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What would Abraham Lincoln think of today’s Republican Party values?

As we honor the birth of Abraham Lincoln — our first Republican president — ten-score and nine years ago, and his struggle to keep us united, we wonder what his reaction would be to today’s greatest threat to our union: a divisive monetary gap between those who create our wealth (labor) and those who seize the profits (capital).

“And, inasmuch [as] most good things are produced by labour, it follows that [all] such things of right belong to those whose labour has produced them,” Lincoln wrote in 1847.

Human progress from the beginning is a story of work: hunter-gatherers in nomadic life foraging for survival, and then homesteaders raising livestock and working the soil, families engaged in honest toil and banding together to create tools, goods, and services.

With diversification came the need for a system of economic exchange and the origins of capital, which, Lincoln conceded in 1847, is worthy of some protections.

“But it has so happened in all ages of the world,” he says, “that some have laboured, and others have, without labour, enjoyed a large proportion of the fruits. This is wrong, and should not continue.”

“To [secure] to each labourer the whole product of his labour, or as nearly as possible, is a most worthy object of any good government.”

And in 1838, he warned of inevitable threats from ambitious men who would use “the passions of the people as opposed to their judgment,” to undermine our democratic form of government.

Corporate billionaires, today’s version of Lincoln’s “ambitious men,” use wealth, power, and control of government not to seek a “large proportion of the fruits” but to take it all.

They siphon the toil of others into their profit-margin games of hedge funds, economic gimmicks, and stock manipulation. Meanwhile, they dole out to workers only what is necessary to keep them producing as long as they are needed.

Freedom to move among jobs, protection from abuses, livable wages, on-the-job safety, workers’ rights, collective action, and all the requirements for a decent living are discarded.

It is difficult to imagine anyone who would be more offended than Abraham Lincoln by today’s Republican stance for unsafe, underpaid, voiceless, and forced labor.

The only way for all of us to enjoy the fruits of our work, our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and the preservation of our democracy, according to Lincoln, is through “general intelligence, sound morality, and, in particular, a reverence for the constitution and laws.”

John Moran
Wardsboro

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Tamara Stenn
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Tamara Stenn (Brattleboro, Vermont, US) says...

Thanks for writing this Elayne. I was thinking the same thing myself. The silence we received from the hospital is quite deafening. Unfortunately we\'ve had to continue working with the hospital as other (minor) heath issues come up.

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Judith Skillman
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Judith Skillman (Newcastle, US) says...

Excellent and informative writing about the media and about the state of our nation. We must support the press speak truth to power, now more than ever before.

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Ruby Bode
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Ruby Bode (Westminster, Vermont, US) says...

We are also obliged to criticize the press when they merely echo the lies of the powerful. In this case, much of the press has taken a side, not just against the policies of the President, but against the election itself on behalf of the parties of war and Wall St. Just as the US has in the past agitated in other countries for coups against democratic outcomes they don’t like, much of the press, including this editorial, is now agitating for a coup here at home.

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Peter Ford
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Peter Ford (Dallas) says...

Nailed it - Thank you.

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TB Smith
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TB Smith (Ba, Oklahoma, US) says...

The divisiveness brought on by this shamefully poor excuse for a president has been once again, borne out by this article, and the responses to it .. his most devoted followers are the most gullible and easily swayed sheeple since the \"Kool-Aid party in Jonestown\" ... those who stand up the most fervently to this dictator \"wanabe\", will , inthe end, see him and the fellow purveyors of his garbage rhetoric like FOX News, Alex Jones, Breitbart, etc., crumble and be dumped like stale crackers (pardon the pun) .. we must impeach this tyrant before too much damage is done, either from within or outside our borders.

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Ruby Bode
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Ruby Bode (Westminster, Vermont, US) says...

So it’s OK that access to outlets that simply recognize Trump as President is indeed being shut down? But isn’t that exactly what this editorial is against? Should outlets that cheered on Obama’s wars and love of Wall St have likewise been shut down? Only John Birch Society–inspired screeds against Trump indicate the “legitimate” press?

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Ruby Bode
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Ruby Bode (Westminster, Vermont, US) says...

TB Smith’s comment in apparent support of the us-vs-them tone of this editorial illustrates why so many people distrust so much of the press (although, again, it appears to be only pro-Trump and anti-imperialist outlets that are actually being shut down): They are promulgating hysterical claims about fascism, Russians, and “crackers” not in the interest of the people, but wholly on behalf of the neoliberal/neoconservative program of Reagan, Clinton, Bush, and Obama to deny Trump the Presidency and even remove him from office – not democratically, but by coup if necessary. That makes the press rather anti-democratic and, indeed, against the people.

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Amelia Stone
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Amelia Stone (E Dummerston, Vermont, US) says...

Kudos to the Boston Globe for encouraging newspapers across the country to remind us all of the value of a free press, and to the Commons for hearing that call. The NYTimes article, A Free Press Needs You, concludes with the following: \"If you haven’t already, please subscribe to your local papers. Praise them when you think they’ve done a good job and criticize them when you think they could do better. We’re all in this together.\" Today I plan to subscribe.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #446 (Wednesday, February 14, 2018). This story appeared on page D3.

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