Biden at Gettysburg and Lincoln’s Second Inaugural: Division and Unity

Biden at Gettysburg[1]: The very definition of bathos? We shall see. (Biden has now given a speech in Warm Springs, GA, FDR’s personal retreat. I suppose I shall have read his homage to FDR too, and find the appropriate speech to compare it to, but not today.) Unfortunately, I don’t have the energy to pull on my yellow waders and do a close reading of Biden’s speech; instead, since Biden explicitly invokes Lincoln’s Second Inaugural (“With malice toward none”), I will compare Biden to Lincoln on the nature and causes of “division,” and how to achieve division’s opposite, “unity.” I’m not sure comparing Biden to Lincoln is entirely fair, but Biden brought it on himself.

First, the nature and causes of “division” in the Civil War[2]. In the Second Inaugural, Lincoln says:

[A]ll thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it, all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war–seeking to dissolve the Union and divide effects by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came.

One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it.

So, for Lincoln, the cause of the “divisive” Civil War was interest, and the inability of the Confederacy to accept limits on that interest was the cause of the war. Lincoln is clear-eyed about both power and economic relations. Now let’s contrast Biden on what he regards as our modern-day “division,” and its causes. (Lincoln’s Second Inaugural is 697 words, where Biden weighs in at 2691. Since Biden is so discursive, I’ll have to do some cutting.) Biden says:

[Lincoln] taught us this: A house divided could not stand. That is a great and timeless truth.

Today, once again, we are a house divided. But that, my friends, can no longer be….

Too many Americans see our public life not as an arena for the mediation of our differences. Rather, they see it as an occasion for total, unrelenting partisan warfare….

We need to revive a spirit of bipartisanship in this country, a spirit of being able to work with one another.

The refusal of Democrats and Republicans to cooperate with one another is not due to some mysterious force beyond our control. It’s a decision. A choice we make.

And if we can decide not to cooperate, we can decide to cooperate as well.

That’s the choice I’ll make as president.

But there is something bigger going on in the nation than just our broken politics, something darker, something more dangerous…

I made the decision to run for president after Charlottesville.

Close your eyes. Remember what you saw.

Neo-Nazis, white supremacists and the KKK coming out of the fields with torches lit. Veins bulging. Chanting the same anti-Semitic bile heard across Europe in the 1930s.

It was hate on the march, in the open. In America.

[As President,] I will send a clear, unequivocal message to the nation. There is no place for hate in America.

What’s notable about Biden’s speech, in contrast to Lincoln’s, is that the notion of causality is entirely absent. Why is “the spirit of bipartisanship” absent? Apparently, it’s a “choice.” Why was it made? Who made it? When? Why is “hate”[3] “on the march”? Why now? And, like the “spirit” of bipartisanship, is hate, an emotion, really the root cause of the neo-Nazi marchers in Charlottesville? Also absent is any notion of interest. Apparently, people make bad “choices” randomly. Haters gotta hate. And so forth. This is vacuous.

Next, the question of how to achieve unity. For Lincoln, the method was easy: Win the war. It was the moral burden of making war that weighed upon him:

If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil[4] shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

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.

Win the war. To this let us contrast — is it too soon to deploy the word “fustian”? — Biden’s solutions, if solutions they are. Here I have to revert to my system of adding notes in square brackets, [thus]:

What we need in America is leadership[A] that seeks to deescalate tensions, to open lines of communication, and to bring us together[B].

Let’s set the partisanship aside. Let’s end the politics. Let’s follow the science[C].

We can have a national strategy that puts the politics aside[D] and saves lives.

There’s another enduring division in America that we must end: The divisions in our economic life that give opportunity only to the privileged few[E]….

Lincoln knew this. He said that the country had to give people “an open field and a fair chance.”

And that’s what we’re going to do in the America we’re going to build — together.

Today we are engaged once again in a battle for the soul of the nation.[F]

The forces of darkness, the forces of division, the forces of yesterday[G] are pulling us apart, holding us down, and holding us back.

