MONDAY, MARCH 29, 2021
But also, Democracy or bust: Abraham Lincoln wasn't sure that American democracy, such as it was, could survive the Civil War.
He voiced that concern at the start of his famous speech at Gettysburg—the Gettysburg Address:
LINCOLN (11/19/63): Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.
That's the way he started.
Lincoln referred to both "fathers" and "men." Beyond that, he said the new American nation had been built upon the idea that "all men are created equal."
All people weren't being treated as equal within that new nation—but that nation had at least rejected the ancient notion of rule by kings and queens.
Could any such nation really expect to endure? In effect, the whole world was watching as a shockingly brutal war tested that proposition—a war which could have divided that nation in two.
At the end of his famous speech, Lincoln said that we the people should "take increased devotion to that cause for which" soldiers had died at Gettysburg. We should devote ourselves to the notion "that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
There is, of course, no perfect way to institute any such government. It's also true that, even in 1776, the British government against which an earlier war was conducted had ceased to be wholly based upon rule by kings and queens.
Still, Lincoln saw the Southern secession as a sign that we the regular people might not be up to the task of maintaining stable self-government. Eventually, Union forces won the war, and the United States continued along as a single nation.
Today, that nation functions very poorly, almost clownishly, in many major respects. In part because of new technologies and modern media, we're dividing into an array of warring tribes.
We lack a sufficiently evil external enemy, a source of national unity. It can sometimes seem that a wide array of identity groups are creating a modern Babel.
Also, the dumbness is general. That said, a second problem arises—we're so dumb that we can't even see this about ourselves..
As this is happening, several major anti-democrats think our system is doomed. At his press event last Thursday, Joe Biden named two such people—Putin and Xi.
DOWD (3/28/21): Republicans are grasping to find something to throw at Biden. Their only ammo is weak: tabloid trash about his son and the absurd idea that Joe is out of it, a smear that only became more risible after watching Thursday’s news conference. He was calm, despite the monumental nature of his plans. He seemed to know his own mind—a nice contrast with his predecessor, who was out of his mind.
Republicans are out of touch with their own voters, many of whom seem to like free money and the possibility that Biden, unlike Trump, actually wants to go big on infrastructure, rather than frittering away his days hitting the links and tweet-trashing Bette Midler.
“Republican voters agree with what I’m doing,” Biden said.
The president knows that the American identity is on the line.
“I predict to you,” he told reporters, “your children or grandchildren are going to be doing their doctoral thesis on the issue of who succeeded, autocracy or democracy, because that is what is at stake.”
In that passage, Dowd chuckles at am unavoidable appearance—the appearance that we the people will approve any legislative proposal, just so long as we get $1400 per person as part of the deal.
She said that President Trump was "out of his mind" during his time in the White House. We can't say we disagree with that, although we'd rather see serious medical specialists discuss this matter in serious ways, using grown-up language.
Dowd said that Republican officials have little ammunition to use against Biden. She said these officials are out of touch with their own voters.
We think she's whistling in the dark when she makes these pleasing statements. She also said that Biden was calm at his press event. It seemed to us that he also doddered a good deal—and that's what those Republican voters are now being told on Fox.
As Dowd ended, she referred to Biden's remarks about Putin and Xi—to the bet he said they're making. They're betting that autocracy is going to win, Biden said at his presser.
Is autocracy going to win? We can't swear that it won't.
In our view, Dowd has played a major role in our nation's descent into clownishness over the past thirty years.
So have the poobahs at her frequently clownish newspaper. These poobahs apparently thought that "Creeping Dowdism"—that was Katherine Boo's prescient term—was the way of the future in our political journalism.
(For Joe Klein's unverifiable anecdote about the moment when this judgment was made, you can just click here. Mondale didn't know who to hug! To the brass, that seemed profound!)
Dowd said Trump had been out of his mind. She didn't mention the fairly obvious ways she herself had seemed to endorse him in 2016, when she rather plainly seemed to hate Candidate Clinton more.
She didn't mention her endless columns devoted to Candidate Gore's bald spot. She didn't mention the way we over here, in the liberal world, were too gullible, too lazy and dumb to rise up against the Dowdism which crept, then spread and finally congealed as it came to define our childish, failing journalism.
Lincoln was a mental giant. Today, we pretty much aren't, not even here in Our Town.
In our view, it's true that Trump was "out of his mind" during his four years in office. But what can a sensible person say about the silly journalism and advocacy widely observed in Our Town?
Our view? It's no longer true that we the people, here in Our Town, believe that we're a nation at all. Can any assemblage so conceived survive as a functioning state?
We don't think it's entirely clear. More on this topic all week.
Tomorrow: Chuckling, Professor Gates asked a question: "What difference does it make?"