There is a certain irony that Steven Spielberg’s film Lincoln first appeared in theatres three days after the 2012 election in which his Republican Party was soundly trounced. Of course we’re not entirely sure Mr. Lincoln would recognize the Party he helped found a century and a half ago. The Party of Romney? Sort of. The Party of Ryan? Closer, probably. The Party of Santorum, Cain and Gingrich? We fear so.
But the Party of Lincoln? No, not so much.
It may be hard to believe now, but at the time of its founding, the Republican Party was the liberal party in America, standing up for the great liberal cause of the age…the abolition of slavery. The Democrats were the party of the South, the party defending slavery and proposing its extension into the territories. Mr. Lincoln himself was considered such a dangerous radical that seven Southern states seceded from the Union simply because of his election as President. And though one suspects the latter day members of his Party will no doubt refuse to believe it…Abraham Lincoln invented the income tax and caused the first one to be passed into law.
The Republican Party may have become the party of business in the latter half of the 19th and into the 20th centuries…but they also gave us Teddy Roosevelt, our first environmentalist President and the trust buster who broke the stranglehold of the great corporations on the American economy. Herbert Hoover, whatever his sins as President, also found a way to feed a devastated Europe after World War I. Dwight Eisenhower helped usher in the Civil Rights era and, though a soldier himself, warned the nation against the machinations of military industrial complex.
Of course, by the standards of the current movers and shakers of the Republican Party, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan were also liberals.
We wonder, sometimes, what some of these great Republicans would think if they could see the morass that has become the Republican Party. We’re not sure about the others but we suspect that Mr. Lincoln would not see Rick Santorum as a fellow American, much less a fellow Republican. And we also suspect that, as he warned us so many years ago, that this great country was about to die in the only way it could…by suicide.
We stand now at the dawn of 2013 with our feet perched firmly on a fiscal cliff. If Mr. Lincoln was here we suspect he would weep.