What Would Lincoln Do?
By Brion McClanahan
The Republicans won. What’s next? In a November 5 opinion piece for the Washington Times, Charles Hurt postulates that this could be the “most dangerous two years in 150 years.” President Obama, Hurst fears, now has nothing to lose and will become more partisan as he moves farther to the Left. Hurst contends this is a time for statesmanship, for Obama to channel his inner Abraham Lincoln and “save the Republic” as Lincoln did one-hundred fifty years earlier, to look to Lincoln’s bust in the Oval Office for inspiration.
Certainly, Hurst has correctly assessed Obama’s chosen path. His post-election press conference was little more than a doubling down on the King Barack agenda. Unfortunately, Obama is doing what Lincoln would do. That is what makes him dangerous. Lincoln did not unite anyone except those who insisted on the complete annihilation of the South and the shredding of the Constitution as ratified by the founding generation. Consider Lincoln’s actions before the firing on Fort Sumter in April 1861:
1. Lincoln privately wrote Republican Senators urging them to reject all compromise measures, including the famous Crittenden Compromise of 1860.
2. Lincoln publically insisted that compromise was not an option in several speeches before his inauguration.
3. Lincoln refused to meet with commissioners from several Southern States who were sent to Washington in an effort to settle issues related to federal property and debt. He, in fact, wanted Secretary of State Seward to feign sick to stall negotiations. He did and negotiations never took place.
4. Lincoln ignored the Washington D.C. Peace Conference of January 1861, convened by some of the most respected men in the United States for the express purpose of avoiding war.
5. Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address was combative and defiant and placed the burden of compromise on the South, a section which had already left the Union, and not the North, a section which had relentlessly agitated the bonds of Union over the previous eighty years.
6. Lincoln began polling his cabinet the week after taking office about provisioning Fort Sumter. All except his Postmaster General were against the move. Lincoln supported sending a fleet knowing it would lead to war. As he later wrote in his diary, the action had the desired effect. The South fired first and Lincoln could call for troops by insisting the South started the War.
7. The highest ranking general officer in the United States, Winfield Scott, argued against any action that might incite violence. He was quickly dispatched from any advisory councils and later made irrelevant by the Lincoln administration.
Remember also that Lincoln was elected with less than forty percent of the total popular vote, was not on the ballot in several States, and did not receive one Electoral College vote south of the Mason-Dixon. He was a minority president with an agenda that sixty percent of the American population rejected in 1860.
Lincoln’s partisanship and resolute dedication to the “party line” led to the War in 1861. He refused to compromise, refused to work with those who opposed him, refused to listen to those who wanted to avoid war, and refused to deviate from his agenda. Sound familiar?
Hurst has bought the Lincoln myth of the grand statesman unwillingly dragged into war by hell-bent “fire-eaters” in the South, and who through skilled maneuvering rescued the federal republic of the founding generation and preserved a “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” The story is much more complicated. American collective infatuation with “Honest Abe” is a mental roadblock and destructive to a civil society based on “consent of the governed.”
Republicans, for all of their faults, should be ready for a Lincolnian executive, one in which the rule of law is trumped by executive action, separation of power is held in contempt, and the Constitution is nothing but an unenforceable piece of parchment. But to do so, they need to end their love affair with the sixteenth president and recognize President Obama as part of the Lincolnian tradition. That would take a manly determination and a critical reassessment of their core beliefs.
Let’s hope the outcome in 2015 isn’t the same as in 1861.