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Hartmann: Republicans, Please Take Back Your Party

Republicans - Please Take Back Your Party

by Thom Hartmann

Today's so-called Republicans have established a mind-numbing record at polluting the environment; bloating government; appointing crony partisans; pushing the nation into debt to fund tax cuts for the rich; legislatively catering to the world's largest corporations; opposing women's rights; kneecapping states, local communities, and schools; eviscerating constitutional protections of liberty at home; and devastating our nation's reputation abroad.

They try to re-write history - the biography of Thomas Jefferson on the website has been re-written to turn him into a man who had "assumed leadership of the Republicans," while the reality was that Jefferson's party was the Democratic-Republicans and still exists today, called the Democratic Party. (The Republican Party is much more recent, having come into national existence in 1856.)

Corporate shills like former Enron lobbyist and current GOP chairman Ed Gillespie would have us think the Republican party was born in service to corporations. But Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican president, was also the first president to actively use the power of government in support of striking workers.

In Lincoln's era, the idea of strikes was so novel the word "strike" was put in quotation marks in newspapers, but Lincoln was often on their side. "Labor," Lincoln wrote, "is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if Labor had not first existed. Labor is superior to capital, and deserves much the higher consideration."

Republicans would do well to revisit the Republican Party's campaign platform of 1872, before the era of corporate personhood, as it may hold the seeds of their redemption.

The Republicans of 1872 didn't think that anybody should be appointed to high office just because he was a party hack or the son of the Secretary of State. Instead, they wrote in their platform, "Any system of civil service under which the subordinate positions of the government are considered rewards for mere party zeal is fatally demoralizing; and we, therefore, favor a reform of the system, by laws which shall abolish the evils of patronage, and make honesty, efficiency, and fidelity the essential qualifications for public positions."

They didn't think corporations - particularly big ones - should get the kinds of freebies that corporations today regularly demand for moving into a community. Instead, resources owned by We, The People should be held in trust for, or given to, human beings, as they wrote in their platform: "We are opposed to further grants of public land to corporations and monopolies, and demand that the national domain be set apart for free homes for the people."

The Republicans of 1872 felt that the national debt (from the Civil War) should be paid off as quickly as possible, and a budget must not only be balanced but show a surplus while at the same time paying pensions to retired persons. They were also protectionists, in favor of import duties and tariffs to protect working peoples' salaries and keep manufacturing jobs from moving offshore. They proclaimed in their platform:

"The [nation's] annual revenue, after paying current expenditures, pensions, and the interest on the public debt, should furnish a moderate balance for the reduction of the principal [of the national debt]; and that revenue should be raised by duties upon importations, the details of which [duties] should be so adjusted as to aid in securing remunerative wages to labor, and promote the industries, prosperity, and growth of the whole country."

The Republicans of 1872, having just freed the slaves (in part, at least), also spoke to that era's women's struggle for equal rights. Their platform explicitly said:

"The Republican party is mindful of its obligations to the loyal women of America for their noble devotion to the cause of freedom. Their admission to wider fields of usefulness is viewed with satisfaction; and the honest demand of any class of citizens for additional rights should be treated with respectful consideration."

The Republicans of 1872 had repealed most of Lincoln's wartime abrogations of civil rights, and opposed any other Patriot Act-like interferences with civil liberties. They were rediscovering the Bill of Rights, and said so in party platform plank sixteen:

"The Republican party proposes to respect the rights reserved by the people to themselves as carefully as the powers delegated by them to the States and the Federal government. It disapproves of the resort to unconstitutional laws for the purpose of removing evils, by interference with rights not surrendered by the people to either the State or National government."

The party platform said that Republicans would embrace only "modest patriotism" and "incorruptible integrity" in their leaders, because the nation's "honor" was, in that day, "kept in the high respect throughout the world."

The party noted that since it had first achieved national power with Lincoln's election, "During eleven years of supremacy it has accepted, with grand courage, the solemn duties of the time." Republicans had "emancipated four millions of slaves, decreed the equal citizenship of all, and established universal suffrage. Exhibiting unparalleled magnanimity, it [the Republican Party] criminally punished no man for political offenses," and tax "revenues have been carefully collected and honestly applied."

"This glorious record of the past is the party's best pledge for the future," the Republicans of 1872 wrote, blissfully unaware of how corrupt their party would become.

They added, perhaps presciently. "We believe the people will not entrust the government to any party or combination of men composed chiefly of those who have resisted every step of such beneficent progress."

In the years since then, the Republican Party has been seized by Ayn Rand utopians, Pat Roberson fundamentalists, and the largest and dirtiest of America's corporate elite. They've trashed the values of Lincoln and Eisenhower, rejected Jesus' words in Matthew 25, and turned our commons into a dumping ground while using our nation's treasury as a honey pot.

At the same time, there's a growing concern that George W. Bush's projected quarter-billion-dollar campaign war chest, and demonstrated willingness to use Big Lie techniques and October Surprise wars, will be enough to induce national amnesia in 2004, destroy the last vestiges of a civil society, and permanently turn our nation into the land of the observed and the home of the worried-about-the-terror-alert.

And, so, those of us "on the left" ask our Republican friends: Please take your party back from these fanatics, before it's too late for America to ever again be the land of the free and the home of the brave.


© copyright 2003 Thom Hartmann

Thom Hartmann (thom at is the award-winning, best-selling author of over a dozen books, and the host of a syndicated daily talk show that runs noon-3 ET in cities from coast to coast.

This article was published on Friday, October 24, 2003 by

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