NPR personage Garrison Keillor loans his public-radio voice – hailed by liberals at Slate as "a breathy baritone that seems precision-engineered to narrate a documentary about glaciers" – to a feature called "The Writer’s Almanac," which usually features a poem and and some literary and historical notes of the day. On Thursday, Keillor recounted how Democrats once regretted demands for an early withdrawal and ended up looking like the party of surrender:
It was on this day in 1864 that Abraham Lincoln was elected to his second term as president of the United States, one of the few elections in world history to be held in the middle of a civil war. Lincoln might have tried to cancel or postpone the election until the war was over, but he said, "If the rebellion could force us to forego, or postpone a national election, it might fairly claim to have already conquered and ruined us."
The Confederate Army had recently gotten so close to Washington, D.C., that Lincoln himself was able to watch a battle, standing on top of a parapet with field glasses. On July 30, 4,000 Union soldiers were killed in a disastrous attempt to invade Petersburg, Virginia. The army needed 500,000 more soldiers, Lincoln would probably have to call for another draft, and the war debt was becoming unsustainable. On August 23, Lincoln wrote a memo to his cabinet that said, "This morning, and for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable that this Administration will not be re-elected."
The Democratic Party was running on a platform of ending the war. But this turned out to be a huge mistake when news arrived in early September that the Union Army had captured Atlanta and Mobile. Suddenly, the Democratic Party looked like the party of surrender when Union forces were winning the war. Lincoln carried every state except New Jersey, Delaware, and Kentucky.
Hat tip to Glenn Wall, who added "I listened to it and could detect no trace of irony in Keillor's voice. Hilarious!"