[Republicans] “are for both the man and the dollar; but in cases of conflict, the man before the dollar.”
- Abraham Lincoln -
For many years, Republicans have loved to call themselves "the party of Lincoln" because he was the first Republican President. They revel in the fact that one of the most widely acclaimed and revered Presidents of all time was a member of their party. I always laugh and shake my head in disapproval when I hear members of today's GOP crowing about that. For if he were alive and seeking office today, Lincoln would be rejected outright by the ultra-conservatives and teabagger types who now control the modern Republican Party.
Abraham Lincoln was elected President in 1860. The 1860 version of the Republican Party was far, far different than the one we see today. A look at their 1860 party platform, the one Lincoln ran on, shows this very clearly. One of their planks expresses strong support for the working man, as evidenced below:
"12. That, while providing revenue for the support of the General Government by duties upon imports, sound policy requires such an adjustment of these imposts as to encourage the development of the industrial interest of the whole country; and we commend that policy of national exchanges which secures to the working men liberal wages, to agriculture renumerative prices, to mechanics and manufactures an adequate reward for their skill, labor, and enterprise, and to the nation commercial prosperity and independence." This plank is amazing in that it calls for "liberal" (higher, fairer) wages for working people, but also advocates the federal government taxing imports so as to protect American workers' jobs. This flies right in the face of today's ultra-conservative, pro-business and anti-labor GOP, fully stocked as it is with "free trade" advocates who oppose nearly all taxes and who constantly push for unregulated export of American jobs and importation of foreign-made goods! I wonder how many of today's Republicans, including the tax-and-regulation-hating Grover Norquist, have ever read or understood that initial historic platform?
Months before his nomination as the Republican candidate for President, Lincoln wrote, "I was an old Henry Clay-Tariff-Whig. In old times I made more speeches on that subject than any other. I have not since changed my views." Such an advocacy for taxes and protectionism would be violently opposed by today's GOP and by their teabagger allies. In fact, Lincoln signed the bills creating the very first income tax and the IRS!
A look at the third plank on the 1860 Republican Party platform shows how completely off-base modern-day ultra-conservative Republican heretics like Rick Perry and various teabaggers are when they make threats about secession due to their displeasure with current Federal Government policies:
"3. That to the Union of the States this nation owes its unprecedented increase in population, its surprising development of material resources, its rapid augmentation of wealth, its happiness at home and its honor abroad; and we hold in abhorrence all schemes for Disunion, come from whatever source they may: And we congratulate the country that no Republican member of Congress has uttered or countenanced the threats of Disunion so often made by [southern] Democratic members without rebuke and with applause from their political associates; and we denounce those threats of Disunion, in case of a popular overthrow of their ascendency, as denying the vital principles of a free government, and as an avowal of contemplated treason, which it is the imperative duty of an indignant People sternly to rebuke and forever silence."
The rigidly ideological religious right would have little time for Abraham Lincoln today, either. "He had no faith in the Christian sense of the term," wrote longtime friend David Davis, whom Lincoln appointed to the Supreme Court. Lincoln's former law partner John Todd Stuart even wrote, "He was an avowed and open infidel and sometimes bordered on atheism...went further against Christian beliefs and doctrines and principles than any man I ever heard, he shocked me...Lincoln always denied that Jesus was the Christ of God - denied that Jesus was the son of God as understood and maintained by the Christian church." Speaking of Supreme Court Justices, today's far-right Republicans would have a fit were Lincoln to appoint some of those he appointed during his 4+ years in office: Samuel Freeman Miller was a liberal Unitarian; David Davis (apart from his comment above) played a big hand in the Ex Patre Milligan decision, which rendered unconstitutional an attempt to imprison a civilian charged with insurrection by a military tribunal as opposed to a civil court; Stephen Johnson Field, a Democrat; and Salmon P. Chase, who wrote the platform for the 1848-1852 Free Soil Party, a group which challenged the then-existing status quo through its advocacy of forbidding slavery in the western territories. Given the intense scrutiny and vocal opposition today's Republicans gave President Obama's recent nomination of moderately-left Sonia Sotomayor, and that which they are starting to give Elena Kagan, I wonder how many of them would filibuster or oppose Lincoln's Court appointees?
Today's Republican Party is no longer the party of Lincoln. With some of its members talking secession, its abandonment of support for "liberal wages" or job protection for American workers, its complete and utter capitulaion to big banks and big business, and its extremely social conservative views regarding religious belief and personal behavior, the party now more closely resembles the conservative Democratic secessionists of the old Confederacy, who were, of course, diametrically opposed to the more liberal 1860 party of Lincoln. And, as a result, just like the old Confederacy, it has become a party of only a small number of fanatical and geographically-limited adherents.