In this image from the U.S. Library of Congress, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln sits for a portrait on Feb. 5, 1865.
Photo by Alexander Gardner/U.S. Library of Congress/Getty

How not to honor the Lincoln legacy

Updated
Abraham Lincoln died exactly 150 years ago today, so there’s a fair amount of media coverage this week about the nation’s legendary 16th president. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) joins the commemoration with a USA Today op-ed honoring Lincoln – and using the opportunity to take a gratuitous jab at President Obama.
 
Much of the piece is roughly what one would expect. Rubio celebrates Lincoln as a courageous, transformational figure; he talks a bit about himself and his agenda; and then he decides to use the Lincoln anniversary to disparage Obama’s ideology (via Ed Kilgore).
Our current president ran for office on calls of opportunity and unity. He claimed the mantle of Lincoln. While his intentions were genuine, his presidency has only deepened our divisions and cost us opportunities. This is not because of a flaw in his character, but rather a flaw in his ideas.
 
His ideas tell us that becoming better off requires someone else becoming worse off. They tell us the only way to climb up the economic ladder is to pull someone else down. They tell us there are two Americas – one of haves, one of have-nots – and that government is the best hope for those in search of a better life.
Even if we put aside the question of propriety – is it really necessary to go after the current president while honoring Lincoln on the anniversary of his death? – Rubio’s description of Obama’s vision can charitably be described as absurd. If the far-right senator actually believes this nonsense, it’s alarming how little attention he’s paid to current events over the last six years.
 
As long-time readers may recall, Republicans have routinely struggled with the basics of Lincoln’s record. The American icon saw great value in a strong federal government, supported public investments in infrastructure, and increased taxes to pay for the Civil War.
 
While today’s GOP refuses to consider asking any American to pay so much as a penny in additional taxes, Lincoln saw increases in taxes as an undeniable way of responsibly paying our debts. Indeed, he blamed federal debts on “a prevailing unwillingness [to] resort to direct taxation.”
 
Lincoln also prioritized progressive taxation, insisting that “the burthen of revenue falls almost entirely on the wealthy and luxurious few, while the substantial and laboring many … go entirely free.”
 
By 2015 standards, he wouldn’t stand a chance in a Republican primary.
 
All of which is to say that some GOP presidential candidates might need a refresher in Lincoln’s background, most notably Rick Perry and Rand Paul.
 

Abraham Lincoln, Barack Obama and Marco Rubio

How not to honor the Lincoln legacy

Updated