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Opinions on the Trump Presidency

Lincoln Warned About Mobs and Demagogues

April 2024
1min read
When Abraham Lincoln became president, America was even more divided than it is today. But he refused to inflame passions by playing to a political base.  

In his first major political speech — given in January 1838, when he was a 28-year-old state politician in Illinois — was called “The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions.” In the speech, Lincoln said that the greatest threats to American democracy came from within. One was what he called “mobocracy” — that is, uncontrolled mobs who willfully violated the law to make a political point.

Especially shameful, Lincoln said, were white mobs who went on racist rampages, destroying property and hurting people. 

In the speech, he also targeted another potential danger: the assumption to the presidency of a demagogue who was interested solely in his own power, not in the sanctity of the Constitution.  

More than two decades after this speech, when Lincoln became president, America was even more divided than it is today. Lincoln saved America by always putting the nation above himself. While in office, he did not inflame passions by playing to a political base. Steadily, surely, humbly, he pushed the nation toward human justice. 

The insurrection at the U.S. Capitol was the kind of threat that Lincoln, our greatest president, feared the most.

Lincoln would be appalled by our recent demagogic president and the mob action he incited. But Lincoln was a firm believer in the strength of the American Constitution, which he called “the last, best hope of earth.” He appealed to what he called “the better angels of our nature,” and he displayed, in his words, “malice toward none, charity to all.” 

This month, despite Trump-inspired domestic terrorism, the Constitution held firm when Congress approved the results of the Electoral College. We hope we can move forward with the trust that the ship of state will emerge from our political storm intact under Joe Biden, who has pledged to keep in mind both those who supported him and those who did not.



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