The Party of Lincoln

The Party of Lincoln

Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the Harry Potter series was a great wizard, by all accounts. He was the only wizard that Voldemort (the bad guy) ever feared, and he was well-respected by his enemies, allies, and pupils.

He wasn’t perfect, though. To be fair, he never claimed to be, but like so many great men, he was often put on a pedestal, elevated to an unrealistic level of perfection and expectation, and drowned in adulation.

And he liked it – a little too much.

For all his flaws, though, Dumbledore was at least self-aware enough to understand his own weaknesses. As a result, though having been offered the job of Minister of Magic (basically the president or prime minister of the wizarding world) repeatedly, he never threw his name in the hat (or the goblet…ha!) for the job. His reason for never pursuing the ministry wasn’t because he didn’t want the gig. Rather, it was because he did want it.

That kind of power is not only alluring, but it’s intoxicating. Who can be sure that when given that level of authority over masses and masses of people and resources that they won’t abuse it or be tempted to wield it for their own personal gain, goals, and priorities?

The truth is, most of us have no idea how we’ll respond to such temptation until the very moment we’re faced with it.

Dumbledore was smart enough not to trust himself with that kind of responsibility out of fear that he couldn’t be relied upon to do the best for his constituents. It also explains why he was so keen to work with Newt Scamander, a low-key, intelligent, and passionate student-turned- author/magizoologist who was capable of leading but had no interest in doing so. He just wanted to study his magical creatures.

In an interview with Jake Hamilton, a movie critic from Chicago, Christian Bale touched on the subject regarding Vice President Dick Cheney:

“The big unanswered question…it’s about anybody who seeks the presidency…is the question of the enormous ego it must take to think that they are the correct person to be president and to lead that many people; that anybody that has that belief in themselves should be questioned greatly about whether they should be given that amount of power.”

To which Hamilton responded, “It should be almost someone who doesn’t want the job.”

You know, someone like Aragorn, the most perfect man and reluctant king I can think of, who is obviously a fictional character.

Obviously.

So why do people covet power? And why do other people put them in power, practically handing their lives and wellbeing over to them, saying “Do with this what you will – I know you’ll have my best interest at heart with every action you take, decision you make, and statement you speak”?

People need someone to believe in, someone they can support and get behind, and someone they can trust. In our two-party system, that can get tricky.

This ain’t no a la carte menu. You get a batch of ideals, social and religious, economic and fiscal –  ALL BATCHED. If you feel socially liberal but fiscally conservative? Tough. There’s not much of a space for you in your government as it currently functions.

As a result, elected and hopeful party leaders have to appeal to the needs and concerns of their constituents and make promises to assuage those needs and concerns. They also have to be confident that they’re the ones who can deliver on the promises they’re making. They can get it done better than anyone else can. They understand you better than any other candidates or representatives do, whether or not their own personal experiences have aligned with yours.

Empathy and such.

If one party doesn’t have your back…maybe the other one will. Just maybe…

Black Conservatives

Lee Adams, host and creator of VICE’s Minority Report, asserted in an interview with Hot 97 that people have always voted against their best interest. In his most recent episode, Adams met with the growing contingency of black conservatives.

It was fascinating.

I’ll admit that I was apprehensive to watch it. I don’t like watching things that don’t make me feel good (which is ironic and inconvenient considering the things I write about), but the piece was thoughtfully and respectfully done, thought-provoking, and non-judgmental.

I’ll let you watch the piece for yourself (and you definitely should), but some interesting takeaways were the idea that the Democratic party, who had a black man at its helm for eight years “did nothing” for black people in America, the idea that their vote was taken for granted by the Democratic party, and that they wanted to be a part of this greater America that Trump has promised.

I’m not sure what they wanted from Obama specifically, but I imagine it was somewhere along the lines of more economic support and opportunities for black communities, reduction in disproportionate police killings of black youths, etc. Basically, I suppose they wanted more attention to their group’s causes, which isn’t an unreasonable thing to want.

Don’t we all?

Some of them have adopted conservativism, and therefore the Republican party, by way of their own conservative values. For example, they were raised with emphasis on the family and church, they don’t believe in abortion, and they like having the ability to protect themselves with guns.

Antonia Okafor, a 2nd Amendment activist and black conservative, told Adams that she “didn’t feel empowered as an individual” by some of the policies that Obama put in place – whatever that means. She also glossed over questions about the Republican party suppressing votes in black communities, and she failed to elaborate on points that could have definitely used further explanation. Overall, I wasn’t terribly impressed by her. Still, the fact remains that she didn’t feel recognized or appreciated by the Democratic party, so she switched to the only other option she had, the Republican party.

