Your RDA of Irony

Happy Birthday to My Favorite Republican!

Yes, I am referring to Abraham Lincoln. In case you were wondering, my other favorite Republicans are Teddy Roosevelt, Jimmy Stewart, Barbara Stanwyck and Adolphe Menjou. True, it is not a long list. I could include two personal friends, but these days–out of embarrassment–they claim to be Libertarians. And yes, I do like John Wayne, but I never can forgive him for being a draft dodger. Neither could a naval veteran named John Ford, who used to ridicule Wayne about “being a sissy”; in fact, he once even made John Wayne cry.

Of course, modern Republicans would not want to be associated with a pair of liberals like Lincoln and Teddy R. It is surprising that their heads are still on Mount Rushmore. (You can imagine Halliburton getting a no-bid contract for that project.) But, oh the irony, the Republicans were once the liberals of American politics. Granted that liberalism was confined to one issue, but it was the biggest issue of the day. The Republicans were opposed to slavery. Some advocated its outright abolition; however, most Republicans had the temperate approach that we expect from liberals. They just opposed the expansion of slavery into new states. You’d think that would be an inoffensive, sensible compromise. Iowa, Nebraska and the Dakotas really are not ideal for cotton. But the South would not recognize even economic practicality as a limit to their cherished “institution”. If the South was not free to have slaves (freedom is a relative concept), then the South would leave the Union. Of course, it was constricting itself to the same geographic confinement proposed by its Republican enemies, but the South’s gray matter evidently was limited to uniforms.

Once the Civil War was won and slavery was abolished (replaced by mere serfdom), the Republicans had lost their reason for being. However, they so enjoyed power that decided to improvise a new platform. The now defunct Whig party had an incestuous affection for business, although its war hero candidates usually could camouflage the financial self-interests. That philosophy and strategy suited the intellectually-bereft Republicans. And they happened to have a new generation of war heroes, starting with Ulysses Grant himself, to front for the robber barons and their pet politicians.

Aside from Teddy Roosevelt, an aristocrat who took his noblesse oblige quite seriously, the Republican Party is essentially the same kleptocratic, stagnant-quo of the Grant adminstration. It is occasionally stirred by a social awareness but always confuses self-righteousness with morality. That is how we got Prohibition, McCarthyism and the Patriot Act.

I imagine that Abraham Lincoln would have been on Richard Nixon’s and Dick Cheney’s enemies list. And he would have been flattered.

p.s.  Of course, Southerners claim that history misunderstands “the Glorious Cause.”  Their War had nothing to do with slavery.   Yet, they can’t seem to offer any other reason why the South attempted to secede from the Union.  A faulty memory might be caused by a tight hood. 

If only to atone for the inconvenience of the truth, I can proffer this excuse to the South:

The South simply wanted to avoid Mary Lincoln.  (That is very plausible except that all of the other states would have seceded too.)

  1. Michele says:

    I imagine the south “knows nothing” about the 3/5 rule either. Here’s a movement we should all get behind: abolish the Electoral College.

  2. Bob Kincaid says:

    Lincoln, of course, was one of those temperate Republicans, having remarked something along the lines of “if I could retain slavery AND retain the Union, I would do so.”

    Both the South before the war and the North afterward suffered from a similar affliction: rich people. Most of the men in the Confederate Army were more likely to live in near-slave conditions than to own any. The call to arms was issued by people of little or no military training who had no intention of serving. Sound familiar?

    Post-bellum, the North was inundated with a class of nouveau riche who had just made a mint on war profiteering and, with that business model firmly entrenched, turned all their attentions to perpetuating it. For a wonderful look at the same, combined with the new administrative bureaucracy in full flower, see Twain’s “The Facts In The Great Beef Contract.”

    In many ways, our Republic never recovered from what happened between 1860-65. MIght Mr. Lincoln have made a difference in that fact? We like to think so.

    And, of course, we have Lincoln to thank for the state from whence I write this day. No Abe, no West Virginia. He still has his own holiday here.

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