You know, both Trump and Abe Lincoln are Republicans. Sometimes it seems hard to tell. Lincoln arguably founded the Republican party and was murdered for his trouble. Lincoln’s legacy includes the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery, the 14th Amendment creating “birthright” citizenship, and the 15th Amendment creating equal voting rights without discrimination based on race.
At one time these achievements were considered the greatest achievements of the Republican party. Trump appears to be working diligently to destroy them.
During the Civil War, even white soldiers at the front were not allowed to vote by absentee ballots, black former slave soldiers were initially not allowed to fight for the North, 4 million blacks were slaves, and injustice and discrimination were rife throughout America, both North and South.
Trump appears to be unraveling Lincoln's legacy by encouraging racial divides, supporting voter suppression, even discounting absentee ballots of soldiers deployed overseas in the Florida senate race, and by planning to delete birthright citizenship from the Constitution by Presidential Order.
Admittedly, Lincoln was not a staunch abolitionist at first, he sought to “preserve the union” above all other goals. But as time passed Lincoln came to recognize slavery had to be abolished if the US was not to remain a “house divided against itself.” Lincoln learned that escaped slaves who volunteered to fight were courageous and dedicated soldiers in defense of freedom while many whites in the north avoided the draft. Slaves who remained on the plantations engaged in work slowdowns and even strikes, undermining the South’s ability to feed its army contributing to Northern success. Lincoln learned that liberty had to be equally afforded all Americans, black or white, that voting was the key to consent of the governed and ensured the people would support government, despite disputed policies, so long as the power to vote ensured it was a government “of the people, by the people and for the people” for whom the ballot box held the hope for peaceable change and a better tomorrow.
Once Lincoln caught freedom fever, he did not cease from struggling for liberty and justice for all—because he knew this was essential to a united house, a nation indivisible, where all participated, equal before the law. It was this that caused his martyrdom for freedom because where others saw only hate and bile, Lincoln saw peace and reconciliation arising from the common cause of one people joined by shared liberty and equal rights.
Lincoln championed the thirteenth amendment before his death. He joined with an Ohio Republican Congressman, John Bingham, who later wrote the “birthright” citizenship language of the 14th Amendment, and others, to begin thinking about the impact of liberated slaves. Such liberation could change representation in the Congress. If the freed slaves were to be counted for purposes of representation, but were not to be allowed to vote, then the former rebels could possibly use the approximately 4 million former slaves, to take control of the Congress. That did not seem right.
So, Lincoln and his Republican Congress realized freed blacks (men) must have the right to vote to balance or offset the vote expected from former rebels. Liberation without the right to vote simply gave more representation in Congress to former rebels. Liberation without citizenship and voting rights hollowed out the sacrifices of the war and would leave in place the badges and incidents of slavery in all but name.
Lincoln and the Republicans also realized that, unless the freed slaves had the rights of citizens of the United States, the right to equal protection of the laws and all the privileges and immunities of citizenship, the former rebels could use their control of state and local laws to deprive the freedmen of the rights won by blood and toil.
Following passage by Congress on January 31, 1865, President Lincoln signed a Joint Resolution submitting the proposed 13th Amendment to the states on February 1, 1865. The 13th amendment was ratified on December 6, 1865, and abolished slavery in the United States. But the issues of representation, privileges and immunities of citizenship and voting rights remained subject of much dispute between Republicans and the Democrats many of whom were aligned with the South.
After Lincoln was murdered, on April 14, 1865, leading Republicans in the Congress carried forward a vision for making liberation meaningful. Less than a year after ratification of the 13th Amendment, Republicans in Congress used the enforcement power from Section 2 to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1866, granting African-Americans citizenship and equal protection. Supporters contended that the 13th amendment authorized the federal government to legislate to compel state action for equal rights. Opponents argued that unequal treatment or civil rights were not part of the power to abolish slavery contending the 1866 Civil Rights Act exceeded Congress’s power under the 13th Amendment.
In response to these debates, Congress went on to pass the 14th and 15th amendments in quick succession, to ensure the Constitution, the supreme law itself, defined citizenship and equal rights and banned voting restrictions based on race. Though still imperfect in that woman were excluded, Lincoln and the Republicans had created from the ashes of destructive war a renewed dedication to the principles of the Declaration of Independence and an improved Constitution expanding liberty to those who were once only “3/5 persons.” Lincoln’s legacy of equal justice, birthright citizenship and the right to vote and have it count, ensured perhaps only by his martyrdom, flowed from a Republican Congress that had come to see, along with Lincoln, the need for equal protection of the law and voting rights for all Americans as the essential foundation on which to build a house united.
Now, Mr. Trump appears to be unraveling that legacy by encouraging racial divides, supporting voter suppression, even discounting absentee ballots of soldiers deployed overseas in the Florida senate race, and by planning to delete birthright citizenship from the Constitution by Presidential Order. Lincoln built the Republican party on this legacy. Mr. Trump appears determined to destroy it.
Should he succeed, the Lincoln Memorial need be draped in crepe and painted black. Unless it is not careful, the Republican party, if it allows Trump to repudiate its basic principles, and the constitutional rights of many Americans, may experience a similar fate.