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Lincoln and the Stimulus

There is a long tradition of appropriating the legacy of Abraham Lincoln in the service of causes and ideas which have nothing to do with the 16th president. Given the historic nature of Barack Obama’s election to the presidency, it was understandable that the name of Lincoln would be taken in vain rather often as the 44th president took office. But as we celebrate today the 200th anniversary of the Great Emancipator’s birth, this lamentable trend of conscripting Lincoln’s memory into the service of Obama continues.

Air America’s Laura Flanders writes on the Nation’s website that opposition to Obama’s stimulus boondoggle is akin to spitting on the Gettysburg Address, which she claims is more or less what all conservatives really think. Flanders believes conservatives don’t like all that talk about government being “of the people, by the people, for the people.” Of course, the opposite is true today since it is modern American liberalism that has specialized in elites attempting to impose their ideological prejudices on the voters.

She writes: “But the notion that government has a responsibility to serve the common good — by stimulus spending if necessary — is exactly what has conservatives freaked.”

Actually, conservatives believe, like Lincoln, that the common good requires government to take action to protect the republic. This is why they supported — and still support — federal measures to fight terrorists that had liberals “freaked” for the past eight years.

Elsewhere at the Nation, historian Eric Foner weighs in with a lengthier treatise on the anniversary, not all of which is without merit. He concludes by quoting Lincoln’s second inaugural which rightly saw the Civil War to be a divine judgment upon America for the sin of slavery. But for Foner, the heavy price in blood and treasure exacted by that war was not enough to expiate America’s guilt. Instead, Foner implies in concluding his piece, Obama must push a radical agenda that will continue the march to “equality.”

But Lincoln would have been appalled at the idea that the right of every man and woman to equality before the law should be twisted into the sort of statist vision of America that Foner and the Nation want. As Foner noted, Lincoln opposed slavery primarily because he saw it as a form of theft. The principal form of mass theft currently practiced is via endless government confiscation of the income of its citizens, a practice that will be expanded by the return to “big government” heralded by the Obama stimulus.

But instead of this pointless back-and-forth in which Lincoln’s corpse is dragged out of the tomb and required to do service on behalf of 21st century partisan battles, let us instead return to the final words of that second inaugural, which still resonate today in an America that (whether Obama and the liberals like it or not) finds itself locked in a war, not against pro-slavery secessionists, but against totalitarian Islamists:

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

Happy birthday, Mr. Lincoln! May all Americans continue to be worthy of the legacy of freedom that you have left us.



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