Republicans like to refer to themselves as, “The Party of Lincoln.” This typically comes in response to questions about racism in an attempt to deflect any charges of discrimination today by referring to their long-ago stance. When the Republican Party formed, their first platform resisted the expansion of slavery into new states and territories. The Party’s initial founders were abolitionists, an anti-slavery faction of the Whig Party, and the Free-Soil wing of the Democrat Party. Say what you will about Republicans now, they once stood for something positive, not so much today.
Lincoln himself gets all the credit for ending slavery but given his way, he’d have allowed slavery to continue where it already existed. At his first Inauguration Address, he said, “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.” He also supported the return of slaves to Africa. The Emancipation Proclamation was less about granting freedom to the slaves than it was about hurting the South’s economy and keeping France and Britain from siding with the South whom economically they were inclined to.
Despite Lincoln’s personal ambivalence, the Republican Party was a major factor in the ending of slavery and the environment that led to Reconstruction. Unfortunately, they gave away their claim of moral superiority when in the Compromise of 1877, in trade for winning a disputed Presidential election. They agreed to remove Federal troops from the South which directly let to the end of Reconstruction and the imposition of Jim Crow. The Republican Party’s last claim to be the Party of Lincoln died in 1877.
Fast-forward to the present. The most recent Republican platform includes language changing the previous Republican position favorably to Russia. There has never been a satisfactory explanation as to who, how, and why. The Republicans who controlled oversight in Congress in the House and the Senate have looked away. Their response to a President and Administration who has had multiple secret meetings with Russians and Russian intelligence has been either muted, standing by watching, or a full-throated defense. The more information that becomes public about Trump and associates ties to Russia and private communications, the more the Party that tied itself to national security, at best looks the other way.
Republican legislators have foresworn any priorities other than getting re-elected. This means looking away as he separates children from families, shuts down the government, and destroys the economy with his trade wars and dramatic increase of the national debt. They perhaps console themselves with the tax cuts which benefit them personally and court appointments which protect the class they are part of.
Republicans rage at being portrayed as racist. They don’t mind their Party being racist in their policies but find being called racist offensive. I’m not saying all or even most Republicans are racist. I’m saying they have created an environment where racists are welcome and in fact, pander to them to ensure their continued support at the polls. To avoid the appearance of promoting racism, the Republican House leadership just stripped Rep. Steve King (IA) from his committee assignments after wondering how white nationalism and white supremacy got a bad name? They were shocked, shocked, to find out King harbored racist sentiments, though he’d been expressing them openly for decades. The President makes racist statements all the time, where is the outrage?
Whatever you think of the Republican Party, they have long ceased to be the Party of Lincoln. Depending on the need they now are meeting the needs of Vladimir Putin, Donald J Trump, and David Duke. Parties can and do change. A look at the past of the Democrat Party shows a history of racism, more violent than Republicans have engaged in. When Republicans allowed Jim Crow in 1877, Democrats instituted it. The Democrats changed dramatically in the 1960s when dissatisfaction with the Voting Rights Act and Civil Rights Act caused many (Dixiecrats) to flee to the Republican Party. The “Southern Strategy,” ensured they remained Republicans.
I’d like to believe Republicans can do better. I’m less sure they will. Mitch McConnel is racing to fill the Federal Courts with young, conservative Judges. He and other Republicans hope that they will exert control of the Judiciary for generations, long after demographics have lessened their power to legislate. Outside the Courts, Republicans are using Gerrymandering and Voter Suppression to impose the will of a minority on the rest of us. They have gotten a partisan Supreme Court to support unlimited, undisclosed financial contributions, courtesy of Citizens United. They just experienced historic losses of House seats in the 2018 elections and are facing tough sledding in the Senate in 2020 based on who is up for reelection. When they lose, it will be because they sacrificed the principals they once held as a Party. Telling us, “collusion is not a crime,” is not the cry of an ethical Party. Putin, Trump, and Duke couldn’t be more thrilled.