Donald Trump’s Republican Party is not the party of LincolnRoundup
tags: Republican Party, Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln, Donald Trump
Sidney Blumenthal is the author of "All the Powers of Earth 1856-1860," the third of his five-volume biography, "The Political Life of Abraham Lincoln," and a former adviser to President Bill Clinton and to Hillary Clinton.
President Trump extemporaneously speaks about Abraham Lincoln as if he were his rival. He has boasted that his poll numbers are greater than Lincoln’s, though there were no opinion polls in the 19th century. He has invidiously compared Lincoln with one man he always casts as heroic and whose monuments he defends as sacrosanct: “a great general,” Robert E. Lee.
And yet, to ward off criticisms of Trump’s bursts of racist rhetoric, Republican leaders reflexively play the Lincoln card. “We are the party of Lincoln,” proclaimed House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to shield Trump with the icon of the Great Emancipator.
But the party of Trump is the antithesis of the party of Lincoln, the culmination of a long realignment. Beginning in the 1960s, the party embraced a Southern strategy, forsaking the remnants of its Lincolnesque heritage in exchange for the principles of states’ rights and resistance to civil rights for African Americans previously associated with the neo-Confederate Dixiecrat wing of the Democratic Party. As a result, the Republican Party changed its identity and abandoned its original principles, becoming strikingly similar to the very opponents that roused Lincoln to resist in the beginning.