Saturday, June 13, 2020

They want Lincoln's mantle, but without the character to claim it

Republicans are responding from their privileged perches to the intertwined pandemics of racism and Covid-19 with words and behaviors that are intentionally misleading or screamingly ignorant - and which add only hurt and further regression instead of solutions or leadership. 

For example:

* On Friday, defeated ex-WI Gov. Scott Walker took to Twitter with a clumsy but familiar GOP claim to Lincoln's mantle while overlooking decades of Republican states' rights racism, dog-whistling, Nixonian 'southern strategizing,' voter suppression, cuts to public education, wage-depressing union busting and other accelerators of intentional inequality: 

...the Republican Party was founded in Ripon, Wisconsin in opposition to slavery, Abraham Lincoln was the 1st Republican President, and Republicans fought for the rights of African Americans after the Civil War.
And note, Walker will appropriate any historical figure - Reagan, even FDR - for his aggrandizement.

How misleading and pathetic it is that Walker has to go back to the 1860's and fabricate fake relevancy - using the unusually brilliant and empathetic President Lincoln who is the complete opposite of the worst Republican whom Walker helped put in the White House, reliably shills for and whose re-election effort in Wisconsin he co-chairs

And here are two far more current representations of the Wisconsin GOP by contemporary Republicans who openly displayed zero connection with Lincoln:

* A taxpayer-paid aide to a Wisconsin GOP State Representative drew a blank on whether the Ku Klux Klan even exists. The aide did this on Facebook. 

* Another WI GOP State Representative on Facebook - sort of the Republicans' 2020 upgrade of a certain talk at Gettysburg - circulated a racist meme, and GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos on Friday couldn't be troubled for comment.

The post shared by [Ron] Tusler (R-Harrison) features a photograph including of a group of people, primarily African Americans, who appear to be entering a store through a broken window. It reads, "LOOTING: When free housing, free food, free education, and free phones just aren't enough."
Side note: Right-wing Republicans, like WI GOP Congressman and reliable poor-basher Glenn Grothman, have a thing about 'free' phones they use to fuel a very effective race-based politics of fear and resentment - in Grothman's his own words.

But I'm sure Grothman and the other Republicans in Congress who have tried to end phone subsidies for low-income workers or parents (though public subsidies of all kinds for Foxconn and other elites and their businesses through grants, loans and tax breaks are fine) have no idea that the "Lifeline" program was founded by then-President and Republican icon Ronald Reagan. 
Lifeline was created under President Reagan in 1985 to subsidize landline phone service, and it expanded to cover cell phone service in 2005 under President George W. Bush. Lifeline grew during the Obama administration, and critics took to calling it the "Obama phone" program. Scott's announcement said he intends to end the "Obama-era free cell phone program."
* Back to Vos, who wasn't anxious to wade into another uproar about Republicans and their grubby eagerness he so easily-displayed by disrespecting and demonizing minorities in Wisconsin struggling disproportionally with Covid--19:
Vos blames Racine Covid-19 victims' immigrant 'culture' for their suffering
Noted Racine County GOP legislator, cultural affairs humanitarian and disease expert [sic] Robin Vos -
- echoing State Supreme Court Chief Justice Roggensack's Covid-19 pandemic pandering on behalf of "regular folks" who miraculously remained symptom-free - says unapologetically that the persistently steep disease curve in his home county for which he is unaccountable is due to immigrant culture.

“I know the reason at least in my region is because of a large immigrant population where it’s just a difference in culture where people are living much closer and working much closer,” the Rochester Republican said of an outbreak in Racine County.
And since it's the victims' own fault, there was no reason for Vos and his GOP colleagues to come up with a virus prevention plan other than 'just say no to three families in a one-family rental' after Team Vos got a friendly and similarly reckless State Supreme Court to end the science-based approach Gov. Evers had used to successfully tamp down the pandemic - even though the experts said 'Safer-at-Home orders had helped slow the virus's toll:
Health experts such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease specialist, have credited the lockdowns with saving lives and have said the death rate could march higher if the restrictions are eased too quickly.
And back to Walker's strained and embarrassing invocation of Abraham Lincoln.

