In Paul Ryan’s word string he gave in response to the SOTU there was this odd reference to Abraham Lincoln:
Their day of reckoning has arrived. Ours is around the corner. That is why we must act now.
Some people will back away from this challenge. But I see this challenge as an opportunity to rebuild what Lincoln called the “central ideas” of the Republic.
Even in the context of Ryan’s word string this citation of Lincoln makes no sense at all, but if you go back the the speech where Lincoln describes what he defines as the “central ideas” of the Republic–then Ryan’s word string seems all the more disconnected from historical reality:
Our government rest in public opinion. Whoever can charge public opinion, can change the government, practically just so much. Public opinion, or [on?] any subject, always has a “central idea,” from which all its minor thoughts radiate. That “Central idea” in our political public opinion at the beginning was, and until recently has continued to be, “the equality of men.” And although it was always submitted patiently to whatever of inequality there seemed to be as matter of actual necessity, its constant working has been a steady progress towards the practical equality of all men. The late Presidential election was a struggle, by one party, to discard that central idea, may be the perpetuity of human slavery, and its extension to all countries and colors. Less than a year ago, the Richmond Enquirer, an avowed advocate of slavery, regardless of color, in order to favor his views, invented the phrase, “State equality,” and now the President, in his Message, adopts the Enquirer’s catch-phrase, telling us the people “have asserted the constitutional equality of each and all the States of the Union as States.” The President flatters himself that the new central idea is completely inaugurated; and so, indeed, it is, so far as the mere fact of a Presidential election can inaugurate it. To us it is left to know that the majority of the people have not yet declared for it, and to hope that they never will.
All of us who did not vote for Mr. Buchanan, taken together, are a majority of four hundred thousand. But, in the late contest we were divided between Fremont and Fillmore. Can we not come together, for the future. Let every one who really believes, and is resolved, that free society is not, and shall not be, a failure, and who can conscientiously declare that in the past contest he has done only what he thought best — let every such one have charity to believe that every other one can say as much. Thus let bygones be bygones. Let past differences, as nothing be; and with steady eye on the real issue, let us reinaugurate the good old “Central ideas” of the Republic. We can do it. The human heart is with us— God is with us. We shall again be able not to declare, that “all States as States, are equal,” nor yet that “all citizens as citizens are equal,” but to renew the broader, better declaration, including both these and much more, that “all men are created equal.”
I think Ryan was referencing Lincoln’s observation that he who controls public opinion “can change the government” and that somehow he thought that was Lincoln’s “central ideas” of the Republic.
Perhaps Ryan took this tack because including Lincoln’s real central idea–that ALL men are created as equals–would contradict his road map for the continued survival of the richest and his very active glibertarian fantasy life. More than that Lincoln specifically attacks the notions of ‘States Rights’ and the theft of labor and liberty through the institution of slavery. It is hard to see anything in Lincoln’s record, words or deeds that would lend support to anything Ryan had to say or his extremely radical beliefs.
And yet, the idea of Lincoln was something he wanted to include and so he did–even as his word string had to take Lincoln’s words completely out of context and Ryan’s ideas are completely at odds with everything Lincoln ever stood for.
I found it to be the most jaw dropping moment of his performance piece.