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November 23, 2012

Family at Cliffside

Above is the international trailer for Steven Spielberg's Lincoln. Below is the opening of my column for this week, in which I mention a lesson our 44th president can learn from our 16th.

The greatest contribution of Steven Spielberg's Lincoln is that it shows our 16th president not marching majestically toward Mount Rushmore, but deeply immersed in the conniving and compromise of politics. The re-elected Lincoln fears that without amending the Constitution to prohibit slavery, 600,000 deaths will have been in vain. So he cajoles, trades and browbeats his way to the votes he needs in the House of Representatives. As a war that has riven families winds down, he sees the importance of binding up the nation's wounds.

One hundred forty-eight years later, America is like a family observing a fragile truce for Thanksgiving. Our Democratic president has been re-elected, but needs Republican support in the House to pass his agenda. He could learn a lesson from Lincoln on not leaving all the legislative horse-trading to Congress. In abolitionists like Thaddeus Stevens, one sees the forebears of more recent advocates who pressed action to end the military gay ban. As Frederick Douglass said, "Power concedes nothing without a demand."

Read the whole thing here.

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