The Lincoln Connection
In his Second Inaugural Address March 4, 1865 President Abraham Lincoln said the following:
“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”
Such words of Abraham Lincoln seem as valid today as they did 143 years ago so perhaps the hand of destiny may play a part in this election. Whoever wins will become president in time to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth on February 12, 1809. The fact Lincoln lived in Illinois throughout his career is another interesting parallel with Barack Obama.
What about experience to be president? Lincoln, one of our greatest presidents of all time who presided over the most difficult war and social change in our history was elected president after serving 8 years in the Illinois State Senate and 2 years as a Congressman. Barack Obama has served 8 years in the Illinois State Senate and 4 years in the U.S. Senate.
Lincoln freed the slaves in America with his Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and his support of the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1865 that was ratified after his death. He presided over the most devastating war in our history, the Civil War.
Barack could become the first Black elected president thus fulfilling the dream of Lincoln when he freed the slaves that all people are entitled to equal opportunity as guaranteed under the Declaration of Independence of the United States in 1776.
Hillary’s Experience – the Double Edged Sword
Hillary has used a variety of techniques to establish that of all the presidential candidates she has by far the most administrative and presidential experience. A rather bold claim since she has never held an administrative position but rather been an advisor to her husband and thus the cause for concern.
While certainly exposure to the presidency as a first lady would be interesting, it also is no guarantee that you had a hands on role in the execution of the office. With Bill as president I’m not sure the hands on reference is even appropriate as it does not seem to be related to only policy issues.
But if you are claiming such experience as presidential then you must be willing to also claim co-responsibility for those issues and actions. Now this leaves Hillary in the quandary for the Clinton administration did not leave a legacy of unparalleled successes when it came to issues such as Iraq, terrorism, NAFTA, GATT, free trade and other sensitive matters.
There is a saying that it is not the experience that counts but what you learned from the experience and a lot of questions remain to be answered when it comes to the experience of the Clinton Administration. Many people believe that the experience of the Clinton Administration is part of the establishment and institutional politics we want to change.
Besides, experience is not a precondition to success as many an experience person has failed when cast into a new role and many an inexperienced person has done quite well by growing rapidly into a new role. Examples of the latter might be the inexperienced presidents John Kennedy, another Illinois man Ronald Reagan, and Abraham Lincoln as mentioned earlier.
The Barriers of Prejudice
Prejudice and bigotry are certainly alive and well in America but the more generations we put between us and the Civil War the less likely such misguided human emotions can impact on an election. Often time is the greatest healer and a lot of time has passed since the days of slavery and civil rights battles.
Most prejudice today is taught not experienced where previous generations lived through the days when hatred was preached in churches, people were murdered and secret societies hijacked our law enforcement system for their own spiteful purposes. Many of those descendants of the early participants half heartedly bought into the brainwashing and when they did more often than not the first thing they did was refuse to register to vote. Thus they are not even going to participate in the election.
Over the years the ballot has replaced the bullet as the vehicle for change in America and those choosing not to participate are exercising their right as a U.S. citizen and losing any chance to be a meaningful participant in the process.
The Youth Movement
As a card carrying Baby Boomer it gives me a warm feeling to hear that our youth are once again getting involved in the political process and in doing so have rallied around the young Black candidate as their standard bearer. Shades of the sixties and déjà vu all over again as Yogi Berra would say.
We had Kennedy and Civil Rights to support, Viet Nam to oppose, and the Cold War to remind us how wrong things were. Now kids have Obama to support, Iraq to oppose and the establishment to remind them how wrong things are and we hope there newfound voice of empowerment can keep up their interest and participation.
Only today there is competition for the attention of youth from cells phones, IPods, text messaging, the Internet, video games and all the distractions of the MTV and computer age so there is no sure thing that youthful enthusiasm can stay focused.
Americans are Not Ready for a Black President
Americans may not be ready but Americans may not be involved enough to stop it as many of those voicing concern about this issue have long ago dropped out of the political process because of their disgust for the president, congress or other institutions. One look at the demographics shows that about 50% of eligible voters are not registered to vote, about 50% of those registered to vote actually do vote, and while they are divided about equally between Democrats, Republicans and Independents, their loyalty to a party has been consistently slipping away. People simply do not see much difference between political parties.
The truth is that Blacks may be more determined than ever to take advantage of this window of opportunity because this may be one of the last opportunities they have before the Hispanic vote becomes a dominate force in U.S. elections. In 2006 estimates Whites make up 73.9% of the population (221.3 million) while Blacks are 12.4% of population (37.1 million). Hispanics, who may be of mixed ethnic background, are 14.8% of the population (44.3 million). But one half of all children in America under age 5 are Hispanic. When the diverse Hispanic population can consolidate as a unified voting block they will become a powerful force.
A final note regarding the Black issue is that with a White mother Obama may not be feared as much by some in the White community nor viewed as a radical standard bearer for African Americans. Right or wrong as an issue there is so much mixed blood in the American population that acceptance is much more likely today than in previous generations. The more we learn of our ancestry the more obvious the melting pot nature of America becomes accepted.