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Guest Post: Lincoln’s Warning to Modern GOP “Moderates”

December 20th, 2007 by Halli

From David Ripley, Idaho Chooses Life

As we enter a more intense period of the 2008 political cycle – interrupted but for a few days by Christmas – we see very strong efforts underway by the “Rockefeller Wing” of the Republican Party to remove moral questions from the political debate. We see candidates like Rudy Giuliani surfacing on a platform of national security and economic development.

This effort is not limited to the national scene. Leaders of various special interest groups based in Boise, usually associated with Republicans, have been very active in the past couple months recruiting candidates and raising money to challenge key conservative legislators in next year’s primary election. They are specifically looking for “moderates” who want to increase government spending on education, increase taxes for projects like the “urban railroad” – and, most importantly, candidates who will oppose the pro-Life agenda in the Idaho Legislature.

The campaign can best be seen as an organized reaction to the election of conservative Lawerence Denney as Speaker of the Idaho House, and the loss of many “moderate” Republicans in the last election cycle.

We are, therefore, expecting a very intense set of legislative primaries next spring.

But as these powerful lobbyists work to persuade influential politicians that the Republican Party is best served by candidates who hold no strong moral positions on issues like abortion or the homosexual agenda – they would do well to heed the admonition of President Abraham Lincoln.

I recently stumbled across a fascinating book about Lincoln’s extraordinary address to leading Eastern opinion makers in the winter of 1860 at Cooper’s Union. On the way to describing that history-making address and Lincoln’s preparations, author Harold Holzer shares a powerful letter written by Abraham Lincoln to U.S. Senator Thomas Corwin (R-OH).

Lincoln responds to Corwin’s argument that the new Republican Party ought to find candidates who refused to focus so much attention on the slavery question. Corwin feared this issue would drive away moderate Democrats and Independents at the polling booth.

Lincoln called such thinking “idiotic”. While arguing that extremists should not carry the party standard, Lincoln emphatically declared that winning Republican candidates would be those who understood slavery “as being the living issue of the day”. He further warned that history had already proven the failure of a politics driven solely by economic concerns: The Whigs, once able to elect presidents, were, by 1860, virtually non-existent.

This book, Lincoln at Cooper Union, reminds us all that the Republican Party was actually established around core moral principles. Eliminate that moral center – and you have a political project without meaning except to the few guys trying to line their own pockets.

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