The Party of Lincoln? Not Hardly!

Resolved, That we invite the affiliation and cooperation of the men of all parties, however differing from us in other respects, in support of the principles herein declared; and believing that the spirit of our institutions as well as the Constitution of our country, guarantees liberty of conscience and equality of rights among citizens, we oppose all legislation impairing their security.

From the Republican Part Platform of 1856
I grew up a Republican. In high school, I was the treasurer of the local chapter of the Teen Age Republicans and wemt to the state convention in 1964 as an official delegate.

At the mock Republican nominsting convention at my high school that same year, I made the nominsting speech for Henry Cabot Lodge, who eneded getting the nominstion at our high school convention by an overwhelming maority. But the national convention nominated Senator Barry Goldwater and the Republican Party became the party of extreme conservatism, from which it has not recovered.

If you read the entire platform of 1856,especially if you keep in mind the political context of the time, and then look at the latest Republican Party platform, hopefully you will see how far the “Grand Old Party” has moved away from its founding principles. In 1856 the GOP was the party of abolition and a strong federal government. Yes, the GOP of 1856 did support the portection of the powers of the individual states, but not, as the 1856 platform makes quite clear, at the expense of the powers of the Federal government to protect the liberties of individuals, no matter how different.

In 1856, only white men had the right to vote, but given its stance on slavery, it can be argued that the Republican Party would support the rights of black citizens to vote. And the history of the years after the Civil War did prove that to be the case.

Also, I believe that the Republicn Party, had it stucj to its founding principles would support equal rights for all people – irregardless of race, ethnicity, gender, religious affiliation, and, yes, even sexual orientation. Read the platform again, if you don’t believe me.

The Republican Party of 1856 would have real problems, IMHO, with some of the positions of its modern members, especially with those of the religious right that seems to think it is the soul of the GOP. As the platform of 1856 states in its first paragraph, the GOP was formed to return the government of this country to the principles of the Founding Fathers. It mentions Washingtom and Jefferson by name. Both men were strong believers in the freedom of conscience – the freedom to believe as one chooses. They did not limit that freedom in any way.

The Founding Fathers wanted the government, a political instutition, to be free of any affiliation of any kind, even implict, with any religious instutition. Granted, the social content of the country at the time of Washington and Jefferson was nowhere near as multi-cultural as it is now, but I believe that neither Jefferson nor Washington would hesitate in the slightest in including Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus or even pagans in their understanding of religious freedom. Nor would they have the slightest problem including any other minority in their understanding of who was endowed with “certain unalienable natural rights.”

The GOP sees itself as the party of Lincoln. Well, IMHO, the GOP has, since 1964 drifted further and further away from the priniciples that Lincoln espoused in accepting the Republican nomination for President on 1860.

John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee this year is under a lot of scrutiny by conservatives, who seem to think they are the Republican Psrty, and perhaps they are. There is no law that says the GOP, or any other party, cannot change its color. But, as someone who grew up and supported the GOP when it still stucj to the principles of Lincoln, but left the party when the conservatives reshaped its principles, I am offended when these conservatives invoke the name of Lincoln and call themsleves the party of Lincoln. I truly think that if Lincoln were alive today, he would repudiate the party he helped build to such national prominence. And that is what articles like this one, challenging John McCain’s Republican credentials aggravate me so much. McCain is a lot closer to the founding principles of the Republican Party than the members of the American Conservative Union will ever be.

Information courtesy of US History.org

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