Almost 164 years later, those words are truer than ever.
On June 16, 1858, in accepting the Illinois Republican Party’s nomination as that state’s U.S. senator, Abraham Lincoln began his speech with these words:
“A house divided against itself, cannot stand.”
At the time, the divide Lincoln was referring to was slavery. He went on:
“I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.”
164 years later, our house is once again gravely divided.
Lincoln’s divide caused 11 Southern states to secede from the Union he hoped would not dissolve. It precipitated a war between those 11 states and the 25 remaining Union states, the American Civil War, in which over 618,000 soldiers were killed, 360,000 Union and 258,00 Confederate. The Civil War is the conflict with the largest number of American military fatalities in history.
But, as Lincoln expected, ultimately, the house did not fall and, on the issue of slavery, it ceased to be divided and became all one thing.
And now? The American house is deeply divided on many, many issues. Do we believe that this government, this democracy, can endure half red and half blue? Particularly given that the red “half” is really less than half. And, given the convoluted rule of the minority I’ve written about in the last few posts, that less than half is driving what happens in this country. Unfortunately, if you believe the prognosticators, it is very likely that the minority red half will take over both houses of Congress in the 2022 elections and, very possibly the presidency in 2024. That’s right, our divided house will be run completely by the minority who will have complete control of every branch of government: the executive, the legislative and the judiciary.
In 1858, Lincoln did not expect his house to fall. In 2022, two-thirds of the government is in the hands of the majority blue half. Despite that, our house is crumbling before our very eyes. Lincoln had to fight a horrific war to make his house all one thing, to cease to be divided. What kind of war do we have to fight? What kind of war can we win?
The systems are stacked against democracy: the Senate is inherently anti-democratic and the filibuster makes it more so; gerrymandering and red state voter suppression schemes will inevitably make the House of Representative un-democratic as well; the Electoral College has given us two minority presidents since 2000; two current seats on the Supreme Court were illegitimately (but apparently legally) stolen by the GOP while four of the nine sitting justices were nominated by minority presidents; unrestricted SCOTUS approved dark money (“corporations are people too”) has made of mockery of the idea that elections are decided by the people.
While reforming the Electoral Process is virtually impossible, there are ways to fix the Senate and the Supreme Court. Here are two:
Fix the Senate by starting the statehood process for the District of Columbia (a non-state with a population larger than Wyoming and Vermont), and Puerto Rico (a non-state with a population larger than 19 states). Statehood for DC and Puerto Rico is both fair and logical. Doing so would expand the Senate from 100 to 104. And, since DC and Puerto Rico are both deep blue, those additional four senators would be held by Democrats helping to level the playing field.
Expand the Supreme Court. As I wrote back in October 2020 in response to the Amy Coney Barrett debacle, it’s doable, as Adam Serwer of The Atlantic wrote back then in his piece. ‘The Supreme Court Is Helping Republicans Rig Elections – Adding more justices to the bench might be the only way to stop them. At the time I suggested that “while Serwer is focussing on elections and SCOTUS’ impact on the sanctity of the voting franchise, we all know their devious impact extends much, much further and will, negatively and frighteningly effect our entire way of life.” Given the most recent SCOTUS activity, wasn’t I prescient!
Here’s that October 2020 post, A Case for Packing The Court, which includes a link to Serwer’s article. (https://around-the-block.com/2020/10/27/a-case-for-packing-the-court/)
These are two of the wars we should fight and wars we can win. There are more. But, as I wrote back in 2020: It’s time to stop playing nice and do something!
One last thing: just as I was about to publish, this came across the AP newswire. I felt compelled to share it because apparently the situation in the Union, fueled by his Republican Party has become so dire, Lincoln was moved to speak one last time:
8 thoughts on ““A house divided against itself, cannot stand.””
Okay. We want to grant stateood to Washington, DC and Puerto Rico. How do we do that in the face of minority rule when we know the minority are not about to give up the power they have accumulated over the past number of years? Can it be done by Executive Order?
Same goes for expanding the Supreme Court?
I totally appreciate these are two ways to give the government back to We the People, but I do not see how either one can be accomplished in the present political morass.
The first thing that is needed is to convince the American people to elect at least 60 Democrat Senators and at least 250 Representives, to give both houses a clear majority. Can that happen in gerrymandered electoral districts, with so many states restricting the ability of voters to even vote?
What will be needed to make a true “free vote”? What will be needed to to make a “fair vote”?
As i see it true Democracy is behind the 8Ball right now. And the only way to get voters involved is to give the Blue side a charismatic leader to rally the voters, someone like TED BLOCK or ROBERT REICH, or, best of all MICHELLE OBAMA! Bernie Sanders might do in a pinch, but the DNC has already rejected him, to my great dismay!
