"You may fool all the people some of the time, you can even fool some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time."
In considering Lincoln's presidency, who in the history of the United States did more than Abraham Lincoln in implementing the values of Democracy as set forth in Jefferson's Declaration? In his famous insight on fools, i.e., those people who fool with the truth and those people who abide the fooling, Abe was providing a warning to dishonest politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen guilty of coercion, incompetence and lies.
Here Lincoln is saying that the fools who do the fooling will be found out, that they will be caught with their pants down. They will, like the fools they are, argue that their pants are half up and not half down, and it will make no difference to the people, because they know the fool's pants are down.
Given the pathetic condition of democracy under George W. Bush's religious capitalism, Lincoln's characterization of people and their propensity to being fools and to being fooled is as useful today as during Lincoln's time. It serves the people to ask who these fools are and why they are still with us in the 3rd millennium.
"You May Fool All the People Some of the Time, ( e.g., Old Testament "Christians")
Here Lincoln is speaking of those good people who haven't the time or the inclination to keep track of what capitalism or their government is doing, those who actively support government, those who give government the benefit of the doubt, those who think their views don't matter anyway and those who think having a mind of one's own is a sure way into trouble with a self-righteous socioeconomic system that knows no values outside of self-preservation.
These are the people who seldom ask why violence was perpetrated against them. They only respond to violence with an Old Testament vengeance, no knowledgeable inquiry required, no hesitation allowed, no compassion tolerated, no holds barred. "Vengeance is mine," sayeth the Lord; no Christ in mind, no Christ in sight. The Christ is merely held aloft as justification for their vengeance and self-righteousness.
These are the people who comprise the bulk of the U.S. electorate in the face of violent attacks on the homeland. These are the people who would be coerced with fear and lies into believing that Iraq was on the verge of launching a WMD attack on America, that Iraq was part and parcel of Islamic terrorism under Osama bin Laden, that the Iraqi people would shower Americans with flowers if we would only democratize Iraq at gun-point.
These are the people who have never questioned the relationships between nascent (before Rome) Christianity and the despotic Old Testament religion assembled by an ancient Roman emperor in the name of the Christ. These are the people who have never questioned the egregious inconsistency of including justifications for self-righteousness, vengeance and belligerence in a book ostensible about compassion and forgiveness. Roman "christians" leave every dark door open that they can. They insist on it.
"You Can Fool Some of the People All the Time, (e.g., Old Testament Fundamentalists)
Here Lincoln is speaking of religious fundamentalists and those who would go along with fundamentalism's inadequate grasp of Christian ethics. They accomplish this without ever occasioning an original or independent thought (3). They hold themselves Infallible, no matter what it takes (or does not take). These are the religiously incorrigible who insist on living in a world defined millennia ago by Biblical authors who had no idea that the earth was spherical and orbited the sun, yet they claimed to know all there was to know about God? Sell that to a ten year old.
That would, however, be about one third of the U.S. electorate, those who live exclusively in the "here and now" where the Bush administration has no track record of coercion, incompetence and lies. All of that crime and corruption gets hidden or wiped away as recently as yesterday in the minds of the faithful and loyal (values operational at the expense of honesty). These are the people who interpret every and all worldly events as being beyond human comprehension, as if an ethereal god were in control of everything, nevermind Bush's public failures in doing the work of their god (2).
These are the people who can credit Socrates, Jesus, Newton, Spinoza, Jefferson, Lincoln, Darwin, Koch, Pasteur; Einstein and Bohr with having accomplished nothing of significance to human comprehension. These are the people who are an insult to themselves, to everything we know and to everyone with a mind of their own.
"But You Can't Fool All of the People All the Time!" (e.g., Americans cum Christians)
Here Lincoln is speaking to God's saving grace on this earth. In the long run, one can't fool all of the people all of the time because the people will ultimately see through all the coercion, incompetence and lies. This millennial old lesson is the first lesson ignored by those driven by greed and lust for power. It is the one lesson, however, that can't be ignored for very long because it is the way the world has to work. The lesson must be true in order for God to have any influence on this earth via thoughtful and caring people.
These are the people who were initially and intentionally misled by the Bush administration's religious justifications and coercions. These are the people who have begun to see with a bit of knowledgeable clarity (given half a decade of Bush's incompetence in thought, word and action). The people now know that Bush's God-approved world does not make any sense. It never has and never will, except in the cultural evolutionary context, as a means to unifying the world's people at the tip of a double-edged sword (2).
Psychotics proudly fool themselves all the time (e.g., Religious Capitalists)