While the GOP was Lincoln’s party, today’s Republican Party is not the party of Lincoln. Can anyone imagine Lincoln’s supporters raising a Confederate Flag at the White House and calling it an act of patriotism? Can anyone imagine Lincoln acquiescing to inflammatory and fact empty rhetoric?
In some ways, President Obama faces similar challenges from the Tea Party reminiscent to those of Lincoln’s opponents. During his quest to end slavery, Lincoln faced resistance from the Deep South. Detractors claimed a monopoly on patriotism and understanding the constitution. They accused Lincoln of Federal overreach and radicalism. Does any of this sound familiar?
Lincoln addressed these arguments in his Cooper’s Union Address in ways that would school today’s Tea Party. Lincoln would have called out the Tea Party for misrepresenting the Founding Fathers with suggestions that they were of one mind on the meaning of states rights or anything else in the constitution.
If any man at this day sincerely believes that a proper division of local from federal authority, or any part of the Constitution, forbids the Federal Government to control as to slavery in the federal territories, he is right to say so, and to enforce his position by all truthful evidence and fair argument which he can. But he has no right to mislead others, who have less access to history, and less leisure to study it, into the false belief that “our fathers who framed the Government under which we live” were of the same opinion.
Just as important the speech shows that aside from a difference in attitudes toward change, Lincoln’s Republican Party believed in listening as well as speaking and arguing the merits. This is particularly true when opponents engaged in the era’s version of demagoguery.
Indeed, such condemnation of us seems to be an indispensable prerequisite – license, so to speak – among you to be admitted or permitted to speak at all. Now, can you, or not, be prevailed upon to pause and to consider whether this is quite just to us, or even to yourselves? Bring forward your charges and specifications, and then be patient long enough to hear us deny or justify.
While one would be remiss to presume what Lincoln’s position on the Affordable Care Act would be, it’s clear that he would not approve of the Tea Party’s antics and rhetoric. In Lincoln’s America all sides had a chance to speak. Accusations had to be substantiated. No one was entitled to their own facts, or a monopolistic interpretation of the constitution. Of course, today’s Republicans would probably call him a RINO.
Another parallel is seen in the tactic of last resort used by opponents of Lincoln and Obama. If all else fails, destroy the government.
Your purpose, then, plainly stated, is that you will destroy the Government, unless you be allowed to construe and enforce the Constitution as you please, on all points in dispute between you and us. You will rule or ruin in all events.