Republican Reboot

By Levine, Allan | Winnipeg Free Press, November 13, 2012 | Go to article overview
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Republican Reboot

Levine, Allan, Winnipeg Free Press

Brilliantly depicted by Daniel Day-Lewis in Steven Spielberg's new film, Abraham Lincoln was a wise visionary, a man of character, strength and humour, who dedicated himself to abolishing slavery and preserving the union of the United States.

He was also a Republican. That's right: Lincoln and Mitt Romney belonged to the same political party. Moreover, if Honest Abe had voted in the recent election, there is no doubt he would have deserted his own party and cast his ballot for Barack Obama and the Democrats, the party that most resembled his own thinking -- though his had a 19th-century slant.

Moviegoers not up on their American history will be forgiven for thinking Lincoln, a compassionate human-rights champion and an advocate of strong government action, was a Democrat. How could such a leader who fought for social justice and literally risked his life to defend the rights of enslaved Africans belong to the political party whose most recent presidential nominee insisted 47 per cent of Americans (who happen to vote for the other party) are entitled slackers who are dependent upon government handouts? (Not to mention other members of this same party who believe there is such a thing as "legitimate rape" and argue being gay is form of "bondage.")

Somewhere along the line, the Republicans lost their way. If Romney could not beat a president when unemployment was close to a high of eight per cent, then when? The last time an incumbent president was re-elected when the unemployment rate was greater than 7.2 per cent was Franklin Roosevelt in 1936.

Since the election of 1952, the Republicans have held the presidency for 36 of 60 years or 60 per cent of the time. The party does still hold power in the influential House of Representatives. Yet, Mitt Romney's loss to Barack Obama points to a number of significant factors that might well prevent the Republicans from claiming the White House for a very long time.

If you watched Republican gatherings during the last election or saw Romney's late-night concession speech, then you should have noticed he was speaking to a room that consisted almost entirely of white faces. Obama's Democrat demographic was decidedly more mixed; the Democrats rode to victory, especially in the key swing states of Colorado, Ohio and Florida, largely because of the support of Hispanics, Latinos, African-Americans and other minorities, along with a sufficient number of white voters, mainly women, who cannot accept the Republican party's ultra-conservative slant (despite Romney's Herculean attempt to keep that in check during the campaign).

The votes supporting gay marriage in Maine and Maryland (now making it nine states in all), the refusal in Minnesota to define marriage as only between a man and a woman, and the fairly remarkable vote in favour of legalizing marijuana for recreational use in Washington and Oregon signifies yet again that the so-called progressives are winning the fight over traditionalists in the battle to define the values of the modern western world.

A long time ago, the Republicans were, in fact, established on a point of principle and as a symbol of progress. The party was born in 1854 as a response to slavery and supported, ironically enough, the federal government's right to contain its spread over the objection of the states. Lincoln, an Illinois politician who had belonged to the old Whig party, was one of its founders.

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