Good morning. It’s Friday, Feb. 28, 2020, the day of the week when I offer up a quote meant to ease readers’ troubles, inspire their optimistic impulses — or sometimes merely entertain you. Hopefully, today’s entry will do all three. It comes from Mark Twain (how can one go wrong?) with an assist from an American patriot named Alvan E. Bovay.
An upstate New York-born lawyer who resettled in the Upper Midwest, Bovay convened a political meeting in the small Wisconsin town of Ripon on this date in 1854. The galvanizing idea for those present was ending the spread of slavery in the United States. Their proposed solution was a new political organization that they took to calling the Republican Party.
I’ll have more on Bovay and his comrades in a moment. First, I’d point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion pieces spanning the political spectrum. We also offer original material from our own reporters, columnists, and contributors, including the following:
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Dems Can’t Wait Until the Convention to Stop Sanders. A.B. Stoddard argues that the party’s unwillingness to block the democratic socialist while there’s still time bodes poorly for any hopes to defeat Donald Trump in November.
Could a Sanders-Warren Ticket Work? Progressives love the idea, and a poll finds the pair would prevail in a matchup with the incumbents, Phil Wegmann reports.
Bolstered by His Lead, Freewheeling Biden Lets Loose in S.C. Phil has this story too.
Mike Bloomberg’s Fuzzy Math. Lou Cannon is unconvinced the New Yorker can overtake Bernie Sanders on Super Tuesday, given his late start and Democrats’ peculiar delegate rules.
Media Ethics and the Trump-Russia Leak Wars. Mark Hemingway writes that journalists are failing in their professional obligation determine leakers’ agenda and get both sides of the story before publishing.
2020 Presidential Race Steamrolls Nearly All Else in TV Coverage. Kalev Leetaru lays out the numbers.
Supply Chain Vulnerabilities Put Power Grid at Risk. In RealClearEnergy, Tom Ridge spotlights a model framework to address a national security threat.
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Although Wisconsin is considered the spiritual origin site of the Republican Party, the Feb. 28, 1854 meeting at the First Congregational Church of Ripon was not the only one of its kind — or even the first. A week earlier, a group of like-minded souls had gathered in Jackson, Mich. Four months before that, former congressman Amos Tuck led a meeting of slavery opponents at the Blake Hotel in Exeter, N.H., where the name “Republican” was mentioned as well.
Abolition was in the air, and the name for an opposition party seems to have arisen spontaneously in several locations. Although the idea is often attributed to Alvan Bovay, he himself credited New York newspaper publisher Horace Greeley. Its obvious appeal was that Thomas Jefferson had led the “Democratic-Republican Party” — and Republicans would be using the half of that moniker as a historical counterweight to pro-slavery Democrats.
In any event, it became official at a second Ripon meeting, held on March 20, 1854, in a place known to this day as the “Little White Schoolhouse.”
“We went into [the meeting] Whigs, Free Soilers, and Democrats. We came out of it Republicans and we were the first Republicans in the Union,” Bovay recalled later. “The actors in that remote little eddy of politics realized at the time that they were making history by that solitary tallow candle in the little white schoolhouse on the prairie.”
What came next was GOP nominee John C. Fremont’s 1856 unsuccessful Republican campaign, Abraham Lincoln’s winning 1860 campaign, civil war, and emancipation. Alvan Bovay wasn’t a man to rest on his laurels, however. Less than a decade after the Civil War ended, he had moved on to a new cause, one not nearly as noble as abolition.
“The mission of the Republican Party had ended with the overthrow of slavery and the reconstruction of the old slave states on a free basis,” he declared. “Its place should be taken by a new party with prohibition as its central idea.”
Eventually, the U.S. would try out abstinence of this type — a failed social experiment if ever there was one — but America could have spared itself much grief had it listened to a wiser and droller social observer.
“Temperate temperance is best,” mused Mark Twain. “Intemperate temperance injures the cause of temperance, while temperate temperance helps it in its fight against intemperate intemperance. Fanatics will never learn that, though it be written in letters of gold across the sky.”
And there’s your quote of the week.
Carl M. Cannon
Washington Bureau chief, RealClearPolitics