Thursday, July 23, 2009

Peacetime Abe

I happened across another interesting Abraham Lincoln blog, this time created by a Lincoln historian from Anderson University. In an interesting post, the blog author asks what a Lincoln presidency would have looked like absent the Civil War:

I can't disagree with that. Lincoln would have been seriously challenged in terms of party unity had he not had the Civil War as a unifying principle. Absent that, the abolitionist wing and conservative wing may well have torn the party in two.

"Peacetime Abe would have confronted two stark and difficult realities that were not so readily apparent during the war. First, the fact of the Republican Party's geographic isolation: not just its total lack of presence in the South, but also the fact that the Republicans got shut out of the Border States, as well. This would have seemed a dire political reality to both Lincoln and other party leaders during his first term; they surely would have thought that they could not count on a four-way split of the American electorate again in 1864, as in 1860....Second, the party's fissure between radicals and conservatives would have been quite pronounced, and required a good deal of smoothing over by Lincoln and other party leaders. The war did this for Lincoln, in many ways. In the real world, from 1861 to 1865 the two wings of the Republican Party could at least agree on one thing: the need to defeat the Confederacy. But after the war the divisions in the party became very apparent. Something like this Reconstruction process would have confronted Peacetime Abe. Take all this together, and I think Peacetime Abe as party leader would likely have steered his presidency in a fairly conservative direction....All presidents steer towards the political center once they enter office. Peacetime Abe would have done so, but the need would have possibly been even more pronounced. And this would have had a decided impact on his policymaking."

An interesting thesis from the A. Lincoln blog and one I'd tend to agree with. However, I wouldn't agree that all presidents steer toward the political center once they enter office. There are plenty of examples to discredit that thesis (Bush 43, LBJ, FDR just to name a few).

I have listed the blog in the blogroll. Enjoy.


msm3567 said...

This is an interesting topic. The legacy of Presidents (if not everyone) is based on the circumstances around them. Lincoln is best known for the Civil War and of course, the Emancipation. The question of what decisions he and other leaders would have made on different issues makes for great conversation in my opinion.

I do disagree with you assessment about Bush 43 as an example of a President not moving to the political center once in office. I’d say that a majority did, including Bush 43, but not all. Maybe it is because I don’t consider the Iraq war as ‘move to the right’. He did cut taxes, as did Obama, but Bush and Republican majority he had for 6 of the 8 years put in the Medicare Rx program and greatly increased overall spending. In my view, Carter and Reagan were examples of Presidents who did not move to the center while in office.

Nice blog – I enjoy and appreciate it.

DC said...

msm3567--I think the Bush 43 tax cut was geared more towards the upper class than middle class; however, I do agree with you on the Medicare Rx plan which was a big government spending bill aimed at the center. I would consider the Iraq War a move to the right. Besides the national security objectives, politically, it was aimed at shoring up the base (the Rove powerpoints provides evidence for this). Unlike most candidates in a general election, Bush-Cheney 2004 was very different in that it targeted the base & turning out the base, less than it involved courting the center (the large number of same-sex marriage prohibition amendments on many state ballots that election year was not a coincidence).

I disagree with you about both Carter & Reagan. Carter was somewhat fiscally conservative--the deregulation movement (e.g., airlines, trucking) really began under him, not Reagan who is often credited with starting it. He was not a big government liberal in the mold of LBJ or FDR. Reagan, though viewed as a fiscal hawk goverened like a liberal Dem at times--the deficit & debt increased substantially during his presidency. Also, his arms deals with the Soviets and response to acts of terrorism (Beirut barrack bombing) were more centrist than Conservative.

Thanks for stopping by & for your thought-provoking comments.

msm3567 said...

Thanks for responding.

I was not aware the deregulation movement began under Reagan. While spending and the deficit did increase while he was in office, much of that was in Defense and Democrats ruled both houses of Congress. Our main disagreement is on the Bush tax cuts targeting upper class vs. middle class. I recall a big part of it was the child-credit which was based on the number of dependents and also gave money to people who paid no federal tax. I can’t see how a tax cut would mainly benefit the upper class unless it was limited to business owners or unimaginably to people earning over a certain amount of money.

Hopefully we can prove that reasonable people can disagree and still maintain civil dialogue.

Your next post is again of interest. There will be no disagreement between us on that subject.

DC said...

msm3567--I don't claim to be a taxation expert by any means; however, the best chart I could find is at the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy: (see also Urban Institute and Brookings: (Sorry, I don't know how to do hyper-links in the comments.) It seems the tax cut was very top-heavy.

I agree with you on the fact that Reagan faced a Democratic Congress; however, presidents own the veto pen & he did have a Republican-controlled Senate for several years.

Yes, reasonable people can differ reasonably. Now if only members of Congress read this blog...

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