I know you really want to save democracy, but to do that you need to find someone who can do for Democrats what (I hate to say it) Donald Trump dod for the Repuglycan Party. THE PEOPLE WANT A HERO. FIND THEM ONE, RIGHT NOW!
Your points are understood and well taken. In fact, with your permission, I’d like to use some of your sentiments in a follow-up column tomorrow or Friday. That column, to some degree, will position your admirable admonition, “The first thing that is needed is to convince the American people to elect at least 60 Democrat Senators and at least 250 Representives, to give both houses a clear majority” against an op-ed in the Washington Post today by Max Boot, a never-Trump conservative, headlined, “We’re in danger of losing our democracy. Most Americans are in denial.”
People like Boot, and his WaPo colleagues like Dana Milbank, Eugene Robinson and others; people like Charles M. Blow, Tom Friedman and Thomas B. Edsall (and others) from the Times…are all sending the same message as I am…the democracy, indeed the vaunted great “American Experiment,” “American Exceptionalism” is on its knees. Some offer solutions. I tried. Others simply lament. But none of the Democratic leaders, including the ones you mention plus the feckless ones like Chuck Schumer are creative enough or devious enough to do anything about the situation. The pundits and the politicians, have more influence, a bigger audience and are smarter that I am. Thanks for the call-out, but if Robert Reich or Michelle Obama can’t do it, no matter how hard someone like me tries, it won’t make a difference.
Regarding Michelle Obama. She’s a major force on our side but has not exercised her power. As much as I loved and respected her husband, he, in some respects, is why we’re in this current situation. There are two aspects to his culpability in my mind.
The first is simply the accident of his birth and ascension to the presidency. While in 2007/8 people like I were commenting…”Can you imagine what the world will think of an America that after all its history of bigotry and racism can be so progressive as to elect a man named “Barack Hussein Obama” to be President of the United States?” It was an enthralling thought. But then there was the other side in which a election of a black man to the presidency unleashed the just below the surface latent racism and hostility. (Which of course, was then used by Trump to whip up the base — not his base; he doesn’t have a base. He simply has the ability to use a base for his own nefarious purposes.)
The second Obama culpability was his neglectful leadership of the Democratic party. A good, perhaps near-great president, he was a lousy politician allowing the opposition to take advantage of him and his party. Was it that he was so smart that politics were beneath him? Was playing the game as the leader of a political party boring to him? Whatever the reason, he wasn’t up to, or didn’t want to be up to the job. (BTW, it’s not just his fault that we have Trump…Clinton hubris and one of the most mis-guided campaigns of all time are probably 70% of the reason for Trump.)
So, here we are back at the beginning. What to do and how to do it.
More specifically regarding your comment on my suggestions, of all the things that should be done, statehood and SCOTUS expansion, even in the current environment, are the most, perhaps only, ones with a chance.
More to come.
Sorry, I see my spell checker misspelled your name. My apologies, rawgod.
No problem, Ted. I turned off my Spelchek because of that and similar problems. The names Spelchek came up with for people were hilarious, and sometimes downright insulting. “Rawgood” is pretty tame compared to some I have been called, and truth to be told I never even noticed it. But thank you for spelling my name correctly. I try to keep ego out of my posts and comments. Meanwhile, I now make a lot more typos without Spelchek, but for the most part people read right over them.
Now I have read the rest of your rply. Thank you for thinking my words are worthy of repitition, but I think I am just putting into words what a lot of people are thinking and feeling. Onwards…
Placing blame does us no good. Everyone, including voters, allowed Trump to happen. They werenever prepared for a cheater of Trump’s ego to try to run foroffice. No one was prepared. We are possibly of an age, not sure, but did you read Asimov’s Foundation and Empire as a kid? He predicted Trump, called him The Mule, fittingly enough. But that could never happen in America! It did. And Amerpicans, as well as other nations, have to be prepared.
I know Michelle will never run on her own, she saw firsthand what the presidency did to her hubbie. It might even do the same to her. But if someone would sit down with her, and ask her to sacrifice herself for the good of the world, not just the good of America, I think she might be persuaded to run. It would not be easy, not at all. But she is capable of preventing the total devolution of world politics. She may not believe it, but I have seen videos of her spesking. She has that quality great leaders need to have, WITHOUT THE DESIRE FOR POWER. A perfect leader, if ever there was one!
I hear people all over asking for slogans to help the cause of democracy, so I made a few up. Feel free to improve on them:
WHEN THE RIGHT IS WRONG, VOTE LEFT!
THE RIGHT WAY IS THE WRONG WAY!
LIFE BELONGS TO THE LIVING!
WEALTH INEQUITY IS UNEQUALLY DISTRIBUTED!
REPUBLICANS PROMOTE SLAVERY OF THE WOMB!
YOU-TER(N)-US INTO BABY MACHINES, NOT MOTHERS!
LEFT IS RIGHT, MISUNDERSTOOD
were you expecting the Republican congress and president to take these actions???