Seven senatorial debates in Illinois in 1858 were far more civil than the Civil War. Unfortunately the current FEC didn't learn anything from them. Lawyer and former Whig Party member, Abe Lincoln, had jumped to the newly formed Republican Party and challenged incumbent Illinois Senator Steve A. Douglas (not Melvyn Douglas as many believe).
Incidentally the job Lincoln and Douglas were vying for is the very one that Barack Obama filled from 2004 until he won the Presidency in 2008. You know, the one Blagojevich found so shiny (!*^%#%!!-golden!). So shiny the glare (and perhaps his hairdo squeezing his brain) resulted in Blago cashing in that senate seat and his own gubernatorial throne for a new position - scullery maid at the Federal Correctional Institute Englewood in Littleton, Colorado (not far from last night's "debate" between Romney and Obama).
The Lincoln-Douglas debate format was simple. No moderators, newscasters, radio, reality TV producers or social media. They were local debates but with apparent prominence (15,000 people showed up for the first debate held in a town with a population of 5,000). I guess that shows there was some kind of social media in 1858.
Lincoln and Douglas were both lawyers (Douglas, a judge) and both were great orators. The prominent issue of the day was slavery, although it's reasonable to assume there were problems with the economy, immigration and unemployment. Douglas won the senate seat, but two years later, Lincoln won the presidency.
Now, 154 years after Lincoln and Douglas elegantly duked it out, Romney and Obama rolled up their sleeves and proceeded to spew large but apparently random numbers, grandiose vague plans, and nasty accusations at each other. I doubt any voter who was looking for enlightenment came away with anything but a resolve to write in Jimmy Buffett.
Moderator Jim Leher didn't help the situation any ... I kept getting an image of Nell from the Dudley Do-Right cartoons, tied to the railroad tracks with a giant locomotive speeding her way. Leher is undoubtedly rethinking "semi-retired" this morning. Who knew presidential candidates would display such bad manners? Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha :)
My own interest in politics was engendered by osmosis. I attended Seward Elementary School (where I was taught how to purchase large bodies of oil and gold rich land for bargain prices), Hamilton Junior High School (where I learned to duel), Lincoln High School (where I learned honesty and to stay out of theatres), and the University of Washington (where I learned to skip quarters over the Delaware River while authoritatively standing in a boat).
Lincoln was the last Republican candidate worth voting for. Although Romney's hair did look nice last night.