Obama’s Lincoln

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Especially during Barack Obama’s first campaign for the presidency, commentators and Obama himself noted several similarities between him and Abraham Lincoln. These comparisons became the premises for arguments from historical analogy. Such arguments can have several purposes, including making a direct comparison, using the past as a new frame of reference for the present, and suggesting teleology. Each of these uses has pitfalls as well as promises. Obama, however, used analogies to make a fortiori arguments, indicating that if Lincoln could surmount greater obstacles, we should be able to surmount lesser ones. This is a message of challenge and hope, not hubris.


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