The Republican Party Now Has More in Common with the Southern Minority of 1860Roundup
tags: Republican Party, conservatism, democracy
Jeremy Tewell is the author of A Self-Evident Lie: Southern Slavery and the Threat to American Freedom.
On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court swatted down a Texas-led and Trump-endorsed effort to invalidate President-elect Joe Biden’s victories in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and Georgia. This decision emblematized the broader reality: Despite President Trump’s groundless — and seemingly endless — legal crusade, Biden won 306 votes when the electoral college cast its ballots Monday, a result that had been predicted for weeks. Biden not only captured the same number of electoral votes as Trump did in 2016, he also won the popular vote.
Yet the president still refuses to acknowledge that outcome. Perhaps fearful of incurring the wrath of Republican voters, 70 percent of whom believe Trump’s claim that the election was marred by widespread fraud, most GOP officials and members of Congress have supported Trump’s unjustified intransigence — though an increasing number of Republican senators seem ready to accept reality now that the electoral college has officially voted.
While Trump insists that only he can “make America great again,” he cannot or will not recognize that part of what makes this country great is the understanding that democracy does not work if those who lose an election refuse to accept the outcome.
This lesson is an integral part of the GOP’s legacy. In 1860, the South refused to accept the election of the first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, and went to war to establish its own slaveholding nation. In 2020, only a few Republicans — most prominently Texas GOP Chairman Allen West — have floated the idea of secession. Instead, today’s losers hope to maintain control of the White House through legal and political machinations regardless of the people’s will. Yet despite this difference, the threat to popular government remains the same.
Indeed, it is remarkable how applicable Lincoln’s condemnation of secession is now to the party he helped establish. Secession, the 16th president explained in his first inaugural address, was “the essence of anarchy.” A majority, restrained by the constitutional rights of minorities, was “the only true sovereign of a free people.” Those who reject the will of the majority invite chaos and tyranny. Unanimity is impossible, Lincoln concluded, and “the rule of a minority, as a permanent arrangement, is wholly inadmissible; so that, rejecting the majority principle, anarchy, or despotism in some form, is all that is left.”
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