Abraham Lincoln's political life began as Whig...one of the two major political parties, along with the Democrats, that dominated the American political scene before 1850. William Henry Harrison, Daniel Webster and Henry Clay were among the luminaries of the party that, in its time, elected four U.S. Presidents, including President Harrison.
Despite the eminence of these men, though, the Whig Party did not survive the the fiery cauldron that surrounded the struggle over slavery, breaking into battling factions that included the infamous anti-immigrant Know Nothing Party. It elected its last President in 1848...and was never heard from in electoral politics again.
Out of this cauldron also emerged what would come to be known as the Republican Party.
And now that Republican Party, the Party of Lincoln and Emancipation, the Party of Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower, seems about to follow the path of their Whig predecessors. And for many of the same reasons that brought the Whigs to grief.
One would like to think that there is some great national debate...such as the expansion of slavery that destroyed the Whigs...bringing this about. One would like to think it...but one would be wrong. One would be very, very wrong. The Republican Party is being destroyed by a tiny radical faction that despises the first duly election African American President and will do anything...literally anything...to ensure the failure of his policies and his Presidency.
In an irony worthy of the ages, the Republican Party, the party of Lincoln, the party that fought the Civil War, freed the slaves, defeated the South and first tried to integrate African Americans into mainstream American society, is being destroyed by Southern racism.
In truth, though, this Republican Party is no longer the party of Lincoln. It is no longer, really, the party of Reagan or Bush...nor even the party, though he may wish it, of Boehner. It has become, rather, the party of Cruz and Bachman and Gohmert. Their chief spokesman seems to be Rush Limbaugh whose venom is spewed and picked up by voices along the stream of right wing talkers and Fox News.
One wonders where the path of the destruction of the Republican Party will lead us...and who will come next. In our history we are fortunate to have had the great men who formed the Republican Party and brought our nation through the great tests that it faced.
One hopes our nation will be so fortunate again.