How an abolitionist debate sheds light on Sanders support for Clinton

By Tim Wheeler

For all the Bernie Sanders supporters who worked so hard to elect Bernie president, consider a lesson of history. William Lloyd Garrison was among the greatest leaders of the Anti-Slavery Society. For more than a decade, his best friend was Frederick Douglass. Ultimately, they split. Among the issues that divided them was their attitudes toward political action.

Garrison was vehemently against any form of support for the Republican Party and their presidential nominee, Abraham Lincoln.

Frederick Douglass saw the Republican Party and Lincoln as vehicles for the abolition of slavery even though abolition was not in the party’s platform.

Famously, or infamously, Lincoln was “pragmatic” in his attitude toward slavery. Lincoln’s goal was to “save the union” by any means necessary including the preservation of slavery if he had to. Yet Douglass understood the only way to save the union was to abolish slavery. Thus he supported Lincoln believing the logic of history would lead Lincoln ultimately to emancipation.

Douglass supported Lincoln believing the logic of history would lead Lincoln ultimately to emancipation.

I believe Frederick Douglass was right. That in no way detracts from Garrison’s greatness. Similarly, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels believed fervently that the logic of the struggle to save the union would lead Lincoln to realize that the U.S. could not exist half slave and half free….and that Lincoln must choose to make our nation free.

Karl Marx and Frederick Engels believed fervently that the logic of the struggle to save the union would lead Lincoln to realize that the U.S. could not exist half slave and half free.

 Today, I think Bernie Sanders is right to endorse Hillary Clinton for similar reasons of historic necessity.

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