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: