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Lincoln Speaks to Today's Republican Extortionists

October 2, 2013

It is a tragic state of affairs when the antidote to the Party of Lincoln is Abraham Lincoln himself. But with House Speaker John Boehner and his band of "terrorists" and "hostage-takers" and "kamikazes" (as described by his fellow Republicans) prepared to trigger what Boehner himself warned "would be a financial disaster, not only for our country but for the worldwide economy," we need to hear from the Great Emancipator. Now more than ever.
In their effort to defund, damage and otherwise damage Obamacare, House Republicans have already shutdown the federal government and are promising to sabotaging the American economy by refusing to raise the debt ceiling. If that logic--kill the Affordable Care Act or we kill the U.S.--sounds familiar, it should. In Lincoln's time, the Republicans' red state ancestors (then in the Democratic Party) made good on their blackmail threat over the issue of slavery. As he mockingly explained during his February 27, 1860 Cooper Union Address:

Under all these circumstances, do you really feel yourselves justified to break up this Government unless such a court decision [Dred Scott] as yours is, shall be at once submitted to as a conclusive and final rule of political action? But you will not abide the election of a Republican president! In that supposed event, you say, you will destroy the Union; and then, you say, the great crime of having destroyed it will be upon us! That is cool. A highwayman holds a pistol to my ear, and mutters through his teeth, "Stand and deliver, or I shall kill you, and then you will be a murderer!"

Of course, in the case of Obamacare, the Supreme Court sided with the voters who elected President Obama in 2008 and 2012, gave him a large Congressional majority in his first term and preserved his party's command of the Senate to start his second.
As Lincoln lamented in his Second Inaugural on March 4, 1865, "Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came." Now, the war is over health care and the rebels' weapon of choice is the debt ceiling. As Lindsey Graham described the impact of detonating the debt limit, "If Congress refuses to give the United States government the ability to pay these bills on time, the consequences for the entire global economy would be catastrophic -- far worse than the impact of a fiscal cliff."
As far back as 1838, Lincoln presciently understood that the destruction of the Union could only come at the hands of the American people themselves. In his Lyceum Address on "the perpetuation of our political institutions," the 28 year-old predicted:

At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it?-- Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never!--All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years.
At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.

"Die by suicide." A very apt diagnosis for the fate of the U.S. economy should John Boehner and his GOP rebels block the once-routine increase in the federal government's borrowing authority and so precipitate what Graham acknowledged would be "financial collapse and calamity throughout the world." That course is tantamount to treachery.
Of course, Abraham Lincoln had to deal with much worse from the traitors of his day. After he took the oath of office on March 4, 1861, President Lincoln made a final plea for national unity to the secessionists who would destroy the Union rather than lose their dominion over four million human beings:

In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The Government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath registered in heaven to destroy the Government, while I shall have the most solemn one to "preserve, protect, and defend it."
I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

If the American people are lucky, their hopes--unlike Lincoln's--will not be dashed by the likes of John Boehner, Paul Ryan and Ted Cruz. But so far, the better angels of their nature are nowhere to be found.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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