What would Lincoln do?

Harry Welty

After a sleepless four hours stewing over my promise last week to write about my 1972, a seductive slogan occurred to me: “What Would Lincoln Do?

Readers, Prepare for one more digression.   Yesterday, I inquired about renting a venue to announce my candidacy for Congress. In twenty previous elections I never wasted anyone’s time with such drivel. In my last three “campaigns” I simply plunked down $300 bucks to have at least one Constitution respecting candidate on the ballot against Donald Trump's January Sixth pocket lint. I have five months to think about it.

The only explanation for good Minnesotans voting for such a deplorable representative must involve something like mass hysteria.  

WWLD was perfect. Back in the year 2000, before the promised apocalypse failed to rapture them to heaven, soon-to-become Republican believers wore WWJC (What Would Jesus Do) bracelets. It proclaimed their imminent rescue by God from the terrible conditions bedeviling America - Gays, Abortion, and that horrible President Clinton who tried to have sex with so many women behind his wife’s back and then worse, denied it under oath thus perjuring himself. Testifying under oath is something Donald Trump’s attorneys know better than to let their client do.  

After God gave Earth a reprieve disappointed Christian bracelet owners saw Minnesota Democrats change the J to W. In 2002 when Senator Paul Wellstone died in a plane crash while racing across the state depriving Democrats of their most forceful voice against Bush II’s war in Iraq they put WWWD on bumper stickers - “What Would Wellstone Do?” I saw a ragged one on a car a few years ago that had endured two decades of wear. No doubt today’s young voters who were only toddlers then had no clue what it meant.  

Many of the people who wore WW(Jesus)D logos are now supporters of a man who violates everything the beggar/prophet Jesus stood for. Donald Trump brags about being a pussy grabber and being rich like those Jesus warned would never make it to heaven. Acting like the Roman conquerors who violently crushed the Holy Land, Trump has never lived by the credo of Jesus: "the truth will set you free." My hero, the agnostic Abe Lincoln, did.  

I’m a sucker for kid’s books and I recently added The Magnificent Mischief of Tad Lincoln by Jacqui Davis to my shelves. In it I learned that Tad was born with a cleft palate. He was raised by a man who adored his children and let them play in his legal office much too his young law partner, James Herndon’s, chagrin. Tad got his father to pardon an about-to-be-eaten Turkey. I had to buy the book after it brought a tear to my increasingly leaky eyes.

Tad had done that to me once before. In Stephen Spielberg's magnificent Lincoln, the child actor playing Tad is flattened while watching a children’s play at the same time his mother and father were watching Our American Cousin at another DC theater, Ford’s. Tad is devastated when a theater employee bursts on stage to announce his father’s assassination. It broke my heart.  

You won’t see my two children’s books about Lincoln in the books strewn on my floor in the photo above.

Mine is a much smaller collection than tower of Lincoln books that graced another of my recent columns. Among mine is the book by Lincoln Law partner, James Herndon, the fellow who didn’t like kids in the office. Herndon had so much respect for his fallen partner, Abe, that he couldn’t abide the mythologizing BS that followed Lincoln’s martyrdom. He felt showing Lincoln warts and all would only heighten the nation’s appreciation. Herndon devoted years to interviewing hundreds of Lincoln’s former neighbors and acquaintances. He didn’t think Abe’s greatness needed tanning lotion or daily two-hour hair treatments.  

The surviving Lincolns hated Herndon for it. Historians have been deeply indebted. Having just read the first six chapters of the book (I bought it at Harry Truman’s Presidential Museum a decade ago) I was relieved at how straightforward and enlightening Herndon is. I’ve said the same about Differ we Must by NPR reporter Steve Inskeep which I listened to on Audible so that its missing from my book shelves. Both describe a man infinitely more admirable than the pussy grabbing, traitorous, Jesus contradicting, liar now worshiped by so many Christians. Poor devils. Their children are watching them - closely.  

So, what would Lincoln do? I’ve been trying to emulate Abe since before I ran for Congress in 1992. That was the year I predicted that Trump would be elevated to the head of the GOP (Grand old Pussy Grabbers) a full 16 years before the Simpsons.

But I live in a time and age where I can be more confident that honesty won’t put a bullet in my brain. At least I used to be, before a certain dye job said he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose a single (Christian) vote.  

How different was Lincoln. As a kid he rescued turtles from children who put burning sticks on their shells. He saved Tad’s Turkey from the dinner table. He made fun of himself. He told parables and found ways to pull the rug out from his critics without calling them names like I’ve just done, “pussy grabber.” He told the truth.  

In 1847 Lincoln finally got to Congress for one miserable term but he sent signals to the future that he would not simply lie down and shut up when his president, Polk, went to war to add slave states to the land of the “free” and the home of the brave. The Party of Lincoln deserves a few faithful if lesser imitators.  

Welty adores lincoln at: www.lincolndemocrat.com