Does he know there is an Abraham Lincoln Center for Character Development founded by Lincoln College in neighboring Illinois?

Which is dedicated to spreading and instilling Lincoln's values, such as compassion and empathy
A personal friend of President Lincoln says: “I called on him one day in the early part of the war. He had just written a pardon for a young man who had been sentenced to be shot, for sleeping at his post, as a sentinel. 
He remarked as he read it to me:  “‘I could not think of going into eternity with the blood of the poor young man on my skirts.’ Then he added: ‘It is not to be wondered at that a boy, raised on a farm, probably in the habit of going to bed at dark, should, when required to watch, fall asleep; and I cannot consent to shoot him for such an act.'”
This story, with its moral, is made complete by Rev. Newman Hall, of London, who, in a sermon preached after and upon Mr. Lincoln’s death, says that the dead body of this youth was found among the slain on the field of Fredericksburg, wearing next his heart a photograph of his preserver, beneath which the grateful fellow had written, “God bless President Lincoln!”
From the same sermon another anecdote is gleaned, of a similar character, which is evidently authentic. 
An officer of the army, in conversation with the preacher, said:   “The first week of my command there were twentyfour deserters sentenced by court martial to be shot, and the warrants for their execution were sent to the President to be signed. He refused. I went to Washington and had an interview. I said:  “‘Mr. President, unless these men are made an example of, the army itself is in danger. Mercy to the few is cruelty to the many.’
“He replied: ‘Mr. General, there are already too many weeping widows in the United States. For God’s sake, don’t ask me to add to the number, for I won’t do it.'”
From Lincoln’s Life, Stories and Speeches by Paul Selby
And remember that Walker in his eight years as the embodiment of an un-Lincolnesque Governor never set foot inside any of the prisons he financed and expanded - and to which tens of thousands were sentenced during his 'tough-on-crime' career:
Walker’s biggest victory in this area was the state’s “Truth-in-Sentencing” legislation, which ended parole opportunities for many categories of prisoners, and increased prison time for others. “The time has come to keep violent criminals in prison for their full terms,” Walker said in 1996 as he advocated for the bill. Later, as chair of the state assembly’s Committee on Corrections and the Courts in 1998, Walker shepherded the legislation into state law.
At the time, Walker openly credited the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) for Truth-in-Sentencing’s success. “Clearly ALEC had proposed model legislation,” Walker told American RadioWorks in 2002. “And probably more important than just the model legislation, [ALEC] had actually put together reports and such that showed the benefits of truth-in-sentencing and showed the successes in other states. And those sorts of statistics were very helpful to us when we pushed it through, when we passed the final legislation.”
Though during his eight years of governing he never issued a single pardon.

Worse, perhaps, is that Walker was warned by a judge in writing that youth offenders in a state facility on his watch were being abused, and did nothing about it for years. 

In a terrible bit of irony, the facility is named "Lincoln Hills," which is about as close to Lincoln as Walker regrettably will ever be.

The Center is now part of the Lincoln Heritage Museum, in Lincoln, IL.
The character qualities of Abraham Lincoln encouraged at the Abraham Lincoln Center for Character Development are honesty, empathy, humility, perseverance, courage, intellect, vision, responsibility, and leadership.  Explore this site, or contact the Center to see learn more about these Lincolnesque qualities, and how you can live them out in your life.
I can't imagine Lincoln identifying with any of the characters making up the modern-day Wisconsin or National Republican parties who abuse and distort his memory.

But I can think of a few who'd do well to visit the Lincoln museum and center - even online - to emulate and elevate him.

1 comment:

Ed Hienzelman said...

Yes, claiming Lincoln, waving an unread Bible, wrapped in a Confederate flag.