A Tale of Two Tickets, Part II
The next attempt at a mixed ticket came during the Civil War. As the election approached, the North was growing tired of the war, and the peace movement was gaining strength. In August, President Lincoln was convinced he would probably lose, and wrote a secret memo to his cabinet to that effect. To improve his chances, the Republicans joined forces with the pro-war Democrats and formed the National Union Party. This was a coalition of Republicans and pro-war Democrats formed for the 1864 election only. This “new” party allowed Democrats in favor of the war to join with the Republicans.
Since a Republican was at the top of the ticket, they needed a pro-war Democrat for the second spot. Lincoln decided on Andrew Johnson of Tennessee. John had been a Congressman, governor of Tennessee, and a courageous Senator who was the only southern member of Congress to remain in his seat, refusing to recognize secession. He then became military governor of Tennessee, and successfully re-established civilian government in Tennessee, saving that state from the horrors of Radical Reconstruction. Lincoln felt that a southerner in the Vice Presidency might help the southern people put aside hard feelings after the war, and help the nation reunite and heal faster.
President Lincoln considered Johnson a hero. Johnson had gone on a speaking tour of Tennessee to prevent secession at great risk to his own life. At one point, Johnson escaped through the back door of a railroad station just as an angry mob was entering through the front with a rope they intended to use to hang Johnson.
In September, General Sherman captured Atlanta, and victory seemed near. Lincoln and Johnson won a landslide election, carrying every state but New Jersey, Kentucky and Delaware. Again, the Republicans had a rude shock when, after Lincoln’s assassination, Johnson became President. Johnson opposed the Republican-controlled Congress at every turn. He was determined to carry out Lincoln’s mild reconstruction policies, and came into conflict with the Radical Republicans in Congress who favored punishing the South.
Congress tried to curtail the President’s powers, removing him from the Reconstruction process as much as possible, and limited his control over his own cabinet with the Tenure of Office Act, which said the President could not fire cabinet members without the approval of the Senate. The conflict finally resulted in articles of impeachment being passed by the House, and the trial in the Senate. President Johnson survived by a single vote, since a two-thirds majority was required rather than a simple majority. Johnson, who remained defiant throughout the entire ordeal, served the last months of his term, but was not nominated for a full term of his own. Johnson was vindicated when his home state elected him to the U.S. Senate in 1875, making him the only President to serve in the Senate after his term in the White House.
No party has tried to offer a mixed ticket since then. No party has even seriously considered such a move. The entire purpose of the Vice President under our Constitution is that he (or she) stands ready to assume the Presidency in a crisis. As John Adams pointed out, the Vice President is nothing, but might become everything. Knowing where the Vice President stands on the issues is vital to the party leadership.
In times of war or other crisis, some Presidents have sought to create a bi-partisan administration, but they never again used the Vice Presidency to accomplish that goal. They often use cabinet posts for that purpose. The most notable modern example would be Democrat Franklin Roosevelt naming prominent Republican Henry Stimson Secretary of War in the days before the United states entered World War II. Stimson had served as Secretary of War under Republican President William Howard Taft and Secretary of State under Republican President Herbert Hoover, who Roosevelt defeated to become President. A more recent example would be Democratic President Bill Clinton naming Republican Senator William Cohen as Secretary of Defense.
The copyright of the article A TALE OF TWO TICKETS, PART II is owned by John S. Cooper. Permission to republish A TALE OF TWO TICKETS, PART II in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.
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