We sometimes forget that the Republican Party was once the party of the good guys. During the American Civil War, during the tenure of the first Republican President, it was the Democrats who were the pro-slavery secessionists and the Republicans who wanted to preserve the Union. Most Republicans were anti-slavery and the most “radical” element of them all were the abolitionists.
The first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, was a master politician who possessed a brilliant mind. I’ve been fascinated with Lincoln since the age of 10. I knew then what Donald Trump didn’t learn until he was 71, namely that Lincoln was a Republican. He was also a man of genius, and I was particularly incensed when Trump, the unstable non-genius, dared to compare himself with Lincoln. I only regret that there was no equivalent to Senator Lloyd Bentsen in the room at the time to tell Trump that he was no Abe Lincoln.
One of my favorite stories about Lincoln — and there are many — is from 1862, when he was visiting General McClellan. Lincoln happened upon a temporary field hospital for Confederate soldiers. He brazenly went inside amongst them with no bodyguard and only an Illinois congressman as his witness, turned to the men and said, “I am Abraham Lincoln. I know that you have fought gallantly for what you believe in, and for that I honor you, and for your wounds so honorably gained. I feel no anger in my heart toward you; and trust you feel none for me. That is why I am here. That is why I am willing to take the hand, in friendship, of any man among you.” Many of the soldiers shook hands with Lincoln that day. Many with tears in their eyes.
Can you imagine Donald Trump ever saying such a thing? Donald Trump, the braying, racist, egotistical jackass? Donald Trump, the bully who has abused the bully pulpit for nearly four years? Can you imagine any Republican today imitating so noble an example and uttering words of such transcendent, simple and healing beauty? I can’t.
But we don’t have to go all the way back to Lincoln to find great and unitifying words from a Republican. Read these words, and tell me if they sound like the words of a Republican today. “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.” Those were the words of Dwight David Eisenhower, two term Republican President of the United States. What on earth has happened to the Republican Party?
I have heard words of similar portent and similar sentiment come out of the mouths of Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats. But never from Republicans any more. What I hear from Republicans these days is hectoring, hateful and shrill rhetoric, full of counterfeit outrage, evocative with lies and hypocrisy, endless put-downs, abuse and vituperation.
Who remembers when the Republican Party billed itself as the Party of Personal Responsibility? They lost this election. It’s time for them to admit it and move on, to take that much vaunted responsibility for the situation as it is. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men, won’t put Trump’s ego back together again. There is no way out but through, and Republicans need to take responsibility for the outcome. They cannot continue to define all unfavourable news as fake news and maintain a remote semblance of credibility. In the end they will fool no one but themselves.
If Republicans can’t become Americans again — like Lincoln, like Eisenhower — then it’s time for them to go. The corrupting influence of money has reduced them to pitiable, deplorable wretches of greed, cowardice, shame and hate. We don’t need them. In fact, we very much need them to be gone, to be out of the way. We have a world to save, and they are increasingly getting in the way.
Joe Biden won this election. Joe Biden will be the 46 President of the United States. We have a vaccine coming and the sun is rising once more. Let’s bask in victory. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.