By Ken Trainor
Now that many observers are predicting the demise of the sad, sterile remains of the Republican Party, I thought it might be a good time to revisit my prediction to that effect, which first ran on Feb. 11, 2009, the eve of Honest Abe's bicentennial. It has been lightly updated.
Tomorrow is the 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln. Most Americans (including myself) agree he was our greatest president — except, it seems, for Republicans.
Which is really odd since Lincoln was the first Republican president, the one who put the party on the electoral map. I often hear Republicans express their undying affection for, and devotion to, Ronald Reagan, the man who set the course for the rocks this country is currently wrecked upon. But I rarely hear them praise Lincoln.
I began wondering if the current crop of Republicans even claims Lincoln anymore as their own. Meanwhile, our current chief executive, a Democrat ironically, has made no secret of his admiration for the 16th president. When was the last time you heard a Republican president refer to Lincoln as a role model?
It speaks volumes about the current state of the Republican Party — a party whose demise is hard-earned, long overdue and eagerly awaited by anyone who cares about the best interests of this country.
It is a party that needs to die — and be reborn. Someone should speak for true conservatives and represent the best impulses of traditionalism. The current Republican Party is not that party. It speaks for abuse of power, contempt for compromise and obstruction of any and all progress. The latter was clear in the way they behaved the past few weeks as they once again shut down the government like petulant children.
The current Republican Party clearly doesn't care about the welfare of the country they did so much to damage in the last three decades. When you put party before country, you need to be put out of your misery — and ours.
Which is a shame. The Republicans got off to such a promising start. Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt were two of our best presidents. TR, for instance, stood up to the greedy, irresponsible corporate CEOs of his day — not to mention doing more than anyone else to conserve (like a good conservative should) our precious natural resources through the National Park system.
Lincoln, too, believed in a balance between conservative and progressive approaches. He ended slavery, but that progressive act was entirely grounded in the Constitution and subsequent American history. His famous Cooper Union address in New York on Feb. 27, 1860, was a tour de force, showing off his nimble legal mind as he built an irrefutable case against slavery.
"I do not mean," Lincoln said that night, "to say we are bound to follow implicitly in whatever our fathers did. To do so would be to discard all the lights of current experience — to reject all progress, all improvement. What I do say is that if we would supplant the opinions and policy of our fathers, we should do so upon evidence so conclusive, and argument so clear, that even their great authority, fairly considered and weighed, cannot stand. …"
That's true conservatism. But that is not today's Republican Party.
Since TR, the Republicans have produced a nearly unbroken record of underachievement and even shame. The unholy trinity of Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover, landed us squarely in the Great Depression. In the 1950s, Republicans created (and enabled) McCarthyism, the worst stain on our national record (until the Bush Administration).
Richard Nixon perpetrated the Plumbers — dirty-tricksters who specialized in breaking and entering to gain political dirt on their opponents. The Watergate robbery, and the subsequent cover-up, resulted in Tricky Dick being thrown out of office, which he richly deserved.
Ronald Reagan turned Americans against government then unleashed the magic of the free market, which built an economic house of cards that somehow survived a full 30 years before crashing this past fall. He also aided and abetted Ollie North, William Casey and their "off-the-shelf" covert operations unit, accountable to no one, which led to the Iran-Contra scandal.
In the '90s, Newt Gringrich and his accomplices shut down the government — twice — then committed treason by impeaching a sitting president over a trivial dalliance with an intern. Partisanship at its meanest.
The Bush administration topped them all. Lying to justify a pre-emptive invasion. Torture. Illegal surveillance of Americans. Everyone is familiar with their long train of abuses.
And now the party is holding the government hostage because they can't stand the thought of most Americans having health insurance. That after voting to gut the food-stamp program. Nice work, guys (mostly white, mostly guys). Wonder what they think when they look in the mirror at night. Wonder if they think at all.
The current Republican Party lives by the motto: "Government doesn't work. Send me to Washington and I'll prove it."
Ask yourself this: Would Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt approve of the current Republican Party?
Real conservatives shouldn't either.Yes to growth