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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Why Obama's Identification With Lincoln Matters

On the surface it seems obvious. Even poetic. The African American man, married to the descendant of American slaves and their children are living in the White House. The realization of Dr. Kings dream is also the redemption of the 16th President, who chose to change a war for Union into a war for freedom.

As a counterpoint, there is also the use of the abbreviation, Neo-Con to describe the deep opposition to this president and everything he stands for. The modern translation of this abbreviation is Neo-Conservative. But I prefer to think of it as Neo Confederate.

The Lincoln / Confederate divide is very much present in our news today. And the danger it represents to our Union is just as real.

President Obama is a Lincoln Republican. He's a lawyer, a brilliant orrator and a disciplined campaigner who belives in the Republic and the Union over all. The libertarian mind that saw no trouble with the elite slave owning class in an unregulated market fought any government move to end their special interest. They are very much alive and with us today as well.

While some are romanced by Lincoln's apparent liberalism, it's important to see that he was a very skilled railroad lawyer who represented corporate interests and became wealthy defending thier interests. He knew how to adress the common people in the words of their democratic ideals. But he also made the industrialists rich.

We don't know yet how President Obama will prcoeed, but in his first weeks he has skillfully managed the Congress and moved to find the new political center of America. He doesn't look like the scary socialist that some are afraid of. He looks more like the kind of leader who knows that he can gather support from both extremes and strengthen the center - where he knows how to operate.

Lincoln was very similar. In raising an army to enforce Federal law in the southern states he saw many states rise up to secession. But he also managed to hold slave territory in the Union.

In passing a bill to fund economic recovery, President Obama has seen much of the populace rise up and demand that GOP leaders refuse the stimulus package - almost as if it were an insult. But he managed to hold a few in the center. And he will strengthen the center to make room for more.

Deep within the struggle for this vote is a country in an ideological Civil War during an economic crisis. We are in desperate trouble.

I can only hope that this President is equal to the man he admires.

Happy Birthday Mr. Lincoln.

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