The Republican Party likes to remind us that it is the party of Lincoln. Unfortunately, they have strayed from Lincoln’s ideas in many ways. This is why moderates like Colin Powel and me find ourselves disagreeing with the current GOP leadership on many issues.
I hope that the 2012 election results—in which Republicans lost the White House and seats in both houses of Congress—will give Republicans (the party leaders and the rank and file) incentive to move back to the center and back to Lincoln’s ideas.
In recent years, Republicans in several states passed laws (11 of which were ruled unconstitutional by courts) aimed at suppressing voting rights of minorities. Lincoln had faith in the democratic process, and he trusted the wisdom of American voters:
“The people will save their government, if the government itself will allow them.”
Government of the people (not the corporations)
Mitt Romney alienated many voters when he said, “Corporations are people, my friend.” As long as Republican policies favor large corporations over individuals, policies which during the George W. Bush administration led to a widening gap between rich and poor, the GOP will continue to lose popular support.
Lincoln said, “Republicans are for both the man and the dollar, but in case of conflict the man before the dollar.”
Our economy needs both entrepreneurs and workers. Democrats have long been the party of the labor movement, while Republicans are the party of capitalists. Our economy needs both entrepreneurs and workers, but which is more important? Lincoln said:
“Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”
Republicans are right to oppose welfare programs that discourage work and self-reliance. And here they are in keeping with Lincoln, who said, “You cannot build character and courage by taking away people's initiative and independence.” But Republicans often go too far and oppose programs that provide a social safety net. This every-man-for-himself mentality is un-American and unworthy of the party of Lincoln, who said:
“The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do at all, or cannot so well do, for themselves – in their separate, and individual capacities.”
Lincoln was a wartime president, but he did not start the war, and he craved a lasting peace. In Iraq, the US fought a war it didn’t have to fight—failing to learn the painful lesson of Vietnam and failing to heed Lincoln’s warning:
“Such will be a great lesson of peace: teaching men that what they cannot take by and election, neither can they take by war; teaching all the folly of being the beginners of a war.”
Malice toward none
Finally, Republicans and Democrats need to work together and seek common ground to solve our nation’s problems, because, as Lincoln said (quoting scripture):
“A house divided against itself cannot stand."