(Reprinted from my article on Visualwriter.com.)
We remember Lincoln, a Republican, for the Civil War. But he did, or supported, a lot of other fantastic things, despite an all-absorbing war at his door. He was very good at bringing people together for difficult decisions. The war was brewing no matter what, but he united people around eliminating slavery.
Lincoln faced divisions in the Congress just like we do today. People in his own party were very divided about the slavery issue. But he brought people to a consensus, and without that, the nation might have expanded slavery, and maybe some States might even have institutionalized it for debtors who default. A lot of people who lost their jobs and homes during the Great Recession might be in debtors prison today. Lincoln was a man of strong character and determination, who didn't let the difficulties of office stop him.
Lincoln was known for his benevolence toward the people. He said this is a "...government of the people, by the people, and for the people." Many in the government today, influenced by the incomplete economic view of "Supply Side Economics," which creates huge deficits, and is strongly influenced by the business world, want this to be a "government of the wealthy, by the corporations, and for the wealthy."
There is nothing wrong with wealth and business, but it shouldn't be the dominant influence in politics. This is a nation - "nation" by its very definition means people - a nation of people. And the good of the people has to be balanced with priority against the good of business. It's a dance in which neither does well if one partner is unhealthy.
Lincoln did some fantastic things:
Lincoln supported the Morall Act, which donated public land to sell to support the building of 69 colleges.
Lincoln supported the Homestead Act, which allowed individuals to stake claims to property West of the Mississippi. Were it not for that, huge companies would have swallowed it all for corporate interests.
Lincoln also promoted business. He created tariffs on imports to help protect US manufacturers.
Lincoln managed to keep foreign interests out of the Civil War.
Lincoln signed a bill that chartered the First Continental Railroad, which promoted both business expansion, and the expansion of the nation.
Lincoln supported the National Banks Act, which created the United States National Banking System.
Lincoln supported all of these things despite a Civil War.
Lincoln didn't cavalierly huddle with a bunch of spendthrifts for whom caution was a wild idea, throwing money carelessly in every direction. But he didn't sit cowered in his office, with a bunch of scrooges, and say, "We can't! It will destroy the nation." Lincoln boldly led the nation to a greater destiny that benefits every person in the US, and the world, as well as commerce. I like Lincoln.
Ike is the first President I have memories of. President Eisenhower, a Republican, was a product of World War 2. He was a famous General who spent a great deal of time in Europe learning how to work with the Europeans, and other leaders around the world. And he knew well the destruction of war.
What Ike didn't do, and perhaps it was his greatest accomplishment, was get us involved in new wars. He ended the Korean War, whether the North Koreans know it or not. To do that, he had to convince the Chinese that this was the best way forward... and convince many Americans. Everything doesn't have to be settled with a gun, and our later involvement in Viet Nam was proof of the futility of endless war in lands that are very unlike us, and Iraq and Afghanistan are not faring any better.
Ike did some fantastic things:
Ike sponsored the Civil Rights Act of 1957.
Coming out of WWII with an extremely high debt, Ike refused to cut taxes - the highest taxes the US has ever had because of WWII - and he balanced the budget, and led the US into a period of great prosperity.
The US Interstate system was brought to us by President Eisenhower. It was a great boon to business, people, and prosperity.
Ike didn't cower in his office with a bunch of scrooges, and say, "We can't! It will destroy the nation." He led our nation into great benefits for the people and for commerce. I like Ike.
This isn't the 19th. or 20th. Century, and not everything Lincoln and Eisenhower did will work today, but today in Congress we have a "We can't" attitude, that blocks every piece of legislation that benefits people and doesn't directly add to the larder of business. The people are this nation's business. Prosperity comes from them.
In 1961, as he left office, Eisenhower's words echo profoundly:
John Kennedy was a man of the people and his country. His slogan was "getting America moving again." He famously said to others, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." He was very hesitant to sponsor social programs put forward by liberal Democrats.
Kennedy was President at a very difficult time for the US, with Communist inspired revolutions occurring all over the world, including Vietnam. Kennedy began a military holding action in Vietnam - not a good thing, although it appeared good at the time and satisfied the hawks in the government and military, who wanted even more US involvement in Communist revolutions around the world.
