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View Diary: Lincoln: The trajectory of a politician (173 comments)

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  •  but are you not also arguing (3+ / 0-)
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    Armando, esquimaux, wxorknot

    that his abandonment of Clay in 1854 was the act of Lincoln the politician, while his adherence to the principle of preserving the Union, many would argue, was the act of Lincoln the statesman?

    His positions on slavery were always political positions while his position on the Union was something of another order.  Or am I misreading your argument?  

    Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

    by a gilas girl on Sun Aug 21, 2011 at 06:52:55 PM PDT

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    •  I think the mix is more pronounced than that (3+ / 0-)
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      catilinus, x, mightymouse

      Preserving the Union really only became a serious question during the 1860 election and Lincoln;s win.

      The war aim was, at first, solely preserving the Union. And that was statemanship but also politics.

      The shift on how to combat slavery politically and in terms of policy was in fact, in my view, more political than policy.

      The fact is the Whig Party was going to die in 1854 anyway. The inability of the Clay System to survive (and yes, Douglas killed it, both in 1850 and 1854) and Lincoln got in front of an ongoing parade.

      I think the change in Lincoln is highlighted by the political necessity of it - in 1848, the Whigs won by ignoring slavery and everything they argued against.

      It would be like nominating Tommy Franks in 2004 on his record in Iraq.

      Lincoln was the equivalent of a DLCer for his time - telling his Party to abandon principle to win. To "take away the issue."

      By 1854, Lincoln realized the limits of this political strategy. And once down this road, the Cooper Union Address was the inevitable end to that political road.

      Lincoln became a combative politician, especially on slavery, because he realized that is what the politics required.

      Now why did it require this? I posit there were 2 causes - the new extremism of the pro-slavery forces (and Douglas's joining them) and the success of abolitionist activism.

      The post 1852 Lincoln emerges through two forces named Douglas(s) to make a pithy phrase out of it.

      •  Do you think for a moment (1+ / 0-)
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        that if Lincoln could have foreseen the slaughter of the war he would have been so combative?

        Still enjoying my stimulus package.

        by Kevvboy on Sun Aug 21, 2011 at 07:12:57 PM PDT

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        •  Hell of a question (3+ / 0-)
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          Kevvboy, Berkeley Fred, hmi

          Yes. And I'll tell you why.

          Lincoln thought, imo, as most pols do, that his becoming President was the most important thing for the country. And he may have been right.

          And to become President, he needed to be combative. Thus, he would have thought it worth the risk.

          •  I think you're probably right. (1+ / 0-)
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            I was going to say that his ego was so huge that he actually thought his election would bring the country to its senses.  By all accounts he was really surprised at the secession wave because he thought he'd made himself so clear on leaving slavery alone in the states where it existed.

            As to your theory of Lincoln's theory that his election was worth the war, I would have to say that on all evidence he was right.

            Still enjoying my stimulus package.

            by Kevvboy on Sun Aug 21, 2011 at 07:23:17 PM PDT

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      •  The success of abolitionist activism (2+ / 0-)
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        a gilas girl, Armando

        If Obama is in any way like Lincoln, then leftist success is what would propel Obama leftward and it is a mistake to place most of the blame on a failure of Obama to lead.

        Had liberals framed Obama's health care plan as a step in the right direction and used that to have smaller than expected losses in the 2010 midterm elections, I think that would have pushed Obama to the left.

      •  but I wonder (1+ / 0-)
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        if a POTUS serving in war time where American lives are on the line for an outcome rather than a campaign slogan or a newspaper headline, acts as a politician or a statesman?

        I think there are probably examples, like Lincoln and FDR where those roles are distinct and separate.

        Your focus seems to be on Lincoln the politician. But there are moments in his career where he is acting as more than that, or better said, perhaps, where he is acting with goals that extend beyond those of a politician.

        Perhaps it is an arrogance of those who occupy the office that they all feel they must (or should) step out of the role of "mere politician" and be a statesman.  Others, I suspect might not feel that way (LBJ comes to mind here).  

        But then, I'm guessing maybe that's where you are headed with all this?

        Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

        by a gilas girl on Sun Aug 21, 2011 at 07:37:55 PM PDT

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        •  I think the statesman (5+ / 0-)
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          hmi, wxorknot, Kevvboy, mightymouse, DemFromCT

          who forgets he is a politician is likely to perform poorly at both.

          Lincoln never forgot about the politics imo.

          To put it in contemporary terms, DemfromCt is writing about Medicare reform. He was a guest on our dailykos radio show yesterday and he and I discussed whether now was the time to raise Medicare reform.

          I argued that good statesmanship required understanding that this was a poor time to raise the issue.

          •  Considering how Lincoln (0+ / 0-)

            was essentially being proactive in that speech and the topic of statesmanship is brought up here.

            As a corollary to Lincolns speech, what should the president as Democrat and statesman be making about right now.

            "The greater the ignorance, the greater the dogmatism." Sir William Osler

            by wxorknot on Sun Aug 21, 2011 at 08:19:46 PM PDT

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          •  but the question is actually (0+ / 0-)

            an empirical one, rather than a matter of opinion, or?

            I get that you believe the politics are central to everything, but we are today seeing such a division between electoral politics and bigger-picture politics that I'm less sure how useful a distinction it actually is.

            I don't know that I'd consider Medicare as a "statesmanship" issue: it seems more of a straight up policy issue which is, by definition a sausage of politics, principle, policy and possibility.  

            But it may well be that I'm having a semantic issue with you rather than a substantive one at this point.

            Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

            by a gilas girl on Sun Aug 21, 2011 at 08:59:13 PM PDT

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          •  not a poor time to defend a program (1+ / 0-)
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            but not a good time to suggest costly remedies.

            "Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies." - Groucho Marx

            by Greg Dworkin on Mon Aug 22, 2011 at 04:48:17 AM PDT

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      •  but a combative (2+ / 0-)
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        vets74, Armando

        centrist politician...

        Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

        by a gilas girl on Sun Aug 21, 2011 at 08:51:05 PM PDT

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