Every time I hear Republican Candidate John McCain refer his party as the “Party of Lincoln,” I wince. It is probably one of the most factually inaccurate references in politics today.
In fact, if you were to measure it against some of the biggest lies ever told, it would be right up there with the great “old lies” like Columbus discovered America and Lincoln freed the slaves; or the new lies like smoking doesn’t kill (the greatest lie ever told to the America people) and “I did not have sex with that woman, Ms Lewinsky!”
Save those lies, this is a big lie. The only thing today’s Republican Party has in common with the Radical Republicans of the 1850s and 1860s is the name. It’s like saying the Ford at the turn of the 1900s is the same car Ford makes in the 2000s.
Or the Jeffersons of 18th Century (related to Thomas) is the same Jeffersons (related to George) of the 20th Century. Both the face and the mindset are different. The constant reference to Republicans being the Party of Lincoln is purposeful. It infers that there is a sentimentality in the party around being inclusive, being principled, being the party of new ideas and even newer practices.
While it couldn’t be farther from the truth, McCain needs to say that to convince the conservative arm of his party to embrace him, a liberal moderate, as the leader of the party. McCain is trying to force a “culture change” in his party, while advocating against the culture change that is taking place before his eyes (the notion of a Black or woman president) nationwide.
The Republican Party of the 19th century led the culture change to abolish slavery, went to war (Civil War) to back it up and managed the reconstruction of a nation without slavery. That Republican Party was at the front of the change. This Republican Party is fighting change and will be the last to reform.
There’s a big difference between bringing up the front and bringing up the rear. This Republican Party can’t compare itself to its former self. There is no comparison.
Here’s why; The Republican Party came together out of a coalition of old Federalists, disgruntled Democrats (forced out of the Party by Jacksonians), and the disbanning of the Whigs (the other major partying the National Two Party Rule Period) over their inability to come together on an ideological position over the expansion of slavery.
The anti-slavery movement was at an all-time high as the Democrats sought to use the 1857 Dred Scott decision as a national referendum on the citizenship status of blacks and, more critically, the expansion of slavery.
The party first appeared on the national ballot in 1856, but by 1860 had expanded the coalition broadly enough to elect a President that was thought to be anti-slavery, Abraham Lincoln. While Lincoln argued that he was personally against slavery on moral grounds, he wasn’t opposed to the institution of slavery as long as it was held to its existing boundaries.
Lincoln, in essence, was against the expansion of slavery and frequently stated that it didn’t mean he was for Negro equality (he wasn’t) but he did view slavery as America’s curse. His party, however, was clearly for the total abolishment of slavery.
Party members were called “radical” in their thought and were thus, labeled, “Radical Republicans.” Lincoln, like McCain, was a moderate. Lincoln’s views were to the right of the original Republican party, while McCain’s views are to the left of today’s ideologically realigned Republican Party. But unlike McCain, Lincoln was viewed by his party as an agent of his party’s change agenda.
McCain is viewed as an anomaly to his party “status quo” agenda. Let’s get one thing clear while we’re on this topicûLincoln DID NOT FREE THE SLAVES.
Lincoln resisted his party’s call for emancipation, for two years into the Civil War. Only when the North was losing the war, did Lincoln move to sign the Emancipation Proclamationûonly in states rebelling against the Union.
What McCain faces in the revival of the Republican Party is no where near what Lincoln faced. Lincoln faced a divided nation that wanted a change that Lincoln favored. McCain faces a divided party over change that his nation wants, but he and most of his party resist.
There is no way this is the Party of Lincoln, and the Republicans need to stop invoking Lincoln, like they are somehow connected to the ideological mindset that Lincoln’s party represented. Today’s Republican Party doesn’t want that kind of change.
So, they need to stop telling that lie. They are not Lincoln’s party. This is not your great, great granddaddy’s Republican Party. They just have the party of Lincoln’s name.
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