If Abraham Lincoln came back as a ghost, he might not recognize current-day America.
Of course he would be amazed by the Chicago skyscrapers, surprised that the rolling prairies are now more suburbs than farmland, humbled by his grand presidential library and museum in Springfield, Ill., but he would be appalled by the corruption in Washington, D.C. In Lincoln’s day, the United States was at another moral, constitutional and political crisis, but our 16th president skillfully led our people through those dark days, ensuring that the union stayed strong.
Lincoln was the first president of the Republican Party, then a new political organization dedicated to the principles of the Declaration of Independence, promoting freedom and equality for all. How unlike many of the Republicans in today’s White House, who are focused on declaring travel bans based on religious faith and building walls to prevent immigrants from entering the country. Yes, slavery was abolished, but we are still far from achieving liberty and justice for all, especially minorities.
As a father who lost three of his four sons to serious illnesses, Lincoln would be elated by the advances in modern medicine, but shocked to learn that many members of Congress today suggest providing health care insurance only to those who can already afford it, leaving the poor and the elderly, those as greatest risk, most vulnerable.
Although he attended church with his wife, Lincoln himself was private in his religious beliefs and he respected the faiths of others. He would not join with those in office who want to use the government as a way to push their opinions and morality on everyone else, desiring a religious empire that bows only to the Judeo-Christian God.
Lincoln agonized over the thousands who died and were wounded in battle, often wishing that “this mighty scourge of war would pass away.” If nuclear weapons had been available in Lincoln’s time, he would have taken every possible measure to avoid using them; he certainly would never carelessly provoke and insult other world leaders, knowing the devastation that could occur.
The only thing Lincoln hated more than war was needless suffering. In the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln honored the troops by declaring that it was now up to the living to resolve “that these dead shall not have died in vain, that the nation shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
What would Lincoln think about the U.S. election of 2016, which may have been compromised by another country, or that only the elite and wealthy can afford to run for public office, or the government favors corporations over citizens, profit over people?
I apologize, Mr. President — the American dream you envisioned over 150 years ago, for a “new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal” — still has not come true.
Does the rise of populism on both sides of the Atlantic endanger the concept of international order?
Populism has left its mark on the face of international politics as of late. The exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union, the rise of Marine La Pen in France and Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, the coming to power of Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Hungary and of former Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski in Poland, and of course the election of Donald Trump in the United States, have shaken the political structures of the industrialized world.
Populism, sometimes called right-wing populism in the press, presents itself as an ally of the common man against forces he can’t control and it isn’t always in line with the free-market agenda voiced by conservative ideologues. During his presidential campaign, President Trump slammed corporations for moving jobs overseas and free trade deals such as NAFTA for promoting this trend. LaPen holds similar views on trade.
Populism tends to support portions of the welfare state. President Trump opposes privatizing Social Security and Medicare and Nigel Farage, former leader of the right-wing populist U.K. Independence Party, wanted to use the money saved from exiting the E.U. to beef up funding for the National Health Service. In France, La Pen has voiced opposition to privatization of her country’s pension system and post office.
Right-wing populism also holds a dim view of the institutions of liberal democracy and of international alliances. When Orban rose to power in Hungary in 2010, he destroyed the country’s systems of checks and balances, changed the electoral code to ensure the Fidesz party’s continued dominance and also ignored the European Union’s opposition.
The European Union has served as a promoter of democracy and rule of law in the region, as countries must have a democratic system of government to join. The expansion of the union into Eastern and Central Europe and the Balkans helped spread liberal democracy in the region. The EU founders’ dream — a stable Europe connected through nation-to-nation ties — has succeeded in some respects. But the refugee and Eurozone crisis and the rise of populism present a challenge.
In the United States, Trump has treated the press, a critical part of liberal democracy, like an occupying power and frightened NATO allies by questioning our commitment to the organization. Also, Trump has called the United Nations “a club for people to get together and have a good time” and has halted funding of the U.N. Population Program.
International law is supported by international institutions like the United Nations, forums where individual national states decide lawful from unlawful behavior and enforce these laws. Through these forums and laws we build what international relations theorist Hedley Bull calls a “society of states,” or a system of states able to cooperate on certain issues and keep a more peaceful world. When nations cooperate in the enforcing of international law and peace, it takes pressure off each nation to spend more on defense.
