“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right…” President Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865.
Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican president, was elected to his second term as the Civil War was entering its final months. With victory in sight, Lincoln could have expressed his anger at those who had attacked the Union. His contempt for those who rebelled against our Constitution would have been totally understandable.
Instead, Lincoln chose to take the path of compassion and restoration. In his second inaugural speech, he called for mercy, charity, peace and compassion for those on both sides of the conflict. He knew our country would never heal if we were consumed by hate.
What a difference we see in today’s Republican Party. Compassion is belittled and violence is celebrated, especially by former President Donald Trump. In the summer of 2020, during the nationwide protests, Trump asked Defense Secretary Mark Esper if the military could shoot the protestors. “Can't you just shoot them? Just shoot them in the legs or something?” Esper refused, upsetting Trump. (CNN, May 3)
During his campaign rallies, Trump frequently called for violence against protestors. At a rally in Cedar Rapids, Ohio, on Feb. 1, 2016, he told his supporters to “knock the crap out of” anyone they thought was opposing him. (Time, Feb. 1, 2016)
At a Las Vegas rally on Feb. 22, 2016, a heckler was peacefully removed. Trump said, “I love the old days. You know what they used to do to guys like that when they were in a place like this? They’d be carried out on a stretcher. I’d like to punch him in the face, I’ll tell ya.” (Yahoo News, Feb. 23, 2016)
Trump continued to advocate violence throughout his campaign. This love of violence resonates with Trump’s followers.
On Oct. 25, 2021, at a Turning Point USA rally in Idaho, a young man asked the Republican speaker, “When do we get to use the guns? No, and I’m not – that’s not a joke. I’m not saying it like that. I mean, literally, where’s the line? How many elections are they going to steal before we kill these people?” (Arizona Republic, Oct. 27, 2021)
On April 26, at an Oklahoma rally, a Republican candidate for Congress, John Bennett, called for the execution of Dr. Anthony Fauci. “And by the way, we should try Anthony Fauci and put him in front of a firing squad.” The crowd clapped and cheered. (Huffington Post, April 27)
There are many more examples of the call to violence by Trump supporters and Trump-backed candidates. They actively display the malice Lincoln spoke against.
“Social scientists and other researchers have shown that there are many millions of Trump's followers who support terrorism and other forms of political violence against the Democrats and their supporters in order to protect ‘real America’ (meaning, of course, white America). New research commissioned by The New Republic shows the extent of that danger: More than 50 percent of Republicans believe that the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol was an act of ‘patriotism.’” (Salon, April 28)
As the June 14 Nevada primary election approaches, study the campaign ads. Notice which candidates say what they have actually done or will do for Nevada. Compare to those who have nothing but name-calling or criticism with no constructive solutions. Republicans are especially good at this, tearing each other apart, while offering few real answers.
One example is the contrast between the two leading candidates for Nevada’s U.S. Senate seat. Republican Adam Laxalt is running on the fact that he was endorsed by Trump. He has no platform. He claims to be a “Trump conservative,” whatever that means, with no achievements to declare.
Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto’s ads are very different. Each one has a real Nevadan, talking about how Cortez Masto’s policies have helped him or her. These are people from all walks of life, who were helped in real ways. Her ads don’t disparage anyone; they just illustrate what she has done for Nevada. She actually practices what Lincoln called “charity for all.”
It’s easy to call names and criticize. It’s a lot harder to come up with real solutions to real problems. We need people who know what they are doing, not immature spoiled children. We need the kind of people Lincoln talked about, “with malice toward none, with charity for all.” That certainly doesn’t describe today’s Republican Party.
Jeanette Strong, whose column appears every other week, is a Nevada Press Association award-winning columnist. She may be reached at email@example.com.