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The Truth About Lincoln’s “Third-Party”

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Howard Schultz—former CEO of Starbucks—has become the latest prominent public figure to succumb to the Third-Party Temptation, despite warnings that Third-Party or independent presidential candidates always lose.

The common rejoinder to that sensible objection is to cite fake history: claiming that Abe Lincoln ran and won as a Third-Party contender. Actually, Lincoln remained loyal to the shattered and disappearing Whigs, until they failed to nominate their own presidential candidate in 1856 and were virtually replaced by the newly-organized Republicans. That year the Republican nominee, Fremont, finished second, not third, and two years later Republicans—not Whigs—swept to control of the House. The GOP was never an independent fringe party, and under Lincoln in 1860 they won all Northern, Midwestern and Western states.

We ought to be honest about honest Abe: his career demonstrates the durability of the two-party system, not the advantages of quixotic political experiments.

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