Wednesday, November 20, 2013

EXTRA: We're focused on No. 16. But what would Lincoln (really) think?

Perhaps it is appropriate that Illinois is the 16th governmental entity in the United States to pass into law a measure that permits gay couples the same option to be in a legal marriage as anyone else.

Pols wish they were Lincoln, but would he want them?
For Abraham Lincoln – the public official whom many political people like to emulate themselves after – was the 16th president of our nation.

AND GOV. PAT Quinn couldn’t help but try to bring some Lincolnesque atmosphere into play when he performed the ceremonies that made the law effective in Illinois – come June 1.

Quinn had a desk that once belonged to Lincoln set up for him at the UIC Forum, and he used it to actually sign the bill into law.

Supposedly, Lincoln used the desk when he wrote one of his inaugural addresses. Perhaps people can fantasize that he used it while writing the Gettysburg Address whose memory we have been celebrating in recent weeks.

It’s probably a cheap piece of furniture that meant little to Lincoln personally. But it isn’t unusual for politicians from Illinois to try trotting out Lincoln artifacts in hopes it gives them more credibility.

I RECALL WHEN then-Secretary of State George Ryan conducted a drawing in 1991 (that wound up giving the Republican Party’s operatives control over the redistrict process for that decade). Ryan came up with a glass bowl that supposedly once belonged to Lincoln.

Perhaps it was once a bowl containing some pieces of fruit in the Lincoln home living room. But it gained an aura not otherwise worthy of 1840s glassware.

Other politicians have produced stove-pipe hats that supposedly were once worn by Lincoln – hoping it would bolster the significance of their actions.
QUINN: Wanted Lincoln-esque aura

So Quinn dredging up a Lincoln desk? We should have expected it.

THAT DOESN’T MEAN, however, that we should think of Wednesday’s actions as being all that more important. It had enough significance that we followed in the path of Iowa and Minnesota – but seem to be far ahead of Indiana when it comes to the gay marriage issue.

In the latter state, the conservative ideologues are determined to take a stance on behalf of Hoosierdom – they’re pushing for an amendment to the Indiana state Constitution that would specify marriages for gay couples would NOT be legitimate.

Based on the reporting coming out of Indianapolis, it seems like the GOP leaders wish this issue would go away. They’re not about to do anything to follow in the lead of Illinois – and may well be the last Midwestern U.S. state to get with the program on this issue.

But will they be dragged all the way the other way?

IT WOULD REINFORCE the belief I have (as a result of personal observation throughout the years) that there are those within the GOP who are ashamed that their political party was once commonly known as the “Party of Lincoln.”

Yet I also think that when Democratic Party operatives try to spew talk that if Lincoln were alive today, he’d be a Dem! Even though I found it interesting to hear Newton Minow Wednesday on the "Chicago Tonight" program that John F. Kennedy himself wanted to visit Lincoln's Springfield home the first time he ever visited the capital city in 1956.

A Dem tie? That may be too much of a stretch. Yet I can’t help but think he’d be appalled on some level on the idea that the political party he helped to create (Lincoln was the first Republican ever elected president) has gone so far the opposite direction.
KENNEDY: Respected the Lincoln mood

Would he be shaking his head in shame? Would he feel empathy for gay people that he appeared to feel for black people – even if there is rhetorical evidence he considered them too different to ever fit in with the masses of this nation?

IT MAKES ME wonder. Lincoln in his lifetime was a member of the Whig Party who converted to Republicanism. The idea of political change was in him – even if the Dems on Wednesday tried to play off his image as being one of them.

Could he well be the leader of a legitimate third party if he were around in the 21st Century? One that would show the Tea Party types to be a batch of dinks too wrapped up in themselves to acknowledge the greater good?


EDITOR'S NOTE: I'm not sure I really think Wednesday's bill-signing ceremony was "historic" in nature. But the Catholic ritual of exorcism that took place in Springfield, Ill., would be considered comical -- if not for the fact that it feeds into the hateful beliefs that ought to be exorcised from our society.

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