No Longer the Party of LincolnBy: Guest
Today’s guest post is from newcomer Fruitless Hope.
Over the past couple of weeks, as some Republicans have attacked women’s healthcare, it has struck me that this is no longer the “Party of Lincoln.” To be fair, I cannot assert that Abraham Lincoln would be a Democrat today. Fairer still, my own Democratic Party has also over time meandered away from its 19th century focus. The Democratic Party ceased long ago to be the “Party of Jackson.” For that, I am rather grateful. Even without his slaves, Andrew Jackson – as a proponent of states’ rights, of the spoils system, of hard specie currency, and of a decentralized banking system – would hardly fit into the modern Democratic Party. To say that Jackson was conservative is an understatement. I am grateful for modern, more progressive Presidents from both parties who have carefully negotiated the expanding role of government under our Constitution; always taking care to preserve government of, by, and for the people, according to the immortal words of President Abraham Lincoln.
I will not compare the confinement of a whole race of people in slavery with the denial to women of free access to birth control. There may be a way in which both are similar, but there are MANY essential dissimilarities. I will, however, compare the attitude of the 19th century (southern) Democrats toward abolition with the attitude of some of the outspoken Republicans in 2012 toward women’s health care and contraception. It is a matter of history that the Democratic Party kept slavery alive in the Nineteenth Century and Jim Crow alive through much of the Twentieth. There is so much wrong with that, and I merely wish to point out that it propped-up the white male as the all-wise, paternalistic governor. In the antebellum South, it was presumed that white men knew what was best for all of the families on the plantation, white and black. White men also made the decisions for the community, the county, the state. At this time, all candidates left in the contest for the Republican presidential nomination are white males, and some of these are leading or echoing the chants to whittle-away many of the healthcare provisions/protections for women in the Affordable Health Care Act. This includes the provision that the insurance companies provide prescriptions for birth control at no cost to the (female) patient. Not all of the voices in this chorus of chants are from white people, nor are they all male. Many of them are white and male, however. Whether it is Democratic paternalists or Republican ones it really does not smell very nice. It “goes over” about as well as a slap in the face. More on that later…
I encourage the Republicans to re-think their stance on women’s health issues. There are more worthwhile issues to battle Democrats over. It is not that women’s healthcare is not worthwhile. It is that Republicans have – amazingly – chosen the losing side of the issue. One cannot seek to take away from women in the pre-season, and expect a post-season victory. One of those important dissimilarities between slavery in the nineteenth century and women’s healthcare in 2012 is that women vote in 2012. (I have often thought that if African-Americans had been given the right to vote when our nation was founded, we might have ended slavery much sooner than we did and without such an un-Civil War.) In 1919, the Republican Party controlled both houses of Congress, and passed the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution giving women the right to vote (upon ratification). The Party of Lincoln found it essential to be on the right side of Abolition and on the right side of Women’s Suffrage. Why do they seem prone to choose the wrong side on the issue of women’s health? Let’s not forget that many of those women using contraceptives have male partners who also vote and who want the women in their life to enjoy access to contraceptives. Additionally, insurance companies would much rather pay for a year’s worth of pills than a live birth. I just don’t see how the Republicans can win on this issue they seem to be so willing to wedge into our dialogue today. I don’t think Abraham Lincoln would see a winning hand in this either.
As a Democrat, I am hoping that the women of America (and the men in their lives) are still feeling the sting in their faces when they cast their ballots in November.