Where Is Thaddeus Stevens Now That We Need Him?

The radical abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens is enjoying a rediscovery as the moral center of Steven Spielberg’s film Lincoln. As portrayed in the film, he confronts the sort of dilemma faced by many people of strong ideological convictions forced to deal with political reality: Will he disavow his radical belief in full racial equality in order to ease passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to abolish slavery? (No spoilers here.)

Stevens’s belief in equality under the law went beyond race, as Karen Tumulty notes in a Washington Post article on the fiscal cliff negotiations:

House Ways and Means Chairman Thaddeus Stevens (now enjoying a return to popular consciousness as Tommy Lee Jones’s character in the movie “Lincoln”) denounced the idea of a graduated rate structure as a “strange way to punish men because they are rich.”