As president, I will embrace hope, not fear. Peace, not violence[H]. Generosity, not greed. Light, not darkness[I].

I am ready to fight for you[J] and for our nation. Every day. Without exception, without reservation. And with a full and devoted heart.

It won’t be easy. Our divisions today are of long standing. Economic and racial inequities have shaped us for generations[K].

But I give you my word: If I am elected President, I will marshal the ingenuity and good will of this nation to turn division into unity and bring us together[L].

[A] No issue with systems, only “leadership.” Airport bookstore Business Section-level analysis.

[B] I believe it was Lyndon Johnson who said “Come, let us reason together.” Fine, except Johnson was also a brutal player of the inside game. That’s what it takes (and Lincoln is clear that’s what it takes: “paid by another drawn with the sword”). I mean, “what we have here is failure to communicate” is a joke exactly because it ignores power relations, as Biden does throughout, and Lincoln never does.

[C] See “Don’t ‘Trust the Science,’ Trust Science While You Hone Your Critical Thinking Skills.

[D] “Putting politics aside,” were it possible, has a checkered history. See, e.g., Society for U.S. Intellectual History, “Show Don’t Tell – Review of Robert O. Paxton’s Anatomy of Fascism“: “One example of this dynamic that Paxton explores is the antiestablishment, even antipolitical attitude of fascist parties in their earliest stages. Disparaging all the institutions of the country and claiming to be somehow “above politics” were common threads in both early German and Italian fascism, although the Nazis were particularly skilled at creating alternative social organizations for every conceivable function in order to peel Germans away from more traditional loyalties and tie them emotionally to the party. As Paxton writes, ‘Posing as an ‘antipolitics’ was often effective with people whose main political motivation was scorn for politics. In situations where existing parties were confined within class or confessional boundaries, like Marxist, smallholders’, or Christian patries, the fascists could appeal by promising to unite a people rather than divide it.'”

[E] It’s weird to see “leadership,” hate, “the privileged few,” and “the forces of darkness” all placed together on the same plane of abstraction. Quite a bouillabaisse.

[F] Nations don’t have souls. This is an enormous category error, of the same scope as “government is like a household.”

[G] What does this even mean.

[H] Except in Venezuela?

[I] What does this even mean.

[J] Ah, “fight for.”

[K] So now “economic and racial inequities” are on the same analytical plane as “leadership,” hate, the forces of darkness…

[L] OK, Joe Biden has excellent self-presentation skills as a genuinely nice guy, whose motives are nothing but pure.

Needless to say, there’s nothing to grasp in this befogged vision. Lincoln had a clear goal that could be operationalized: Achieve “unity” by winning the war. Is it possible to reason from Biden’s statements here to his platform? Of course not.[5]

* * *

Of course, none of this is a reason to vote for or against Biden, or any another candidate; I’m not comparing Biden to anybody but Lincoln. I will say that this speech is better structured than a Trump speech, and Biden, like Reagan, hits his marks and delivers with conviction. However, in this speech, Biden’s concept of historical causality is vacuous and sloppy, and his solutions[6] are so gauzy and insubstantial that they resolve to a mere promise to do the right thing (“I give you my word”). Again, comparing Biden to Lincoln is unfair to Biden, but Biden brought the comparison on himself.


[1] See The Civil War podcast. Rich and Tracy Youngdahl are now up to Episode 334 (!), on the afternoon of July 1, 1863, and expect to spend the rest of the year, at least, on the battle. Best of all, they begin with the Missouri Compromise in 1820, and will move through Reconstruction. For anyone who wants to understand American history, I can’t recommend this podcast highly enough. It’s a real example of citizen scholarship.

[2] It seems a little, well, bathetic, to call the Civil War divisive, but unity v. division is a standard liberal Democrat trope. See, e.g., “A Major Fear for Democrats: Will the Party Come Together by November,” in the New York Times: “For many Democratic leaders, the hope for party unity rests on shared loathing of Mr. Trump. His divisive record and conduct in office helped propel Democrats to a new House majority in 2018 and a number of governorships in the last three years.” Unity is always good. Divisiveness is always bad.

