OPINION: The party of Lincoln fallacy

(Savannah Thaemert | The Collegian)

When the Republican party still had a chance to avoid nominating Donald Trump, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) made a habit of repeating blatantly rehearsed talking points.

“The party of Lincoln and Reagan, and the presidency of the United States will never be held by a con artist,” Rubio said in a campaign rally in Miami.

As the first elected Republican President, Abraham Lincoln’s affiliation has been fondly reiterated over and over again to the public. However, the fabled moniker that modern Republicans strut around couldn’t be further from the truth, as Lincoln’s actions and policies very likely would not be accepted in the party today.

The Drift Begins

The Republican party was first kicked out from under Lincoln’s shadow in 1912, when President Theodore Roosevelt split the party by forming and running for president in the Progressive party to fight for anti-market and labor exploitation policies, conservation and other social issues, according to Thomas Patterson’s POLITICO article, “Teddy Roosevelt failed to save the GOP from its crazies in 1912.”

President Harry Truman’s subsequent election as a result of the cleaved Republican electorate folded most of the Progressives into the Democratic party. The departure of their moderates allowed the remaining Republicans that favored unregulated capitalism to persist indefinitely, Patterson said.

The Rise of Modern Conservatism

When white southern Democrats joined the GOP in the wake of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, soon-to-be President Richard Nixon appealed to racial resentment four years later to win the presidency, according to William Greider’s The Nation article, “Why Today’s GOP Crackup Is the Final Unraveling of Nixon’s ‘Southern Strategy.’”

In the decades since, the party grew a coalition of security hawks, social and fiscal conservatives that they could always rely on in elections but not necessarily represent in office, according Leigh Caldwell’s NBC News article, “A Party Divided – The Republican history that led to Trump.”

President Ronald Reagan’s time in office brought to life aspects of the platform that conservative firebrand Sen. Barry Goldwater ran on as the 1964 presidential nominee, Caldwell said.

By cutting the highest income earners’ income taxes from 70 percent to 28 percent, drastically escalating national security spending and enacting free trade policies, Reagan essentially laid the grounds for policies that Republicans have touted as the catalysts for economic growth ever since.

The Tipping Point: The Tea Party, the Donald and Rapid Social Change

The Republican party’s deviation from Lincoln drastically ramped up when the tea party movement began its purge of moderate Republicans from political offices around the country almost a decade ago.

Trump continued the trend by tapping into angst over economic inequality and racial resentment among working class whites in the primary election.

This nominee has only a fleeting adherence to standard conservative principles the GOP has promoted and doesn’t hold back from exhibiting flagrant racism, sexism and anti-Semitism under the cover of “political incorrectness.”

It’s possible that this election year may be the spark another legitimate political realignment of the party, according to Christopher Baylor’s Washington Post article, “Is Donald Trump leading a realignment of the GOP? Maybe not.”

Some dyed in the wool Republicans may have felt some kind of betrayal by their party in the age of Trump, as if the party of Lincoln wasn’t the party of Lincoln that they and previous Republican party loyalists before them once thought it was.

The Democratic Party of Lincoln?

To declare the Great Emancipator as the forefather of the party whose most recent national convention will be attended by neo-Nazis and white supremacists, according to Asawin Suebsaeng’s The Daily Beast article, “Violent pro-trump neo-nazis to crash GOP convention,” is a shameful fabrication of the former president’s legacy.

Not to mention Trump has only 1 percent of black voters behind him, according to Julia Zorthian’s TIME article, “Poll finds grand total of Donald Trump’s support with black voters: 1%.”

Lincoln was the first president to enact a federal income tax, approved federally-funded railroad expansion, as opposed to a privatized service that Republicans fought for last year, according to Kate Hinds’ WNYC article, “Republicans: privatizing amtrak will bring high speed rail to the NE faster.”

In addition, he funded public education, and was one of the biggest expanders of executive power, according Alana Satlin’s Huffington Post article, “Actually, Lincoln Would Be Horrified By Today’s GOP.”

If Lincoln was in Congress today, I think he would probably be charged a socialist or a dictator by his contemporary conservative colleagues.

Many of the party’s leaders, living former presidents and presidential nominees are distancing themselves as far as possible from the Republican National Convention.

Celebrities, athletes and business leaders have been speculated about by Trump as possible speakers for the convention. In any other year politicians would normally scramble to secure a speaking role to present themselves as the future leaders of the party, according to Jeremy Diamond’s CNN article, “Trump looks to unlikely speakers for convention help.”

The consideration to include exclusively non-politicians should be alarming to anyone expecting a credible future for the party in its current form.

You thought this was the party of Lincoln? Think again.

Contributing writer for the Collegian. I’m a senior studying journalism and mass communications and working on minors in political science and music. I also manage digital operations as a communications fellow with the Kansas Democratic Party; I do not report on or write about anything political unless it shows up in the opinion section.