As of Monday, April 9, 2018
SUNNYSIDE I’ve been thinking the country today is divided more than ever, but that’s probably not true.
George Washington had to deal with Americans who were loyal to King George III while fighting against England as leader of the American Revolution. Most historians believe today that America had a three-way split at that time, and Washington had less than half-support. About 20 percent of Americans were loyalists, fewer than 20 percent were patriots, and more than 50 percent were fence-sitters.
Life was not easy for the loyalists. They often suffered humiliation at the hands of the patriots, including physical harm to them and/or their properties. After the war ended, about 80,000 loyalists felt there was nothing left for them in the U.S. and moved out, mostly to England, but other places, too.
Most of us appreciate the concept of a nation that Washington and the patriots left us. But they were the radicals of their day. Like today’s radicals, they were unappreciated by the majority.
Abraham Lincoln had to deal with a divided country, and he didn’t enjoy majority support. Not until the country split, that is.
Before the Civil War, the country was split over the practice of slavery. The states that preferred freedom for everyone were dominated by the Republican Party. The slave states were dominated by Democrats.
Much of the country today believes the Republicans (Whigs back then) were the bad guys because they wanted blacks in the south to be counted as three-fifths of a person during the development of the Constitution.
The North knew the South would not let blacks vote, and the South wanted to count them as whole to be able to have a larger number of seats in the House of Representatives.
At one point, before the Civil War, Lincoln said the country was more divided than ever. He decided he could save it only by ridding it of slavery. Then it split completely.
Although the North generally supported Lincoln, he had a lot of opposition and faced large protest rallies. Northerners became tired of relatives killing each other, and that went on for more than four years.
If you think Democrats are haters nowadays, imagine how they hated back then. Lincoln, a Republican, gave them subservient status. Lincoln saved the country by nearly destroying half of it.
He won his second term because of a military victory just before the election.
Lincoln usually wins when historians are polled about the greatest president ever. And he was killed while in office.
Presidents John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon presided over a country that became more and more divided during the Vietnam war years. People were killed at some of the protest marches. Then, as well as now, some people blamed Johnson, some Nixon and some Kennedy.
Vietnam was the first time the United States simply quit a war. The last Americans were boarding the last available planes as the North was sweeping across the South.
If there really was an American to blame for Vietnam, it might as well have been Dwight D. Eisenhower. He was the president when French colonialists lost Vietnam to the communists in 1954.
"Ike" decided we needed to help the South with military advisers. Kennedy sent the first massive American troop presence, Johnson built on that, and Nixon pulled us out without a victory.
Kennedy was killed while in office, Johnson declined to run for a second election because of the splitting nation. Nixon was forced to resign in shame before his second term ended.
We are probably no more divided today than during any one of those times. We are just more informed. If Trump sneezes or Pelosi barks, we know within a minute.
Now, the kids are involved. Some march against the 2nd Amendment, some march for it.
If they’re getting extra credit, how much credit probably depends on which side of the divide their teachers stand.
— Ted Escobar is the managing editor of The Daily Sun. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.