Letter – Trump is no Lincoln

Published 7:11 pm Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Editor, The Smithfield Times:

Abraham Lincoln was born 215 years ago on Feb. 12. He led our country through civil war, abolished slavery and remains one of our most eloquent presidents. 

His Gettysburg Address balanced artistry and simple language to help ordinary citizens make sense of the sacrifices made to preserve our country, while helping us define and understand America’s greatness.

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Lincoln’s inaugural addresses also resonate. At his first, civil war was near — seven states had already seceded. Yet Lincoln concluded: “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.”

In his second, Lincoln sought to reunite the nation. Instead of condemning the South or crowing about the North’s coming victory, Lincoln offered reconciliation: “With malice toward none with charity for all … let us … finish the work we are in to bind up the nation’s wounds … to do all which may achieve … a just and lasting peace among ourselves….”

Donald Trump, frontrunner for the Republican nomination, compares himself to Lincoln; in reality, he’s the opposite. Contrast Lincoln’s conciliatory speeches with the divisive rhetoric of Trump. 

In his Veterans Day speech at Claremont, New Hampshire, Trump spoke as a dictator, not someone from the “Party of Lincoln.” Trump pledged to “root out the communists, Marxists, fascists and the radical left thugs that live like vermin … that lie and steal and cheat on elections.” He continued, “They’ll do anything, whether legally or illegally, to destroy America,” adding “the threat from outside forces is far less sinister, dangerous and grave than the threat from within.”

Trump’s words make the questions posed in Lincoln’s first inaugural critically important: “Before entering … so grave a matter as the destruction of our national fabric … 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 … 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 … so fearful a mistake?”

Lincoln asked these questions of those contemplating secession in 1861; today we must ask ourselves these same questions. Our answers will determine whether we ascend to American greatness as envisioned by “Honest Abe,” or slump toward the vengeful, autocratic America of Donald Trump.


Steve Anderson