[3] For an example of manufactured hate by the good guys, see Yasha Levine’s “Russiagate: A coming of age moment for Soviet immigrants.”

[4] Lincoln makes the case for reparations.

[5] I left this passage on the cutting room floor: “We can have a national strategy that will make it possible for our schools and business to open safely. We can have a national strategy that reflects the true values of this nation.” Of course we can have a strategy; the question is what the strategy is.

[6] No, I’m not going to “check the website.” I want to here what the candidates themselves say, on the record.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. hexagram

    These criticisms are quibbles. This was an election speech, not a discourse on political theory. Biden had to say plain, simple truths in order to make an impression on his audience, which is far more diverse in its background and views than Lincoln’s, who enjoyed an all-white, all-male, all-propertied electorate. Give the guy a break.

    1. Calypso Facto

      Biden had to say plain, simple truths in order to make an impression on his audience, which is far more diverse in its background and views than Lincoln’s, who enjoyed an all-white, all-male, all-propertied electorate.

      Gotta speak simply to get through to people of diverse backgrounds? Is this seriously the defense by Team Blue for this word salad? Because this excuse sounds like paternalistic, patronizing, dog whistle trash. Perhaps the belief that one must talk down to the audience is more corrosive than a perception that faces of the same color == beliefs of the same stripe.

      Better trolls/sockpuppets, please!

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Its frightening because Lincoln is quite plain. There is no confusion about what he means or even questions about he comes to his views. He does address big ideas instead of the usual pablum.

        Lincoln does do one thing which is persona non grata among Americans today which is he asks people to think.

    2. Noone from Nowheresville

      Give the guy a break.

      Isn’t Biden’s basic simple campaign, Orange Man Bad. Nothing will change. And I’m not Orange Man. Vote Blue no matter Who. And Here’s the Deal I’m the anointed Blue One so vote for Biden.

      If so then he’s already had break because that’s not a normal campaign. Unless of course that’s the new normal moving forward. If Biden wins that is. As for the rest, I only wish I was kidding.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        So you have a crack in your house foundation and you call in two builders to get some estimates.

        Builder Lincoln says “a house divided cannot stand” and explains what’s wrong: Slavery.

        Builder Biden sees the crack, and says “I promise to fix it.”

        Which builder would you hire? More importantly, what kind of builder is Builder Biden?

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Lincoln’s, who enjoyed an all-white, all-male, all-propertied electorate

      Please don’t lie. The history:

      1792–1856: Abolition of property qualifications for white men, from 1792 (Kentucky) to 1856 (North Carolina) during the periods of Jeffersonian and Jacksonian democracy. However, tax-paying qualifications remained in five states in 1860—Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Delaware and North Carolina.

      In particular, the Presidential election of 1864 was an enormous operation in which the troops voted; nothing on that scale had ever been accomplished before. I would be extremely surprised to learn that the Union army was composed entirely of property owners.

      Finally, your comment implies that non-whites and non-males are too simple-minded* to understand Lincoln’s words, and must be spoon-fed Biden’s pablum instead. You might want to rethink this. If I were an idpol enthusiast, I might go so far as to call it racist.

      NOTE * Lincoln’s Second Inaugural scores at the 8th & 9th grade level in Flesch Kincaid Calculator. For you, then, all non-whites, and all non-males, comprehend at a Junior High School/Freshperson level. Clarifying!

  2. ChrisPacific

    Thanks – that was enlightening.

    The thing that particularly strikes me is that Lincoln, while being clear-eyed about the cost and consequences of conflict (or ‘division’ in Biden’s terminology) was nonetheless fully prepared to prosecute it to a conclusion if the cause was important enough. By contrast, the notion of cause was almost entirely absent from Biden’s speech. From the excerpt I get that racism and neo-Nazis are bad (not a particularly bold statement on his part, since most Republicans condemned the Charlottesville rally as well) and that division is a choice. This is in contrast to Lincoln, who lays out what he sees as the cause clearly and forcefully right at the start.

