Lynching Lincoln: Racism and the Devolution of the GOP

| October 31, 2012

Not all Republicans are racists but it would be folly not to argue that most racists in the United States are Republicans. The Grand Old Party’s stance on racial and gender inequality has been a hallmark of the Republican Party since the early 1950s. But it wasn’t always that way.

Scholars debate when exactly the tides turned and the Democratic and Republican Parties morphed into the ones we know today, yet no presidential historian of merit can argue that the Republican Party of the 1860s and the Republican Party of today are in any way related other than name.

A far right wing pundit could weave tenuous factual threads from the past and present into a blanket confirmation-bias argument, however the reason the current G.O.P.  still banners Lincoln as their political patriarch is, simply put: human rights. And had Lincoln been a flag-waver for states’ rights (which is one of the tenets of the current Republican Party), the U.S. would have been cleaved irretrievably into two countries.

The original Party of Lincoln’s legacy is that of a beacon for human equality — a lantern that today’s Republicans have repeatedly, and legislatively, snuffed out.

Southern Republicans began openly splitting within their party while the Emancipation Proclamation was still being drafted. And those rabble rousers would, over time, become the leaders of the Republican Party that we know today: wealthy white men afraid of losing their social and political stature bound together in their mutual racial and gender-biased bigotry.

And during this time, the pro-abolitionist faction within the party who fought for the rights of freed slaves — who overturned President Andrew Johnson’s veto on the Civil Rights Act of 1866 — were ironically known as the Radical Republicans. However, not surprisingly, their archenemies were the Southern conservatives. The seeds were already planted for a major shift within the Grand Old Party, and it would yield a bitter fruit, ripe for the pickin’, in exactly 100 years.


The Democratic Party has long been the party of the people, enacting social reforms, creating social programs that help the poor or infirmed, and passing laws that protect the rights of all American citizens. Those civil-rights battles were fought piecemeal through many presidential administrations but the one thing they have in common is that after Lincoln they were all signed into law by Democratic presidents.

See how the presidents rank overall.

The second wave of equality came under President Wilson, who succumbed to the demands of Suffragettes and helped pass the Nineteenth Amendment allowing women to vote. (The fact that Wilson opened up an entire new block of voters seemed to all but assure a third term for the stroke-addled president. But that would not be the case, and just like axed kegs of Scotch whiskey and busted bottles of beers on the eve of Wilson’s decidedly unpopular Prohibition, Wilson’s reelection went down the drain.)

President Franklin Roosevelt, with his implementation of the New Deal featured a stipulation that at least 10 percent of welfare assistance be allocated to African-Americans (who coincidentally made up 10 percent of the population at the time and were also within the 20 percent of the population who were living below poverty levels).

Roosevelt’s so-called “Black Cabinet,” (Federal Council of Negro Affairs) which was comprised of forty-five African-Americans (the most famous being Mary Jane Bethune) in lower level federal executive positions, began to swing more blacks toward the Democratic Party. In 1932 most blacks voted overwhelmingly Republican but just four years later Roosevelt, along with members of the Black Cabinet working in tandem with urban mayors (most notably in Chicago), won over the black vote throughout the country.

Prior to 1948 the South was steadfastly Democrat until segregationist Dixiecrats lead by South Carolinian senator Strom Thurmond began whittling away at their party –  all under the bunting of “states’ rights.”

By the time President Lyndon Johnson barreled though the first civil rights legislation since Reconstruction with the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965 the party schisms had changed irrevocably.

Democrats below the Mason-Dixon Line broke with Johnson, a fellow Southerner, fought against desegregation and other morally soiled remnants of the Southland’s “peculiar institutions.” And as blatant racist ideology began to infiltrate the Party of Lincoln, Republicans who stood for racial equality had nowhere to stand and thus crossed the aisle to side with the Democrats. It was southern-styled, boiled-in-wool racism that officially altered the Republican Party.

Continuing with President Carter’s push for the women’s Equal Rights Amendment and to President Obama’s recent support for gay rights (specifically marriage equality), the Democratic Party has consistently been the party of the people since Wilson.

Meanwhile Republicans, including Governor Romney, continue to tamp down the rights of others by proposing the Defense of Marriage Act, which would be the only Amendment to the Constitution that would actually deny American citizens of equal rights.


