By Elisabeth Turner Columnist
It’s no wonder the Republican Party failed to win the 2012 presidential election. The Grand Old Party’s failure to appeal to the American masses was readily evident in the months preceding Nov. 6. From comments about pregnancies not occurring in cases of “legitimate rape,” to Romney’s 47 percent demographic reference, the party routinely distanced itself from the hearts of the American public.
Today, the Republican Party is one of which Maureen Dowd believes may soon disintegrate into an ideological relic of sorts, one that archaeologists will try to determine the means by which its organizing structure dissolved. In a New York Times editorial entitled “A Lost Civilization,” Dowd writes, “The experts will sift through the ruins of the Reagan Presidential Library… faded photos of Clint Eastwood and an empty chair…” The extinction will come, she claims, when Hillary Clinton steps up to the platform in 2016 to finish off the last of the uptight, bossy white men that constitute the modern Republican Party.
Formerly, the Republican Party was associated with conservatism – the same kind discussed by David Brooks in a New York Times editorial entitled “The Conservative Mind.” This now antiquated form of conservatism was one that valued a balance between life and work, and money and morals; one in which family and the relationships that it provided for were seen as the organizing core upon which the rest of society functioned. Traditional conservatives believed in the need for societal reform, yet they believed that caution should be used when considering society’s ills and how those ills should be remedied. These traditional conservatives believed in progress, but they believed such progress should be enacted by a judicious estimate of all things in both their present and historical origins, and thus, that change should not be made hastily.
This principle of wise and fully researched consideration for any mechanism of change is one that the first Republican Party President, Abraham Lincoln, also found to be of value. In a book written in 1918 by Francis Grierson, a man who had spoken with Lincoln in person, the simplicity of Lincoln’s values and the means behind his success are revealed. Grierson writes that Lincoln was “the greatest of all practical mystics,” a phrase referring to the peaceful and quiet spirit of confidence that Lincoln was able to hold amidst all trying circumstances, and the duty, rather than hollow ambition, he had to fulfill what he believed was a purpose that had been ordained by providence. Lincoln was a meek man, yet he possessed an organic humility and cautionary reflectiveness, all qualities that are visibly absent from the current Republican faction that Dowd expects to be nonexistent before the turn of the decade.
On page 61 of his book, Grierson wrote: “[Lincoln] was cautious, cool, patient, and enduring.” He stated, “Before he could form any idea of anything, before he would express his opinion on any subject, he must know its origin and history, in substance and quality, in magnitude and gravity.”
These days, the Republican Party tends to focus on shrinking the government and promoting economic freedoms. But in light of what Dowd sees as the GOP’s possible extinction, I think it might be wise for us, as students and as America’s future leaders, to look back and reflect upon Lincoln and his values. To look upon Lincoln’s cautionary and perceptive nature - the same nature that Brooks says was part of traditional conservatism. This very virtue-- this cautionary and considerate, unassuming and malice-free nature--is exactly what the Republican Party needs to resurrect itself. The traditional conservatism as well as the honor and dignity is what being a Republican requires.
In an age where quick-witted thinking and immediacy is prioritized, it may seem an entirely quixotic notion to consider the value of such a sincere approach in politics, and even in life itself. But as students who value the truth, as students who see the falsehoods and failures of the Republican Party not as an incitement for extinction, but rather for revolution, we might be wise to consider the principle that is the very component of Lincoln’s character that made him so great.
Perhaps we might rise up with humility and move forward with diplomatic but unassuming grace, with a just concern and consideration for all sides, putting the economic rhetoric aside. Maybe then the particle of truth that still gleams from within the sandstorm that is the Grand Old Party might be saved. Maybe then we can be made into a new and better, but still grand, Republican Party.