An ill-fated tilt toward bipartisanship was at the core of Abraham Lincoln’s greatest mistake.
As the Civil War ground on through 1863 and the presidential election in 1864 approached, Republicans thought restoring the Union under terms of generous reconciliation was a high priority. Thus, Lincoln and the Republican Party nominated Democrat Andrew Johnson to be his running mate under a Union Party ticket, ditching previous running mate Hannibal Hamlin, a reliable anti-slavery Republican.
The idea, of course, was to lend some broad legitimacy to the postwar reconstruction process. But when Lincoln was assassinated by a Confederate terrorist in 1865, that decision turned from dubious to an absolute catastrophe. We should remember Lincoln’s mistake today, as centrists browbeat movements on both sides of the aisle for not seeking reconciliation. Sometimes, reaching for compromise is a terrible move.