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On Thursday evening Barack Obama delivered a remarkable speech about Lincoln and his message in Springfield, Illinois. The speech got relatively little public attention, which is not surprising considering its complicated theme: the notion of union and its importance. Was this really an appreciation of Lincoln, or a justification of Obama’s first efforts at bipartisanship—now widely viewed as failed? I am not sure about that, but the explanation of the importance of union is fascinating and persuasive. Moreover, Obama’s ability to deliver all of this with a bit of self-effacing humor is very impressive.
Obama is using Lincoln and his vision as a rebuttal to the “knee-jerk disdain for government” which the Republican Party has kept as its mantra since Reagan. In essence he is questioning its legitimacy as a Republican perspective, and arguing that Democrats and Republicans should find common ground in the values of the Lincoln presidency. It’s an intriguing gambit, and the historical elements are appealing. But the basic question remains: does the Republican Party of today really have anything to do with Abraham Lincoln? Has it not in fact become the party of the neo-Confederates for whom his very image is hateful? That, certainly, is what this week’s worth of Washington reality suggests.
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp
From the June 2014 issue
Acres of hemp grown by “patriotic‚” U.S. farmers in 1942 at the behest of the U.S. government:
A study suggested that the health effects of exposure to nuclear radiation at Chernobyl were no worse than ill health resulting from smoking and normal urban air pollution.
Greenpeace apologized after activists accidentally defaced the site of Peru’s 2,000-year-old Nazca Lines when they unfurled cloth letters reading “time for change” near the ancient sand drawings. “We fully understand,” the group wrote in a statement, “that this looks bad.”
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“I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.”