When the Republicans Really Were the Party of Lincoln

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This post originally appeared at The Nation.

The Republican Party was, for a vital century, the American political party most closely aligned with the cause of civil rights. The invariably realistic Frederick Douglass explained that, “I knew that however bad the Republican Party was, the Democratic Party was much worse. The elements of which the Republican party was composed gave better ground for the ultimate hope of the success of the colored man’s cause than those of the Democratic Party.”

Well into the 20th century, Republicans took seriously their history and their responsibility that went with it. They worked to earn the votes of African-Americans and all supporters of equal justice under law, declaring in the party’s 1960 platform that:

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