Lincoln’s Cabinet as a Model, Past and Present

By Erin Carlson Mast

As news media from the past century can attest, the shrewd decision by President Lincoln to invite political adversaries to join his cabinet has become a model for other leaders to create unity through coalition.  The decision to bring his former opponents to his team–at least in title–was most recently analyzed in the enormously popular book, “Team of Rivals” by Doris Kearns Goodwin. 

Both book and practice have been cited not once but several timesin the past couple weeks as a model for Barack Obama–at least once by Obama himself–should he win the Democratic nomination.  For the current discussion, read:  “Obama Hints at Naming Clinton to His ‘Team of Rivals’ ” by Newsweek’s Andrew Romano, which references a preceding article about a modern “Team of Rivals,” by Andrew Sullivan, “Obama-Clinton, a hate-filled dream ticket.”  

For an historical discussion about the Lincoln Cabinet model during World War I, see When Lincoln Had a Coalition Cabinet published in the New York Times on February 10, 1918. (Or search “Lincoln Cabinet” in New York Times Archives 1850-1980 papers to locate the article).

Ms. Mast is the Curator at President Lincoln’s Cottage

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