It Was Ever Thus

Republicans, so long as I can recall, have faced an endless barrage of attacks from Democrats and their media allies derived from the theme that today’s Republicans are mean, scary extremists not like those Republicans of the past who won elections because they were moderate and civil and whatnot. The only really good Republicans, to these critics, are dead ones (or live ones who lose elections), although past Republicans do come in for some rehabilitation as soon as they can be used as a club against their successors – we’ve already seen some examples of George W. Bush being cited by liberals on issues like immigration and the Ground Zero Mosque controversy.
Now, it’s true, of course, that political coalitions grow and change all the time as different issues rise in importance, and that the GOP in particular has been influenced by the growth of systematic conservative thinking on a variety of fronts. But let’s not fool ourselves that this is a new development. In 1854, Abe Lincoln – six years before he became the first Republican president – was already defending himself against Democrat Stephen A. Douglas’ contention that Lincoln’s anti-slavery position on the Kansas-Nebraska Act showed him to be out of step with those sane, moderate Whigs of the past, Henry Clay and Daniel Webster (by then, both dead). Here is Lincoln’s response:

Finally, the Judge [Douglas] invokes against me, the memory of Clay and of Webster. They were great men; and men of great deeds. But where have I assailed them? For what is it, that their life-long enemy, shall now make profit, by assuming to defend them against me, their life-long friend? I go against the repeal of the Missouri compromise; did they ever go for it? They went for the compromise of 1850; did I ever go against them? They were greatly devoted to the Union; to the small measure of my ability, was I ever less so? Clay and Webster were dead before this question arose; by what authority shall our Senator say they would espouse his side of it, if alive? Mr. Clay was the leading spirit in making the Missouri compromise; is it very credible that if now alive, he would take the lead in the breaking of it? The truth is that some support from whigs is now a necessity with the Judge, and for thus it is, that the names of Clay and Webster are now invoked. His old friends have deserted him in such numbers as to leave too few to live by. He came to his own, and his own received him not, and Lo! he turns unto the Gentiles.

Along the way, Lincoln also made a critical point about the fact you just can’t wish away political debates over who is, and who is not, a human being, nor ever hope to achieve a permanent settlement of a debate that merely assumes that some are not:

In the course of his reply, Senator Douglas remarked, in substance, that he had always considered this government was made for the white people and not for the negroes. Why, in point of mere fact, I think so too. But in this remark of the Judge, there is a significance, which I think is the key to the great mistake (if there is any such mistake) which he has made in this Nebraska measure. It shows that the Judge has no very vivid impression that the negro is a human; and consequently has no idea that there can be any moral question in legislating about him. In his view, the question of whether a new country shall be slave or free, is a matter of as utter indifference, as it is whether his neighbor shall plant his farm with tobacco, or stock it with horned cattle. Now, whether this view is right or wrong, it is very certain that the great mass of mankind take a totally different view. They consider slavery a great moral wrong; and their feelings against it, is not evanescent, but eternal. It lies at the very foundation of their sense of justice; and it cannot be trifled with. It is a great and durable element of popular action, and, I think, no statesman can safely disregard it.

Another reason why Lincoln remains the original inspiration of the Party of Lincoln. There is hardly an accusation hurled at today’s Republicans that doesn’t echo the ones he faced, back in his day, seen as he was as a self-educated country rustic overly devoted to a moral crusade that upset the applecarts of the sophisticates of his day.

14 thoughts on “It Was Ever Thus”

  1. You really aren’t going down the road of “the Tea Party and/or the likes of John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are like Lincoln” are you? Ron Reagan would be drummed out of the current GOP in a heartbeat. Lincoln? Socialist bastard. He’d be tarred and feathered in a heartbeat. This comparison is less than apt if that is what your intent is.

  2. Crank, uh Crank, were you out the day they taught law in law school? Barrage of attacks from Democrats? This from a supporter of Swift Boat Veterans for (sorry, I can’t say it, as it would be lying); the party of Mission Accomplished, Lee Atwater and Karl Rove?

  3. jim – Thanks for illustrating my point.
    Daryl – You’re still contending that Kerry was 100% truthful about Vietnam (and Christmas in Cambodia!) and that the Swift Boat Vets just made up all that stuff about him testifying before Congress on national TV?
    Sure, everybody gets criticized. This just happens to be a silly line of argument, under the circumstances.

  4. Good analysis. Every Republican since Eisenhower, at least, has been used to deplore the succeeding Repub leaders. Hoover and Nixon are anomalies, of course, having been found by the Dems to be useful multi-generational boogies.

  5. You see this kind of stuff from both sides. How often do liberals hear that Obama is no Bill Clinton or JFK or Truman? Come on, this hardly a one-sided affair.
    Keep in mind that the argument cuts both ways. How can conservatives keep referring to themselves as “the party of Lincoln” and the “party of Reagan,” yet decry any efforts to compare the differences between existing and former Republican leaders? It’s not a silly argument if the party against whom it is made keeps claiming some hallowed consistency with dead politicians.