The trend of populism militates against Bull’s “society of states.” And if certain states step outside law-making and enforcement bodies, then conflict could arise and in turn create a push for more defense expenditures. More defense expenditures can put pressure on other items the government funds — education, infrastructure, social insurance and scientific research.
The defeat of Wilders in a recent election for prime minister in the Netherlands and the rise of a vibrant anti-Trump movement in the United States could mean that right-wing populism’s tide is fading. However, it’s up to those who believe in a “society of states” to resist these movements.
Peace Economy Project, peaceeconomyproject.org/wordpress
Congratulations to Brant Walker on his re-election. It is justifiable because from my observation he has done a very good job in his first term.
I was so impressed when he won as a write-in candidate. The previous mayor and his associates pulled a typically dirty tactic when they got Walker rejected from the ballot. That is old Alton (Mad County) politics. I was hopeful back then the old-boy politics that has brought Madison and St. Clair counties to our sorry political status would change. I honestly did not expect it.
So Mayor Walker performed in a very business-like manner, and the results are showing. I see a much more vibrant Alton than I have in 20 years. I prefer industrial jobs to hardware clerking and hamburger flippers, but our past failings prevent return of those good ol’ days. Realistically, we will never get back the manufacturing industry that left this area with the loss of 10,000 high-paying jobs. And that is in spite of a wonderful central U.S. location, outstanding highways, rail and riverways of little comparison. Illinois’ taxes and business-unfriendly atmosphere to this day dooms this state and local area to non-manufacturing jobs.
Now Mayor Walker has a chance to grow his business plan. While some changes may appear as small things, this overall implementation had a positive impact for Alton. It is encouraging to see the good people who entered as the mayor’s competition this election because it bodes well for Alton’s future. For such qualified people to enter the race, I think, indicates Alton has turned the corner and other folks see there is much hope for Alton’s future.
Thanks to all who participated here, but our good Mayor Walker deserves his re-election.
Gee, right there in the Letters to the Editor is Garland Horn again. Your cup truly runneth over, Mr. Horn, with hatred.
I doubt that they are completely accurate but I’ll accept your numbers on the national debt, labor force participation, home ownership, food stamps dependants, persons living in poverty and income.
You are implying that these things are all because of Obama and the Democrats, “liberals” that they are. As you might guess, I don’t agree with you.
After eight years of Bush and Cheney (we used to think they were the biggest liars in the world, but present-day Republicans prove they were just amateurs), two wars, a prescription drug plan and two massive tax cuts for the rich, all without paying for any of it. Well, I am surprised the numbers are not much worse.
And health care costs? Reports all say that Obamacare definitely slowed the rate of growth in insurance premiums that would have occurred without Obamacare. Everything considered, Obamacare is great but not the best or final solution, not by a long shot. There are better things to come and when they do, there’s no doubt it will not come from the Republicans. But that’s a subject for another day.
You are absolutely right; the Democrats have lost a large number of seats everywhere. These losses seem to coincide with the rise of Fox News and right wing talk radio. I wonder if there’s a connection. After all, as we are learning from the Russians, if you tell a politically and historically ignorant citizenry something over and over, they will believe it. And you’re also somewhat right in believing the Democrats have strayed too far from the road that kept them fighting for the working man. Many believe they have spent too much time fighting for minorities and fringe groups while taxing workers for Granite.
But at least the Democrats know where this road is and how to get back on it, which I believe they are in the process of doing now. At the same time, the Republicans have never been on this road and they like to pretend it doesn’t even exist.
For you to even use the word narcissist in the same sentence as Obama is just daffy. Look up the medical definition of malignant narcissism; it describes our current president to a “t.” If it was legal and if he wanted it, which I don’t think he did, Obama would have won against Trump handily. Hillary won by three million votes and she is not nearly as likable or as sharp or quick-witted as Obama.
I wonder if perhaps you’ve been at the Kool-Aid stand for way too long. You might want to start looking at some “alternative facts.” Perhaps you only see what you want to see and ignoring the real truth. Although there’s always a little to be learned from what you are saying, I think you are mostly just wrong.
David White Sr.