It was a noble cause, but it was not always nobly achieved. Though the gang of political operatives Seward brings in to wrangle up the votes is explicitly instructed not to engage in monetary bribes, jobs are offered to the outgoing Dems. Outright lies are told to opposing forces. Politics are played, without apology. And, most importantly, compromises are made in order to get something vital accomplished. "We shall oppose each other in the course of time," Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) tells Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones). "For now, we're working together."
That line rang particularly true at the movie theater in uptown Manhattan where Lincoln's media screening was held, relocated from its previous location across the street from the hanging crane famously made terrifying by Sandy. Of course, one of the top political stories of the last few days has been the warmth and cooperation between New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and President Barack Obama—two men who have opposed each other vociferously and certainly will again. For now, they're working together, and it's the kind of thing that should be inspiring. However, because Christie has gone out of his way to publicly thank the president and applaud his hands-on assistance, he's been called a traitor by Romney supporters. Rush Limbaugh, with total lack of self-awareness, labeled Christie "fat and a fool." (He also said he is gay, because when you get right down to it, Limbaugh is a fifth-grade bully.)
Is there some sort of ulterior motive for Christie's embrace of the president? Certainly there are plenty of theories. But it's worth marveling that the partisan political climate in this country is such a nightmare that the actual sight of a Republican and Democrat working together on something is not just noteworthy, but newsworthy. Lincoln brings into sharp focus the simple fact that it shouldn't be.
Let's be clear: The film isn't a rosy picture of snuggly bipartisanship. The House floor debates in the film are rowdy, raucous affairs; these guys would've dissed Joe Wilson as a shrinking violet. David Straithairn's Seward dismisses the House (in what will surely prove one of the film's more crowd-pleasing lines) as a "gang of talentless hicks and hacks," and hires the crew of "skulky men" to wrangle up votes in order to "spare me the indignity of actually speaking to Democrats." When Mary Todd Lincoln encounters her nemesis Stevens in a White House receiving line, she sneers "We are all getting along, so they tell me," before giving him an earful that brings the event to a standstill. For his part, when Stevens and Lincoln sit down to strategize, he tells the president, "I lead. You oughta try it."
That's the gist of the argument the more liberal wing of the Democratic party has been making throughout the Obama administration, and many of those "disappointed progressives" have turned in "I'm taking my vote and going home" think pieces in the past few months. Their ideological stubbornness is, in its way, as silly as that of Santorum, Bachmann, and the like—and just as counterproductive. This president is imperfect, yes. He's had to let things stand, some of them abhorrent. He has let down much of his base. In retrospect, he failed to take advantage of certain tactical advantages in the first two, Democratic-majority years of his administration, in a mostly doomed attempt at fostering bipartisanship.