How the Party of Lincoln Became the Party of Trump?

For those that don’t know, the Republican Party truly has a history of which it can be proud. Its...

For those that don’t know, the Republican Party truly has a history of which it can be proud. Its formation came from opposition to the Kansas-Nebraska Act which would have allowed local determination on slavery as opposed to the previous balance of free and slave states struck under the Missouri Compromise of 1850. You might wonder why it mattered to Democrats whether new territories/states embraced slavery or not? I’ll get to that, but it’s important to know that a lot of profits would be made with the expansion of slavery.

After the Civil War, Republicans became known as, “The Party of Lincoln,” responsible for freeing the slaves. Lincoln was personally against slavery and was President when the slaves were freed. But he would have been quite content to allow slavery to continue in the Southern states and in the territories like Missouri where it existed if it would have prevented war. He would have been equally content to send the slaves back to Africa and once had a plan for them to colonize Central America, never once desiring to see slaves reach social equality with white men.

“I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races,”

Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in January of 1863, not because of his great desire to free the slaves. In fact, the Proclamation did not free slaves in border states Delaware, Maryland, Missouri, and Kentucky. It only applied to those states that seceded from the Union. Even then it was a strategy to keep France and England from forming an alliance with the South who had more to offer in trade (Cotton) and was more financially sound. By abolishing slavery, the North was more in tune with the countries that had recently banned slavery themselves.

Back to the profitability of slavery. The Founders in Article 1; Section 9 of the Constitution, forbade the outlawing the importation of slaves before the year 1808.

“ The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.”

Congress indeed outlawed the International Slave Trade immediately after it was allowed by the Constitution, but not from any abhorrence to slavery. They would have abolished slavery altogether if that were the case. Their action was one of protectionism to ensure higher prices for Domestic slaves. America was now able to produce enough slaves on its own due to the practice of breeding slaves much like cattle on farms in Virginia, Maryland, and a few other states. There came a point where the “crop” of slavery produced more revenue in Virginia than tobacco.

When the Civil War ended, the Republicans were firmly in power and the role of Democrats was severely diminished. Many of the freed slaves, despite the one-time promise of receiving 40 acres and a mule. Watched almost all land in the South returned to the former owners. Many slaves were forced into agreements to work on their former plantations in arrangements not so different than slavery. Some though, with the protection of the Federal Troops remaining in the South, became politically active, ran for office, opened businesses and purchased land. This was the era called Reconstruction during which the freed slaves were making advances towards equality. As long as the troops were there to protect them.

In 1876, there was a contested Presidential Election which it appeared the Democrats had won. They won the popular vote and were one short of the Electoral votes needed to claim victory with the votes of three states contested, Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina. Ultimately, in the Compromise of 1877. It was agreed that the Electoral votes would be awarded to Republican, Rutherford B. Hayes on the condition that Federal troops would be removed from the South. Once the troops were gone, Democrats and the Klan (often one and the same) erased all the gains of the freed slaves, ended Reconstruction, and implemented Jim Crow which was as close to reinstituting slavery as they could manage. It was the beginning of the Republican decline towards where they are now, as they sold out the former slaves they once championed and began to look away.

Oh, I wish I was in the land of cotton

Old times there are not forgotten

Look away

Look away

Look away


Not enough to simply refuse to address the violence and retribution being carried out in the South. In 1878, now President Rutherford B. Hayes gave us the Posse Comitatus Act, ensuring that never again would Federal troops be stationed in the South to protect the black men and women they once purported to champion. You could make a good case that the Republican Party stopped being what they called, “The Party of Lincoln, in 1878.

After the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920, women gained the right to vote (including black women) but a concentrated effort including violence ensured that votes of black men and women, especially in the South, barely mattered. Republicans did what they were accustomed to doing, they looked away. They still called themselves the Party of Lincoln, taking credit for acts long ago, that the current Party wouldn’t dream of.

It was the Democrats that helped turn the Republicans into what they are today. With the passage of Civil and Voting Rights Acts in the 1960s. There was a steady flow of “Dixiecrats” from the Democrat to the Republican Party. Dixiecrats included the Klan and the White Councils and the various organizations of White Knights. To be sure, some stayed behind in the Democrat Party, but the majority left and became Republicans. They were embraced with open arms. Democrat President Lyndon Johnson was alleged to have said.

“We have lost the South for a generation!”

It didn’t happen immediately, Democrats did quite well for some time in the South, helping elect two Southern Democrats to the Presidency, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. It took the election of the first black President, Barack H Obama, to remind the South of who they really were. Trump carried the South. Capitalizing on the Southern Strategy popularized by Nixon strategist Kevin Phillips, improved by Lee Atwater for George H. W. Bush. improved by George W Bush, and absorbed by Steve Bannon and Donald J Trump.

Republicans bristle at the suggestion that their party is racist. Certainly, not all of them are. Some of their policies bear a striking resemblance to others from years past. Voter suppression tactics are remarkably similar, the more things change, the more they stay the same. As Republicans have stood by while white supremacists have offices in the White House. They implement Muslim bans, child separation, gerrymandering, redistricting, charter schools which greater enable segregation. When you look at what the leaders and members of the Party do as Trump rolls on. It’s what they’ve done since 1878, they look away.

Written by William Spivey
There's the writer I am and the writer I long to be. I write about race, politics, and education. I long to be a Sci/Fi/Fantasy writer, incorporating race, politics, and education, as part of an epic tale pitting good vs. evil on a vast scale. I'm shopping that book to literary agents. Putting that out in the universe. Until then, I want my voice to be heard and to make a difference. Profile

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