading voices against the expansion of slavery, and, in 1860, emerged as the Republican nominee for President.
While the appeal of the Republican Party was still regional (at the time, the Northeast), the entire nation was split regionally at this point. There were, in fact, four candidates for President that year, including Lincoln’s former Senate campaign rival, Stephen Douglas. None of the candidates received a majority of the popular vote, but the population advantage in the Northeast gave Lincoln an Electoral College majority – making him the 16th President of the United States and the first President to be a Republican.