The current circumstances have been rightly compared with those of 1860, and the violent, irrational rejection by a minority of the nation, of the leadership and policies favored by the majority. The Confederate flags marching on the White House yesterday were visual confirmation of what many of us have sensed and spoken of -that the fight today originates as much from 1858 as it does from 2008.
While recognizing that slavery and the specter of bloody civil war is without comparison in our history, and that the current circumstances are not nearly as desperate as those faced by Lincoln upon his inaugural, the similarities too are significant, between the blind rage, irrational and conspiratorial fear, and the naked folly of the 19th Century secessionists and the Tea Party "Patriots". Imagined wrongs, perceived slights, and fear of the changing country drove the secessionists over the cliff into the hell that was the Civil War, thereby leading to very things they most feared - a great acceleration of their political and economic decline, and the end of slavery.
Ironically, it's the party of Lincoln that now threatens the unity and economic well being of the country and with it our security and our long term prospects of continuing our time as the greatest of history's economic powers. Much as the South did in 1860, the Tea Party is seeking to overturn the results of a democratic election and use "extra-constitutional" means to force the government to adopt policies for which it has advocated in free elections, but for which it has failed to obtain the support of the voters. By threatening to destroy the economy unless the wishes of a small minority are not followed, the Tea Partiers are seeking to fundamentally change our constitutional system and decisively alter the checks and balances between the congress, its two houses, and the president carefully designed by our framers.
As Republicans think about whether to "pull the trigger" and shoot their hostage - the American economy - if we refuse to allow this radical minority to "rule", they would do well to ponder the words of one of their founders, and one of theirs (and ours) most beloved Presidents upon his inaugural (with some small liberties with the text, to address our current circumstances):
That there are persons in one [faction] or another who seek to destroy [our economic well being] at all events and are glad of any pretext to do it I will neither affirm nor deny; but if there be such, I need address no word to them. To those, however, who really love [this Nation] may I not speak?
Before entering upon so grave a matter as the destruction of our [national economy, and with it our] national fabric, with all its benefits, its memories, and its hopes, would it not be wise to ascertain precisely why we do it? Will you hazard so desperate a step while there is any possibility that any portion of the ills you fly from have no real existence? Will you, while the certain ills you fly to are greater than all the real ones you fly from, will you risk the commission of so fearful a mistake?
In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of [economic ruin]. The Government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors - [we ask nothing of you other than that you allow our government to continue to operate, and respect the democratic process.] You have no oath registered in heaven to destroy the Government [or our economy], while I shall have the most solemn one to "preserve, protect, and defend it."