In 1858, the United States was as polarized politically as it would ever be over the issue of slavery. The popular incumbent, Stephen Douglas was running against the newcomer, Abraham Lincoln, for the position of U.S. Senator in the state of Illinois.
Lincoln didn’t win that election, but through a series of seven debates against each other, Lincoln’s radical ideas about slavery, and more importantly, how slavery should be controlled in the western territories, would catapult him to the national political stage, and two years later, a relatively unknown and unsuccessful lawyer, would become President of the United States.
“Historians have traditionally regarded the series of seven debates between Stephen A. Douglas and Abraham Lincoln during the 1858 Illinois state election campaign as among the most significant statements in American political history. The issues they discussed were not only of critical importance to the sectional conflict over slavery and states’ rights but also touched deeper questions that would continue to influence political discourse. As Lincoln said, the issues would be discussed long after “these poor tongues of Judge Douglas and myself shall be silent.””
They discussed the issues. They discussed plans to address those issues, and how those plans would be carried out and financed.
People disagreed violently with one another, but politicians, the leaders of the country, knew it was their job to find solutions, and those were the discussions they had.
I am tired of hearing personal attacks.
Tell me where you stand on the issues of poverty, homelessness, foreign policy, police brutality, a living wage, student debt reduction, political finance reform, and rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure. Explain how you will uphold the constitution while also improving gun safety. How will you promote better pay for teachers, firefighters, and police officers, while reforming the ineffective standardized testing system which is destroying public education.
Tonight, the presidential nominees, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, have an opportunity to use this public forum of debate for what it was intended to be, a way for voters to be informed and clear on where candidates stand on important issues. Will they take this opportunity to be truly presidential and hold a real debate?