Friday, March 19, 2010

Abraham Lincoln Couldn't Get Elected President Now

My husband is reading a biography about Abraham Lincoln, and once in awhile I benefit by hearing one of his insights.

"Did you know that Lincoln had a problem with depression?"

"Did you know that Lincoln failed at a business and took 20 years to pay back the debts he incurred from it?"

"... he was skinny as a rail and wore all of his pants too short."

"....he was a spell-binding public speaker and used to like to get up on a soap-box and hold forth."

It has occurred to me, more than once, that Lincoln could never get elected President today.

Or, at least, I would be very surprised, if he was. He was President during the worst time our country ever had. And in four years, he did not win the war of solve all the problems of slavery.

Sometimes I think we suffer from a kind of delusion: the 60 minute TV delusion. We think that every problem has a perfect solution, and it should be be simple, and solvable in 60 minutes (2 hours at the outside), about the length of a TV show.

Sometimes patience is necessary, and humility as well. Difficult problems require patience, and the knowledge that no possible solution is perfect. After all, we are still dealing with the divisions between southern and northern states and the consequences of slavery even now.

So right now we're trying to figure out health care. Some people want single-payer, and others think that Medicare was a big mistake. Some people die because they are unable to get cancer treatments or they have a pre-existing condition. Some are afraid that the solution proposed is too complicated.

Right now if you are over 65 you get Medicare. If you are employed, you often have access to private insurance through your employer. If you are poor enough, you have access to Medicaid. If you are a veteran you have access to insurance through the VA system. If you are unemployed or working poor, you might have no insurance, or you might have some access to insurance through your state, depending on where you live. The cost of your insurance and the choices you have are different depending on the state you live in, and often depending on whether you live in a rural or urban area.

It seems to me that insurance is already complicated.

In the meantime, we're all just trying to make things better for our neighbors, our children.

There are only three things I'm sure of:

1. It's going to take more than 60 minutes to figure it out.
2. Whatever the solution, it won't be perfect.
3. Abraham Lincoln still couldn't get elected President.


Fran said...

This is a fantastic post- really well put.

Things don't fit into tiny boxes of solutions, yet that is how we want things "fixed."

Lincoln would not get anywhere near a ballot these days. That is something important to consider in these sound-byte and Style Channel days.

Cathy said...

I am curious as to the name of the book your husband is reading about Abraham Lincoln.

No he wouldn't get elected, but he would probably make an excellent president even today.

This is no reflection upon our present president. I think he is doing the best job he can do, in light of the obstacles he has in front of him.

However, I do believe, we want a president who portrays an image (a 60 minute image??) of what we THINK a president should look and act like.

Wonder if we will ever get out of that expectation?

PS (PSanafter-thought) said...

We put too much stock in looks and not enough attention is paid to character. Part of the problem is that so many politicians have to have a push-every-body-else-down character to get where they are, so they value that in others, apparently. I'm appalled that many (most?) politicians will support somebody from their own party even if that person seems to have a questionable character.

Mrs. M said...

All of that PLUS, his wife was quite probably mentally ill.

But you know what's funny? I've been reading The Great Triumverate, about legislators Clay, Calhoun, and Webster, and I'm laughing the whole way through the darn thing. I'm laughing, because people are the same as they've always been. We have so many of the same complaints, the same weaknesses, the same ridiculousness that we did 200 years ago. Which seems rather like a blessing and a curse.