Could Abraham Lincoln Run and Win in 2012?

Abraham Lincoln is a political icon to those on the Left and Right. Conservatives like Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck consider him to be our nation’s greatest president, as do many others. Some have compared Barack Obama to Lincoln. Check out the CBS article “The Obama-Lincoln Parallel: A Closer Look” if you want to see how liberals view the iconic history of Lincoln.

Hundreds of books have been written about him, more than any other American. There’s a monument in Washington, D.C., extolling his heroism in the face of impossible political odds. His face is carved on Mount Rushmore immortalizing him in solid rock.

But has Lincoln been properly vetted? Have conservatives and liberals ignored some of Lincoln’s lapses in judgments and acts of tyranny because his expansion of the power of the State suits their political purposes?

If Lincoln ran for president today would he win? Not if his views were scrutinized like other presidential candidates, unless of course, he was running as a Democrat.

People would be shocked to learn what Lincoln’s views were on “Negroes” and slavery. Consider this from the Fourth Debate with Stephen A. Douglas at Charleston, Illinois, September 18, 18581

 “I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in anyway the social and political equality of the white and black races — that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality.”

 There’s a great deal more. The following is from Judge Andrew P. Napolitano’s book Lies the Government Told You: Myth, Power, and Deception in American History (2010, pp. 245–247). Remove Lincoln’s name from the following, and any candidate running for any political office today would be tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail, if we did those kind of things today:

“Lincoln was not the ‘Great Emancipator.’ He did not oppose slavery. Before the Civil War, he rarely spoke about slavery. When he did, Lincoln stressed that the president was not constitutionally permitted to do anything about slavery2, and suggested that if anything was to be done, the blacks should be shipped to Africa; whether forced to come here or born here. While working as a lawyer, Lincoln represented slave owners, and in that capacity he prosecuted fugitive slaves, returned them to their masters, and was paid handsomely for it.

“Furthermore, the Civil War initially was not about slavery. It started because the South vehemently opposed the federal government’s increasing power at the expense of the states. The tipping point occurred when the federal government, upon Lincoln taking office, passed a high tariff that benefited the North and harmed the South. The high tariff forced the South to purchase higher-priced Northern goods, and cut of its business relationship with Europe. Lincoln did not introduce the abolition of slavery as a goal until two years into the war, and his Emancipation Proclamation was grossly ineffective.

“Lincoln did not attempt to free the slaves in the ‘border’ States of Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, Tennessee, and Missouri. His so-called emancipation Proclamation expressly permitted slavery to exist and remain lawful in those states. Nevertheless, Lincoln is viewed as a hero and is falsely recognized by the government and its school systems as the greatest United States president. He was a tyrant.

“The point of this story is that the government – and especially our presidents – continually seek to control the news, lie to us in order to reach their objectives, and smother or even prevent dissent. During the Civil War, Lincoln shut down thousands of newspapers and charged thousands of editors and writers with treason. Many of Lincoln’s critics were executed, and many more were jailed, because of their exercise of free speech. Our leaders do not employ such drastic measures today, but they lie and instill fear in us to argue for the necessity of war. Unfortunately, we do not discover their true motives until it’s too late.

“Lincoln’s war killed over 650,000 Americans, more than have been killed in all wars in American history combined. He arrested newspaper editors, state legislators, and even a Republican congressman who merely spoke out against him. He suspended the writ of habeas corpus. His soldiers robbed American banks, burned American courthouses, raped American women, and killed American civilians – all with legal impunity.”

  1. The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, ed. Roy P. Basler, 3:145–146. []
  2. “Apprehension seems to exist among the people of the Southern States that by the accession of a Republican Administration their property and their peace and personal security are to be endangered. There has never been any reasonable cause for such apprehension. Indeed, the most ample evidence to the contrary has all the while existed and been open to their inspection. It is found in nearly all the published speeches of him who now addresses you. I do but quote from one of those speeches when I declare that— ‘I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.’” From Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address (March 4, 1861). []