When Americans assess Donald Trump, a president who in many ways has broken the mold, comparisons don’t come easily. But Abraham Lincoln?
That’s the startling proposition illustrated in promotional posters for Dinesh D’Souza’s upcoming film “Death of a Nation,” which contends America is once again faced with an existential crisis.
In an interview with WND, D’Souza explained he is not asserting that Trump is Lincoln.
“We are saying there are situations that are eerily similar, the accusations against the two men are remarkably similar and Trump can take a page from the great emancipator,” D’Souza said.
The filmmaker, known for his successful election-timed films on Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, said the situation comparable to Lincoln’s is the “crazy, feverish political climate.”
“The political waters in Lincoln’s time were even more roiled than they are now,” he told WND.
“Not since 1860 has a major political party, the Democratic Party, so fanatically refused to accept the result of a lawful election,” he said.
D’Souza, whose film opens Aug. 3 in theaters nationwide after the publishing July 31 of a companion book, noted that many conservatives are “pining for Reagan,” which he understands, having been a policy analyst in the Reagan White House and subsequently written a book on the 40th president.
“But the Reagan era was an era of gentleman’s politics,” he said. “If Reagan made a joke, even Sam Donaldson would laugh. Reagan and Tip O’Neill would fight about a lot of issues, but they got along personally.”
That’s not the kind of America we live in now, he said.
“Reagan, I think, would be a fish out of water in the roiled waters of today’s politics, but, interestingly, Lincoln would not,” said D’Souza.
He acknowledged that in terms of personality and temperament, Trump is very different from Lincoln, who was “brooding and melancholy, philosophical.”
“But, what I am saying is that Trump has inherited, you may say, some of Lincoln’s toughness and willingness to take it to the opposition.”
See D’Souza’s works at the WND Superstore, including “Hillary’s America,” “America: Imagine The World Without Her,” “2016: Obama’s America,” “God Forsaken,” “Roots of Obama’s Rage” and “What’s So Great About Christianity?”
Lincoln, he pointed out, was surrounded by moderates who begged him to avert conflict by essentially giving up the mandate of the election.
“They basically said you should agree to extend the Missouri Compromise line all the way to the Pacific and permanently allow slavery south of it, and permanently ban slavery north of it,” D’Souza said.
Lincoln said no, arguing he had been entrusted with carrying out the people’s mandate, and he refused to give up the principles on which he had campaigned.
“You see, Trump, in a way, instinctively understands this,” D’Souza told WND. “So, Trump in that sense, has that Lincolnite backbone that so many Republicans lack.”
Similarly, in Lincoln’s time there were vicious personal attacks.
Lincoln, who came from the backwoods, also was an outsider to the Republican establishment and not favored for the nomination for president.
D’Souza said that perhaps the main reaction to his Trump-Lincoln comparison is “just sputtering disbelief.”
“We’ve shown some of the posters to ‘never Trumpers,’ and they literally become speechless. Their faces turns red. They become really annoyed,” he said, “because to them, Trump represents the degradation of the Republican Party.
“It seems almost heretical to link Trump with Lincoln.”
See the trailer for D’Souza’s upcoming film:
Challenging a ‘big myth’
In the film, D’Souza also challenges “a very big powerful myth that has seeped its way into textbooks.”
It’s the idea that the Republican and Democratic parties have “switched sides” on race and other issues.
Lincoln may have been a Republican, the thinking goes, but the Republican Party is totally different today than it was then.
But Lincoln himself, D’Souza argued, is evidence that the assertion is not true, noting Lincoln defined slavery as “you work, I eat,” meaning it was the theft of another man’s labor.
“Lincoln says this is the premise of the Democratic Party, not just the Democratic Party in the South, but the Democratic Party in the North also.”
The Republican Party, on the other hand, stood for the principle that “the hand that makes the corn, has the right to put the corn in its own mouth.”
“So, in other words, the core idea of the Republican Party for Lincoln is people get to keep the fruits of their own labor,” D’Souza said. “If you fast forward to now, you can see the exact distinction Lincoln made between the two parties is still in place.”
The Democrats today, he said, “remain the party of wealth confiscation and theft, and the Republican Party remains the party that affirms the right of Americans to keep the fruits of their labor.”
“So, this whole notion that the two parties swapped sides turns out to be fake history. Not just fake scholarship and fake news, but fake history,” he said.
‘This loaf was in the oven’
D’Souza responded to charges that his favorable treatment of Trump in the film is related to the president’s pardon of him May 31.
“This loaf was in the oven long, long before the pardon,” he said, referring to production of the film, which was scripted last fall.
The first discussion of any pardon, he said, was a conversation with Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, about 30 days prior to the announcement.
Cruz, he recalled, said he would talk to the president but couldn’t make any promises.
“Until I got the call from the White House, I had no knowledge that this was going to occur,” D’Souza said.
He was prosecuted for arranging “straw donors” to contribute to the unsuccessful 2012 U.S. Senate campaign of a college friend. He admitted his guilt, however, he contends his case file shows the prosecution was politically motivated, and President Trump apparently agreed.
In the interview with WND, he also responded to criticism from the left that earlier in his career, his ideas had some intellectual basis, but now he’s simply a provocateur.
A June 15 piece in the left-leaning Salon, for example, said: “It is important to recall that D’Souza was not always the unhinged, ultraconservative, Trump-loving racist he is today. … As Vox’s Dylan Matthews explains, D’Souza was once a member in good standing of American conservative intellectual life and served in the Reagan administration.”
D’Souza contends the difference between then and now is that then he was not a threat to the left.
“In my earlier career I was writing books, writing for small magazines like the Hoover Digest and Policy Review and speaking to small groups on the campus, so I didn’t pose any major threat to the left,” he explained.
“I was a typical pointy-headed conservative operating in a very small pond.
“So I’m a bigger threat to the left than I was when I was hanging out in think tanks.”
But the left’s way of attacking him, he said, is not to say he’s reaching 10 times more people.
Instead, they “basically use the old academic canard, he’s gone popular and he’s diluting his intellectual message.”
That’s “nonsense,” he said, because the companion book to the movie is “actually as intellectual as any book I’ve written before.”
“The only difference is I’m now translating it to the big screen, so it reaches a much larger audience.”
D’Souza noted he’s put out specific challenges to his critics regarding his claims.
Often, for example, a professor will say, “Dinesh, you’re pointing a finger at the Democratic Party, but wouldn’t you say there’s plenty of blame to go around?”
“I say, ‘No. No Republican owned a slave before 1960. All 4 million slaves were owned by Democrats. If you give me the names of two Republicans who owned slaves, I would have to take it back.”
But after a year, he said, “not one single valid counter has surfaced.”