A Look in the Mirror—The Party of Lincoln
Note: This post is not about the election. Recent events have gotten me to take a long look at my party and our history. This is to get as many Republicans as read this to take a long look in the mirror. This is my take on the state of the Republican party and how it needs to progress.
Having grown up in a conservative Christian household, I did not even really have to think twice about under which party I would register to vote. However, having now seen my party, the so-called “party of Lincoln,” elect a man who seems to be completely morally bankrupt, I am now thinking long and hard about that choice.
When did the GOP become the party of anti-progressives and racists? At what point did matters of government become more important than matters of the people? When did we lose the moral high ground?
The following is an excerpt from what you might expect to find emphasized in the official Democratic platform, circa 2016.
“This nation that was created to give expression, validity and purpose to our spiritual heritage — supreme worth of the individual. In such a nation — a nation dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal — racial discrimination has no place. It can hardly be reconciled with a Constitution that guarantees equal protection under law to all persons. In a deeper sense, too, it is immoral and unjust. As to those matters within reach of political action and leadership, we pledge ourselves unreservedly to its eradication.”
If you are not educated as to the history of the Republican party (which I admit, I am not as much as I should be), it may surprise you to know that this is from the official platform of the GOP in 1960. Edward Brooke, who later became the first African-American Senator, observed that the Republican Party “was, I believe, much more progressive than the Democratic Party.” In fact, when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was put up for a vote in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, a higher percentage of Republicans voted to approve the legislation than Democrats! In the House, 63% of Democrats voted to approve, whereas 80% of Republicans voted to approve. Similarly, in the Senate, 69% of Democrats vs. 82% of Republicans voted to approve.
Put this side-by-side with the Republican party today. We, as a party, do not hold the moral high ground. If the Civil Rights Bill was being voted on today, those percentages would be much more heavily weighted to the Democrats. I recognize that every politician and candidate has their issues, but we decided to nominate a candidate who openly and unapologetically marginalizes every minority in our country. I am all for giving president-elect Trump a chance to prove himself as president, but he has a lot to prove.
So what do we do? Do we throw our hands up in frustration and re-register as a Democrat or third party? I say no. I say we remain and make the changes we want to see in our party. John Avlon, former speechwriter for Rudy Giuliani, said it this way: “the Republican Party was right on civil rights for the first one-hundred years of its existence. It was right when the Democratic Party was wrong. Its future strength and survival will depend on rediscovering that legacy of individual freedom amid America’s essential diversity. To win in the 21st century, the Party of Lincoln needs to start looking like the Party of Lincoln again.”
By way of conclusion, the man himself, President Lincoln said that “a house divided against itself cannot stand.… I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other.”
If it is true that we will cease to be divided (and I pray that we will), then let the outcome be one of inclusion and integration. Our political affiliation should not define our ability and desire to fight for equality and human rights, it should be the other way around. Let us not become weary of doing good and seeking justice. Surround yourself with people who don’t look or think like you, you will be surprised what you may learn.
Disclaimer: a few of the quotes and many of the same conclusions that I draw here are supported and expanded on in a critique of the current Republican Party by John Nichols. You can read his full article here: https://www.thenation.com/article/when-republicans-really-were-party-lincoln/