The Party of Lincoln and Eisenhower

The most significant transformation the Republican party has undergone has been its shift from a broad-based, moderate conservative party to an exclusive, narrow-based, populist political organization. This new GOP has been able to win five of seven presidential elections between 1980 and 2004 and control both Houses of Congress from 1994 to 2006. Leaders like Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush were able to put a more inclusive face on their party—though it was sometimes betrayed by their policies—while George W. Bush relied on a sales-pitch of compassionate conservatism to attract independent voters. By 2008, however, the sham was up. America was changing, but the GOP had not kept pace. Conservatives like David Frum now see a bleak future for the GOP unless it changes and learns from its defeats in 2006 and 2008. This is why the selection of a new Chairman of the RNC was so noteworthy. Choosing former Maryland Lt.Governor Michael Steele, an African-American, indicates that the GOP may be ready to change course.

Steele is a moderate political figure that will help the GOP re-connect with its history. Abraham Lincoln, who abolished slavery, would have been ashamed of his party’s southern strategy and the veiled racism of the late 60’s and 70’s. The African-American vote was not the exclusive domain of the Democrats leading up to the early 60’s. But ever since the 1964 election, blacks have overwhelmingly voted Democratic. In the meantime, Republicans did not seem to care. The choice of Steele, coming after Obama’s victory, sends the right signals. Most likely, it will take time for the GOP to make inroads among African-American voters due to Obama’s popularity, but it is an important first step.

Another dimension has to do with conservatism. Social conservatives and neo-conservatives hijacked the Republican agenda nearly 30 years ago and never gave it back. Eisenhower and Nixon were traditional conservatives—open to change, but fond of traditional values and conservative economic principles. Bipartisanship in domestic policy making and multilateralism in foreign policy were hallmarks of that GOP era. The party of Eisenhower did not dismantle the New Deal and America was better for it. America is best served when it is governed from the centre, sometimes a little left, sometimes right. Michael Steele will have his work cut out for him if he hopes to bring the GOP back to the centre, because the current crop of Republicans in Congress have generally forgotten they belong to the party of Lincoln and Eisenhower.




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The Party of Lincoln and Eisenhower

  1. Um…how is Steele a moderate? Just because he’s black doesn’t change the fact that he’s a hardcore social conservative (and one with questionable ethics to boot).

  2. How on Earth did you conclude that Steele was a moderate? He’s anything but. He is as partisan as it gets and very right-wing social and religious conservative. He even went so far as to mock bipartisanship during his acceptance speech. Perhaps some more research on your part would be in order?

    • R :well if he is that , I am happy. When MSNBC defends his choice , I become suspicious .

  3. “But ever since the 1964 election, blacks have overwhelmingly voted Democratic.”

    This line is a weak link in an otherwise interesting piece. Many argue that the mistreatment of southern blacks during and after the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 (America’s first Katrina) was the decisive event that turned Party of Lincoln voters away from the Republicans — for the first time since reconstruction — and towards the Democrats and FDR. Hoover, who was Sec. of Commerce during the flood, badly mishandled the situation. Despite promises to help the blacks who were abandoned and abused in camps after the flood, and the help of the Colored Advisory Committee in later getting him elected President, Hoover turned his back on thousands of displaced flood victims.

    Thereafter, black Americans migrated in massive numbers to northern industrial cities and voted overwhelmingly for Democrats like FDR. This happened in the thirties and forties, long before the 1964 race. Check it out:

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/flood/timeline/timeline2.html

    • you may have a point but Martin Luther King`s father was ready to support Nixon .

    • We call this back to the future.Conservatives act as if they had nothing to do with the greed and insensitivity that has led to the finacial mess we are in .

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