    Both are faced with division, but where Lincoln sees it as a consequence of fundamental and irreconcilable differences and something that must be embraced, however reluctantly, for Biden it exists in a vacuum. There is no ‘why.’ There is just division. Division is bad. We shouldn’t have it. We can choose not to have it! Why don’t we do that?

    Lincoln had this option available to him as well. He could simply have accepted the terms of the South, and let slavery continue and expand. One wonders what choice Biden would have made in that situation, and if he would even have seen the problem the way Lincoln does, or just the division. One also wonders what kind of world we would be living in today if Lincoln had made the choice to cooperate that Biden advocates.

    It’s also hard to avoid the conclusion that speechmaking has declined in quality since Lincoln’s time:

    As president, I will embrace hope, not fear. Peace, not violence[H]. Generosity, not greed. Light, not darkness[I].

    This was a very Kang and Kodos passage for me (“But tonight I say, we must move forward, not backward; upward, not forward; and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom!”)

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Lincoln may have lost his Senate bid, but his speeches and arguments were widely publicized. The figure in Spielberg’s Lincoln (I liked the movie), but our perception of Lincoln didn’t exist in the zeitgeist.

      Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become lawful in all the States, old as well as new — North as well as South

      This guy existed. There is no both sides bs here. Its a far cry from Biden’s worrying about Wal-Mart. Lincoln wasn’t a television President. Biden wouldn’t exist except as the Senator from Delaware and what goes with that. Except when he was channeling Neil Kinnock, he’s never said anything worth saying. Even the lousy Presidents of the era were far more capable and smarter than Biden.

  3. KLG

    Look, here’s the deal. No malarkey. Build Back Better (just like the Tories). With malice toward one and charity for those who need none, a little story…When Pokey Joe and entourage left Warm Springs, on the highway back to whatever airport he used, he was greeted/serenaded/flipped off/laughed at by about 2000 Trump flag-waving Trump supporters who had been at a rally in nearby Manchester, Georgia. According to a source who is well connected on these matters, the Trump partisans began to show up at their venue two hours early and were already drinking and partying by 9:30 am. I would have paid good money to see that, both the Trump rally (from a large social distance) and the highway ceremonies.

    Incidentally, the Little White House at Warm Springs is a real eye opener. Worth the side trip. Beautiful, small, well proportioned and comfortable. Yes, FDR had Dutchess County and Campobello, but that he built his preferred retreat at Warm Springs after trying to recover from polio in the warm springs is something that neither Pokey Joe nor any other “principal” of Schumer Pelosi Clinton Obama & Biden LLC will ever understand.

  4. Michael

    Anyone see the Chris Rock interview on Trevor Noah a little while back? Check it out!

    The main question today in CR’s mind is what are we (black people) asking for TODAY, this election.
    Lincoln freed the slaves…so what…we were free when we were born.
    MLK got us out of the back of the bus and separate lunch counters…so what…back to zero again.
    We burned things in the 60’s, our own things. Down we go again.
    Iran Contra, Crack cocaine, The Wire, The Kerry Commission in the 80’s.
    Jesse, Malcolm, Louis etc got us riled up and Clinton and Biden got us locked up.
    Why did Obama, Biden and Kamala look the other way as black homeowners were victimized by mortgage sharks like Mnuchin and then stripped of their property by bankers and their ilk in the 2000’s?

    What do we want now? Who can deliver it? Show us the $$$$, not empty promises again!!

    Over to you Joe…

  5. edmondo

    Comparing Biden to Lincoln. Good Lord. Based on the “history may not repeat but it certainly rhymes” theory, a more apt comparison might be James Buchanan.

    1. Massinissa

      Nah, Biden is Tippecanoe 2.0. If he wins, get prepared for President Harris sooner rather than later.

