Trump Republicans were not the first to get “woke” – The Wide Awake Movement of 1860, and Abraham Lincoln

Republican “Wide Awakes” marching to stand against Democrat violence

One of the many memes that have come out of the 2016 Donald Trump presidential campaign, especially, the influential sub reddit The_Donald, has been the phrase “woke”, which stands for formally apolitical or liberal people suddenly realizing that they agreed with the republican candidate Donald Trump on issues such as trade and immigration, in defiance of what liberal orthodoxy would have predicted they should believe. However, in a very telling and symbolic historical coincidence, “woke” is not the first use of this phrase, or its near phrase in American politics. In actuality, the phrase, “woke”, had an illustrious predecessor. The “Wide Awake Movement” was a movement formed in 1860 to support, the original Republican the emancipator, Abraham Lincoln. As a response to increasingly violent, anti-Lincoln attacks, the Wide Awakes formed to protect Lincoln and other republicans at their rallies from increasingly violent Democrat and anti-Lincoln attacks.

The Chicago Wide Awake Chapter’s mission statement was as follows:

  1. To act as a political police.
  2. To do escort duty to all prominent Republican speakers who visit our place to address our citizens.
  3. To attend all public meetings in a body and see that order is kept and that the speaker and meeting is not disturbed.
  4. To attend the polls and see that justice is done to every legal voter.
  5. To conduct themselves in such a manner as to induce all Republicans to join them.
  6. To be a body joined together in large numbers to work for the good of the Republican Ticket.

In the theme of what’s old is new again, it seems that the Republicans of 1860 had very similar issues as the Republicans of 2016. Violent Democrat attacks on Republican candidates Lincoln in 1860, were repeated on Republican candidate Trump in 2016. Like in 1860, Republicans were afraid of rampant voter fraud in Democrat districts. Also, as in 1860, Republicans strove to act in a manner that brought honor to the movement, just as Trump supporters do not retaliate in like violence when Democrats attack Republicans.

But what unleashed this tidalwave of Democrat violence? Once again, it was the political earthquake caused by a singularly unique candidate, that would upend the current power structures causing elites to fear for their lives. In 1860, the election of Lincoln threatened Democrat slaveowners with the threat of the emancipation of their slaves. The thought of Democrats, that they would lose their status and their means of production, so terrified them, that they mobilized their society against the Republicans, and their candidate. In 2016, the elite media, academia, and certain big businesses have a  stranglehold on society, and felt threatened that their candidate Hillary Clinton, would not be in place to rubber stamp their agenda. The fear that the Democrats have in 1860 is the same as the fear they have in 2016, which is a loss of their power, and they used every means including violence to try to stop the Republican candidate. When their efforts failed, with the help o movements such as the Wide Awakes, and Lincoln was elected, the Democrats, led by the Democrat slaveholder Jefferson Davis,  seceded from the Union in order to keep their slave states.

In 2016, there is a movement in California threatening to secede from the Union. These “Neo Confederates” advance the same argument that their Democrat forebearers made in 1860 – they want to keep their system, and they view the President as illegitimate.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.


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