Not a Stump-screaming, Mesmerizing Speaker. But

By George Smith

Joe Biden is not a stump-screaming, mesmerizing speaker. But Wednesday night, his message was clear: The crap we’ve been doing in the past is not going to be the path to the future.

Early observation: Only a handclapful of Republicans applauded his promise to move millions of children out of poverty. 

That’s heartless, like saying newborn kittens are ugly. 

Republicans, as a political entity and a national party, not as individuals, believe in the theory of the “unwashed masses”, a grouping of folks living in poverty that want a handout, rather than a hand up.

This rather disparaging term was coined by the Victorian novelist and playwright Edward Bulwer-Lytton. He used it in his 1830 novel “Paul Clifford”. But the phrase is often attributed to Abraham Lincoln, who never, apparently used those words in any published document or speech.

Lincoln was quoted as saying, iterations include this quote: “You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich. You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift. You cannot lift the wage earner up by pulling the wage payer down. You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred. You cannot build character and courage by taking away people’s initiative and independence. You cannot help people permanently by doing for them, what they could and should do for themselves. – Abraham Lincoln” 

He never uttered those words, at least that have never been recorded.

In as early as 1967, the misattribution was explained in a congressional record. The text from the document explains that a list of ten points attributed to Lincoln “sprang from the imagination of Rev. William J. H. Boetcher, who copyrighted and printed them in 1916.”  

The report blames the Committee for Constitutional Government for having started the misattribution by selling and circulating “the spurious quotations and, thus, earned the dubious honor of having first associated Lincoln with the maxims.” 

This might explain why: The committee was a lobby created in 1937 against Franklin D. Roosevelts’ court-packing plan, part of his New Deal programs to respond to the Great Depression.

For decades, in columns and editorials, I used the “unwashed masses” phrase and attributed it to Lincoln. It’s amazing how research and reading can change personal reality.

I am hopeful today that our elected leaders can get past petty partisan politics and work together on programs desperately needed to fix the country’s ills.

Working together, in harmony, any chore becomes easier. The nation needs healing in so many ways. Now’s the time to reach across the political aisle and do what’s in the best interests of the country, not any one political party.


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