  6. Carolinian

    Gee I was just joking when I said Lincoln next….had forgotten that he had already done it (or maybe I’m ignoring them both).

    Sounds like Joe’s pitch is “no more of that nasty partisanship (but only if I win).” Otherwise to the mattresses.

    Very convenient–especially as there is now Republican talk of a (very justified) special prosecutor.

  7. DJG

    I may have to twit Lambert Strether for putting poor Joe Biden up against Abraham Lincoln. First, as a child of Illinois, I can assure you that Lincoln still lives here. Heck, he’s livelier than Biden is.

    But what is remarkable is that the Second Inaugural Address is a masterpiece–first, of language. What cadences. These are some of the most poetic lines in U.S. statecraft: “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”

    And as poetry, this speech is Lincoln at his most prophetic, mantic, evoking the will of the gods and channeling it into the body politic that he led to great sacrifices for democratic ideals. One can be as skeptical of divinity as I am (and as Lincoln was rumored to be) and still witness here how Lincoln is touched by a kind of charisma. It is almost as if his charisma led to his assassination.

    And then you give us Joe Biden, channeling Lord of the Rings: “The forces of darkness, the forces of division, the forces of yesterday”

    Like so many at this site, I appreciate(d) Tolkien. But the moral world of Tolkien is not the moral world of an adult. No adult feels besieged by forces of darkness, division, or yesterday. (Whatever meaning “yesterday” is grasping.)

    So it isn’t just bathos–the blabber of melodramatic, unformed sentiment. It is also the infantile abdication of responsibility that is so much the “norm” now. Things happen. Stocks fall. People get elected. Regimes get changed. Unidentified Russians attack Hillary to tarnish her greatness.

    I am off now, fellow groundlings, to the Prancing Pony in Bree to find out if Biden has decided to have a political program. Or not. I guess that he is what we are left with.

    1. David J.

      I like this comment.

      Beware of Strider. He’s mysterious and dangerous. Or is he? No, he’s the King! But a kindly one… unless you are a pro-technology Orc!

      1. John Anthony La Pietra

        An interesting new vista opened up here. Let me pause a moment and see what I may see. . . .

        Middle Earth is pretty well absolutistically good vs. evil with no — well — middle ground. The Fellowship of the Ring is a nine-member Coalition of the Willing. Various nations, including the hobbits, are content to be neutral and non-aligned until the War comes to their doorsteps. (And IIRC, there’s little if anything to the contrary from the trilogy about the Eastern and Southron hordes.)

        About the only true neutral, perhaps, is Tom Bombadil. It is written that even the One Ring has no power over him — though it is also said that even he would fall in the end, last as he was first. Which could be taken as a changed viewpoint of the idea more often expressed at its climax as: “Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me. . . .”

        So . . . if the Rs and Ds are the two sides whose duopolistic roles depend on who’s doing the casting, who is Bombadil? The uninvolved or disgusted non-voter? Voters who continue to exercise Loyalty (with maybe a side order of Voice) but aren’t yet ready to Exit?

        . . . and who (if anybody) is an involved, active Bombadil? (Is that where the alternative parties come in?)

    2. tegnost

      I agree whole heartedly…
      This from lambert says it all to a writer…
      and its causes. (Lincoln’s Second Inaugural is 697 words, where Biden weighs in at 2691.
      less meaning in a lot more words

  8. David J.

    Some observations in no particular order:

    1) Lincoln wrote his own speeches. I doubt that Biden wrote this one. That said, I’m a little more charitable towards Biden for this effort after having read the unredacted version. It’s a political speech, though, and not statecraft, despite its pretensions to be statecraft. Maybe it’s not too early to describe it as fustian?

    2) Lincoln wrote the second inaugural when the writing was on the wall. After Sherman took Atlanta, it was all denouement, if a difficult one. Biden, as a leader, has yet to enter the fray in any meaningful sense, though we do have a lot of “tells” about how he will prosecute his war.

