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Lessons From Abraham Lincoln On A Divided Nation

The Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. (Alex Brandon/AP)
The Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. (Alex Brandon/AP)

Journalist and former Democratic strategist Sidney Blumenthal dives deep into Abraham Lincoln and lessons for America now.

The 20-teens – our years right now – are not the first stretch of years when America could feel politically unhinged.  In the mid-19th century, before the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln looked out on a country of bitter division and politics bleeding into violence.  And he struggled to find a way to respond. To understand what his times required.  Now we’ve seen rebel flags and fighting in the streets. Up next On Point:  Journalist and historian Sidney Blumenthal on how Abe Lincoln came to understand his challenge and his cause. — Tom Ashbrook. 


Sidney Blumenthal, Journalist and biographer who specializes in American politics and foreign policy. Former aide to President Bill Clinton and longtime adviser to Hillary Clinton. Author of Wrestling With His Angel: The Political Life of Abraham Lincoln, Volume II, 1849-1856.

From The Reading List

The New York Times: How the Lincoln-Douglas Rivalry Defined A Nation — “Blumenthal, a senior adviser to both Bill and Hillary Clinton, follows Lincoln’s circuitous journey into the Republicans’ embrace with an acute eye for the nuances of political rhetoric and the tactics of the committee room. He offers rich insight into strategic maneuvering in an era that relished politics both as the founders’ greatest gift to a free people and as an often ferocious blood sport. At a time when Americans may fantasize returning to a kinder and gentler style of politics, Blumenthal reminds us that every age has been fraught with anxiety and dread, and that in government, times are always tough, and the future uncertain.”

The Guardian: America Must Build Statues Against Slavery And Racism. It Can Start With These — “Building new monuments should become a principal effort to honour the truth about the civil war and American history. Modern historians have reached a firm consensus that the old “revisionist” views that denied slavery as the cause of the civil war and claimed Reconstruction oppressed the south are falsehoods. New statues will dramatically provide a historically accurate context for the old ones. For every Confederate statue ever built, two new ones to civil rights should be dedicated.”

The Associated Press: Former Clinton Aide Blumenthal Now Lincoln Biographer — “Before Sidney Blumenthal was a White House aide and confidant of Bill and Hillary Clinton, before he was a journalist for The New Yorker and The Washington Post and author of the influential political book “The Permanent Campaign,” he was a boy in Chicago mesmerized by the story of Abraham Lincoln. ‘I’ve always been fixated on Lincoln,’ the 67-year-old Blumenthal told The Associated Press during a recent interview at the offices of Simon & Schuster. He recalled a childhood trip to visit Lincoln landmarks in Springfield, Illinois, the sense of immediacy from the Old State Capitol and the reconstruction of the village of New Salem.”

Read an excerpt from Wrestling With His Angel: The Political Life of Abraham Lincoln, Volume II, 1849-1856:

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