The Soviet Union used these revolutions to its advantage to place nuclear weapons on the US doorstep, Cuba. In a contest of nuclear brinkmanship, Kennedy forced the soviets to remove their missiles without a nuclear Armageddon. Nuclear Armageddon was more likely at this point in history than at any other. He was involved in the nuclear treaty talks that came to fruition in 1968, making the world a safer place.
JFK did some fantastic things:
A man of the people, Kennedy tried to enact Medicare for those over 65 - it was enacted in 1966.
Unemployment at 6% and economic stagnation prompted him to seek individual tax cuts from a rate of 20-91% to 14-65%, and corporate tax rate from 52% to 47%, despite Republican and conservative opposition. Yes, they used to be that high. The economy began to grow again.
Kennedy set the goal to put a man on the moon.
Kennedy established the Peace Corps, which has provided assistance and spread US goodwill in a very positive way, all around the world.
Kennedy could have hunkered down in office, hidden behind his desk, and said, "The Communists are everywhere, the Soviets have nuclear missiles on our doorstep - maybe we should just hide and prepare for nuclear war or Communism." Instead, he confronted the Soviets.
Kennedy could have looked at Republicans in Congress, many of whom, and their constituents, disliked and distrusted him because he was Catholic, and opposed him because he was a Democrat, and associated with... God forbid... liberals. But he managed to get consensus on a number of important issues and get legislation passed.
The Great Depression, a personal battle with polio that kept him in a wheel chair, conservatives that spelled Scrooge as their middle names, and WWII formed the personal challenges faced by Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
"Roosevelt is consistently rated by scholars as one of the top three U.S. Presidents, along with Abraham Lincoln and George Washington." World War 2 dragged the US into the conflict kicking and screaming, and the Greatest Generation set the world straight again. But FDR was far more than a war President. He set the tone for US liberalism - or you could say, caring for its own.
FDR did some fantastic things:
"Roosevelt spearheaded major legislation and issued a profusion of executive orders that instituted the New Deal—a variety of programs designed to produce relief (government jobs for the unemployed), recovery (economic growth), and reform (through regulation of Wall Street, banks and transportation.)" If John Boehner and the Tea Party had been alive, they would have taken him to court over the executive orders. As it was, people survived until WWII solved the unemployment problem.
FDR brought us SEC regulation of Wall Street, which hasn't proved sufficient to prevent major gambling and economic disasters, and brought us Social Security, and he did this in an extremely unfit economy. Scrooge views tend to be unsupportive of any social program. Many people today would still like to take away Social Security, Medicare, and medical care programs. What happens in reality, for people who haven't made their million, when they are old, they can't get employment, and when they inevitably get sick, they suffer and die. This also happens to young people. Why certain groups of people want to support suffering and death, I don't know.
Roosevelt could have been weighed down to the point of non-existence by the horrible Great Depression, high unemployment, his battle with polio and confinement to a wheel chair, difficulties with Congress, and horrible war. But instead, he found ways to get legislation passed that are some of the benchmarks of the US, such as Social Security.
Leadership is among the most difficult tasks, made more difficult by those who simply stand in the way. In this series, I have listed 4 Presidents, two Republicans and two Democrats, who confronted - major would be an understatement - extreme difficulties in leading this country, but managed to get things done.
Today we have small groups of small minded people in Congress who lack the will to do anything except obstruct democracy, locked into their districts by gerrymandering and polarization, whose social selfishness and social destructiveness is unparalleled, whose single-minded objective is to make sure that the current party in power, Obama in particular, is unable to create any new legislation that would better our nation. They do this by further polarizing their districts through media and political gatherings, spreading lies and propaganda, rabble rousing, even opposing things they were originally for.
We are a nation of majority rules and minority rights. Minority rule is an assault on the Constitution and to the people of the US.
As a Republican and Independent, I am ashamed to be associated with these kinds of people in Congress, who debase and mock the hallowed halls walked by the Presidents I've mentioned. They are unfit for office, and betray the public trust, earning a public opinion rating of only 7%. God help us.
Also, New York Times article: Bring Back the Party of Lincoln
Reference: Words in quotation marks are from articles on wikipedia.org.