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The People Whose Politics We Loathe

In spite of our polarized politics, it seems that there has long been bipartisan respect for Abraham Lincoln. Theodore Roosevelt (R) kept a portrait of Lincoln behind his desk and would turn to it in contemplation during difficult times. Franklin Roosevelt (D) made regular trips to the Lincoln Memorial and once wrote to a friend, “I think it is time for us Democrats to claim Lincoln as one of our own.” Both Ronald Reagan (R) and John McCain (R), accepted their party’s nomination for the presidency highlighting their allegiance to “The Party of Lincoln.” And Barack Obama (D) cited Lincoln in his 2008 victory speech, taking his oath of office on the same Bible Lincoln used.

But to claim Lincoln, one must follow his example. In a recent issue of The National Review, Cameron Hilditch offers this advice to those who wish to practice the politics of Lincoln:

To recover it, all we need to do is think seriously, deeply, and regularly about the fact that none of us are, in any intrinsic or objective way, better than the people whose politics we loathe. If you’re interested in practicing the politics of Lincoln, try to bring to mind the person in public life whose views you find the most appalling, and meditate long and hard on the fact that they are your … equal. Our sixteenth president was quite adept at this. On the night that Robert E. Lee surrendered, Lincoln, after four years of being cursed, warred against, and burned in effigy by the soldiers of the South, turned to the White House band and asked them to play “Dixie.”


Cameron Hilditch, "Self-interest is not enough: Lincoln’s Classical Revision Of the Founding,” National Review (Sept 2020)

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