In 1864, the Union and the Confederacy were still at war, but, for Lincoln, the end was in sight. He had plans for keeping the Union together and helping the country to heal, once the war was over. To succeed, he had to remain in office. The problem was his political affiliation. The Republican Party had become seriously divided over issues regarding the ongoing conflict of the American Civil War. So had the Democratic Party. Large portions of the two major political parties opposed Lincoln, but there were also those within both parties who supported the president’s views. Lincoln realized that if he could find a way to bring together the factions from both political parties who shared his position on the war, then he might be able to win another term as president.
The solution was the National Union Party, with Republican Abraham Lincoln as their candidate for president and War Democrat Andrew Johnson as his running mate. This offered members of the two major political parties in the nation the option of voting in accordance with their position on the war without straying from their political party. The strategy worked. Lincoln and Johnson were elected to what would be Lincoln’s second term as president. It also kept the Radical Republicans, who opposed Lincoln’s policies, from gaining political control of the presidency.
By today’s standards, Lincoln’s political manoeuvring may seem unorthodox. In these and other tactics, he established some of today’s standard practices for politicians running for office. The Senate race debates known today as the Lincoln–Douglas Debates became a presidential campaign standard more than a hundred years later. Papering communities with printed campaign posters makes a candidate seem familiar in areas where he or she has made no public appearance. Lincoln won his first term as president by doing exactly that, rather than campaigning in person. He also made use of the media, by purchasing a newspaper with a large following. These strategies, as well as the enormous changes that were to come, remain a very active part of Lincoln’s legacy.