Lessons from Lincoln on persuading fellow Americans

In Doris Kerns Goodwin’s masterful book about Abraham Lincoln, entitled Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln,  she describe’s President Lincoln’s approach to persuading his fellow countryman.  The following is a short excerpt where Mrs. Goodwin discusses how President Lincoln approached the most sensitive issue of that age: Slavery.

Unlike the majority of antislavery orators, who denounced the South and castigated slaveowners as corrupt and un-Christian, Lincoln pointedly denied fundamental differences between Northerners and Southerners. He argued that “they are just what we would be in their situation. If slavery did not now exist amongst them, they would not introduce it. If it did now exist amongst us, we should not instantly give it up… . When it is said that the institution exists; and that it is very difficult to get rid of it, in any satisfactory way, I can understand and appreciate the saying. I surely will not blame them for not doing what I should not know how to do myself.” And, finally, “when they remind us of their constitutional rights, I acknowledge them … and I would give them any legislation for the reclaiming of their fugitives.”

Rather than upbraid slaveowners, Lincoln sought to comprehend their position through empathy. More than a decade earlier, he had employed a similar approach when he advised temperance advocates to refrain from denouncing drinkers in “thundering tones of anathema and denunciation,” for denunciation would inevitably be met with denunciation, “crimination with crimination, and anathema with anathema.” In a passage directed at abolitionists as well as temperance reformers, he had observed that it was the nature of man, when told that he should be “shunned and despised,” and condemned as the author “of all the vice and misery and crime in the land,” to “retreat within himself, close all the avenues to his head and his heart.”

In order to “win a man to your cause,” Lincoln explained, you must first reach his heart, “the great high road to his reason.” This, he concluded, was the only road to victory—to that glorious day “when there shall be neither a slave nor a drunkard on the earth.”
Building on his rhetorical advice, Lincoln tried to place himself in the shoes of the slaveowner to reason his way through the sectional impasse, by asking Southerners to let their own hearts and history reveal that they, too, recognized the basic humanity of the black man. Never appealing like Seward to a “higher law,” or resorting to Chase’s “natural right” derived from “the code of heaven,” Lincoln staked his argument in reality.  Goodwin, Doris Kerns (2005). Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. Simon & Schuster (pages 166-67).
Effective politicians do more than bombard their opponents with accusations, constantly characterizing their views as evil or their motivations unjust.  Successful leaders attempt to connect with others on a human level through empathy.  This is true regardless of how repugnant their policy positions may be–if Lincoln could do this with slavery, an argument regarding taxes or spending should be perfectly manageable.  Conservatives must do more than be right all the time, they must connect to those whom they wish to lead. In light of President Lincoln’s example, perhaps that is why Cal Thomas’s description of Marco Rubio is so appealing:
Rubio was not judgmental, but merely appealed to a higher standard. He is not the angry moralist putting others down. He is a political evangelist showing there is a better way.

(November 16, 2012 – Source: Steve Pope/Getty Images North America)

Marco Rubio as the next Reagan? (There may be something to that, as Democrats are already on the attack)


In the Albany Herald, Cal Thomas analyzes the speech Senator Marco Rubio gave in Iowa this past week.  Much of what was said by the young senator was very encouraging.  He spoke of how conservatism finds it home in the GOP, but the party is not necessarily synonymous with the movement:

Rubio also seemed to suggest that conservatism is larger than the Republican brand, which has become tainted in some minds. He said, “This is not about the Republican Party. This is about limited government conservatism.” While he said the Republican Party “is the home of that movement,” he seemed to suggest that it is not necessarily its permanent residence.

As discussed in other posts on this blog, Senator Rubio displayed his ever-improving skill at re-characterization of the day’s principal issues.  Recognizing the tremendous downward pressure this ailing economy has on the middle class, Senator Rubio said:

“The way to turn our economy around is not by making rich people poorer. It’s by making poor people richer.”

Cal Thomas points out that “[i]n this, he resembled Reagan’s favorite president, Calvin Coolidge, who said, “Don’t expect to build up the weak by pulling down the strong.”

And what about those pesky social issues that many liberals claim have crippled the conservative movement in the face of an every decaying moral society?  Shall those positions be discarded?  How about this for an analysis:

Some Republicans are again suggesting the party would perform better if it divorced itself from social conservatives and their issues. Rubio addressed that directly and rejected it: “The breakdown of the American family has a direct impact on our economic well-being. The social and moral well-being of (our) people is directly linked to their economic well-being. You can’t separate the two.”

While praising “heroic” single mothers, Rubio said, “They would be the first to tell you how difficult it is.” He added, “A two-parent home gives kids advantages,” and he said “the great gift my parents gave me” was staying together and loving him and his siblings.

Rubio was not judgmental, but merely appealed to a higher standard. He is not the angry moralist putting others down. He is a political evangelist showing there is a better way. The difference is subtle, but it is in contrast to Mitt Romney’s remark about a nation in which 47 percent are “takers.”

Time and time again, Senator Rubio is able to re-frame the argument.  He’s at his best when turning conservative stereotypes on their head by explaining principles with clarity (and with a smile).  The left knows this all too well, hence they’re working overtime now to make Senator Rubio appear “crazy:”


State of the race: Trajectory is bending towards Romney (thank heavens)

Michael Barone points out that part of the reason why Romney is gaining ground on Obama is as a result of the voter preference in swing-state suburbs.  He’s seeing a patterns similar to the 1980 election:

What we may be seeing, as we drink from the fire hose of multiple poll results pouring in, is a slow motion 1980.  The Gallup tracking poll, whose procedure for designating likely voters makes it very susceptible to shifts in the balance of enthusiasm, has been showing Romney ahead by 5 to 7 points.  That suggests that since the Oct. 3 debate Republicans have been consistently more motivated to vote than at least temporarily disheartened Democrats.

