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What The 1860 Election Could Teach Us About 2020

1860 election
This drawing shows American voters cast their ballots in a polling place in the election of 1860 at an unknown location. Abraham Lincoln was elected the 16th president.

Both major political parties could substantially change or disappear entirely after the 2020 presidential elections, according to a longtime political watcher at Illinois State University.
Retired politics and government professor Bob Bradley will draw parallels between the 1860 and 2020 elections during a speech Oct. 10 at noon at the McLean County Museum of History in Bloomington.

Bob Bradley
Credit Eric Stock / WGLT
Retired Illinois State University professor Bob Bradley said the Republican and Democratic parties are undergoing major shifts that could lead to major change in the 2020 elections.

Bradley said President Donald Trump could see major defections from the Republican base, including the southern United States and the suburbs, if the economy caves.

“The economy is going to have a lot to do with this,” Bradley declared. “If in fact we go into a recession and depending on the severity of the recession and how long it lasts, I think you could see mass defections from the Republican party.”

On the other side, Bradley said the Democratic Party lacks identity.

“I don’t see the young aspiring leader coming forward to represent younger voters on the Democratic side,” he said, referring to 78-year-old Bernie Sanders as the one presidential contender who has had the most success rallying younger voters.

Bradley said he sees a growing middle ground that could emerge as a third party, similar to how the Republican Party was born out of a coalition of disaffected Whigs, Democrats and others over slavery and immigration when Abraham Lincoln, a non-establishment candidate, became president.

Bradley cautioned, however, such a movement would require changing the political machinery at the grassroots level. He noted ballot directives in many states make it difficult to mount a third-party candidacy, while redistricting has protected many incumbents.

He added such a movement would also require an overhaul of the campaign finance system, by overturning the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United that opened the floodgates on political ad spending. Bradley also suggested a move to publicly funded campaigns.

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Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.