As the retrospective of the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act continues in Texas, and is celebrated by Republican and Democratic ex-Presidents alike, I'd like to take a good hard look at the Republican party and pose a serious question:
I know we hear that it's the Tea Party Republicans that are unreasonable and don't believe in mainstream ideas (like equal rights for all). We used to hear that was the libertarian wing, or the Christian Coalition, or the NRA Republicans, or the Moral Majority, or the Goldwater Wing... well, pick a decade.
But looking at history - Abraham Lincoln was the first Republican President of the United States. He issued the Emancipation Proclamation and freed the slaves - probably the single most important domestic initiative of any US President in history, and certainly the most important of the 19th century.
But... since then there have been a string of Republican presidents. And the number of major initiatives to significantly alter or improve domestic policy? I can't find a single one after Lincoln.
You cannot count foreign policy initiatives because they don't happen alone. So, yes, Ronald Reagan ended the Cold War, but he did it with Gorbachev. Democrats start ad end wars, too. And negotiate treaties. Cutting taxes? Every president cuts some of them, so that's not a major initiative.
So I'm serious: Can anybody name a single, meaningful domestic initiative in the area of civil rights, human rights, workers' rights, health care, anti-poverty initiatives, women's rights, etc. that was put forward by a Republican President - at least in the 20th century? Any one? Anybody? Because I cannot think of one. Not one single initiative. Zilch. Zippo. The big zero. In fact, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that a majority of Republicans have voted against a majority of these initiatives across history.
So, bottom line is - maybe the Tea Party, the religious conservatives, the libertarians, the "insert-extreme-Republican-group-wing-here," are not the problem. Maybe it's the Republican party overall.
It seems Abraham Lincoln was an aberration. Besides, he was so 150 years ago. Since then, there's a lot of Republican flag-waving and freedom talk - and even a lot of Republican judgment on what passes for "American" and what doesn't. But there's no meat there when it comes to making life better for all Americans. In fact there's nothing.
So, again, I repeat the question: After Abe Lincoln, Then What?