The Art of the Campaign by Kevin J. O'Brien
|Title||The Art of the Campaign|
|Author||Kevin J. O'Brien|
|Category||Lincoln-Douglas Debates, Ill., 1858|
|Language||English, Spanish, and French|
Lincoln's 1858 race against Stephen Douglas for the Senate was the only documented campaign of his political career. In The Art of the Campaign: How Lincoln Won the Lincoln-Douglas Debates, Kevin O'Brien shows how Lincoln, far from running a timid or reactive race, as convention has it, crafted a bold strategy against his famous adversary. In framing Douglas as an "instrument" for the spread of slavery, despite his professions of neutrality, Lincoln left no stone unturned. He was equally comfortable parsing the dangerous logic of Douglas's ideas or mocking his personal obtuseness on slavery, drawing out the alarming implications of the Dred Scott decision or reinterpreting Douglas's off-hand remarks and campaign jokes. O'Brien follows the course of the Senate campaign as it unfolded, culminating in the joint debates. He shows how Lincoln, after a shaky start, won the debates by every measure except the obvious one. Lincoln lost the election, narrowly and arbitrarily, but by outperforming Douglas handily, he vaulted to national prominence. Armed with a new speaking style, unadorned and "honest," Lincoln also reinforced that slavery was not just a southern problem, as many antislavery northerners believed. If Douglas was "preparing the public mind" for the further spread of slavery, as Lincoln charged in the Galesburg debate, then the North was in danger of becoming an accomplice. Ideas would have to combat ideas, and there could be no middle ground. The Art of the Campaign reveals a campaigner who, by the end of the debates, ranged freely from historical principles to minute details of personality and style to define "the real issue" between the two candidates. Lincoln's performance is a sharp contrast to the superficial and predictable political campaigns of our own day.