When I hear Republicans claim to be “the party of Lincoln” I am both hopeful and bewildered. I am hopeful because somewhere way down deep, they admire Lincoln’s selflessness, honesty, empathy for the powerless, and abiding dedication to democracy. I am bewildered because today’s Republican Party bears no resemblance whatsoever to the Republican Party of 1860 or even 1960.
Today’s Republicans venerate a man who would respond to the Gettysburg Address by calling Lincoln “Little Lyin’ Linky,” and leading a rousing chorus of “Lock up Linky.” Today’s Republican Party is the party of politically weaponized voter disenfranchisement and flagrant gerrymandering aimed at defeating democracy by making voting more difficult and less effective for the very minority to which Lincoln gave the vote. In contrast to the party of Honest Abe, today it is the party of utter dishonesty that cannot even acknowledge a violent insurrection and its obvious instigators.
Yes, the Southern racists were Democrats. And Washington and Jefferson owned slaves. But, as LBJ predicted when the Democratic Party passed the Civil Rights Act, the racists ran to the Republican Party. Even with their help, the Party must cater to conspiracy theorists, science deniers, outright nut cases, and a self-serving demagogue who doesn’t care about anything but his own power and aggrandizement.
Frankly, I wish the current Republican Party were “the Party of Lincoln.” Sadly, even tragically, it is as different from Lincoln’s Republican Party as Abraham Lincoln is from Donald Trump.