Chorus Of The Union

An impassioned and timely exploration of Abraham Lincoln’s long-time rivalry—and eventual alliance—with Stephen Douglas.

Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas are a misunderstood duo. History remembers them as antagonists, and for most of the years the two men knew each other, they were. In the 1830s, they debated politics around the stove in the back of Joshua Speed’s store in Springfield, Illinois. In the 1850s, they disagreed over the Kansas-Nebraska Act and debated slavery as opponents for a Senate seat. In 1860, they both ran for president.

Lincoln and Douglas ended as allies, though, against the greatest threat—slavery—that our country has ever faced. When Douglas realized he was going to lose the 1860 election, he stopped campaigning for himself and went South to persuade the slave states to accept Lincoln as president. After that effort failed, and the newly formed Confederate States of America bombed Fort Sumter, Douglas met with Lincoln to discuss raising an army.

The story of how Lincoln and Douglas put aside their rivalry to work together for the preservation of the Union has important lessons for our time. We have just been through a presidential election where the loser refused to concede defeat, with violent consequences. Not only did Douglas accept his loss, he spent the final days of his campaign barnstorming the country to build support for his opponent’s impending victory, setting aside his long-held desire for the presidency for the higher principle of national unity.

Also, by focusing on the importance of Illinois to Lincoln’s political development, Chorus of the Union will challenge the notion that he was an indispensable “great man.” Lincoln was the right person to lead the country through the Civil War, but he became president because he was from the right place. Living in Illinois provided Lincoln the opportunity to confront Douglas over the Kansas-Nebraska Act. The debates with Douglas during the 1858 Senate campaign brought him the fame and prestige to contend for the Republican presidential nomination in 1860. Lincoln’s moderate views on slavery, which he developed in the swing region of a swing state, made him the ideal candidate for an election that had sweeping historical consequences.

All in the Game

Allan Calhamer invented a world-famous board game — then spent the rest of his career as a mailman.

Valentine’s Day

Loyola’s Drew Valentine is the youngest basketball coach in Division I.

Right Here Waiting

After I insulted pop star Richard Marx, he confronted me at my local bar.

In defense of Stephen Douglas

For building Chicago into a world-class city, and supporting Lincoln and the Union, Douglas deserves to be honored in Illinois.

Midnight in Vehicle City

Revives the story of the most significant labor dispute in American history that helped usher in national prosperity with the rust belt as its industrial engine.

The tumultuous Flint Sit-Down Strike of 1936 to 1937 symbolized the start of the United Auto Workers and set the standard for wages in every industry. This historic transformation of the economic structure in the U.S. ultimately established the golden age of the American middle class. The causes for which the strikers sat down–collective bargaining, secure retirement, better wages–enjoyed a half-century of success. But now, the middle class is diminishing in the 21st century and economic inequality is at its highest since the New Deal If we want to learn how to revive it, we need to look at how it started in the first place.

Midnight in Vehicle City is the dramatic story of how workingmen defeated a major industrial power–General Motors, the largest corporation in the world. Journalist and historian Edward McClelland brings readers into the action-packed events of the strike, such as takeovers of GM plants and violent showdowns between picketers and the police. The strikers’ victory resulted in a new kind of America, one in which every man had a right to the wealth his labor produced. McClelland revives the stories of the industrial Midwest in order to examine how the labor movement has declined as a result of changes in automation, outsourcing, and American politics. He uses the lens of Flint, Michigan, to exemplify how one city can be the birthplace of the middle class yet face its most rapid decline. Through new stories of strikers and archival research, McClelland reminds readers how shared prosperity can only be achieved through intervention and how the legacy of the Sit-Down Strike can guide our understanding of the increasing economic disparities in the U.S.