Daniel Day-Lewis’s richly deserved Oscar for his portrayal of Abraham Lincoln should provoke some more consideration about who Abraham Lincoln’s true heir is today. For the appalling, tragic fact is that the Republicans since days of Richard M. “Prince of Darkness” Nixon have steadily become the mirror opposite of what they were so long ago.
I was a lifelong Republican conservative. I am a social conservative. I am certainly a fiscal conservative. But I do not want to turn America’s clock back to before the Great Depression either. I leave that to Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.
When Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill defined their “Four Freedoms” during World War II, they included the Freedom from Want.
Almost none of Churchill’s many conservative admirers in America realize that a quarter century before FDR’s New Deal he was one of the two architects of Britain’s social security system, including basic health care provisions and pensions for the elderly. Thanks to Churchill and his partner David Lloyd George, Britain enacted those fundamental reforms a quarter century before the United States did under Roosevelt. Lincoln, who stood consistently for an open, free market system with fair play and opportunity for all, would surely have approved.
Lincoln recognized that government had to step in and give both big business and the small individual a helping hand when they required it. No abstract zero government intervention of Adam Smith’s invisible hand for him. He gave huge land grants to the Union Pacific Railroad and he gave generous land grants to hopeful small scale farmers to settle the West. In his extraordinary, Second Inaugural, he embraced the federal government’s moral responsibility to care for its combat veterans and for wives and children of those hundreds of thousands killed fighting to save their country.
Lincoln was determined to abolish the moral obscenity of chattel slavery. He had risen from the most humble and obscure origins himself. He believed it was the greatness and destiny of America to provide those opportunities for all its people. He played a much larger in creating the legal structures that built the juggernaut corporations of Industrial America than is generally realized.
Yet how can anyone develop their personal enterprise if they cannot even afford to eat properly? How can anyone make a success of any small business if they are worried sick that they and their children will be kicked out of their homes because they cannot afford the mortgage or the rent? How can people be really free if they do not enjoy the most basic economic securities?
President Obama asked these questions in his ringing Second Inaugural. If Abraham Lincoln were to come back to us today (and, no doubt, he would choose Daniel Day-Lewis as his mouthpiece) can one doubt that he would ask them too?
Who wants to dismantle (“privatize”) social security and destroy Medicare and Medicaid?
Which party had two Senate candidates claim that women could not get pregnant and give birth from rapes?
Which party had its presidential candidate secretly (and passionately) tell an audience of multi-millionaires that 47 percent of the American people including all military veteran, pensioners household staff were freeloading parasites?
Well, surely at least the Republicans maintain Lincoln’s devout faith in Divine Providence?
It’s certainly true that the Republican Party of today exhibits more religiosity than at any time in its history. However, this would not have pleased Abraham Lincoln.
For Lincoln, as I document in my upcoming book “Cycles of Change,” was a liberal skeptic who was never a Christian in his entire life. (Nor were Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson or Winston Churchill, for that matter.)
George W. Bush and Mitt Romney were the two most believing and devout Christian/religious leaders in the GOP’s history. But that didn’t make them the heirs of Lincoln. Bill Clinton, incidentally, went to church every Sunday, not to fool the people but because he genuinely believed and he liked it – George W. Bush never went at all. Both men were genuinely-believing Christians.
Lincoln may well be spinning in his grave these days. But if he is, it will be at the appalling joke his own party has become, not at the person or policies of President Obama.