I am watching with great sadness as the Grand Old Party of Abraham Lincoln becomes a wholly owned subsidiary of Trump Enterprises. The current rupture within an erstwhile reputable party alarms many of us as we watch radical Trump devotees challenge the integrity of their own political institution. I imagine this chaos among the Republican leadership is as sad for many of my Republican friends as it is for me. But it’s more than just an ugly family feud; this is a deep danger to our entire nation.
When our founders challenged the age-old authoritarian rights of kings in order to form a new nation, they struggled to clarify what kind of nation this should be: to define who gets a say, who has a vote and who should be in charge. Although they created a remarkable, history-changing government, they still enshrined typical cultural assumptions as they answered those questions: white, male, property owners had the say, got the vote and stayed in charge.
When Abraham Lincoln saw how that approach had devolved into unsupportable inequities and violent oppression, he confronted toxic structures and helped create a new political party grounded in the ideals of America’s original Declaration: “all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator...” The party of Lincoln challenged unjust laws and crafted a new vision for our nation’s government: “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” It was not perfect, but it envisioned a more perfect union.
After Lincoln’s assassination, the Democratic President Andrew Johnson sought to reverse almost every hard-won advance for human rights. Soon the hope of a new vision with reconstruction devolved into a Jim Crow South while the Grand Old Party distanced itself from emboldened racial violence because, you know, states’ rights.
Then the Democratic Party finally saw the light, got a backbone and (in the spirit of Abraham Lincoln) enshrined human rights, equal rights into federal law with Civil Rights legislation in the mid-1960s. This prompted another family feud when many white southern Democrats left their party in droves and embraced the Grand Old Party’s devotion to local control because, you know, no one can tell us what to do. We’ll treat our people, organize our schools and run our elections however we see fit. Somewhere in that clamor for states’ rights, the U.S. founders’ vision for equal rights and the GOP founders’ vision for human rights got lost. The Grand Old Party increasingly became the Grand Old White Christian Party.
Fast forward to 2021, a chasm now exists between facts and fiction, between reality and deception, between Republicans’ commitment to traditional conservative values or allegiance to Trump.
This nation needs a political party that represents the traditional values of conservative principles. We need a Republican Party that will collaborate with their Democratic colleagues so our nation can move forward together. That will never happen if the Grand Old Party becomes the Party of Trump.
Please, my Republican friends, save your party and preserve our nation.