The term “post-racial America” ebbed into our collective vernacular during President Obama’s first inauguration in 2008; we had entered a new era and the electorate had, in effect, made reparations for our nation’s soul. And it seemed, for a breeze of a time, to be all behind us. Yet the bigotry continued.

If it appeared there were increased demonstrations of racism during the 2012 presidential campaign season, there’s a reason for that: A survey from the Associated Press reported that people who admit they harbor prejudice against blacks and Hispanics actually increased in four years from 48 percent to 51 percent.

As Election Day neared in 2012, the expressions of bigoted disdain toward both the president and the first lady were cresting. Photographs of chairs being hung in pseudo-effigy were being reported daily and while that may sound like child’s play to some, the implication carries historical racial overtones. And throughout the country, Halloween “decorations” of the president could be seen swinging in lawns from California to Indiana, and even a mannequin with the likeness of the president was photographed being lynched on a truck in the  parking lot of a county fair in North Carolina.

How many college degrees must a black man get — to what lofty ambitions must a black man aspire — how refined must a black man’s demeanor be? How honorable must a black man be as a son, as a husband, as a father, as a president? And to what extent must be prove himself as a man before he can rip off the mantle of “nigger,” “pickaninny,” and “sambo?”

It is a testament to the intellectual inferiority of Teflon bigots that no matter the success or mental superiority of the black man, to a racist it’s all for naught. While most signs of belligerent prejudice can be seen in impoverished rural areas within the Bible Belt, other racial slips of the tongues are coming straight from the mouths of G.O.P. politicos: Republican Governor Sununu even mocked General Colin Powell’s endorsement of Obama saying, essentially, that Powell, a Republican, was only voting for the president based on his race.

In October 2012, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson (Colin’s former chief-of-staff and fellow Republican), came out publicly and admitted rampant racism within his own party:

“My party, unfortunately, is the bastion of those people — not all of them, but most of them — who are still basing their positions on race. Let me just be candid: My party is full of racists, and the real reason a considerable portion of my party wants President Obama out of the White House has nothing to do with the content of his character, nothing to do with his competence as commander-in-chief and president, and everything to do with the color of his skin, and that’s despicable.”

Many right wing politicians’ racial biases are so ingrained, their loathing of Obama so intense, and their prejudicial comments so common that they barely even registered on the radar. Governor Palin’s recent “shuck and jive” comment about Obama (a reference to cartooned foot-dragging “darkies”) went virtually unnoticed. And while twice-failed would-be politician Donald Trump in an attempted extortion-esque promise to donate $5 million to a charity of Obama’s choice if the president released his college transcript simply came off as buffoonery, few people noticed its racial intent. Trump taunted via Twitter:

“If my offer is refused, every undecided OH voter will be fully aware that Obama denied $5M to charity all because he is hiding something.”

(As an aside, Trump had the wherewithal to wager $5 million to help people and because no one would play his game, he did not donate it. This is further proof that his bet is not an act of altruism, but a desperate act of egotism.)

But what most people missed from Trump’s self-celebrated “very, very big” stunt is the racial intent in his so-called offer. Trump believed, as did Rush Limbaugh (who has played a song on his radio show entitled, “Barack the Magic Negro”) that the president was accepted to Columbia University and Harvard Law School based solely on Affirmative Action. Even if this were the case (though no evidence exists to validate the claim) Trump’s intent to parade Obama as a man of lesser intelligence is moot; not only was Obama the president of the Harvard Law Review but he also graduated magna cum laude.

And those aforementioned Republicans actually consider themselves members of the Grand Old Party. Were he alive today,  Lincoln would be a Democrat and they’d be stringing him up by the nearest poplar tree, too.

Maybe it wasn’t a mirror that Colin Powell looked into for voting inspiration — maybe it was a history book.

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Comments (35)

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  1. Laurie Wolfe says:

    Brilliant. Thank you for such a beautifully – and pointedly – stated piece…

  2. Debra Ann Ball says:

    I’ve read many articles on the changes within the Republican and Democratic parties over time; this article succinctly explains the origins of racism within the Republican party; bravo for a timely article.

