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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Lincoln-Douglas Debates Remind us of Obama's Historic Campaign

H/T: Hillary Clinton

Thank you, Hillary, for reminding us of the historic Lincoln-Douglas debates at a crucial moment in this divisive campaign. It is with all sincerity that I suggest we look back on those debates and remember how historic it is to see Barack Obama, a black man, in a position to be nominated for President of the United States.

In the first debate in Ottawa, IL, August 21, 1858, Stephen Douglas was the opening speaker. He ridiculed Lincoln and the "Black Republicans" for being abolitionists. He then mocked Lincoln's "A House Divided Speech" saying, "Why can it not exist divided into free and slave States?" (Of course, while it was "just a speech", mere words, Lincoln's insight into the future that awaited this country in the form of Civil War would turn out to be true).

The worst part of the speech is when Douglas chastised Lincoln for quoting the Declaration of Independence and the phrase "all men are created equal":

"If you desire negro citizenship, if you desire to allow them to come into the State and settle with the white man, if you desire them to vote on an equality with yourselves, and to make them eligible to office, to serve on juries, and to adjudge your rights, then support Mr. Lincoln and the Black Republican party, who are in favor of the citizenship of the negro. ('Never, never.') For one, I am opposed to negro citizenship in any and every form. (Cheers.) I believe this Government was made on the white basis. ('Good.') I believe it was made by white men for the benefit of white men and their posterity for ever, and I am in favor of confining citizenship to white men, men of European birth and descent, instead of conferring it upon negroes, Indians, and other inferior races. ('Good for you.' 'Douglas forever.')"

Lincoln's position is slightly better than Douglas:

"I have no purpose to introduce political and social equality between the white and the black races. There is a physical difference between the two, which, in my judgment, will probably forever forbid their living together upon the footing of perfect equality, and inasmuch as it becomes a necessity that there must be a difference, I, as well as Judge Douglas, am in favor of the race to which I belong having the superior position. I have never said anything to the contrary, but I hold that, notwithstanding all this, there is no reason in the world why the negro is not entitled to all the natural rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence, the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. [Loud cheers.] I hold that he is as much entitled to these as the white man. I agree with Judge Douglas he is not my equal in many respects-certainly not in color, perhaps not in moral or intellectual endowment. But in the right to eat the bread, without the leave of anybody else, which his own hand earns, he is my equal and the equal of Judge Douglas, and the equal of every living man. [Great applause.]"

So thank you, Hillary, for reminding us that it is an important vote, should we choose to make it, we cast for Obama.

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