A case for the Union

Recently, I have been reading the Memoirs of General William Tecumseh Sherman. His time and era, defined by the Civil War, have relevance today.

The President, Abraham Lincoln, had been elected in 1860. The South rebelled in 1861 and, as Lincoln described it, “the War came.” What enabled Lincoln to prevail during the Civil War, was his constant, continuing and articulate vision of what the Union was, and how the United States needed to ultimately move forward as one country. This may be a stretch, but, in some ways, I think that is what the country is looking for today-a leader who can articulate what the “Union” means and how we can all move forward together rather than apart.

The Radical Republican base in Lincoln’s days were abolitionists and wanted him to be stronger on abolishing slavery. He eventually came around to that in 1863 with the Emancipation Proclamation. However, that is not what got him elected. (During the 1860 election, he had advocated only for not extending slavery into the territories of the United States.) The core message that elected him was that the Union was inviolable and could not be broken.

Recently, President Trump addressed a group of energy executives in Pittsburgh. Actually, on energy issues as they relate to natural gas, I support much of the President’s reasoning. But, his way of describing it in a “my way or the highway” manner, lambasting all Democrats and anyone who disagreed with him, turned me off. His 60-minute speech was more of a rambling “tirade” and self-promotion event than it was a substantive address on energy. There was nothing about our federal Union and working together to find common solutions to difficult problems.

So, who then can unify the country? That, it seems to me, is the central question in the coming election of 2020.

There are still over a dozen candidates in the Democratic race. Could one of them emerge as the Union candidate? Some are articulate but shrill. Others pick away at one issue or the other but give little idea of how the country as a whole could move ahead. The President himself seems to be most afraid of Joe Biden whom he has described as “Sleepy Joe.” Biden is older than I would like (the President is no “spring chicken” either,) but maybe is the best positioned on the Democratic side to advocate for the Union. Time will tell.

A friend, a registered Independent, recently expressed to me great interest in Michael Bloomberg as a moderate who could pull the country together. However, Bloomberg’s only probable or realistic road to the Presidency would be to run in the Democratic Primary which would be difficult at this late date. If he were to run as an Independent, he could likely be a “spoiler” in the election, as was Ross Perot in 1992.

Getting back to the Civil War… after the War, the retired Union General, Ulysses S. Grant, provided a message of national unity which helped pull the country back together. Today, several former military commanders have expressed concern over our current division and the lack of a consistent direction in the country, especially in our foreign policy.

Is it time for a General Mattis or Admiral Mullen to step up and run for the presidency? Who will emerge as the Union candidate? To me that is the big issue of the day.

Rolland Kidder is a Stow resident.


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