In a Guest Comment that appeared in The Star Democrat, a regional newspaper on the Eastern Shore where I live, a reprint of an article by Sidney Blumenthal with the Los Angeles Times asks the question, “What would Abe Lincoln think of Donald Trump?” Beyond the obvious answer: “Not much,” lies the heart of what is truly wrong with the 45th President.
On January 27, 1838, 29-year-old Lincoln, a member of the Illinois Legislature described the “mobocratic spirit.” Anyone who has watched a Trump Rally during the campaign on TV or been brave enough to attend one knows exactly what that means. It’s not just the rabid enthusiasm for their candidate, but the mindless rage and violent outbursts the candidate seemed to encourage that made him stand out as wholly different than any President before him.
In his speech, Lincoln decried, “the caprice of a mob” referring to the lynching of a black prisoner in St. Louis. He went on to outline a similar disdain for government held by many modern conservatives, especially those considered members of the “Tea Party Coalition.” “Having ever regarded Government as their deadliest bane, they make a jubilee of the suspension of its operations; and pray for nothing so much, as its total annihilation.” For a speech given almost 180 years ago the sentiment he describes is eerily all too familiar.
On November 6, 1837 an Alton Illinois anti-slavery editor,”… was murdered by a group of men who stormed his warehouse to destroy his printing press. His killers were acquitted in a trial eight days before Lincoln delivered his speech.” This prompted Lincoln, an avowed abolitionist to condemn those who would “shoot editors. “ They were not simply breaking the law, but also assailing the basic right of free speech-the very foundation of American government. It was an attempt , “…to subvert our national freedom.”
An even greater threat to our Democracy, according to Lincoln, one of our greatest Presidents, “…warned against the emergence of a man driven to power by a fierce desire for ‘celebrity and fame’ who ‘thirsts and burns for distinction.’ “
“This demagogue ‘scorns to tread in the footsteps of any predecessor, however illustrious,’ and believing that there was ‘nothing left to be done in the way of building up, he would set boldly to the task of pulling down.’
Anyone who has rather incredulously followed the political shenanigans under the direction of the 45th President, placing people in the lead of cabinet positions who have sought to undermine the mandates for those federal regulatory agencies is but one example. Putting a climate denier in charge of the EPA being one of the most egregious. Welcoming as one of his primary advisors a man who has bragged about “deconstructing” the government was within is yet another.
The confusion and dysfunction we have all observed over the last six months in this Administration may appear to be a result of total incompetence, but it may also be a well-planned unweaving of the fabric of our Democracy to advance the personal interests of a small group of very devious men and women. Resisting is crucial to the very survival of our country. Abe Lincoln would be aghast, simply aghast.