With the drama of the last election still fresh in our memories, it is a welcome adventure to journey back into year 1865 and see the political machinery of the US in action. The movie chronicles a short period in the life of Lincoln between winning re-lection and getting assassinated. It documents in great detail the drama of how Lincoln won the passage of the 13th amendment to the constitution, banning slavery for all time, while the Civil War is still ranging on.
Lincoln’s tactics appear no different than what Barak Obama did to twin the passage of the recent health care legislation that many presidents before him tried but failed to accomplish. So we can see a great deal of similarity and continuity between this distant time and ours. But the world in 1865 was also very different: Washington still had dirt roads. The cabinet was relatively small and by today’s standard a trifle of staffers are working for the White House. Life moved more slowly for the president as well. News does not get written up 24 hours a day. The president is not shuttling from one meeting to the next or crisscrossing the country on a Jumbo Jet. Lincoln spends a lot of time on his own thinking. And the distance between the public and the president was also much smaller because there was not an army of secret service personnel protecting the president from getting assassinated like Lincoln was. Many people have noticed how remarkable it is that the constitution written for an agrarian society and survived radical economic, technological, and social changes over the past 235 years. Without Lincoln the USA as we know it would not exist today. The film manages the capture well the political genius of a common man from Illinois who rose to be a giant.