Republicans are the party of Lincoln. I hear this over and over and over again when attempting to persuade conservatives to reject racism and support racial justice measures. Republicans can’t be supporting racist policies, they say, because Republicans are the party of Lincoln.
But if Republicans are the party of Lincoln, why are they the ones flying Confederate flags? See this, from today’s protest of the governor’s “stay at home” order in Lansing.
Huh, I guess it is a Republican protest. But what does the Confederate flag have to do with a #StayHome order?
Our political parties are not identical to the parties in the 1800s, despite sharing the same names. The parties’ positions and composition shifted in the mid-twentieth century; black voters left the Republican party for the Democratic party as southern white voters left the Democratic party for the Republican party.
There’s a reason the U.S. South went from a Democratic stronghold to a solid Republican block, and it’s not that white southerners suddenly saw the light on race and switched to the party of Lincoln. They didn’t. It’s that the Republican party stopped being the party of Lincoln, and that the Democratic party took up that mantle instead, inviting black voters into its coalition.
Many conservatives don’t want to hear this. They argue that black voters vote Democratic because the Democratic party because it gives them free handouts—i.e. welfare—seemingly unable to see that this claim itself is racist, and that it represents only more confirmation that the parties have changed. This argument is not new; it just used to be a Democratic argument. In 1968, the Democratic party’s vice presidential candidate said in his convention acceptance speech that that Congress had “substituted as electors in place of men of our race … a host of ignorant negroes who are supported in idleness with the public money.” The claim that black people are too ignorant to make informed electoral decisions and vote instead for whoever promised them the most handouts has been adopted today by Republicans who would rather not have an actual, genuine conversation about why they can’t seem to win the black vote.
I could go on with all sorts of historical explanations and provide arguments and evidence and discuss the specific moments and actions that precipitated this shift, but that would defeat the point. My point in this post is that it is not difficult to show that the Republican party is no longer the party of Lincoln.
I mean, good gracious, look at this image:
Why is the party of Lincoln the one flying the confederate flag? Because parties change, and it’s no longer the party of Lincoln. (Just so we’re clear, Lincoln and the confederacy were on opposite sides.)
And it’s not just today in Lansing. This has been going on for a while now. If anything, it sharpened and accelerated in 2016, as Trump supporters raised the confederate flag high.
There was a time, not long ago—okay, in 2015—when prominent conservative publications decried the confederate flag and insisted that it belonged to Democrats, and not Republicans. And indeed, after a white supremacist carried out a massacre in a black church in South Carolina, the state’s Republican governor called for the flag’s removal from the statehouse. But since then, we’ve seen a sharpening of lines as Democrats have increasingly called the flag what it is while Republicans have increasingly embraced it.
In and around 2017, Democratic activists across the U.S. South pushed for the removal of confederate statues. Republican legislatures across the region passed laws to protect these statutes and prevent their removal. Meanwhile, the Republican president weighed in to blast the removal of confederate statues and defend the monuments. In some cases, vigilante Democratic protestors tore down monuments.
The Republican party has become the party that defends statues erected by white supremacists to honor confederate generals and instill fear in the hearts of their state’s black population. The Republican party has become the party of the confederate flag. The truth is this: the party of Lincoln is no more.
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