Don’t politicize complex historical figures, cautions Magness

At The Daily Caller, Phillip Magness critiques pundits’ tendencies to exploit Lincoln’s image for political purposes:

A casual observer might wonder why a president who died almost a century and a half ago is the subject of such divergent and heated editorializing. Lincoln’s central place in the pantheon of American civic religion offers one explanation. But the deeper problem is that politicized history, whether laudatory or disparaging, typically makes for bad history, because it incentivizes an evidentiary technique that seeks out confirmation for a preconceived position or argument. Pundits latch on to a Lincolnian program as a panacea for modern political maladies left and right. Historical knowledge in turn suffers as an immensely complicated figure during an irreducibly complex war becomes a shallow stand-in for political scorekeeping.

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Filed under Lincoln and Memory

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