  3. Julie Gilbert Coleman says:

    This is genius.

  4. Matt says:

    Lincoln gets way too much credit for promoting ‘human rights’. The man was the ultimate panderer, advocating for ending slavery one day, and ranting about racial superiority the next:

    “I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in anyway the social and political equality of the white and black races – that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race. I say upon this occasion I do not perceive that because the white man is to have the superior position the negro should be denied everything.”

    • Matt, Have you read any of Douglass’ debate speeches??? The excerpt you’re quoting is reprehensible (though moderate for its time), but it’s also a response to some pretty vicious race-baiting.

      • That should be Douglas with one “s”. Stephen Douglas dropped the second s when he learned Frederick Douglass spelled his name with 2 s’s.

        • Matt says:

          I am familiar with Douglas’ part in ‘baiting’ Lincoln. However, I do expect more from such a highly revered historical figure, regardless of the times. Millions of people in the anti-slavery movement saw African Americans as equals – and Lincoln apparently did not. I hold a higher standard than ‘that was moderate for the times’ for figures that we put on such pedestals. They are held in such high regard for their leadership and being ‘ahead of their times’ – yet Lincoln fails to embody these qualities. I don’t think we should be too hard on the guy, but I think some of his more offensive quotes should be acknowledged, along with his positive attributes in order to reflect a more accurate depiction of the man he was (and wasn’t).

          • Matt says:

            Yes, his position was moderate for the times, but that doesn’t make it right (or disqualifying from critique). It’s analogous to a politician in the 1970’s being ‘baited’ about supporting gays, and refuting it by criticizing the immorality of their behavior but stopping short of calling for the criminalization of it.

          • Up to a point I agree with you, and I think this article overstates the Republican position of the time. At the same time I think you overstate the positions of most northerners. There simply were not millions of people in the “anti-slavery” movement in the 1850’s. The movement WAS growing, but Birney only got about 55,000 votes in 1844, and the Free Soilers got about 3 times that much in 1852. It wasn’t until the Republican Party (the old one, not the present-day one) was born, and accepted people and candidates with a fairly broad range of opinions, that any anti-slavery candidate had a decent chance of being elected. To me the question is, do we remember him for his criticisms of slavery? Or for his appeals to moderate voters? I would like to hope that all public figures were perfect, but even M. L. King had to acknowledge white sexual paranoia by saying “I want to be the white man’s brother, not his brother-in-law.” But is that what we want to remember King by?

  5. Dwayne says:

    This is something that I read a while ago and thought it was interesting enough to save, When I was a poor kid (white) I worked on road crews digging holes to pay for college, here in south Texas the hispanics had a great deal of hatred for african americans and I learned some slang to describe their feelings. It all came down to a simple observation — Everybody seems to need somebody to lord above and nobody wants to be on the bottom of the food chain. Most of the people in the Tea Party age group grew up secure in the knowledge that people of color were available to fill the lower echelons of the society. My slack-jawed, white-trash relatives actually had somebody to look down on. But when people of color started showing up with good jobs, masters degrees, and six-figure incomes the world was inverted. So the white folks needed to not only blame the “liberals” for their loss of status, they also desperately held to the belief that success was a birthright of the whites and by protecting the wealthy, they could preserve their eventual place in the sun. This might also explain the right-wing aversion to all things “science” and their love for NASCAR. These people are the cash cow of the Republican Party– because they cost nothing and don’t even get to join the club after election. A cheap date. ~ Larry L

    • Mike says:

      Interesting thought. I’m sure we all saw it in high school too. The popular kids kicked around the unpopular kids and the unpopular kids kicked around the kids worse off than they. As much as the right wing loves to beat on Islam and the Muslims of the Middle East, there are a lot of similarities. Both fear change, especially positive change, because they feel that the promotion of a better way invalidates the ways they’ve grown accustomed to. Both have misguided individuals willing to kill others to prevent progress from occuring and both take any perceived slight to their religion as a provocation of the highest form. In fact, with the exception of which book they believe their invisible man in the sky wrote, they’re exactly the same group of people.

