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What Would Abraham Lincoln Say to Donald Trump About Religion, Politics and Being a ‘Know Nothing’?

As the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump could learn a lot from his party’s first president, Abraham Lincoln. He should start with religion and immigration, topics on which he has appealed to fear and bigotry rather than “the better angels of our nature" as Lincoln did.

Trump has called for a ban on immigration and travel to the U.S. by Muslims and advocated surveillance of mosques within the U.S. In effect, he has equated the religion of one-fifth of the world’s population with terrorism, created a religious test for entry to the U.S., and identified American Muslims as subversives who bear watching.

As a historian of the Civil War era, I find Trump’s position eerily familiar. Religion and immigration were explosive issues in the years before the Civil War. The response of one of that time’s leading Republicans, Abraham Lincoln, offers sage advice to Donald Trump and the rest of us.

An appeal to hysteria

In the 1850s, a surge of immigrants from Ireland and Germany, most of them poor and many of them Roman Catholic, sparked fears every bit as great as terrorism does today.

Lincoln usnationalarchives/flickr


Americans were overwhelmingly Protestant...

Tim Kaine Takes His Turn Trying Out as Clinton's VP

Donald Trump’s vice-presidential search is coming to an end. But Hillary Clinton is still holding auditions.

The presumptive Democratic nominee appeared Thursday in Annandale, Virginia with one of her alleged top picks, Senator Tim Kaine, where he introduced her at a community-college rally. Kaine is often characterized as a “safe” choice, a politician with an impressive resumé who can help Clinton reinforce the notion that Democrats offer a more sensible ticket than Republicans.

Thursday represented an early test of their chemistry and, as Reuters put it, whether Kaine can “fire up a crowd.” But on that latter goal, Kaine had it relatively easy. The attendees were already pumped for Clinton when they walked in the room. “Are we ready for Hillary?” he asked early in his remarks, a crowd-friendly line he grabbed from one of her campaign slogans. When cheers and chants greeted his question, he remarked, “I think that’s a yes.”

Kaine isn’t nearly as charismatic as another of Clinton’s recent rally companions, Barack Obama, who overshadowed his former secretary of state in North Carolina last week. When Clinton took over for Kaine Thursday afternoon, she seemed the more comfortable campaigner. But the senator nevertheless...

Will the Vice Presidential Candidates Matter This Year? Maybe, but Not the Way You Think.

Veepstakes speculation is rampant as we approach the national conventions for both major political parties.

Media reports have detailed the wide array of options available to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton as they decide who will be their number twos for this campaign, and perhaps for four or eight years to come.

Who will Trump and Clinton pick? That depends on each candidate’s goals – both for the remainder of the presidential campaign and after Nov. 8. Political observers widely agree that the most important characteristic to look for in a running mate is the ability to serve as president in the event of unforeseen circumstances, like a president’s death, incapacitation, resignation or impeachment.

However, when campaign staff and trusted political advisers vet potential running mates, they are certain to also weigh political considerations. That is, whether a given running mate will help or hurt the presidential ticket, with voters in general or with a key voting group. Particularly if the campaign is at a competitive disadvantage, its strategists may look to the running mate as a potential “game changer.”

The electoral advantage most commonly associated with vice presidential candidates is geographic. In other words, they are expected to...

When Obama Gains, Clinton Scores

President Obama is finishing his second term on a rising tide—and lifting Hillary Clinton in the process, according to the latest Allstate/Atlantic Media Heartland Monitor Poll.

In the survey, 51 percent of Americans said they approved of Obama’s job performance, while 43 percent disapproved. That was the first time in Obama’s second term the Heartland Poll has found majority support for the president’s performance.

Obama’s gains are directly benefiting Clinton. The survey found that among adults who approve of the president’s performance, Clinton leads Donald Trump by 77 percent to 7 percent. By contrast, Trump crushes Clinton by near-mirror-image 71 percent to 7 percent among those who disapprove of Obama. Overall, Clinton led Trump by 44 percent to 36 percent among registered voters, the survey found.

The results underscore how much assessments of an outgoing president shape the race to succeed him. In the 1988 race, just over four-fifths of voters who approved of Ronald Reagan voted for George H.W. Bush, while 88 percent of those who disapproved of Reagan backed Democrat Michael Dukakis, exit polls found. Similarly, in 2000, just under four-fifths of those who approved of Bill Clinton’s performance...

Hillary Clinton, Tracy Flick, and the Reclaiming of Female Ambition

This time last year, at a producer’s conference in Hollywood, a member of the audience asked Reese Witherspoon whether she’d ever consider playing Hillary Clinton in a movie. 

She already had, Witherspoon responded: One of her earliest roles in film was Tracy Flick, the teenage villain of Election, 1999’s dark satire of high school politics. And: She was only partially joking. “When I did meet Hillary Clinton,” Witherspoon recalled, “she said, ‘Everybody talks to me about Tracy Flick in Election.’” 

It is supremely strange, on the one hand, that the American public would associate the former lawyer and First Lady and U.S. senator and secretary of state—and also the mother, and the grandmother, and the woman whom the American media once spent years chastising for an expressed preference against cookie-baking—with a cupcake-wielding adolescent. On the other hand, though, the association makes perfect sense: Election is all about the layered strifes of, well, elections. It revels, in its sardonic way, in the lingering martial framework of the “campaign.” The story of Tracy Flick’s effort to win the presidency of Carver High School’s student government is a broader meditation on political ambition—and on...

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