As my wife and I crossed the parking lot to enter the market, I noticed a Confederate flag proudly displayed in the back window of a parked truck. Had I been given a casual opportunity, I would have liked to ask the owner if he or she was a strong Democratic voter. "Heck no! I always vote Republican!" would have been the expected answer.
My question brings the answer to a fact of history that is rarely discussed. Yes, Republicans freed the slaves. Yes, Lincoln was one of our greatest presidents. But Republicans at the time of the Civil War were the big-government, liberal party and they believed that all men were truly created equal.
In 1860, the 'new' Republican Party platform of Lincoln was for a powerful central government that was against slavery. They were for free farmland for non-slave holding western settlers, for freedom of immigration into the United States and rights to all immigrants, for building the transcontinental railroad and regulating national banks -very much a left-of-moderate party platform. The Democratic Party platform was the hard-line states' rights, pro-slavery, admittedly white-supremest as proclaimed in the Confederacy's "Cornerstone Speech" manifesto, conservative party. Many things fractured the politics of 1860. Among those were the promotion of a gold standard, the Free Soilers, and pro & anti-slavery Whigs that forced a split that dissolved the long-established Whig Party. As a result, though considered a long-shot, Lincoln's 'new' Republican Party won the election.
When we celebrate President Lincoln as one of the United States' greatest presidents with holidays and dinners we must understand the accurate accounting of history, that ideological platforms switched during the terms of the majority and consecutive Republican presidents that followed the Lincoln-Johnson terms. The long list of Republican presidents that followed Lincoln and V.P. Andrew Johnson ended with conservative Herbert Hoover and the Great Depression, caused in large part by unregulated banking, then worsened by the Hoover administration's fear that introducing any level of socialism was unacceptable -those continue as modern Republican talking points.
Democratic nominee Franklin D. Roosevelt's election win was the final indicator that both party's previous platforms had fully flipped and the economy was boosted into what is one of the great successes in our history. The New Deal followed by the G.I. Bill were two prominent progressive economic triggers that sustained a fruitful U.S. economy.
"The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little." -Franklin D. Roosevelt. That approach surely seems to have worked very well for the economy. It is perhaps another part of history that we should examine more closely regarding corporate subsidies, the cap on the Payroll Tax and the lowered tax rates for the wealthiest vs. quality public health and affordable college education for all Americans.
It should be noted that some conservative "DixieCrats" remained in office well into the 20th century, but that the Confederate flag today is flown by Republican and/or Tea Party supporters almost exclusively. It is no longer flown by Democrats. In fact, we have seen modern-day Democrats file lawsuits to have the Confederate flag removed from government buildings. This is one of many, more than obvious signs of how the two rival party's platforms have flipped since Abraham Lincoln, one of our greatest, if not the greatest of all U.S. presidents.