    3) I often describe Obama this way: He could have been FDR-like, but instead he turned out to be Grover Cleveland. Biden is probably Baby Ruth. One the other hand, Lincoln grew into the job. He had the substance and intellectual integrity to do so. But, let us not forget that Lincoln was for the Mexican War before he was against it. He grew. Will Biden if given the chance?

    4) I suspect that 100 years from now, when historians assess this period, they will be most kind to Senator Sanders in comparison to his contemporaries. That’s because Sanders has been the personification of a catalyst in US politics while these others, from both parties, will be seen as “going along to get along.” Yet Sanders has one important flaw–he isn’t ruthless enough. A commendable quality in a person, but deady in politics. As Lambert noted, Lincoln had not only the requisite ruthlessness but he also knew towards which end to use it. I doubt that Biden does on either count.

    5) Lincoln came into prominence because he understood and adapted to the circumstances which destroyed the Whig party and gave birth to the Republican party. But he made his bones as a staunch Henry Clay Whig and his grasp of the underlying economic issues of his time was the bedrock from which he grew. Biden, Delaware. The odds of Biden being able to master the shifting winds of our current political climate is negligible, imo, and I believe that he is, in fact, a hindrance to what needs to be done. (Hat tip to the commenter the other day who suggested that there is some affinity between the breakdown of the Whig party and comparison to the great challenge of our time–rising inequality.)

    6) Don’t forget to read the Gettysburg address, too! “Of the people, by the people, for the people.” It’s not a mere elocution.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > It’s a political speech, though, and not statecraft, despite its pretensions to be statecraft.

      If Biden’s going to go to Gettysburg and quote Lincoln, then he’d better live up to the standard he set for himself. As Lincoln said, when he spoke there: “The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.” Lincoln being quite the prose stylist, I’m sure he chose “consecrated” with great care. That Biden would deliver a speech filled with vacuous talking points over all those graves… Well, he’s got brass ones, that’s for sure.

  9. Noone from Nowheresville

    My main comment is I feel quite strongly despite the show that they have already been working together. Look at all that has been accomplishment these last 4 years. Go further back to Obama and see how we got here. Then Bush and see how we got to Obama and so on.

    Bitter rather meaningless showmanship perhaps. But, No Malarkey, my friends, bipartisanship is alive and well.

  10. In the end

    For all the ‘no malice’ talk, Lincoln did nevertheless continue the war. Words. Actions.

    From the dictionary:
    MALICE Meaning: “desire to hurt another, propensity to inflict injury or suffering, active ill-will,

    War does qualify.

    So there was, after all, a larger principle than ‘no malice’.

    1. tegnost

      until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword,
      Responding to malice with malice
      maybe ponder your own malice and defend yourself from your reflection
      or find a better way than imposing your sword upon another assuming they will stand down before your obvious superiority

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > For all the ‘no malice’ talk, Lincoln did nevertheless continue the war. Words. Actions.

      Here is the OED on malice:

      I believe your comment is a misreading; malice (like malicious) has a connotation of bad faith or ill intent (and I would be surprised if you were attributing those qualities to Lincoln in this context).

      We have words like animosity, enmity, or hostility to indicate the desire to harm without ill-intent. I’m sure there are others. It took war to end slavery. That doesn’t make the war malicious.

  11. The Rev Kev

    After Biden made his speech at Gettysburg, the ghosts of the Union and Confederate soldiers were seen to have started fighting yet once again in consequence. So I was thinking what might happen in the coming months after the elections next week. I mean the period between 3rd November 2020 to 20th January 2021 which is 78 days and assuming that Biden wins. And what happens next for the Republicans. If I were them, I would be using this period to set up the next four years by claiming a stolen election, that is what I would do. Remember that with Russiagate that there was never any evidence and what “evidence” was shown such as the Steele dossier was total bs. Same when it was claimed that Manifort visited Julian Assange several times with no fotos or any evidence and it being impossible because of all the surveillance. It was all evidence-free.

