Republicans love to call themselves the party of Lincoln.
Up until recently—meaning most of the last 40 years while they held the presidency or while they were the majority party, and particularly while George W. Bush was in the White House and then for the first six months of 2008—they have acted like the party of Lincoln, and that’s not a compliment. That’s because Abraham Lincoln is not a model for a party claiming to be the party of smaller, limited government.
The real Lincoln—not the politically correct Lincoln taught in schools—was not a small government guy. Neither was he a friend of the Constitution or the slave.
As the historian Bruce Catton wrote in The Civil War, in 1860 Lincoln wanted to be the nominee of the Republican Party—a party that consisted of an amalgam of former members of the defunct Whig Party, free-soilers (those who believed all new territories should be slave-free), business leaders who wanted a central government that would protect industry and ordinary folk who wanted a homestead act that would provide free farms in the West.
Catton wrote, “The Republicans nominated Lincoln partly because he was considered less of an extremist than either (Senator William H.) Seward or (Salmon P.) Chase; he was moderate on the slavery question, and agreed that the Federal government lacked power to interfere with the peculiar institution in the states. The Republican platform, however, did represent a threat to Southern interests. It embodied the political and economic program of the North—upward revision of the tariff, free farms in the West, railroad subsidies, and all the rest.”
Does that sound like a small government guy?
Writing in his book, The Constitution in Exile, Judge Andrew P. Napolitano said, “Lincoln liked to think of himself as continuing the political philosophy of Henry Clay, who had been the leader of the Whigs.
“For forty years, Clay supported the creation of an American empire through measures such as corporate welfare, (which politicians like to call ‘internal improvements’); today we call them corporate tax breaks, protectionist tariffs, and a nationwide central bank. All the things that Clay favored in essence provided for a highly centralized government. And Lincoln supported them all.”
Not only did Lincoln support Clay’s policies he served as an elector for the Whig Party in the 1840 and 1844 presidential elections, according to historian Thomas J. DiLorenzo in his book, The Real Lincoln.
He eloquently defended specific Whig economic programs like a national bank, a protectionist tariff and distribution of Federal land revenues to the states to subsidize "internal improvements," writes DiLorenzo, quoting historian Michael F. Holt.
During the Civil War the Federal government was rapidly centralized and enlarged, taxes were imposed on most manufactured goods, tariffs were increased and an inheritance (death) tax was adopted. It was during this period that the first personal income tax was adopted in direct violation of Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution, Napolitano writes.
“The most egregious violations of civil liberties that Lincoln committed were murdering civilians, declaring martial law, suspending habeas corpus, seizing vast amounts of private property without compensation (including railroads and telegraphs), conducting a war without the consent of Congress, imprisoning nearly thirty thousand Northern citizens without trial, shutting down several newspapers, and even deporting a congressman (Clement L. Vallandigham from Ohio) because he objected to the imposition of an income tax,” according to Napolitano.
Republican congressmen tampered with the Electoral College by creating the new states of Nevada, Kansas and West Virginia in order to ensure Lincoln’s re-election in 1864. In Maryland, under Lincoln’s orders, troops arrested and imprisoned without trial a mayor, a congressman and 31 state legislators. And Lincoln claimed to have taken these actions to “preserve” the union.
“It’s hard to imagine something more tyrannical than a central government that suppresses life, speech, and political expression with such drastic measures, Napolitano writes.
The party of Lincoln, and Lincoln himself, had as its main goal growing government. Only one other president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, did as much to destroy the U.S. Constitution as Lincoln.
During the last 40 years the party of Lincoln has done much more to grow government than reduce it. Both Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Gerald Ford expanded the Great Society programs of Lyndon Baines Johnson. In 1970 Nixon imposed wage and price controls throughout the economy, imposed a tax surcharge on all imports and removed the American dollar from the gold standard: hardly small government policies.
Nixon’s policies sparked a rise in oil prices and caused the Great Inflation of the 1970s, according to Charles R. Morris, writing in his book, The Trillion Dollar Meltdown.
Morris writes that Nixon was a Keynesian through and through, as were his supposedly conservative cabinet members.
President Ronald Reagan was a believer in limited government, and took steps to reduce its size. His tax cuts stimulated the economy, but Democrats controlled the House and he was vilified by them for his efforts to reduce domestic spending while he increased military spending. While he campaigned on balancing the budget he wasn’t able to accomplish it, and deficits soared.
President George H.W. Bush was elected to continue Reagan’s policies but despite his “Read my lips. No new taxes” pledge, Bush 41 was neither a small government guy nor a believer in Reagan’s low-tax policies or trickle down economics. He immediately joined the Democrats and raised taxes and grew government.
The second President Bush, George W. (compassionate conservative), was truly a big government socialist. He expanded the Federal reach into our children’s education with No Child Left Behind, along with Senator Edward Kennedy, expanded entitlement programs like the Medicare Drug benefit and embarked on a war strategy that helped push a teetering economy over the cliff.
More egregious than that was his USA PATRIOT Act—which among other things suspended habeas corpus—and other supposed terrorism fighting provisions that intrude on the liberty and privacy of Americans. And many Republicans claiming to be conservative went along.
“I’ve abandoned free-market principles to save the free-market system,” Bush 43 said, in classic Bushism fashion, as he pushed his Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).
The supposed conservatives in Congress sat by and watched—if they didn’t overtly support—as Bush trashed the free market system.
Only when Americans began berating them during town hall meetings and through Tea Party rallies in 2009 did some Republicans decide they were for smaller government.
Now many Americans are looking to the Republicans to stem the Marxist redistributionist tide of the Obama, Pelosi, Reid administration as they follow through with their promise to change America.
Seriously? You’re going to pin your hopes on the Republican Party, with members already backing off their “Repeal the Bill” stance less than a month after Obamacare was passed?
Sorry, but the elites in Washington long ago crossed the Rubicon. While the Democrats are leading the charge today, the Republicans have offered no more opposition than a Civil War picket line.
You can thank the party of Lincoln, and the “Great Emancipator” himself, for getting us to where we are today.