  6. Allyson Tucker says:

    This is frickin’ brilliant. My husband (recovering Republican) and I were arguing with another couple the other night about this and I got mad when the wife called her party “the Party of Lincoln” and how “liberals never really liked blacks anyway.” How stupid are these people? I’m printing this out right now and putting it in my purse because the next person who tries that sh*t with me will get a earful. Thank you for a smart and entertaining article! And, by the way,this whole website is my new favorite thing! You’ve got a fan!!!

  7. Donald Nuzum says:

    I am a Christian first. An American second. I believe in upholding the Constitution of these United States. I think it is an Holy document given to men of faith by God himself for the fufillment of promises in God’s book toward the decendants of Abraham in the latter days.
    I am, by faith not a racist toward any one. Atleast not a racist as defined by the bible. I’m not sure what today’s pabblem would label me. I think a President should be critiqued according to what he does in relatiion to what he says.
    All the politicians that have come down the pike in my lifetime have been known to lie or distort the truth. It is sad and should not be tolerated. But Barak Hussein Obama is and has been the “consumate” liar. He is no friend of Jacob and therefore no friend of mine. And in my book that makes him a nigger.

    • Heidi Ross says:

      IN my book, that makes you IGNORANT!

    • Iris says:

      Donald: You really need to learn some proper English spelling and get yourself a good copy editor:
      1. it’s not “an” Holy document, it’s written “a” Holy document, since the letter “H” is sounded
      2. it’s not “decendants” of Abraham, it is “descendants,” as I should know, since I am a proud “descendant”
      3. “today’s pabblem” – pabblem is not a word, I think you meant “pablum”
      4. it’s not “Barak” Hussein Obama, it’s “Barack” Hussein Obama
      5. “consumate” is not a word, it’s “consummate”

      Finally, ANYONE who calls himself a person of God — whether that be a Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, whatever — does NOT use the despicable racist word you used. Does your pastor/priest/minister know you speak like this???

      • Donald Nuzum says:

        So, my spelling isn’t up to par. I did do a little baiting. I wanted to see if people would hone in on the real travesty here instead of just a kneejerk reaction to the n word.
        You will notice that I did not call him that because of his race. It was because of his character.
        The real players in this unfolding epilogue is God’s people vs Satan’s people.
        This is God’s nation and he gave it to Abraham’s descendants.Christians. They are losing their promised prosperity because they let the prosperity seduce them into not being vigilant about upholding God’s laws. They must suffer a little and be corrected. But woe unto those who oppress them. They will be trodden underfoot to be remembered no more.

        • Donald, have you read the gospel at all? You seem to be just apouting a lot of old testament rhetoric. Which is okay in and of itself, but you’re just using it as an excuse to spout the “N” word.

          • Donald Nuzum says:

            I don’t think you really believe that. I am explaining who we are and where we are going as a nation. You just can’t leave that n word alone can ya? Of all the pearls I have just given you, you still wanna spar about that. Well, even if I was the pit of darkness that you must want me to be, I have still spoken the truth. Remember, wisdom is justified of her children.

            • The fact that you use it tells me more than enough about you. Got anything to say that actually deals with the topic at hand?

            • Alistair says:

              You sir, by using words that exhibit a great amount of hatred for someone else, are not a child of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus of Nazareth (Because Christ is not his last name) taught that we are to love all people, regardless. So please, take your unchristian voice and go speak it aloud to your people.

            • Mr. Bakunin says:

              Hmm. Pearls. I would like to deposit a few pearls around your neck. You like pearl necklaces?

        • Tom K says:

          Woe unto those who believe your drivel. They will be trodden underfoot by their belief in the myth.

    • Erich says:

      And that, Donald, is why your team lost and will continue to lose.

    • Tom K says:

      Racist a$$hole. Go “Barack” under your rock and read about Bronze Age ethics and selling your daughters into slavery. You obviously are uncomfortable living in the 21st Century of the Common Era.

    • Nick Malik says:

      First off, a Christian would not consider a document written and negotiated by secularists (the US Constitution), full of compromises and a few false starts, that was so flawed that the original states were not willing to join in a union unless a raft of amendments were passed IMMEDIATELY, to be a holy document. That is blasphemy, pure and simple. God did not write the US Constitution. To say that he did is offensive to God and shows utter disrespect to the beliefs of the founding fathers. I question your patriotism. To understand America so poorly is to disrespect all that we have fought to protect.