    By with a “stolen election” election there is actually evidence. The media blocking of the story of Hunter’s laptop with the cooperation of social media was so blatant that there is no way that it can be denied. And any ‘patriotic’ people would say it is wrong to spend four years undermining a sitting President on zero evidence. There must be tens of millions of people thinking similar thoughts about this. The media will not bring this up but hell, old Joe could make Hunter Biden the Ambassador to China and the media would say boo about that. And the intelligence services that helped coordinate this campaign against Trump for the past four years? They actually might go along with it. At first sight that sounds counter-intuitive as they were so involved but if a “Stolen Election” campaign was rolled out for the next four years, such a thing would roil American politics and it is times like that is where groups like the intelligence services, Wall Street, the Atlantic Council, etc. can do what they want behind the scenes while most people are too distracted with political infighting.

    1. Noone from Nowheresville

      Yep, mid-season show. It will be glorious! Plus if Team Blue wins, we’ll get the Hunter treatment. Ukraine-gate part 3 and maybe 4. Resignation in disgrace? Unlikely but it could be a fun show. Hunter goes to China would be fun too. We’ll have to see what the writers have in store for us.

      Ahh, so many options regardless of which side wins. Neverending watch the “shiny.” Pay no attention while the safety net and remaining welfare state are destroyed. Brilliant! And let’s face it, the seeds have been sown and it’s worked all over the world. It’s already working in the US.

      Some day someone is going to frack with us and the show will be over because there will be nothing left behind the curtain.

  12. Ian Ollmann

    The circumstances were quite different between then and now. There is no secession, no gathering of armies, no brother killing brother. We are a nation divided settling our differences at the polls, so far quite peacefully.

    What is similar is that at the end of a long road, the forces of oppression have long concluded that they can no longer win a fair election. They have known for some time, with gerrymandering, voter suppression, politics of fear instead of reason, scorched earth tactics and conduct without honor. Now, even that is not working. So it was in the South before the war. For them, war was politics by other means. Today, the plutocracy is by no means at the end of their rope, for they have captured both parties. The defeat of the Republicans is just the first step. There is no need for them to slaughter the working class. They need only donate a bit more to Democratic candidates, and wait to see what locus the more easily manipulated forces of irrationality converge around next.

    So, I feel the comparison with Lincoln is not appropriate here. Possibly (Highly unlikely) Biden could decide to be another FDR or maybe a LBJ, but I feel he will need the cooperation of the party at large, and I doubt the donorsphere would permit that for very long. They may not even need to lift a finger since the left is ever at risk of falling victim to its own circular firing squad. In addition the majorities are slim and the passage of bills will be held hostage by the most conservative Democrats with precarious seats in Red states.

    Make no mistake, what needs to happen is that the plutocrats lose their influence and the country becomes once again a nation of and for its people. How that might happen, I couldn’t predict.

  13. stefan

    Re-electing Trump-Pence is a terrible idea. Replacing them with Biden-Harris is a slightly less terrible idea.

    Let’s deal with the comparison we have. Our choice isn’t between Biden and Lincoln.

    “I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine…”

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Our choice isn’t between Biden and Lincoln

      Did you read the post?

      Of course, none of this is a reason to vote for or against Biden, or any another candidate; I’m not comparing Biden to anybody but Lincoln.

      If Biden himself chooses to use the “consecrated ground” of Gettysburg for a political speech that claims Lincoln’s legacy, am I to understand you don’t think that’s worthy of remark?

  14. DSB

    Wonderful piece. Thank you. For some reason the interpreted words of Blaise Pascal come to mind. “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.” Lincoln writes a good speech.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      [lambert blushes modestly].

      I tried to stay detached while writing it, but the more I thought about it, the more ticked off I got. “Consecrate” is a heavy word, and Lincoln chose it carefully. Then Biden serves up a big bowl of mush with a Lincoln™ logo on it.

    2. Anonymous

      When there are many words, wrongdoing is unavoidable, but one who restrains his lips is wise. Proverbs 10:19

      Lincoln did not attend a church but he did read the Bible and it shows …

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