THE ABRAHAM LINCOLN ADDRESS | Prepared Remarks by Frank J. Gaffney
The Queens Village Republican Club | New York, New York | 18 March 2018
It is one of the greatest honors of my life to be asked to deliver the 143rd annual Abraham Lincoln Address to the Queens Village Republican Club. I want to start by expressing my deep appreciation for being afforded this opportunity to pay tribute to a man I admire more than virtually any other, to be allowed to join thereby the distinguished company of others who have done so with you in the past and, most especially, to be afforded approximately eight minutes more for this purpose as President Lincoln took to make his immortal remarks at Gettysburg!
Of Abraham Lincoln’s many admirable attributes, two are particularly relevant to our own time: One, he led our nation through a tumultuous and costly civil war that pitted American against American, that led to the deaths of over 600,000 of us and that threatened to destroy our Republic. And two, he emancipated people enslaved for the color of their skin.
If Abe Lincoln were alive today, I believe he would perceive something that has yet to dawn on most of us. Our nation is once again in the midst of a civil war, albeit it an undeclared and, to date, largely non-violent one.
As it happens, just this morning, I received an email from a distinguished veteran of our special operations community. In it, he shared an analysis attributed to a man I do not know by the name of David Vincent Gilbert [Editors Note: This analysis in fact comes from a January 2018 speech by Daniel Greenfield that was widely misattributed when it went viral. The original speech can be found here]. I found it to be a profoundly troubling, yet quite insightful depiction of the state of our polity and its future that suggests we may be in the greatest trouble domestically since Lincoln’s day. Permit me to share with you a few of Mr. Gilbert’s observations:
- “How do civil wars happen? Two or more sides disagree on who runs the country. And they can’t settle the question through elections because they don’t even agree that elections are how you decide who’s in charge.”
- “That’s the basic issue here. Who decides who runs the country? When you hate each other but accept the election results, you have a country. When you stop accepting election results, you have a countdown to a civil war.”
- “The Mueller investigation is about removing President Trump from office and overturning the results of an election. We all know that. But it’s not the first time they’ve done this. The first time a Republican president was elected this century, they said he didn’t really win. The Supreme Court gave him the election. There’s a pattern here.”
- “What do sure odds of the Democrats rejecting the next Republican president really mean? It means they don’t accept the results of any election that they don’t win. It means they don’t believe that transfers of power in this country are determined by elections. That’s a civil war.”
- “There’s no shooting. At least not unless you count the attempt to kill a bunch of Republicans at a charity baseball game practice. But the Democrats have rejected our system of government.”
- “This isn’t dissent. It’s not disagreement. You can hate the other party. You can think they’re the worst thing that ever happened to the country. But then you work harder to win the next election. When you consistently reject the results of elections that you don’t win, what you want is a dictatorship. Your very own dictatorship.”
- “The only legitimate exercise of power in this country, according to Democrats, is its own. Whenever Republicans exercise power, it’s inherently illegitimate. The Democrats lost Congress. They lost the White House. So what did they do? They began trying to run the country through Federal judges and bureaucrats. Every time that a Federal judge issues an order saying that the President of the United States can’t scratch his own back without his say so, that’s the civil war.”
- “It’s not a free country when FBI agents who support Hillary take out an ‘insurance policy’ against Trump winning the election. It’s not a free country when Obama officials engage in massive unmasking of the opposition. It’s not a free country when the media responds to the other guy winning by trying to ban the conservative media that supported him from social media. It’s not a free country when all of the above collude together to overturn an election because [of] the guy who wasn’t supposed to win.”
- He concludes: “Have no doubt, we’re in a civil war between conservative volunteer government and a leftist Democrat professional government.”
One can, of course, only speculate on what Abraham Lincoln might have done about all this. One of his most memorable lines, however, surely offers an indication of what his attitude would be. It certainly serves as a warning to us all.
160 years ago, in a speech in Springfield, Illinois following his selection to be the new Republican Party’s candidate for U.S. Senator that year, Mr. Lincoln referred to Jesus’ admonition to the Pharisees: ““Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.”
He added, “I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved – I do not expect the house to fall – but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.”
In the end, of course, this nation became all free because of Abraham Lincoln’s courageous and unflagging determination to make it so, whatever the cost in lives and treasure. He took seriously his presidential oath of office first sworn on March 4, 1861 – just six weeks before the attack on Ft. Sumter started the Civil War – to “faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and…preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” So help him God.
And not least, the nation was made “all free” by the Emancipation Proclamation, preliminarily issued in September 1862 by President Lincoln, five days after the bloodiest single day of battle in the Civil War at Antietam, Maryland where 22,000 men lost their lives. When it was formally issued four months later, Mr. Lincoln described it to be “an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity” and invoked “the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God.”
I feel certain that similar considerations would prompt Abraham Lincoln today to be seized with another affliction in our times: the enslavement – and worse – of hundreds of millions of people worldwide simply because they believe, as he did, that Jesus Christ is Almighty God’s only begotten son.
At the risk of being presumptuous, I believe Abe Lincoln would have been a leader in a new movement that is inspired by his abolitionist agenda, which was, of course, the impetus behind his Republican Party.
The “Save the Persecuted Christians Coalition” is, moreover, modeled after a more recent effort that was mounted half a century ago on behalf of Soviet Jews. With the Lord’s grace and the hard work of countless Jews and Christians alike – including two of my former bosses, Sen. Scoop Jackson and President Ronald Reagan – that campaign proved to be monumentally impactful.
What began modestly with signs displayed outside of synagogues and churches saying “Save Soviet Jewry,” turned into a political force. That political force, in turn, spawned legislation in 1974, the Jackson-Vanik amendment, that denied the Kremlin Most Favored Nation (MFN) status unless it allowed free emigration.
When the Soviets refused that quid pro quo, it was effectively the death knell for the policy of “détente” rooted in the idea of appeasing and propping up what the Gipper rightly called “the Evil Empire.” Without the financial safety net MFN would have given the Kremlin, when Mr. Reagan became president, he was able to use economic pressure, among other tools, to help bring down the USSR.
The rest truly is history. It is no exaggeration to say that those signs, and what flowed from them, contributed to the liberation of not only millions of Jews, but hundreds of millions of others who had been enslaved by Soviet communism.
So today, the Save the Persecuted Christians Coalition and a campaign it is mounting on behalf of the estimated 215 million Christians around the world being not only enslaved but raped, tortured, expelled and murdered for their faith is as simple as it is ambitious: to complement and help the many organizations currently, and often very courageously, working to alleviate the symptoms of such persecution through action aimed at addressing this crisis systemically, as well.
As with the Save Soviet Jewry campaign, we are beginning with signs. I hope you might help place one outside of your church or synagogue, ideally between now and Good Friday. You can get one for that purpose for free at SavethePersecutedChristians.org.
Tell them Abe Lincoln sent you.