Funny enough, Okafor was actually profiled in the VICE piece as she was being honored by a senator from Iowa, Steve King.

That guy.

Since Adams met with Okafor and King, King has been making some serious headlines.

Recently, Senator King made this unapologetically racist statement to the New York Times:

“White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?”

King has a history of racist rhetoric that has been largely overlooked by other members of his party, and he’s served in the US Congress for over a decade. His recent statement was, by no means, an isolated incident, but it was treated as such by the party with several members condemning him and his viewpoint.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy came out subsequently claiming that this is not representative of “The Party of Lincoln.”

But it is.

For a party that’s painfully white and non-representative of the plentiful and growing minority groups in this nation, it’s very much in line with the Republican party.

For a party that’s seen racism and done nothing, not even so much as condoned it publicly (taking dismissive and sometimes antagonistic stances against the Black Lives Matter movement and platform; Trump’s refusal to denounce the KKK and the events at Charlottesville), it’s very much in line with the Republican Party.

For a party that stands behind a president who has repeatedly made disparaging comments against and mistreated practically every minority group in this country, it’s very much in line with the Republican party.

Sure, the Republicans, specifically Abraham Lincoln, signed the Emancipation Proclamation over 150 years ago, but at least in recent years, they haven’t been particularly hospitable towards minority groups.

So, let’s talk about that. Republicans often refer to themselves as “the Party of Lincoln” when they need a “We can’t possibly be racist – we freed the slaves” card to play, but the fact of the matter is that neither the Democratic nor the Republican parties are the same as they once were, especially not 150 years ago. We’ve all witnessed how dramatically social and political climates can change within a decade, so why wouldn’t there be dramatic changes within a century and a half?

When Donald Trump, Jr. likens immigrants to zoo animals but people still claim that Democrats are racist because the KKK and Andrew Jackson were Dems back in the day, there’s a problem.

It’s nonsensical, but let’s dive into it, just for fun.

Political Parties in the US

Politicians in the young United States split into two distinct political parties against George Washington’s most dire and explicit of warnings not to.

Washington, for all of his incredible yet unappreciated foresight, knew that once parties were established, people would blindly align themselves with one side or the other, adopting a batch of opinions and stances on various topics rather than contemplating each issue or candidate individually and casting votes accordingly.

Then came Jefferson and Hamilton. Troublemakers, the two of them, and politically opposed on several fronts. Naturally, they both accrued followers amongst lawmakers and citizenry, alike, and thus, the first American political parties were born – the Federalists (Hamilton) and the Democratic Republicans (Jefferson).

From there, the parties evolved into the Whigs (Clay) and the Democrats (Jackson). Beyond the name, the Democratic party of the early 1800s doesn’t have much in common with the party of today.

Following the dissolution of the Whig party, the Republican party emerged in 1854, taking on many Whig platforms and looping in any anti-slavery Democrats. In 1860, the young party put a man in the White House. That man was none other than Abraham Lincoln, a lawyer who opposed slavery so much that he came out of retirement from his political career to fight against it.

I don’t need to tell you that Lincoln’s a national hero. People love him. Everyone wants to be associated with him. The biggest compliment Obama received throughout his presidency was being compared to Lincoln. Lincoln’s memorialized in Washington, D.C., his face is carved into Mount Rushmore, and he’s on two separate pieces of American currency. He saved the union.  He ended slavery. He’s a legend.

And again – he was a Republican. He was fighting against the Democratic party that wanted to preserve the institution of slavery to the point of attempting to secede from the union in order to do so.

And again – back when the Republican party was born, they were far more progressive and liberal than the existing Democratic party was.

As the decades went on, different issues presented themselves to Americans and new leaders took their parties in different directions. By the time the 1930s and FDR came around, the two parties’ platforms had essentially switched.

What’s interesting is that the Republicans had enjoyed several decades of political dominance before their platform switch had occurred. When they leaned more heavily into conservatism and the Democrats more into liberalism, the Democrats ascended to power (give or take, here and there).

A lot of what I just said is debatable and subjective and is, in fact, heavily debated in political science and history circles, but that’s a general overview.

For more insight on this, check out this video from Johnny Harris over at Vox.

Ultimately, people and parties change and evolve, as they definitely, definitely should. Also, as it appears, Americans have always been progressives, in the best sense of the word. Maybe it’s time to stop living in the past and harkening back to history whenever it’s convenient or serves a narrative. And maybe it’s time to finally stop calling the Republican party “The Party of Lincoln.” Just maybe.

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