      Secondly, Christ is very explicit in his commandments not to hate someone who has wronged you. I understand that you feel that Obama has wronged you (although I’m willing to bet that even you can’t name five “lies” that Obama has supposedly told. I can name 20 for G.W. Bush.) Regardless of whether the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES has wronged you in some way, Christ commands you not to hate him. You are required to turn the other cheek and you are commanded to love him and pray for him. Calling him names in public is not an example of brotherly love.

      So, twice, in a short message, you have demonstrated a dismal understanding of both country and faith. If you truly belief in the Lord, I strongly encourage you to change your ways. Stop listening to the evil messages pouring out of Fox News and from any person who considers himself to be “reverend” and yet spews hate, for that man is a false prophet. You have been deceived. When you stand before God, he will not look kindly on you for being unwilling to remove the scales from your own eyes, especially since you appear to be holding them there with your own hands.

      • Don says:

        I told you the truth hoping to save you from serious miscalculation. It is an uphill battle in a world deceived by darkness. It will be as I said it will be. So you can reread my posts to glean any future prophecies I may have said.
        If you have put your trust into Barak Hussein Obama then you are deceived. When you see this come to pass then you will recall our little conversation and make the decision as to whether you want to kneel before the God I serve and repent, if it is not too late.
        I do not wait for judgement. I am judged daily. If I get out of line he lets me know quickly. I am before him always. I am done here. You have enough.

      • kwkurtz44 says:

        BRAVO! well said.

    • Ken L says:

      Donald Nuzum, in my book, you aren’t a Christian- You’re an inbred, non-thinking cracker.

  8. Young Abe says:

    Donald, I hate to break it to you but Christianity, Islam and Judaism are ALL Abrahamic religions?! Hence, we are all descendants of Abraham. Therefore, we are all brothers and sisters and not just in the lovely African American sense. I am Christian myself but live in a Muslim country (excommunicate me now why don’t you?!) (BTW Do you actually know what the different branches of Christianity are or do you just go by “Christian?!”) The best Christian (Baptist) service I saw in my life and I have been to MANY was a quaint and welcoming church in the South Bronx. Way more meaning, love and warmth than any other service I have seen of any color!
    Get thee to a school or to a Bible because my Bible does not teach me to be an bigoted asshole. Have a nice day!

  9. Iris says:

    @Young Abe: Touché for your post above. It’s so amazing to me that the online posters who are the most racist, bigoted and intolerant usually are the ones who brag about how religious they are. They clearly have not read the Bible that the literate world knows.

    That is why I asked Donald if his pastor/priest/minister knows that he speaks the hateful way he does??? I wonder if he would voice his beliefs in front of the Christian congregation he belongs to?

  10. @ Donald Duck says:


    Just kidding lol.
    Seriously, I don’t care about your hateful garbage, but educate yourself. Your invisible sky God of convenience did NOT give ANYTHING to ANYONE. If you knew your OWN history as you so inarticulately try to proclaim here you would understand that the Treaty of Tripoli and the 1st Amendment CLEARLY STATE that the United States of America was NOT founded upon “Christian Principles”. The men who TRULY fought and died for your right to armchair quarterback the things you have no clue about FLED ENGLAND for the very thing that you ignorant fundies are trying to enforce upon everyone else. If there is a “God” I hope “HE” ends up being a black woman; one who has written down every name of every pig, self serving Caucasian male who acts like he just LOVES black people until one is elected POTUS. I support EVERYONE’S right to believe whatever they want and do NOT wish to offend anyone by saying “sky God” but I personally am a SPIRITUAL believer, not a religious control freak in need of being disciplined.

    All the best

    Quack Quack indeed

  11. Adam Denny says:

    I’m sure he does. Among Christians in Alaska at various times I heard learned political remarks about how the election of President Obama was a sign of the coming of The End Times, jokes about how much African American just love their fried chicken and watermelon, and one pastor (who I am embarrassed to admit is the one married to me to my ex-wife) insisting, in front of his congregation, that man’s use of the Large Hadron Collider would also bring about the End Times, presumably if President Obama hadn’t already.

  12. I think the troll has gotten us far enough off topic.