Thursday, April 22, 2010

"Reagan Conservative" or "Lincoln Republican"?

The Real Difference Between the Blue-Bloods and the Populists
By: Jonathan Harris

Most Republicans like to trace their political heritage from Ronald Reagan through Theodore Roosevelt all the way back to Abraham Lincoln, sometimes tacking Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson (both Democrats) on as the first philosophical conservatives. However, an honest look at history will unveil mutually exclusive irreconcilable differences between all of these men, and I'm not referring to the way in which they ate a sandwich- I'm talking about fundamental governing beliefs. When we take into account the way in which each of these men actually governed we quickly find that on the right sit Thomas Jefferson and Ronald Reagan, with Andrew Jackson somewhere in the middle, and Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln sitting in the same section as Woodrow Wilson and FDR. Yes, you heard me right! Lincoln was really our first progressive president- a man before his time, but who ultimately paved the way for the progressive era. In fact, Woodrow Wilson, though he harbored strong feelings of support for the South (he was born in Virginia), absolutely adored Lincoln for his methods- the way in which he circumnavigated the constitution. Wilson effectively took Lincoln's philosophy and replicated it thereby tearing the constitution to shreds even more. We could spend all day talking about the connection between these two, and their attempts to undermine American Law but my purpose in this piece is to instead pit the two supposed "giants of conservatism," Reagan and Lincoln, against each other in order to see who the real proponent of limited government is. 

First a pop quiz. Below are listed three quotes. One is the voice of Ronald Reagan, another the voice of Abraham Lincoln, and the third, a figure who shall remain nameless until you've decided which ones to attribute to Reagan and Lincoln. Let's begin. 
  1. The states that make up the American Union are mostly in the nature of territories. . . formed for technical administrative purposes. These states did not and could not possess sovereign rights of their own. Because it was the Union that created most of these so-called states. 
  2. -----------------------------------------------------------------
  3.  The Union is older than the States and, in fact created them as States. The Union, and not themselves separately, procured their independence and their liberty. The Union threw off their old dependence for them and made them States, such as they are.  
  4. -----------------------------------------------------------------
  5. All of us need to be reminded that the Federal Government did not create the States; the States created the Federal government. 
If you said the first quote belonged to either Lincoln or Reagan you were wrong. It is actually an excerpt from a book by the name of "Mein Kampf" written by Adolf Hitler (It is a little known fact that Hitler eliminated the Wiemar Republic comprised of States by federalizing them). The second quote is by Abraham Lincoln, and the third, you guessed it, Ronald Reagan. Now for our second question on the quiz. Which one of the three does not belong? If you said, "Ronald Reagan" you are absolutely correct. Reagan is the only one of the three who believed that the Federal Government is a creation of, and therefore accountable too, the States. 

Let's briefly examine the arguments for and against State Sovereignty. Lincoln's argument stems from the idea that the states weren't states themselves before they adopted the Constitution, and that all proceeding states to be adopted certainly had no standing in claiming any kind of "sovereignty." He stated, "The States have their status IN the Union, and they have no other legal status." Of course, states do have the constitutional right to separate from the Union if the Federal Government becomes to abusive- but let's consider the history behind the ratification of the Constitution. Was it not delegates from "States" who gathered together in Philadelphia? What entities ratified the Constitution? Was it not the States? Indeed, the Constitution itself reads, "We the people of the United States. . ." Those who want to advocate the demolition of state sovereignty emphasize the word "people," but most don't know that the word "people" was only inserted because the original draft which read, "We the people of the states of the States of New-Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, etc." was infeasible. The constitution had not been ratified by the states listed and therefore it would be insulting to keep such language. Instead the broader term "United States" was adopted, which proved beneficial since Rhode Island was a holdout. 

The reason Lincoln supported the idea of a perpetual national government, was so he could undermine the state's ability to control its own proceedings. The tenth amendment was literally torn to bits as critical State officials in the North were jailed, suspicious local newspapers were disbanded, States were federally created (i.e. West Virginia) by the executive or taken over (i.e. Maryland, Tennessee, Missouri) through martial law, peaceful seceding states were conquered, and the list goes on. The more one looks at the issue the more Lincoln looks a lot like Hitler and Reagan becomes an entirely different figure altogether. So I ask you the question, "Are you a 'Reagan conservative,' or a 'Lincoln Republican'?"


Kermit_is_King said...

A couple thoughts here: first, I should not be surprised that your writing is as clear or bold as it is. Compelling reading. Second, it seems reasonable that Hitler would have read some of Lincoln, and therefore not shocking that he would use some of the same language. Indeed, since Lincoln "won" that debate in the mid-19th century, Hitler is simply restating what "is", and not "what should be". This is an unnecessarily "gotcha" kind of segment of the piece. Third, the legacy of Lincoln includes the end of slavery (an unquestionably good thing in my opinion) as well as the expansion of executive power (which is debatable). Fourth, the 10th Amendment was not literally shredded. It's in the National Archive, and is not shredded. I promise. Fifth, I don't understand Reagan's appeal - he raised taxes several times, ran up huge deficits, and fed government increased in size under his leadership. His rhetoric is one thing, his actions are something different. The government increased in size by 8.3% under Reagan, according to an article in Forbes last year (author is Mike Patton). has an article on tax increases that pegs Reagan's 1982 tax increase as the largest in US history when adjusted for inflation.

This makes for good reading - I don't read much on the far left or right these days, so I'll consider you my source. - Tom Farnsworth

Jon said...

Thanks Tom,

Appreciate it. In Mein Kampf Hitler was using the "American Civil War" as justification for what he was doing in Germany; and yes I know the Bill of Rights is still there! haha. Figurative speech. I know the government didn't shrink under Reagan. But I believe the rate at which it increased was lessened. I don't think Reagan was perfect, but I think he had a constitutional philosophy and did what he could with a Democratic congress. I'm really just trying to point out the hypocrisy in trying to put Lincoln and Reagan in the same corner as if their political philosophies were identical. They weren't at all. I'm glad you enjoyed it though! Thanks for the compliment.