 Karl Rove outlines diagnoses the state of the campaign.  The good news is that Romney’s momentum is building and the Obama campaign is becoming increasingly desperate.

Wednesday’s RealClearPolitics.com average of polls showed Mr. Romney with 48% support to President Barack Obama’s 47.1%. On the eve of the Denver debate, Mr. Romney had 46% and Mr. Obama 49.1%.

More revealing, in the past week’s 40 national surveys, Mr. Romney was at or above 50% in 11, with Mr. Obama at or above 50% in one. Mr. Romney leads 48.9% to 46.7% in an average of these surveys. At this same point in 2004, President George W. Bush led Sen. John Kerry in this composite average, 48.9% to 45.8%…

This race will be close, depending on a few states. The good news for Mr. Romney is that the ones he needs are breaking his way. He leads in most recent polls in Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, New Hampshire and Colorado.

That puts the former Massachusetts governor at 263 in the Electoral College with Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and the great prize, Ohio, still up for grabs. In those states, Mr. Obama has at best a thin edge, while Mr. Romney has momentum, a stronger argument, and time to grab the seven additional electoral votes he needs.

An incumbent president’s final number in opinion polls is often his Election Day share of his vote. Undecided voters generally swing the challenger’s way. So if Mr. Obama goes into Nov. 6 below 50% in these states—as he now is in almost every one—he is likely to lose them and his chance at a second term.

The Des Moines Register writes about a visit by Mitt Romney.  They’re assessment?  “This must be what momentum looks like.”


Romney closing the gap in Iowa

Quick Iowa Early Vote Metric Watch

http://battlegroundwatch.com/2012/10/11/quick-iowa-early-vote-metric-watch/ The very handy website battlegroundwatch.com gives us a little tidbit into the status of the absentee ballots in Iowa. (It is important to remember here, that absentee ballots in Iowa always trend towards Democrats. Thus we are not looking for a margin in favor of Republicans over Democrats, that would be hard to achieve, what we are looking for is a nice narrow gap.) As of right now, the gap is only 67,000 absentee ballot request by Democrats , over Republicans. This is tremendous. About one week ago, it was 90,000 absentee ballots requested. According to his source, if the absentee ballots dip below 60,000, it is almost impossible for Barack Obama to take Iowa. This is becoming exceedingly important, given the fact that Ohio is still up in the air

Romney in Iowa: Proposal of new agenda for rural America

“We already ask our farmers and ranchers to cope with natural disasters,” Romney said in remarks prepared for delivery at a campaign rally at the James and Margaret Koch farm. “They should not also have to battle a man-made disaster of taxes and regulations from Washington. Our economic recovery must also be a rural recovery, and my plan for a stronger middle class will ensure that our agricultural sector grows and thrives.”

To that end, Romney is proposing a rural agenda that would implement tax policies that support family farms and agribusiness, pursue trade policies intended to bolster the agriculture sector rather than limit it, ease onerous government regulations on farmers and businesses, and adopt energy policies that achieve independence by 2020.

via Romney proposes agenda for rural America.

Early voting shows positive signs for the GOP

(October 4, 2012 – Source: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images North America)

I don’t know how he finds the time (or the information), but Keith Backer from www.battlegroundwatch.com put together another stellar analysis about some of the early positive indications coming in from early voting.  This is echoed by the Washington Post.  Bear in mind, the actual voting isn’t announced until the tally is counted on election night, however, campaigns and political insiders are often able to get a sense of the trajectory of the race by looking at the party affiliation of the people submitting the ballots.  Here’s a clip from the Washington Post’s story:

Among the 29,400 voters who have cast absentee ballots in North Carolina, 54 percent are registered Republicans and 28 percent are Democrats, according to the United States Elections Project at George Mason University.

It’s a small sample — more than 2.6 million people voted before Election Day in North Carolina in 2008. And these are all mail ballots, which have historically favored Republicans; in-person voting starts Oct. 18 in North Carolina. Nevertheless, Republicans are encouraged because McCain lost the state’s early vote by 11 percentage points.

“North Carolina was a place that they totally caught us flat-footed in 2008,” Beeson said. “They jumped out to a lead and never looked back. You don’t see that happening this time — Republicans have the lead.”

Florida’s sample is even smaller — only 14,500 votes so far — but it too favors Republicans over Democrats, 53 percent to 32 percent. In 2008, nearly 4.6 million voters in Florida cast ballots before Election Day.

Democrats have a big lead in Iowa — as they did in the past two presidential elections. About 60 percent of the 127,100 voters who have cast absentee ballots so far were registered Democrats. Twenty-two percent were Republicans and 18 percent were unaffiliated, according to the United States Elections Project.

Note that in Iowa, this type of trend is typical.  In 2004, when Bush eventually carried the state, Democrats leaped out of the blocks early as well and built an initial lead before the GOP came back and prevailed on election day.  Iowa is still crucial, however, and Romney is making strides in blunting that advantage.  Check out this link from the Free Republic.