Abraham Lincoln was a Republican. Most people don’t know that. At least that’s what Donald Trump believes and with what the GOP has come to represent under him, Lincoln might be grateful not to be associated with the Republican Party.
Trump’s order reversing President Barack Obama’s policy on DACA is the latest example. Under that order up to 800,000 Dreamers – including those serving the country they love as active military personnel – could be deported. Consider as well Trump’s bizarre tweets and confusing order on transgender individuals in the military, in which the tweets (the mirror of Trump’s blackened soul) suggest a ban on transgender service members. There are probably thousands of transgender individuals on active duty, all willing to risk their lives for their country.
Trump’s actions are a direct rebuke to Lincoln. As Professor John Burt explains in Lincoln’s Tragic Pragmatism: Lincoln, Douglas, and Moral Conflict, the citizenship status of African Americans was very much in contest throughout the Civil War. The Dred Scott Decision was still good law and in Scott the Supreme Court found that Americans of African descent were not citizens under the Constitution. In his Emancipation Proclamation Lincoln held out the offer of freedom to slaves who could escape their masters; many thousands of those slaves went on to fight for the United States of America against the rebellious Southerners. As Professor Burt explains, when you have placed a rifle into a person’s hands and sent that person off to fight and risk all, you have effectively made an irrevocable promise of citizenship. Lincoln kept that promise.
Now our Republican president attempts to revoke a high honor of citizenship – to serve our country – from transgender citizens. He would further weaken our military by deporting young service members who are American citizens in all but their paper work.
In his Annual Message to Congress of December 1, 1862, with the Emancipation Proclamation to be signed on January 1, 1863, Lincoln closed:
In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free -- honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth. Other means may succeed; this could not fail. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just -- a way which, if followed, the world will forever applaud, and God must forever bless.
The Republican Party as the party of Lincoln has perished from the earth.