I’ve been listening to David Blight’s lectures for his Yale course on The Civil War and Reconstruction. And I find myself continually compelled to think about the political situation in late 1860 through the ahistorical lens of today’s political controversies. After all, if Barack Obama with a popular majority and 59 Democratic Senators can’t get a climate change bill through the Senate, then what kind of anti-slavery legislative agenda would Abraham Lincoln have been able to drive through congress had the South not seceded? The Republicans were committed to excluding slavery from the territories, but perhaps slave state Senators could have just dealt with this through ceaseless filibustering. It was only the withdrawal of the Confederate members from Congress that gave the GOP the majorities it needed to pass its agenda.