Bipartisan ticket? Republicans beware!

Posted: Apr 03, 2007 11:34 AM
Bipartisan ticket? Republicans beware!

Any Republican interested in a proposal by Unity08 for a bipartisan ticket should consider the disaster that befell the country when the GOP did nominate a bipartisan presidential ticket. In 1864, President Lincoln's running mate was a Democrat, Tennessee's Andrew Johnson. Though anti-Confederate, Johnson proved to be a racist buffoon and an alcoholic and a true Democrat. Thanks to John Wilkes Booth, choosing Andrew Johnson was the biggest mistake of Abraham Lincoln's life.

On this day in 1868, Republicans began the Senate trial of President Andrew Johnson. Among the seven U.S. Representatives serving as impeachment managers were anti-slavery crusader Thaddeus Stevens and John Bingham, co-author of the 14th Amendment. Another manager was John Logan, who would be the GOP's 1884 vice presidential nominee. As with the Clinton impeachment, the 126-47 vote in the House to prosecute Andrew Johnson had been along party lines.

Utterances by Johnson, lionized in John Kennedy's ghost-written Profiles in Courage, included:

"This is a country for white men, and by God, as long as I am President, it shall be a government of white men." and "I know that damned [Frederick] Douglass. He's just like any other damned n_____."

For three years after the Civil War, Republicans endured President Johnson's defense of the slave system. He had authorized neo-Confederate state governments in the South, vetoed the 1866 Civil Rights Act, opposed the 14th Amendment, disgraced his office, and failed to protect the emancipated slaves and white Unionists from their Democrat oppressors. By 1868, congressional Republicans had had quite enough of Andrew Johnson.

The 75-five year old Majority Leader, Thaddeus Stevens, was no longer able to walk and had to be carried to the Senate trial every day, so Rep. Bingham was the lead prosecutor. Chief Justice Salmon Chase, presiding over the trial, ruled consistently against the prosecution. Through intermediaries, Chase was actively seeking the Democratic Party presidential nomination for the fall elections. During the trial, important Democrats conveyed to the President through his private secretaries offers to raise troops in his defense. Johnson refused, but the offers do indicate the lengths many of his supporters were willing to go.

In the end, the May 1868 vote to remove Johnson fell one vote short of the required two-thirds, with all twelve Democrat Senators backing their man. Seven Republican Senators also voted to acquit. Their refusal to rid the country of the Andrew Johnson presidency is often described as a matter of principle, but a closer look reveals much more. According to the presidential succession law at the time, Johnson would have been replaced by the President pro tempore of the Senate, Ben Wade. The cantankerous Senator had just lost his re-election bid, and few Republicans were eager to see him President for the last ten months of Johnson's term. Though radically against slavery, he held other views unpopular within our Party. Wade was a "greenbacker," for instance, in favor of using inflation as away of easing debt burdens. Also, putting Wade in the White House would have needlessly imperiled the nomination of Ulysses Grant for President at the 1868 Republican National Convention less than a week later.

The seven Republican Senators who voted with Johnson were inclined to tolerate white Democrat supremacist hegemony in the South. Though they all campaigned for Grant in the fall, not one would be nominated for another term. In 1872, their faction of our Party would split away as the Liberal Republicans, and twelve years after that became the "Mugwumps" who shifted over to the Democratic Party.

This article, adapted from Back to Basics for the Republican Party also appeared in American Thinker