  6. Crank, once you go down the road of 100% truthful, as you phrased it, be careful. Because what you are really saying is you and your fellow Republicant’s are interested in, oh let’s say 50% truths. Also known as half truth’s. Also known as lies. Also known as bullshit propaganda.
    Kerry’s big mistake was to allow the lies to spread without a response. He lost for the much the same reason that McCain lost as big as he did (he would have lost anyway). Winning the White House is as much, maybe more, about how well you campaign than anything, and Kerry is a lousy campaigner for damn sure.
    But seriously, given the Party Organ known as the Fox Comedy Hour, how can you keep relying on the so called Liberal Media as the whipping boy?

  7. Crank,
    Is that the rule now? That politicians need to be 100% truthful?
    I’m calling BS on you (again).
    Remember when GWB lied to the American people about Saddam throwing UN weapons inspectors out of Iraq?
    It was a lie, but still good enough for you to support sending (other people’s) kids off to die. If I recall correctly, you accused those who (rightfully) called Bush a liar of having Bush-derangement syndrome.
    I hope you get a set of pom-poms under your tree Saturday morning, then you can wave them and yell “Yay team!” anytime you see someone from the GOP on your TV. (It’d be less embarrassing then some of your posts which try to do the same thing).
    As for Lincoln, he’d be drummed out of today’s GOP for trying to regulate industry.

  8. My point is that you can’t claim that Kerry’s narrative about Vietnam was immune to criticism by his fellow soldiers unless you contend he was completely truthful – which he wasn’t, as evidenced by the fact that he had to change his story on a number of points.
    The Swift Boat Vets delivered an entirely legitimate criticism of Kerry, and only left-wing mythology makes them out otherwise. They were all Vietnam vets, many of them Kerry’s direct comrades in arms, a number of them highly decorated. They attacked Kerry on two fronts: the veracity of his war stories and his conduct and testimony as an anti-war protestor. On the latter, which was the more damaging, there is no factual dispute at all as to what Kerry said and did. On the former…it’s not surprising that the Vets – or Kerry – would misremember some details from combat incidents 30+ years later, but it was Kerry and not the Vets who told stories that were completely factually implausible, and most of the basis for calling them liars was that their eyewitness accounts were contradicted by official reports written by Kerry himself.
    I agree that the Swift Boat story would have played differently if Kerry had been willing to open full access (and not only to friendly journalists) to his military records and do interviews on the subject, but there’s no guarantee that would have ended well for him.
    It’s also worth remembering that the Swift Boat story was just a symptomatic response to the overall derangement of the Democrats’ fixation in 2004 on using Vietnam to delegitimize the President.

  9. Far from illustrating your point I’m de-bunking it. If your premise is that your point can’t be refuted because denying your point proves your point than you wouldn’t pass a basic philosophy class. If all you are saying is that this set of GOPers are under attack for their views AND Lincoln was too I guess I could sort of be as well. It does seem you are comparing Lincoln to a pack of rabble-rousers and big-talkers many of whom have an odd world view. I’d leave the Lincoln stuff alone until these folks are at least sworn in.

  10. MVH, I used Kerry as an example. Lee Atwater, Karl Rove and their henchmen have used lies and propaganda aplenty to get us into a deeper and deeper mess, all the while calling themselves the “victims” of an irresponsible press. I could probably cite the research but why bother when Jon Stewart and company have done it for me? Yes, he too has an agenda, but he does get the clips and actually play the lies. Like the new contract/deal/promises/lies the Republican’ts (great word Jon) use, over and over. And well, as someone said, if you keep repeating a lie over and over, and sounds like the truth. Shame on you Crank, for continuing the crap that that “someone” said. It was, after all, Goebbels.

  11. It’s also worth remembering the accusations hurled at Republicans today is in response to the complete and utter bullshit about how REAL AMERICANS are from small town, rural America. The fact is that over 80% of the US population resides in cities and their suburbs.
    Of course “market forces” and citizens “voting with their feet” go straight out the window when it doesn’t fit the narrative.

  12. Oh, those poor delicate souls on the right; they use only fiar, honest and temperate langugae and those big bad lefties say all these mean things about them. No wonder “Boner” cries all the time.
    Here is the difference Crank. The wing nuts would never under any circumstances say or even think that any Democrat or liberal has ever done or aid anything worthy of praise. By contrast, the left (with some notable exceptions, e.g., Michael Moore, Ralph Nader, Keith Olbermann, etc.) does not suffer from epistemic closure. Thus, we are able to see that conservatives like Reagan and even W accomplished or tried to accomplish good things.
    Oh, and by the way, W was delegitimized the moment the Supreme Court selected him to be President.

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