If Abraham Lincoln were alive today, he would not only find his beloved Republican Party unrecognizable, he would find himself unwelcome in it.
That’s because the Republican Party has abandoned its liberal roots for the conservatism that once dominated the Democratic Party, thus resembling the party of Confederate president Jefferson Davis more than it does the party of Lincoln.
Even the Washington Post understands this devolution of the party.
Looking back at the final days of the Civil War, the Post describes how Confederate General Robert E. Lee asked Union General Ulysses Grant to meet to discuss terms of surrender. Later that day on April 9, 1865, Lee formally surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Courthouse. This week marks the 150th anniversary of the event that finally brought an end to the bloodiest war in American history.
But then the Post goes on to explain why the Republican Party is something Jefferson Davis would approve of.
After the war ended, the South held on to a general animosity and hatred of African-Americans. No longer able to enslave them, southerners found other ways to oppress them.
The subjugation of and violence against African Americans continued apace, particularly after U.S. Army troops withdrew from the South at the end of Reconstruction. Black voting was suppressed. The Southern labor system retained, in altered form, its most distinctive characteristic: unfree labor.
Indeed, today’s Republican Party support voter suppression efforts that are primarily aimed at minority voters to keep themselves in power. And with the backing of many corporations, the GOP has fought relentlessly to kill minimum wage laws and regulations that protect workers, while strangling labor unions that stand up for workers’ rights.
The Washington Post describes how New York-based traders and investors held “pro-Southern sentiment,” and that this tie continues to the present day.
Even today, one of America’s most fundamental problems is that the alliance between the current form of Southern labor and the current form of New York finance is with us still. The five states that have no minimum wage laws of their own are in the South: Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee. Southern-based corporations such as Wal-Mart are among the leading opponents of workers’ right to organize, and as Wal-Mart has expanded into the North and West, so have the “right-to-work” statutes of Southern states been enacted by Republican governments in the Midwest.
The Southernization of the Republican Party and the increasing domination of Wall Street’s brand of shareholder capitalism over the nation’s economic life have combined to erode both the income and the power of U.S. workers. Unions are anathema to Wall Street and the GOP. Federal regulations empowering consumers and employees are opposed by both.
In other words, the Republican Party and Southern-based corporations have teamed up to bring back a new form of American slavery to the landscape that has created an endless circle of poverty while giving white conservatives the opportunity to re-establish old forms of oppression aimed at the African-Americans they so despise.
Conservatives have made an effort to suppress the black vote for the benefit of white Republicans who want to guarantee that white men will always be in power. This strategy has been particularly obvious since President Obama became the first African-American commander-in-chief. Conservatives think President Obama is somehow not intelligent enough to lead our nation because he doesn’t agree with their policies, just as they think African-Americans aren’t smart enough to vote because they don’t vote for Republicans. Of course, conservatives are doing this while at the same time claiming that they aren’t racist or hateful.
However, if you thought this strategy is new, think again. Once again, Robert E. Lee is a central figure here. As a conservative in the 1860s, Lee and other former Confederates supported the same kind of rhetoric that conservatives use today to defend their own voter suppression efforts.
In a letter drafted by Lee ally and friend Alexander Stuart endorsing the Democratic opponent of Ulysses Grant for president in 1868, he argues that the South has no desire whatsoever to oppress black people only to then declare that white people should be in control of government because African-Americans aren’t intelligent enough to vote or participate in the governance of the country. Lee signed this letter along with other former Confederates, and frankly, it sounds exactly like something a Republican would write today.
“The idea that the Southern people are hostile to the negroes and would oppress them, if it were in their power to do so, is entirely unfounded. They have grown up in our midst, and we have been accustomed from childhood to look upon them with kindness… It is true that the people of the South, in common with a large majority of the people of the North and West, are, for obvious reasons, inflexibly opposed to any system of laws that would place the political power of the country in the hands of the negro race. But this opposition springs from no feeling of enmity, but from a deep-seated conviction that, at present, the negroes have neither the intelligence nor the other qualifications which are necessary to make them safe depositories of political power.” (Freeman, Douglas S. (1934). R. E. Lee, A Biography)
So yes, Jefferson Davis would be proud to endorse the Republican Party today. In fact, he’d probably even be asked to lead it with Lee as second in command. The GOP harbors racism and is funded by corporate greed. And this marriage between conservatives and corporations is destroying America as we know it, turning it into an oligarchy laced with theocracy as both seek absolute power.
As the Post concludes,
Fueled by the mega-donations of the mega-rich, today’s Republican Party is not just far from being the party of Lincoln: It’s really the party of Jefferson Davis. It suppresses black voting; it opposes federal efforts to mitigate poverty; it objects to federal investment in infrastructure and education just as the antebellum South opposed internal improvements and rejected public education; it scorns compromise. It is nearly all white. It is the lineal descendant of Lee’s army, and the descendants of Grant’s have yet to subdue it.
The question is, are the descendants of Grant’s Army ready and willing to fight back?
Feature image via Biography.com