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THE GOP’S LINCOLN’S DAY DILEMMA

April 8, 2015

THE GOP’S LINCOLN’S DAY DILEMMA

Kevin Phillips, one of Richard Nixon’s political advisers and architects of Nixon’s “Southern Strategy,” came to realize too late that such strategy did not result in the Republican Party’s capture of the South, but rather in the South’s capture of the Republican Party. The Republican Party of the late 60s and ever since has as a result given southerners a disproportionate say in party governance. These GOP people are high-profile figures, white, and would never cross the threshold of a Lincoln Day Dinner. This we learn from Scott Horton in his critique of a book written by Heather Cox Richardson entitled “To Make Men Free: A History of the Republican Party.”

We learn anew what we already knew; that those of the Republican Party since being captured by the South over the past some 50 years have engaged in pious bigotries and anti-intellectual values of the Confederacy while showing contempt for democracy itself under cover of emphasis of “10th Amendment rights,” all the while clinging to an ever whiter, ever more Southern and ever shrinking electoral base. Horton points out something else we already knew: That with its shrinking numbers, the party has had to turn to gerrymandering and political disenfranchisement in an effort to gain or retain power. All of us can bear witness to what the GOP is trying to sell in this 21st century with its repudiation of science, its hatred of public education and the like. The Republican Party is now reaping its grim reward for selling out to the South with libertarians and nihilists among its ranks and people running for president who are making the art of politics resemble a theater of the absurd. Attempts to counter the obvious are found in their PR claims to have a “Big Tent” when the truth is that, under Southern rule, they have no tent.

Let’s take a look at a few of the dissimilarities between Lincoln’s views prior to the Ford Theater and those of “The Party of Lincoln” today. During one of his Lincoln-Douglas Debates, he used powerful words and images to demand the economic freedom of the working man and to push back against the political dominance of the slaveholders. Here are his words: “It is the eternal struggle between two principles, right and wrong, throughout the world. It is the same spirit that says, ‘you toil and work and earn bread, and I’ll eat it.’ No matter in what shape it comes, whether from the mouth of a king who seeks to bestride the people of his own nation, and live by the fruit of their labor, or from one race of men as an apology for enslaving another race, it is the same tyrannical principle.”

Can anyone reading this imagine how Lincoln’s view of labor would go over with Republicans and their inhumane ALEC/Wall Street inspired right to work and anti-minimum wage policies today? Lincoln would not be welcome at Lincoln Day Dinners if he were alive today, nor would Theodore Roosevelt or Dwight Eisenhower. They would be far too “liberal” for the GOP and their southern and Wall Street sponsors. The Republican Party of Lincoln’s day was audacious and intellectually vigorous. Horton correctly points out that Republicans of that day and since have introduced progressive income taxation, liberalized monetary policies that sustained a strong dollar, granted impressive rights to veterans, advocated universal education as an essential tool of socialization, demanded the steady expansion of voting rights, and gave America a higher education system that was to become the envy of the world. Republicans of that day also championed the rights of immigrants (even though immigrants were largely additions to the party vote of their opponents).

On one brilliantly articulated issue after another, the Republican Party of Lincoln (and most of his Republican successors even including Nixon prior to his sellout to Dixie and, of course, Watergate) was in favor of policies that were good for America but diametrically opposed to those of the current GOP owned by southerners and Wall Street. The GOP today is hardly a voice for the working population; rather the party has abandoned its former progressivism in favor of economic special interests (read Wall Street in “I give you tax breaks and anti-labor policies and you give me campaign money” quid pro quo exchanges). Had I lived during Lincoln’s reign, I would have been a Republican. Democrats of that day were largely southern, racist and sedition-minded. We have since exchanged places, and I am not now a Republican and won’t be unless we again exchange places and soon, an unlikely event.

Horton opines in his critique that Movement Conservatism – hostile to minorities and women, socially conservative, ostensibly committed to a mantra of small government but in fact to policies that have yielded unprecedented deficits due to pork barrel defense contracting and tax relief for the superrich, is the fly in America’s ointment. Other than adding labor and immigrants to minorities and women, I have no quarrel with his assessment. While I am not a conservative, I have always thought that conservatives held points of view worthy of public discussion, but that was before conservative points of view were hijacked by radical libertarians and other far out opportunists (some, unimaginably, now running for president on the Republican ticket).

So, how can I say it? Republicans are not Republicans anymore? Has their party been hijacked by the Attilas of the slashing and burning far right? What is a Republican these days? What do Republicans stand for beyond pandering to the rich and bigoted and religious? Are members of the so-called tea and libertarian parties Republicans or mere radical opportunists running under a banner that will net them votes by pretended association with a political party?

I have a lot more questions but few answers and your guess is as good as mine on the questions posed. However, there is one thing I can assert without fear of contradiction, and it is this: Abraham Lincoln would not worry about being barred from attending a present day “Lincoln’s Day Dinner” because he would refuse to attend. Why? Because by today’s standards his party has betrayed him and he would be a progressive Democrat since our parties have exchanged places – and policies – all since his ill-fated night at the Ford Theater.   GERALD    E

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One Comment
  1. billy1926 permalink

    Good one!

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