The high road, and the low road. Civilizations have always been saved by leaders who’ve chosen the former route, and destroyed by those who’ve chosen the latter, through cynical postmodern revisionist histories try to blur that unyielding reality.
Abraham Lincoln referred to the organizing method of the high road as an appeal to the “better angels of our nature.” In his first inaugural address he coined this famous phrase that resonates directly to human souls when it is invoked. It’s meaning is unmistakable on a core human level.
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton set the tone for just this approach with her perfectly-timed speech at the Old State House in Springfield, Illinois, yesterday. The day after two major national events spoke to the merits of unity and common interests – Clinton’s event where her primary rival Sen. Bernie Sanders endorsed her and the moving memorial ceremony in Dallas where President Obama was joined by former President G. W. Bush in an appeal for healing the divide between law enforcement and disenfranchised minorities – Clinton underscored the need for a national leadership that will bring the nation together, not tear it apart.
The location of her remarks was symbolic and poignant. That was where presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln kicked off his campaign two years before he was elected, delivered his famous “House Divided” speech against slavery, saying, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
“Let’s think better of each other,” she said. “Let’s hold together in the face of our challenges, not turn on each other or tear each other down. Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of police officers, kissing their kids and spouses goodbye every day and heading off to a dangerous job we need them to do.
“Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of African Americans and Latinos, and try as best we can to imagine what it would be like if we have to have ‘the talk’ with our kids about how carefully they need to act because the slightest wrong move could get them hurt or killed,” she went on, and she didn’t stop there:
“Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of Donald Trump supporters. We may disagree on the causes and the solutions and the challenges we face, but I believe like anyone else, they’re trying to figure out their place in a fast-changing America.”
She said, “We’ve got to reclaim the promise of America for all our people, no matter who they vote for,” adding, “My life’s work is built on the conviction that we are stronger together, not separated into factions or sides, not shouting over each other but together.”
It was in the context of this spirit that Clinton assailed her presumptive GOP rival Donald Trump because his campaign “adds up to an ugly, dangerous message to America, a message that you should be afraid, afraid of people whose ethnicity is different, or religious faith is different, or who were born in a different country or hold different political beliefs.”
It is sad when one is forced to conclude that too much of the 24 hour TV news punditry is simply incapable of “getting” the point of what’s being said. In this case, the coverage centered on the “scathing attack” that Clinton unleashed against Trump, without providing any context for such attacks, except to say that they were aimed at Trump’s character. They then add, “Well, the American people have a problem with Clinton’s character, as well,” dismissing the substance of Clinton’s remarks with a lowest common denominator “he says, she says” resolution.
But the two campaigns are not moral equivalencies, not by a long shot.
Next week America will be presented with the spectacle of the GOP eating its own fecal matter, faced with the unsavory inevitability of a Trump debacle of its own making.
Those desperate Republicans fighting to stop the catastrophe at the convention must know that their predicament has come because for the entire time that President Obama has been in office, their party has incited its supporters to take the low road of divisiveness, division, bigotry and hate.