The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery By Eric Foner (W.W. Norton, 426 pp., $29.95) I. As we begin a raft of sesquicentennials that will carry us through at least the next half-decade—the secession of Southern states, the formation of the Confederacy, the Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation, Appomattox, and so on—I confess to feeling a mixture of excitement and trepidation. These are all signal events in our history, the roadblocks and thoroughfares in the making of modern America, and at a time of general crisis they are especially important to revisit.
AMERICAN POLITICS isn't physics, but it has rules nonetheless. And one of the clearest has to do with third parties. Since the nation's founding, no third party has knocked off one of the reigning two, and none has taken power. (The Republican Party of the 1850s, sometimes cited as an exception, actually emerged as a major party after the Whig Party expired.) That's not to say third parties always fail; they just succeed in a different way. When third parties succeed, it's because they change the terms of debate. They take a cry from the margins of American life—an issue, or an interest, or a
PRESIDENT Roosevelt’s overwhelming victory promises to change the face of American political life. Even those expert observers who predicted a landslide did not envisage the unprecedented majority, both in popular vote and the electoral college, that he rolled up. As early as eleven o’clock on election night, when the first returns indicated a Roosevelt victory in every one of the doubtful states, and a popular majority of perhaps 9,000,000, leading Republican politicians and newspapers began to concede that their cause was hopeless; only the incredible John D. M.