Lincoln scholar doubts the merit of modern debate

Lincoln Scholar Rod Davis describes the Lincoln-Douglas Debates to students at Iowa Wesleyan College.

Excerpt from the Mount Pleasant News:

When Abraham Lincoln set out to challenge then-Sen. Stephen Douglas (D-Ill.) in the election of 1858, he had his work cut out for him. Douglas was the most prominent Democratic politician in the country, and Lincoln had trouble simply getting the public’s attention.

He first tried following Douglas across Illinois, making campaign stops in towns the Senator had just visited in order to rebut his speeches. This approach didn’t earn Lincoln much respect, however, and drew ridicule from state Democrats.

“They said if he really wanted an audience, he ought to follow one of the several circuses that were traveling through Illinois at the time,” Dr. Rodney Davis recounted.

For about an hour Wednesday night, Davis told a group of about 30 at Iowa Wesleyan College the story of a very different kind of campaign, which culminated in a series of seven debates that changed American history.