Tags: Donald Trump | Presidential History | abraham lincoln | civil war | unity | john cribb | book

Lincoln's Lessons for Trump — And Us

trump and melania stand in front of the lincoln memorial
Donald Trump and his wife Melania arrive to attend an inauguration concert at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., on January 19, 2017. (Mandel Ngan/Getty Images)

By    |   Friday, 21 August 2020 09:58 AM

To many, these historic times that America finds herself in now may seem as if they are our nation’s darkest hour. But we have indeed weathered worse.

The Civil War comes to mind immediately.

One author has recently finished his novel on Abraham Lincoln, and the Lincolnian message of unity is badly needed in our nation’s mores at this very moment.

John Cribb’s forthcoming work, "Old Abe: A Novel," lets the reader be center stage in the life of one of America’s most prominent presidents through the last five years of his life during the Civil War.

Cribb’s purpose in writing the novel is to “bring Lincoln to life instead of a rigid figure that we see on our money, and nonfiction books lack that ability.”

When asked about how Lincoln would have responded to the rioters who have been defacing and tearing down statues across America, Cribb responded: “We have a good indication of how Lincoln would have felt. Lincoln gave a speech that he gave to the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois, a civics club at the time. He said that our form of government cannot last when we permit mob violence, and if our country were ever to fall, it would not fall from war with another power, it would fall from within.”

Cribb called it “heartbreaking” to see some of the statues torn down by “putting a rope around their heads, instead of having them removed by passing a law.”

When looking at the theme of each president’s message, according to the author, “I think President Trump and his Administration think they are standing up for our country’s founding principles. Lincoln was all about founding principles, and that is seen in the fact that he started off the Gettysburg Address dating our founding back to 1776.

“You can draw contrasts and comparisons between a number of presidents, but having said that, there are a number of ways that they overlap. I think that the Washington establishment was very hostile toward both Lincoln and Trump from the very onset of their presidencies. Another way is that the press was heavily partisan against Lincoln, as they are with Trump, and the divide was even more intense back then, and it’s hard to believe that it could be. They called Lincoln a brute from the sticks, and an outsider from the prairie.”

If Trump is elected to serve a second term, that term will be the one in which he could cement the changes that he made in his first term, as well as expound on his vision for America.

There comes to mind the academic notion of a "reconstructive president," coined by the presidential scholar Stephen Skowronek. Skowronek’s concept of reconstructive presidents has been defined as presidents who “transform American politics in their own image, clearing the field of viable competition and setting the terms of political debate.”

These presidents include — but are not limited to — Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan.

Cribb “certainly hopes that [President Trump] can be a reconstructive president if he gets a second term to restore the culture, and that will be his job in a lot of ways.

“If he looks to Lincoln as a guide, there are two things to keep in mind: 1) Lincoln was fiercely devoted to founding principles, and 2) Lincoln was all about unity, and he started off his first term in his inaugural address by stating: 'Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.'

"Even throughout the Civil War, [Lincoln] refused to acknowledge that the South had seceded."

Cribb also points out that Trump and Lincoln differ in their stylistic approaches to politics. “President Trump is a street-fighter, and Lincoln is a conciliator, which is fine. That’s their respective styles.”

It is true to form that there are those inherent qualities that make each president their own person, and that is no less true for Trump as it is for Lincoln.

While the novel that John Cribb has written will have to wait until September for releases, the lessons that one is sure to glean from the pages are timeless rather than seasonal. President Lincoln is himself a "president for all seasons," to borrow the phrase coined by Robert Whittington.

It is, however, the wish of this author that Lincoln’s memory may be another beacon to foster a time to heal our afflicted nation.

(Michael Cozzi is a Ph.D. candidate at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.)

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To many, these historic times that America finds herself in now may seem as if they are our nation's darkest hour. But we have indeed weathered worse. The Civil War comes to mind immediately. One author has recently finished his novel on Abraham Lincoln, and the Lincolnian...
abraham lincoln, civil war, unity, john cribb, book, history
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2020-58-21
Friday, 21 August 2020 09:58 AM
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