By Stephen Cooper
In a Feb. 29 article in The New Yorker exploring the meaning of leadership and the qualities people most associate with successful leaders, Joshua Rothman writes: “When we’re swept up in the romance of leadership, we admire leaders who radiate authenticity and authority; we respect and enjoy our ‘real leaders.’ At other times, though, we want leaders who see themselves objectively, who resist the pull of their own charisma, who doubt the story they have been rewarded for telling.” In Rothman’s final analysis, it is “[a] sense of perspective [that] may be among the most critical [of] leadership qualities.”
This observation, I respectfully submit, illustrates the catastrophic mistake the Republican Party — once the party of Abraham Lincoln — would make by nominating Donald J. Trump as its presidential candidate and standard-bearer.
More than 80 years ago, in 1932, Dale Carnegie, the late American writer, lecturer and self-improvement guru — best known for his still popular book and 1936 bestseller, How to Win Friends and Influence People — wrote a book about President Abraham Lincoln called Lincoln the Unknown. Working on the book for years, Carnegie eventually moved to Illinois (“The Land of Lincoln”) where he combed through old books and historical records and interviewed anyone alive with even the remotest connection to the former president. Carnegie was intent on unearthing the true essence of the tall, gangling man with the black stovepipe hat who so profoundly changed our nation for the better — imbuing it by his sheer strength of character with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all citizens — not just those with white skin.
Republicans prepared to go to the polls to elect Donald Trump ought to read Rothman’s recent article, but also, they really ought to find a copy of Carnegie’s old historical work and labor of love about President Lincoln, our 16th President and the first Republican ever to sit in the Oval Office as commander in chief. If they do and, if they pay close attention to Carnegie’s excellent distillation of Lincoln’s character, they’ll know just why they can’t elevate a man like Donald Trump to the White House. They’ll know that a man who revels in self-promotion (think private commercial jet emblazoned with his name and decked out with gold accoutrements proclaiming “Trump” wherever the eye can see), a man who constantly prides himself on just how many billions of dollars he has acquired, is the complete antithesis of everything that President Abraham Lincoln stood for. Take just one of Lincoln’s lesser-known quotes that Carnegie highlights (at page 23 of his book) from Lincoln’s first political speech as a candidate for Illinois State Legislature. Lincoln said: “I was born and have remained in the most humble walks of life. I have no wealthy or popular relatives or friends to recommend me. . . . But if the good people in their wisdom shall see fit to keep me in the background, I have been too familiar with disappointments to be very much chagrined.”
Can anyone — a Democrat, a Republican or anyone else — imagine Donald Trump uttering anything even remotely similar?
Trump wouldn’t know humble if his gilded plane somehow got stuck in Humble, Texas. Trump can’t stop bragging and beating us over the head with his high poll numbers and with the names of all of the alleged rich and famous people who support him — even those of dubious character (think Vladimir Putin, for one). Unlike Lincoln, Trump would not ever be content to allow himself to be kept in the background; he doesn’t believe, as Lincoln did, in the wisdom of the common man — or the wisdom of any man or woman who makes less money than he does.
In short, borrowing both from Dale Carnegie and from the late four-time United States Senator from Texas and once-Democratic nominee for vice president, Lloyd Bentsen Jr.: Donald J. Trump is no Abraham Lincoln.
Stephen Cooper is a former D.C. and federal public defender. He writes full-time and lives in Woodland Hills.