profileNew Yorker
Obama has staked his candidacy on union--on bringing together two halves of America that are profoundly divided, and by associating himself with Lincoln--and he knows what both of those things mean. He calls America's founding a "grand compromise": compromise, for him, is not an eroding of principle for the sake of getting something done but a principle in itself--the certainty of uncertainty, the fundament of union. "I would save the Union," Lincoln wrote, in a letter to Horace Greeley, the editor of the New York Tribune. "If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that." "I like to believe that for Lincoln it was never a matter of abandoning conviction for the sake of expediency," Obama writes. "Rather ... that we must talk and reach for common understandings, precisely because all of us are imperfect and can never act with the certainty that God is on our side."
Isaac Chotiner