Well before the end of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln knew the Confederacy was beaten, the Union had been preserved.
Lincoln thought deeply about victory, how to win the peace, how to heal a shattered nation bloodied but united by the barrel of a gun.
Hillary Clinton is no Lincoln. So let’s hope she’s given as much thought to how our nation heals after this ominous, disturbing national election not experienced in America since Lincoln.
We’ll never know how different we’d be today had Lincoln survived his second term, whether the deep divides between us would have remained.
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We’d do well to reflect on this somber chapter of American history, of the lessons learned about the road not traveled and what might’ve been.
Lincoln wasn’t alive to launch a postwar era of forgiveness, tolerance and commitment to heal bonds between families and neighbors. With his death, the victors chose the revenge of Reconstruction — politically ostracizing the vanquished, enabling oppression, institutionalized racism and societal bigotry that haunts us today.
Many folks, including me, foolishly believed we’d buried most of that past. We rejoiced when Barack Obama, a black man, was elected president.
We naively thought the stains of our history had at last been washed from our flag.
We were wrong.
Because Donald Trump, his tea party sappers and their neo-Confederate crowd arose to slash at our old, unhealed wounds.
They’ve reopened a dreadful, crimson scar across our collective consciousness. They’ve reminded us how deeply we’re capable — as a nation — of hating one another, how willing many are to abandon moral principle, democratic tradition and marrow-deep American antipathy for despotism so they can nihilistically exclaim: “We’re mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore!”
There’s no modern analog to the madness and devastation wrought by the rifts between North and South in Lincoln’s time. Yet politics today remind us of lessons we’ve forgotten from that war.
As politicians did before the Civil War through Reconstruction, many today drive us apart when we so desperately need to be brought together.
Trump won’t be president.
He’s losing gracelessly — reason enough why he shouldn’t be.
Every loser in American presidential history accepted the will of voters peacefully. Not Trump.
He claims a “rigged” election, threatening to burn down our house before skulking off as one of the most reviled losers in history.
If rejecting election outcomes ever were justified, Al Gore could have done it in 2000. Yet he chose country over self, duty over pride.
Before he’s finished, he’ll have destroyed our sense of virtue to ourselves and those who’d emulate our democracy around the globe.
He’ll have shattered trust Americans have in the institutions democracy requires to make government work as envisioned by our nation’s founders.
He’ll have legitimized abhorrent rhetoric and behavior, leaving children to believe vulgarity, bullying and demonizing people is the new normal.
National healing must start at home.
What of local Republican leaders? Have they anything to say about their party’s standard bearer? Might they weigh in on the moral issue of the day?
Like most of their feckless national party big shots, few local leaders evince a word of objection, a whiff of defiance, a smidgen of spine.
Shouldn’t they be held to account after this election, answer for their whereabouts when their flock needed guidance? What courage did they exhibit when it mattered?
Their craven silence amplifies the true character of San Luis Obispo Supervisors Debbie Arnold and Lynn Compton and their would-be colleagues John Peschong, running in District 1, and Dan Carpenter, running in District 3.
Meanwhile, Assembly aspirant Jordan Cunningham and congressional hopeful Justin Fareed calculatedly feign indignation over Trump’s sexual perfidies, yet disingenuously refuse to say how they’ll vote.
The entire lot appears to care less about doing what’s right than protecting their own expediency-seeking political backsides.
Trump and his local legion, like their partisans across the nation, are inductees — witting or not —– into a new Confederacy.
“America,” Lincoln said, “will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”
We’ll survive Trump. But unless Clinton has a plan to win the peace, we may not survive ourselves.
Liberal columnist Tom Fulks is a former reporter and opinion writer. He has been a political campaign consultant for many local races. His column runs in The Tribune every other Sunday, in rotation with conservative columnist Matthew Hoy.