I’d been reflecting on the movie Lincoln with a certain uneasiness. I deeply appreciated how the movie brought to life a moment of American history that recalls the deep racism that permeated the Congress even during the Civil War, and the courageous role Lincoln played in fighting for an end to slavery. Yet something very deep was missing, and that became clearer to me after reading the misguided response to the movie by David Brooks, a former editor at the right-wing Daily Standard who now makes inroads with some liberals by spouting pro–status quo wisdom from his perch at the New York Times.

In his column on November 22, 2012, Brooks sums up the individualistic ethics of contemporary conservatives in the course of praising the wisdom of Lincoln, which was directed by Stephen Spielberg from a script by Tony Kushner. Precisely what Brooks loves about the movie...

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