Yale history professor explains why the GOP is no longer the party of Lincoln: It's 'essentially America’s white people’s party'

Yale history professor explains why the GOP is no longer the party of Lincoln: It's 'essentially America’s white people’s party'
Abraham Lincoln. Salt print. Ostendorf O-55. The earliest presidential portrait of Lincoln.

When far-right Republicans want to make themselves appear less extreme, a common tactic is declaring, “We are the party of Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight D. Eisenhower.” But the problem with those comparisons is that Lincoln, Roosevelt and Eisenhower wouldn’t be welcome in the extremist GOP of 2019. And Yale University history professor David W. Blight, in a New York Times op-ed, stresses that Lincoln wouldn’t even recognize today’s Republican Party.


House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy used the “party of Lincoln” line when he was asked to comment on President Donald Trump’s recent assertion that four congresswomen of color should return to the countries they originally came from. Trump’s assertion was problematic not only because it was flat-out racist, but also, because all four of them were U.S. citizens: Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York City and Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan were born and raised in the United States, while Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota is originally from Somalia but has been a naturalized U.S. citizen since 2000.

Defending Trump, McCarthy insisted that Trump’s comments were not racist and described the GOP as “the party of Lincoln.” But Blight (author of the book “Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom”) stresses that comparing the Trumpian version of the Republican Party to Lincoln’s vision for the GOP is deeply flawed.

“Mr. McCarthy now leads the party that has done its legal and illegal utmost to suppress the votes of brown, black, young and old people who do not tend to vote Republican,” Blight writes. “His is the party that has become essentially America’s white people’s party, following the racial rants of its leader.”

Blight adds, “Which party did Mr. McCarthy claim as Lincoln’s party? The one that has now given a safe haven for Confederate memory and neo-Confederate ideas? Which side was Lincoln on?”

The history professor goes on to say that the Trump supporters who were chanting, “Send her back, send her back” in reference to Omar at a campaign rally in North Carolina last week need to “rediscover the original Republican Party. They might not recognize it; Abraham Lincoln and his sometimes ally, Frederick Douglass, would surely not recognize them, except as the antithesis of everything they fought for 160 years ago.”

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