Trump, Tulsa and the demise of Lincoln’s Republican Party
Though the name endures, the current Republican Party is no longer Lincoln's party that advocated freedom, democracy, and justice for all
As President Donald Trump prepared to go to Tulsa for his Saturday rally, Republican Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma proclaimed that “no question this is still the Party of Lincoln.”
Well, Senator Lankford, I have news for you: Today’s GOP, led by Trump, is not the Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln. In fact, it is not the party of Ulysses S. Grant, Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower or Ronald Reagan, either.
Instead, it is a party increasingly dominated by activists who are overwhelmingly white, always aggrieved, virulently militant about the Second Amendment (and their rights not to wear a face mask during a pandemic), pro-Confederacy and openly racist. That is your party, senator.
The disappearing of the original Republican Party
Let’s be clear. This is not the party that began in 1854 as a pro-abolitionist, anti-slavery party. This is not the party that freed the slaves or passed the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the Constitution. No, this is not the party whose leaders won the Civil War, fought the Klan, and ushered in Reconstruction. This is not the party that welcomed Booker T. Washington to the White House or used federal troops in 1957 to integrate Little Rock High.
This is not the party, led by Everett Dirksen in the Senate, that helped pass the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Acts of the 1960s. Sadly, this Republican Party has within its elected ranks only one Black senator, Tim Scott of South Carolina, and one Black member of the House, Will Hurd of Texas. Hurd announced he was retiring in 2020, and Scott has said that if he runs for re-election in 2022, it will be his final term.
No, this is not your great grandfather’s or even your grandfather's Republican Party. This Republican Party will be the first-ever to openly and proudly stain Lincoln’s legacy and embrace instead the traitors of Southern rebellion that sought to divide and destroy the Union our Founding Fathers established in 1776.
This is now Donald Trump’s party. And his trip to Tulsa (a city that, in 1921, was the site of the worst mass murder of peaceful black men and women in the history of America) the day after Juneteenth (which commemorates the end of U.S. slavery) says a lot.
Trump’s conduct during the aftermath of George Floyd’s tragic murder has been reprehensible, cowardly, and divisive. He has made it clear to us all — but most of all to his very white, very monolithic base — that he is not on the side of democracy, freedom, and justice for all but, instead, on the side of suppressing free speech, tear-gassing protesters, and engaging in old culture wars that no longer resonate with a 21st century America, where more than 40% of the population is “of color."
Both my maternal and paternal grandparents were Eisenhower Republicans. I was a moderate black female Republican for more than 25 years. Inspired by Jack Kemp at a college speech in 1988, I went on to work as an intern for Sen. Pete Wilson, R-Calif., and then for President George H.W. Bush’s re-election campaign in 1992. Beyond that, I worked for former Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, R-N.J. And then, in 1997, as the first Black female counsel to the Republican majority on the House Reform and Oversight Committee Counsel.
History of Henrietta Wood: Lincoln Project when it launched in January 2020. And I now find myself in June 2020 disillusioned with the “Never Trump” movement, as it is too white and too male.
The damage of the current Republican Party
Let me say it plainly. If today’s Republicans think that marching in “Black Lives Matter” solidarity with Sen. Mitt Romney one day, then singing Trump's praises the next day, makes you “woke,” then they are clueless as to the power and impact of this national moment. If today’s Republicans think President Trump can throw the black community false sound-bites like “I have done more for black people than any president” while turning National Guardsmen and police against peaceful protesters in Lafayette Square, then they are very wrong.
The 19th-century party of Lincoln was one that stood for the unity of the union. Freedom for the enslaved. Opportunity for the oppressed. The 21st-century party of Donald Trump stands for racial slurs, placing Hispanic babies in cages, telling duly-elected congresswomen of color to “go back” to where they came from, and hiding in a bunker during historic protests in support of racial equality and justice. It's no wonder that Mary Elizabeth Taylor, a senior State Department official and one of the administration's high-ranking African Americans, followed "the dictates of my conscience" and resigned on Thursday.
JUSTICE Act: E Pluribus One: Reclaiming Our Founders' Vision for a United America.” Follow her on Twitter: @IAmSophiaNelson