|Lincoln and Stowe|
Clearly, the Republican Party is currently being driven by a minority segment which feels aggrieved, aggrieved about "Radical Islam" shooting up Americans and Parisians and Western white people, aggrieved about having a Black man as President, aggrieved about the very thought someone from the government might want to take away their guns. These people will show up, which as Woody Allen once noted, is 80% of life, not to mention politics. They will go to rallies and cheer and vote.
But, I am told, they are actually only about 40% of the 300,000 million Americans who the President represents.
The problem is, they are the ones animated, while the rest of America is busy going shopping, going to their kids' soccer games, going out to restaurants and bars, watching the Patriots, thrilling to Steph Curry, buying new cars, mowing lawns, raking leaves, redoing kitchens and bathrooms, and doing all the things which have nothing to do with listening to Donald Trump blame Muslims and President Obama (not necessarily in that order) for everything wrong with the world today.
This morning, I heard the former Republican governor of Pennsylvania blame President Obama for Donald Trump! Wow, that was a neat trick. If President Obama had only been more emotional during his speech from the White House after the San Bernadino attack, then Trump would not have been able to step into that vacuum.
Oh, I get it. Mr. Obama's cerebral, cool style is just no match for the white hot Trump and so all the oxygen in the room is sucked up by Mr. Trump. Got it.
When the war between the states broke out, the cerebral Mr. Lincoln met Harriet Beecher Stowe at the White House. In what may be an apocryphal story, the over 6 foot President bent down to shake the hand of the diminutive author of Uncle Tom's Cabin, and said, "So, this is the little lady, who wrote the book, that started the great big war."
I love that story, and don't really care whether or not it is true--it is true in its point. Without the white hot passions of the anti slavery movement, there would have been no Civil War. Until enough people could be pried away from the concerns of their daily doggy lives in New Hampshire and Minnesota and New York to care about the great wrong that was slavery, no regiments could be mustered.
Think about that. Men from farms in New Hampshire left those shires to enlist in a huge bureaucratic, undemocratic organization to go fight in South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, all over. That took some motivation. Likely, there were many who joined for the adventure, for dreams of glory, because they were unhappy with life at home, but they were animated by something.
And one thing you can say for Mr. Trump: He animates people. So did Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, the Emperor of Japan, and Genghis Khan. Drove those crowds into a frenzy, did these guys.
Lincoln gave wonderful, thoroughly thought out speeches about slavery and the Union. His debates with Stephen Douglas were thoughtful, powerful, but intentionally dispassionate in passionate times. In the midst of the Civil War, speaking before a multitude from the Capitol building, he delivered his Second Inaugural address which could have been a rousing call to arms, but was, instead, a thoughtful, reflective statement of the events leading up to the war and the reasons to continue fighting it.
Of course, his best known address, at Gettysburg, would have left Ted Cruz and Donald Trump snoring. It had ringing phrases and deep understanding but it was understated and given the circumstances, dispassionate. That the war would be pursued to prevent a government of the people, by the people, for the people from vanishing from the face of the earth spoke to people who had attention spans beyond that of the average flea. Not sure it would have rung so loud today among the people who rally for Mr. Trump. What the children want who Mr. Trump thrills are apocalyptic visions of the coming onslaught, a sort of invasion of the zombies, to which Mr. Trump, being a tough guy, will play the super hero. Oh, we'll all be so proud with all the winning.
Lincoln knew he could not motivate passions the way Stowe had. In fact, he was trying to cool down passions, but emotion ruled the day. His smile and wink to Ms. Stowe, if it happened, would have carried a measure of rebuke--here I was trying to calm everyone down, talk them back from the precipice and you got them all inflamed and we got war.
Mr. Trump and Mr. Cruz and Ms. Fiorina all invoke images of Radical Islamic nasties beheading people, slaughtering innocents and they raise the alarm with their Jeremiads. In the midst of real threat to the existence of the Republic, Lincoln did not stoke fears.
But maybe Harriet Beecher Stowe was right. We need some emotion to provoke action now and then. Perhaps what we need now, to provoke the somnolent masses to go out and vote against the hucksters of hysteria is a new Uncle Tom's Cabin about the logical consequences of Mr. Trumps ascension to the Presidency, a world in which Muslims are relegated to ghettos, with ID cards and a data base to track them. A world where high school students pack guns in school (and shoot each other while waiting for the Radical Islamic terrorists to show up), where eleven million immigrants are rounded up and deported, where a 1,000 mile wall of reinforced concrete is built along the Mexican border, where health care collapses.
If we had that, maybe we'd have the war we need, to get the complacent masses who might actually not hate, fear and loathe Muslims to get off their couches and go vote.