GOP: Reclaim the spirit of Lincoln

Lincoln inevitably came to mind when I toured the Civil War coin exhibit currently on display at the American Numismatic Museum in Colorado Springs. My grandson asked me to take him to see the exhibit which he'd already seen  a few times and will likely see several more times before the exhibit moves on in October.  The museum is a hidden gem, and the Civil War displays are well worth your time.  My grandson is an avid coin collector, history buff and is developing a very keen interest in our presidents, at the tender age of 6. The Civil War era holds so much history beyond the typical textbook renditions.  As we hear alot about Mr. Obama hoping to fashion his presidential career after that of Abraham Lincoln, I've spent time delving into some of the oft-missed historical content of Lincoln's presidency and politics of the day.  As a quilter, I'm intrigued with the accounts of the Underground Railroad quilts, love letter quilts women made to send with a loved one going off to war, and the message quilts that were hung on clotheslines to assist soldiers in avoiding nearby enemy encampments, or depicting a route they could take if wanting to defect. It is incredible to ponder what it must have been like for the women that stayed behind, with some having sons fighting against each other.  The conflict and mental anguish they must have suffered is beyond my comprehension.  There are amazing stories also of women that joined the soldiers in the combat fields, served as surgeons, helped with burials, and other sobering duties.  Many women believed so strongly one way or another on the slavery issue that they disguised their femininity and enlisted under a man's name.  They fought and died side by side with men.  The issue of slavery and civil rights in general caused great divide and aroused fervent passion and desire to stand up for what one believed.  There were few 'moderates' in terms of support for or against Abraham Lincoln.   People were outspoken with respect to how they viewed their president.  Families were often divided in opinion and friendships were severed.  The press frequently did it's best to undermine Lincoln and create dissent.  Sound familiar?

The Obama's visited the Lincoln Memorial over the weekend and it's reported Mr. Obama will be sworn in with his hand on the same Bible that Lincoln used, and will dine on some of Lincoln's favorite foods for his Inaugural luncheon.  While neither Lincoln nor Obama were born in Illinois, it's reasonable to expect certain similarities between the two, both coming to the White House from the state of Illinois .  {Of note, Ronald Reagan was born in Illinois, yet little recognition  is made in that regard.}  Some are suggesting Mr. Obama may be going a bit too far in trying to mimic President Lincoln.   No matter, the coming Inauguration will be, as always, a monumental point in America's history.  Our system allows for a peaceful transfer of government with as much pomp and circumstance and celebration as the incoming President chooses to enjoy.  The true connection between Mr. Obama and Mr. Lincoln is yet to be revealed in terms of how the country will be governed.

As we look at some historical context, let's clarify that Lincoln was a Republican.  I spoke with a woman during the campaign that said she was voting for Obama because he was going to be the next Abe Lincoln.  I kindly suggested that might be difficult if Obama follows a partisan agenda.  She looked confused, so I told her Lincoln was a Republican.  She was immediately angry and disputed it.  She had believed her entire life that Lincoln was a Democrat.  Afterall, he was against slavery and he wanted equal rights for all people.  It was hard for her to swallow the idea that 'all men are created equal' and civil rights, personal freedoms, along with small government have been foundations of the Republican platform since inception.   Democrats have done a good job of convincing the electorate that it is their party that is compassionate and protective of rights.  I wonder as Lincoln's name continues to be invoked during the coming presidency, how many people will learn for the first time of his political party!

During the Inauguration festivities we will hear repeatedly about the phenomenon of our country electing the first black president.  While it is rarely stated that Mr. Obama is actually bi-racial, the country as a whole should be proud of this  accomplishment.  A particular landmark that is significant to many has been achieved.   Yet, there has been no support from the Left for other African Americans that happen to also be Republicans.  When I think of Ken Blackwell, Rod Paige, Thomas Sowell, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Michael Steele, J.C. Watts, Lynn Swann and Condi Rice of our modern era, I believe any of these individuals may well possess the qualities, experience and background requisite to serve our country as President or any high office in government.  They are Americans of great character and integrity. The media and Democrats as a whole have little to no respect for these individuals, but still claim to be the party of progression and fairness and equality for all.   

