Many Americans have little idea of the true history of the Republican Party. If they get their news from the "mainstream media," they probably believe that every Republican from time immemorial has opposed equal rights, preservation of the environment and anything that smacks of fun. For those who understand the formation of America, believe in the U.S. Constitution, and know the history of the Grand Old Party, please bear with me as I provide others with a much-needed history lesson.
The Republican Party was officially formed in Ripon, Wisconsin, two days after Independence Day 1854. Opinions vary on the timing of its demise. Many conservatives believe the feeble opposition we have been witnessing among Senate Republicans to President Obama's Supreme Court nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor will no doubt be further diluted by the shocking murder of Kansas abortionist George Tiller.
The party's most glorious moments came under its two greatest presidents, Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan. These two leaders stood on courageous principle, not whimpering compromise. Lincoln held a fractured nation together in the face of enormous challenges, finishing the job the Founders knew in their hearts was necessary to form "a more perfect union" by emancipating an enslaved people. Reagan brought a demoralized nation back from national malaise caused by Democrats whose mishandling of foreign and domestic policy humiliated America in Vietnam, emboldened our Cold War enemy, the USSR, and very nearly wrecked the U.S. economy.
Born of a desire to fill the void caused by the dying gasps of one of the two major parties of the day, the Whigs, the Republican Party challenged the nineteenth century's elephant in the parlor: the intolerable institution of slavery. Yes, students, it's true. Republicans opposed and Democrats supported the concept of one human being owning another, while the Whigs just wanted the whole issue to go away (similar to the attitude of today's GOP "moderates" on the killing of the unborn).
Dems also later supported segregation and so-called separate-but-equal schools, and fought against the permanent changes that would abolish these practices forever. It took Republicans to pass the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act and other groundbreaking legislation, while Democrat "leaders" like Al Gore's father, Sen. Albert Gore, Sr., of Tennessee, and Sen. J. William Fulbright of Arkansas (Bill Clinton's hero and mentor), stood in the way of racial progress and equality for decades.
Unfortunately, for the last twenty years the Republican Party has had a dearth of leadership. In fact, since the Gipper rode off into the sunset two decades ago, the GOP's Whig-like, go-along-to-get-along drift toward compromise with Democrats has resulted in such mediocre presidential nominees as George H. W. Bush; Bob Dole; George W. Bush; and finally, culminating in the weakest candidate possible in 2008, John McCain.
Meanwhile, congressional Republicans have been completely cowed by Barack Obama. As I write this, I pray that GOP opposition to Obama's radical Supreme Court nominee will somehow rise from the whining we heard from them last week. I pray, but I don't hold my breath.
The only voices speaking with strength and conviction are not among our elected officials. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and virtually all of talk radio rightly labeled Judge Sotomayor a "racist" for her 2001 comment that a Latina woman is more qualified to make legal decisions than a white man. Every honest American with a brain stem knows what would have happened to Chief Justice John Roberts if he had said or written that he, as a while male, was more qualified to make legal judgments than some Black man or Hispanic Woman.
Senate Republicans do not need to resort to the kind of hysterical lies Ted Kennedy told about Robert Bork in 1987, nor those told by Anita Hill against Clarence Thomas in 1991. They simply need to look long and hard at this nominee's long oral and paper trail and let her record speak for itself. If they do not - or if they do and find the kind of radical ideology Obama embraces - and then vote for her out of fear of a popular president, we should order the headstone that reads, "RIP, GOP," for this great party will be headed for the ash heap of history, right alongside the Whigs.