Bankole: Lincoln wouldn’t recognize Trump’s GOP

Bankole Thompson
The Detroit News

Anyone who has an understanding of history will not recognize the 2016 Republican Party that has named Donald J. Trump as its nominee for president.

The damage to the Republican Party has already been done and Abraham Lincoln, the party’s most celebrated icon, would be rolling in his grave in light of what is happening in this election as the voices of bigots are hijacking the party.

Think about some of the ideas that gave rise to the GOP as a major political party when it was formed in 1854 in Jackson, an hour away from Detroit. Among them was its fierce opposition to slavery and bigotry, a deep recognition of our collective humanity that no one should be viewed as superior than the other. That regardless of our skin color we should not be treated differently because we are all equal.

Those ideas that formed the party’s core and are enshrined in the Declaration of Independence are being bastardized by forces in the GOP that have made the scapegoating of African-Americans, Muslims and immigrants a political tool to whip up votes and win an election.

The 2016 campaign is Exhibit A of how disintegrated the party has become with Trump as its flag bearer. His attack on Muslims by promising to ban them from emigrating to the United States, insulting Mexican immigrants as “rapists,” and his most recent condescending description of black life saying African-Americans are living in the worst time ever are examples of what the GOP a century ago would have railed against.

Appealing to the worst instincts of voters, the Trump campaign has given voice to what Colin Powell, a Republican who is a former U.S. secretary of state and retired U.S. Army general, aptly described as the “dark veins of intolerance” and is something the party will have to deal with.

GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham, who was worried about the candidacy of Trump from the very beginning, offered this prayer for the GOP in a radio interview in April.

“What we have to do as Republicans is offer an alternative that’s common sense, that people can understand, that’s hopeful and optimistic, not hateful. I pray the Republican Party can nominate somebody that can beat Hillary Clinton,” Graham said.

Graham, an elder in the party, did not get his wish.

Trump’s campaign has not been hopeful. It’s been all doom and gloom and selling voters the stale meat of hatred masking as a solution to the economic anxiety in the nation.

For the GOP to be viewed as culturally sensitive to the aspirations of the black community and other people of color, it must begin to weed out the elements of bigotry that hold the party hostage today.

That would require party elders to lay a futuristic vision that is inclusive of people of color. It would mean having real and frequent conversations in these communities instead of shuttling delegations in and out during an election season.

The Democratic Party can be found wanting in a number of areas as it relates to the well-being of communities of color. I do not subscribe to the Democratic monopoly of the black vote. But if the GOP wants to seriously engage the black vote, it will have to offer a realistic alternative.

The current “law and order” panacea that Trump offers is the wrong prescription to draw African-Americans to the party of Lincoln. President Barack Obama always speaks admiringly of Lincoln — not because they are from the same state but because of his ideas.

On June 16, 1858, in Springfield, Illinois, Lincoln gave his “House Divided Speech” saying:

“A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure permanently half-slave and half-free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved. I do not expect the house to fall but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.”

Lincoln was dealing with the slavery question on that occasion.

The Republican Party will have to deal with the bigotry question after this election.

Bankole Thompson is the host of “Redline with Bankole Thompson” on Super Station 910 AM weekdays at noon. His column appears Mondays and Thursdays.