Just as many may not know Abe Lincoln was a Republican President, some may also not realize that the great civil rights activist, Martin Luther King, Jr., was a Republican.  His niece, Dr. Alveda King, also a Republican, is an accomplished author, college professor and believes the most significant civil rights issue of our time is school choice.  She is also adamantly pro-choice.  While the election of Mr. Obama is a historical benchmark, the clear division in our country that follows party lines veils the deserved acknowledgement of other black Americans that have equally remarkable personal stories,  professional accomplishments and contributions to their country.  As Mr. Obama settles into the Oval Office, hoping to fill the shoes of Abraham Lincoln, he must recognize that the great divide in thinking and opinion today is not necessarily between races, but rather between political parties.  It is partisan politics that has diminished our standing in the world and divided families and friends.   It is the vitriolic and caustic rhetoric of the Left, supported by the MSM, that inflames dissent and inspires anger.  To be fair, there are some extremes also on the Right, however, they don't get nearly as much media coverage, and often when they do, they are quoted out of context within 30 second sound bytes.

The heroics of Harriet Tubman during the Civil War are very inspiring.  The restraints of space here don't allow an adequate tribute to her contribution to civil rights and humanity in general.   History also recounts the difficult work of Sojourner Truth, who also fought hard in the Abolition, and later stood up for women's rights.  Both black women staunchly supported their Republican president and praised his work in supporting freedom for slaves.   In the post-war late 1860's black men were granted the right to vote.  Women--black or white--were not yet allowed to vote, but many Republican women became activists.  Black women are credited for recruiting many Republican voters in the South during this time.  They supported their fathers, husbands and sons as they started to run for office, make speeches on the issues  and other political involvement.  Black women organized political rallies, marches and parades to support Republican candidates, and many became very active in making speeches themselves and worked to get out the vote.  This effort to support Republican causes did not go forth without conflict and threat to personal safety.  In South Carolina, Democrats still angry over the freeing of slaves organized raids to terrorize blacks that were so vocal in support of the Republican Party and it's platforms. 

Today, it is little reported and seldom mentioned that it was the Republican Party, lead by Abraham Lincoln, that stood for free speech, abolition of slavery and women's suffrage.   At the time the Republican Party was founded, the country was divided by political discord among Democrats and a handful of other parties, such as the Free Soil Party, the Whig Party of the South and their spin-off, the the Conscious Whigs of the North that were anti-slavery.  The Kansas-Nebraska Act provided for states and territories to determine for themselves whether or not slavery was legal.  President Lincoln saw the great divide all these radical factions were causing.  He won the presidency campaigning on determined action and strong resolve to end slavery and bring the country together.

As Republicans, let's stand up for our conservatism.  Let's not allow the Beltway Boys, Bill Kristol, Pat Buchanan and other moderate-to-left voices carry our message.  While they have every right to speak and have opinion, they do not speak for us on many issues.  Here in Colorado, don't let our GOP leadership whither away until the next election draws near.  Get involved, ask why you aren't receiving weekly emails with updates about Party activity in your county and our state.  If you don't get the desired response, make noise at the state level and ask why.  Help identify bright, energized, articulate, persuasive, charismatic youthful conservatives and then get behind efforts to set them up for speaking engagements at our colleges, universities and civic organizations.  Find out what is being taught to kids in your school district in terms of accuracy in civics and government.  We need to make sure people around us know who the Republican Party is, what we've done, what we stand for and where we intend to lead.  We aren't just the minority party, we also have an uphill battle to get any press coverage or make any opposition known.  A great effort continues to silence questions and differing points of view.  In the spirit of our founding fathers, we have a responsibility to defend our right of free speech.  As they say in the football coaching industry, "Next year starts today." We won't win back anything in '10 or '12 unless there is activism and movement happening today.

Perhaps Democrat leadership will help us out.  As government grows larger and becomes more intrusive, our version of hope can be that our country takes a hard look and decides it wants some of the freedoms back, and change of a different sort will be desired during the next election cycles.  

Bold leadership worked for Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan in bringing about real change.  It's past time for Republicans to do some history homework and revisit what wins elections and brings people together.  Reclaim Lincoln's goal to "lift the artificial weights from all shoulders, and clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all."  Thomas Jefferson had the same philosophy in mind.  Reagan perfected it.  Freedom of expression, free markets and enterprise, freedom to vote, freedom to practice religion, and opportunity limited only by an individual's personal desire to succeed are the foundations of the Republican Party.   As the spirit of Abe Lincoln prevails during next week's Inauguration, I'm inclined to believe he'd have stern words today for his party:  "Return to your party's values and core principles, and do not become weary in that pursuit."