Abraham Lincoln was not originally a Republican. He also wasn’t religious, was considered cowardly, may have had Marfan Syndrome and definitely suffered from severe depression. And he was a giant among men. For all Lincoln’s faults — and he would have reported many, such was his character — he navigated the country through its worst conflict and most morally trying chapter in history. Some argue that Lincoln was murdered at the most ideal moment to cement his legacy, but I take the opinion forwarded by Michael Bechloss that Lincoln was sufficiently learned and humble to have built a truly “more perfect union,” and integrate the newly free even alongside those who had fought for their enslavement.
The death of the Republican Party, which Lincoln joined after declaring the Whig Party largely deceased, began the moment John Wilkes Booth fatally shot him.
But if the compassionate, scholarly, and humble Lincoln was the birth of the Republican party, the hateful, ignorant, and self-aggrandizing Trump is it’s final demise.
When Lincoln died, he had just won the Civil War. But Reconstruction headed by his now elevated Vice President Andrew Johnson would serve to undo many of the principles Lincoln and Republicans of the time embraced. Lincoln had put Johnson on his ticket because Johnson to him represented a means of reconciling the Republicans and the Democrats and reintegrating the South into the Union.
But without Lincoln present, Johnson continually vetoed pro-civil rights legislation and sided with Democrats over Republicans even and especially where Republicans held the majority position. For the next hundred years the country as a whole experienced a slow burn where for each minute gain made by women, immigrants, and people of color there was backlash and erasure from rich, white, men in power.
For whatever reason, Democrats saw the light. Or perhaps Republicans were simply bought by oligarchs and Democrats reacted against them. But regardless of how it all happened or when it really began, Democrats have become the Party of inclusivity and little “d” democracy whereas Republicans have become deeply bigoted and increasingly plutocratic.
Whether or not Republicans wish to see themselves as Trump today, he is a near perfect anthropomorph of their Party. He is old, unhealthy, bloated, rich without having earned it, lazy, selfish, uneducated, hypocritical, impatient, psychologically weak, racist, misogynist, homophobic, irreligious, untrustworthy, and callous.
They might have rejected him. In 2016 regardless of the primary results, the Republican Party at any point could have pulled him off the ticket and either replaced him with Jeb Bush who they clearly preferred or simply not run anyone at all. While that would have caused chaos within their party it would have prevented that same chaos for the nation.
Like Trump himself, the Republican Party expected others to simply clean up their mess. They did not have the character or work ethic to do it themselves. And their indolence has led the country to ruin.
President Barack Obama — who in many ways is the culmination of Lincoln’s legacy — listened to experts and genuinely cared for the nation and for its citizens. Among other accomplishments he left his successor an action plan and equipment stockpile in the likely event the nation faced a zoonotic highly infectious disease in the years after his own Presidency. Obama likely envisioned that plan being utilized by a President Hillary Clinton, but when that chance evaporated the stockpile was not destroyed in spite. Obama cared for the continuation of our nation and democratic principles regardless of what Party was at the helm because Obama was as President and remains today, a decent man.
But Donald Trump is indecent. Because it was crafted by a Black man and for truly no other reason Trump discarded the response plan along with so many other policies and traditions beneficial to and protective of our nation. For Trump’s own sins hundreds of thousands of Americans have paid the ultimate price. Trump’s failures in leadership are manifold, debilitating and ultimately fatal to people, his own Party, and the nation as a whole. He has failed in every aspect of his life, and failed to conduct us through this virus, but he himself is the virus.
When he — despite callously using the Secret Service who he had already financially exploited as human shields against the virus — finally fell ill, rather than take the illness seriously he exploited his position to get better treatment than most Americans and has once again implied that the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have died from the disease are somehow weak. US Presidents are never a moment or two away from a highly qualified and well equipped doctor and Trump was the very moment of his diagnosis able to receive personalized and constant care in contrast to millions of Americans who not only cannot afford healthcare due to his wrecking of the ACA but were turned away because Trump limited the number of of tests available in order to bolster his own supposed “success.”
The White House under Trump has been so dishonest that regardless of his planned discharge from Walter Reed Hospital today it is really unclear whether or not he will make a recovery or if this simply means he will die in the White House itself. But whether he lives or dies, his callous disregard for the nation and for his own office has become so apparent that his chances of winning the 2020 Presidential election decrease every hour.
If he dies before the next term or before November 3rd he leaves behind the similarly incompetent Mike Pence as the head of the Republican Party. If he survives past the election and January 20th he will be an outgoing and then ex-President and will almost certainly be indicted on multiple counts of fraud and possibly treason. There is a better than average chance that Trump will spend the rest of his life however curtailed it now may be, behind bars.
Trump, if he lives, will be the first US President to go to prison after his Presidency for crimes committed both before and during his term in office. What does that say of the Party that elected him?
Republicans of all walks of life have abandoned the Party entirely because of Trump and his massive failures. The Party is decimated because of him and most Republicans who remain are openly without remorse. The Party which was in its nascence led by arguably the most morally and ethically upright man in our history has now descended into a sociopathic disregard for basic human decency.
There’s no coming back from this. No decent person can vote Republican and argue that their character is not ethically compromised by doing so. Republican Senators and Representatives both at the federal and state level have themselves demonstrated troubling lapses in decency and revealed themselves as easily manipulated cowards. These are not upstanding leaders and the rot of bigotry has permeated throughout the Party.
Trump may have been able to hold the Republicans together through nothing more than blind hatred, but his handling of the pandemic and in particular his handling of his own illness has belied the inevitability of the Republican Party’s ignominious demise.
The Republican Party may lumber on a few more steps after Trump’s death or defeat, but this is the end. Hate can sustain, but it cannot sustain indefinitely. This was not Lincoln’s legacy and he would be ashamed to know it came to this.