Though a minority in the party, the abolitionists supported Sen. William H. Seward of New York, one of their own, for the nomination. The majority moderates argued that swing voters, especially in crucial Midwestern states, would reject him as too extreme-and cost Lincoln the election.

Sound familiar? 

Anyway, “Success rather than Seward,” declared the moderates, who convinced convention  delegates-including some abolitionists-to nominate a moderate former Illinois congressman named Abraham Lincoln.

Other abolitionists remained less-than-enthusiastic about Lincoln when he was inaugurated in March, 1861. But he steadily gravitated toward abolitionism and ultimately won over most abolitionists.

On September 22, 1862, Lincoln announced the Emancipation Proclamation. Taking effect on Jan. 1, 1863, it freed slaves in then Confederate-held territory.

Even so, some abolitionists complained that the proclamation didn't go far enough because it didn't free every slave.    

Meanwhile, Lincoln continued to shift toward abolitionism. In 1864, he championed the proposed 13th Amendment, which outlawed all slavery. It was ratified after he was assassinated in 1865.

Wait, I almost forgot: In the Civil War, commander-in-chief Lincoln led the Union to victory over the Confederacy, which was founded on the twin pillars of slavery and white supremacy.

Lincoln went down in history as one of our three greatest presidents (Washington and FDR are the other two.) and Kentucky’s greatest native son.

"Thus," as I'd rhetorically ask my students when making a point in class, "what's the significance of all this today?" I'd suggest that it's not a stretch to liken Biden on his inauguration day to Lincoln on his.

In 2021, the Democrats are the reformist party with moderate and progressive wings. (The Republicans lopped off their small moderate and progressive wings long ago.)

Still largely under Donald Trump's sway, the GOP is the far-right-wing, mostly white folks party, like the white Southern Democrats were in slavery and Jim Crow days. (The Republicans look more like a party of Confederate President Jefferson Davis than the party of "Lincoln and Liberty, too.")   

One of my heroes in history is Michael Harrington, a staunch union supporter who helped start the Democratic Socialists of America. Gitlin quoted Harrington:

"The sure road to irrelevance under a government that brings together disparate forces is to inflame rage at the moderates more intensely than one mobilizes forces to strengthen 'the left wing of the possible,' in Michael Harrington’s memorable phrase.

Concluded Gitlin: "Democratic power can only be anchored, over the longer haul, by showing that Democratic government works for a majority. The only way to peel away some of the less fanatical Trump supporters, over time, is to deliver-to put money in their pockets-to demonstrate that Biden policies stand to shore up a big tent that has room for them, too." 

Anyway, who knows if Biden will turn out to be another Lincoln. But come on, fellow Lefties, give the guy a chance. 

A postscript: I hope Gitlin is right about converting the Trump faithful. But count me among the skeptics. This Biden fan-from the start-lives in Kentucky, where Trump won more than 62 percent of the vote statewide and carried all but two of our 120 counties. In the county where I live, Biden managed less than 18 percent of the vote. A lot of folks hereabouts still sport red MAGA hats and still fly blue Trump flags, often in tandem with Confederate flags.