I have been asked a few times now about Kamala Harris’s quote about Abraham Lincoln not wanting to nominate a new Chief Justice so that the people could decide in the upcoming presidential election. I have never heard that quote before and to the best of my research have not been able to find it, our library is difficult to access because of COVID.
My best educated guest of Lincoln’s actions in not nominating a new Justice is that the Senate was not in session and so there would be no reason to nominate anyone until after the election. Even if he lost the election, he still had time to make a choice and push them through the Senate before he was replaced. With the election and the War, he probably had other things on his mind then putting in a nomination that could not progress until the Senate returned.
Here is the thing about Lincoln. Like so many of our early leaders we want them to be better than they were. It’s a great quote, and we want our leaders to put the nation over politics. However, the problem is that they did not. I love Lincoln, I really do, but he was incredibly politically savvy and partisan. This is the same president that pushed Nevada statehood through a month before the election because he knew they would vote for him and he needed the votes. That action and the quote in question do not mesh well.
I cannot say for certain why Lincoln waited. I would like Harris to come out with her source, so I can research it further. She knew she was going to use the Lincoln statement, it had to be part of her debate preparations. But before current leaders try using historical leaders to prove their point, they need to either know their history better or at least admit it is their Interpretation and not historical fact.