Two years ago next month, I wrote one of my most referenced Op/Eds: “Time to put this ‘Party of Lincoln’ nonsense to bed.” I pointed out at the time that present day Republicans take enormous pride in reminding minority voters that Abraham Lincoln… the founder of their Party… “freed the slaves”… the most intrusive, anti-big business, LIBERAL, socially activist pieces of legislation this country has ever seen… with his “Emancipation Proclamation”. I also pointed out that this monumental act of social engineering wasn’t nearly as Progressive as they would have us believe, with a Proclamation that was SO full of loopholes & exceptions that one could easily question just how dedicated President Lincoln was to Emancipation (freeing only SOUTHERN slaves in territories unfriendly to the North, a military strategy designed to throw the Confederacy into chaos).
But I’m not talking about “racism” this time around.
Flash forward 147 years to the election of the first African-American president. Within months, Texas governor Rick Perry was threatening succession over the new presidents belief in health care for all. Activists, consisting primarily of uneducated white Southerners (often using “racism” and McCarthyite paranoia to justify their fears) citing the 1775 “Boston Tea Party” as their role-model, sprang up across the U.S., waving vitriolic signs like torches & pitchforks, threatening armed rebellion against the government if the President didn’t kowtow to their paranoia. The irony, as radio host Thom Hartmann likes to point out, is that the original “Boston Tea Party” was in protest of a massive corporate tax CUT that allowed the British East India Tea Company to under-cut American tea retailers. By contrast, today’s bass-ackwards Tea-baggers came out full force in defense of tax cuts for big corporations that destroy small business, putting them squarely on the side of the British in their deluded metaphor. Today’s “Tea Party” members like to compare themselves to the colonists of the American Revolution breaking free of the British Empire. When in fact, today’s “Tea Party” has FAR more in common with the Southern Confederacy of the Civil War breaking free of a government they saw as Socially activist and anti Big-Business (aka: “anti-plantation”).
The ‘Party of Lincoln’ has become The ‘Party of Jefferson Davis’.
Jefferson Davis, former Secretary of War under Franklin Pierce turned Senator from the state of Mississippi, resigned in protest following the election of President Lincoln and was unanimously declared President of the Confederacy… 11 states (out of 33), all in the South East that seceded from the rest of “the Union” in protest of the government in Washington. These “Rebel states” were outraged over the election of a president they saw as anti Big Business (the Southern economy had only one major industry… agriculture, most notably “cotton”… all of which depended heavily upon cheap slave labor). They saw a federal government that was out of touch (aka: “elitist”) with the concerns of the South, a social activist (outspoken Abolitionist) more concerned for the rights of minorities than “decent hard-working Americans” was elected president, who believed that the power of the Federal government superseded “states rights”. Many Founding Fathers believed a strong federal government was all that held the nation together, a power that Lincoln knew he would need to restore The Union. Rebel states believed they had the right to “nullify” any Federal law they disagreed with. You know them today as “Tenthers”… referring to the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution:
The 10th Amendment: Powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
Much the way the Second Amendment (the right to bear arms) is interpreted differently depending upon who’s reading it, Tenthers read that Amendment as reinforcing the idea that the states have the right to “nullify” any federal law they don’t like. But just as the “militia” provision of the 2nd Amendment is frequently ignored by the gun-lobby, Tenthers ignore the “delegated by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it” portion of that particular Amendment, which clearly states that any power given to the Federal government by the Constitution supersedes states rights. That is why you frequently hear Tenthers saying: “Show me where it says in the Constitution…”
On Friday, Tennessee Representative Zach Wamp suggested in an interview that strong voter turnout in 2010/2012 may be all that stands in the way of “states [being] forced to consider separation from this government.” This is not your fathers’ GOP. The Tea Party… a holding-pen for Republicans upset with the free-spending, big government, economic nightmare of the Bush-43 Administration, lovingly tended to by the Republican Party out of fear they’ll leave to form a third Party that will only steal votes away from Conservatives… has become a classic case of the tail wagging the dog. A vocal minority of political neophytes that are dragging the GOP farther and farther to the extremist fringe out of some fictional vision of an America that never was.
Siding with Big Business over the interests of the majority in some misplaced belief that what is good for Big Business IS what’s good for the little guy (aka: “trickle down”), threatening to secede if Washington continues to push its socially Progressive agenda, and a willingness to invoke armed conflict against their fellow Americans should that need arise. And yes, as I’ve pointed out over the past two weeks, this group of mostly white Southerners frequently use “race” (whether it’s the race of the President or those lazy Mexicans flooding over the border) as a rallying cry to get their supporters to the polls, today’s GOP is repeating history. And just as in 1860, a fractured split in the Party over ideology is dividing them, ensuring neither side has a majority (the 1860 Democratic Presidential Convention ended with NO one candidate being nominated to lead their Party in the next election.) It all sounds way too familiar.
Today’s “Party of Lincoln” is a pale imitation of the 1860’s Confederates: An entire class of misinformed, reactionary, mostly white Southerners whose every instinct puts them squarely on the wrong side of history. And just as the Dixie-crats faded away into obscurity for being wrong on every issue, so should today’s GOP and their splinter-group, the “Tea Party”.
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