Happy Birthday GOP!!!
Today, in 1854, Alan E. Bovay called an anti-slavery meeting in Ripon, Wisconsin to fashion a response to the expansion of slavery made possible by Democratic Senator Stephen Douglass' introduction of the Kansas-Nebraska Bill of 1854 which dissolved the Missouri Compromise. Less than a month later, this coalition of anti-slavery Whigs and Free-Soil Democrats would gather in the same location to form the Republican Party.
I'm certain that these men would marvel at the country we have become. Over the next 155 years, the Nation would move through secession (which began right after Republican Abraham Lincoln was elected President), a bloody Civil War, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, the Civil Rights Movement and continuing desegregation of the voting populous to the point where a person of color (though not a descendant of slaves) would become President of the United States. I wonder if they would be comforted, chagrined (or repulsed for that matter) to know that the Supreme Court would establish equal educational opportunity for all regardless of race 100 years after the founding of their new party. I don't know but would be surprised if they themselves dared to dream that which Dr. Martin Luther King would express 110 years later. Without a doubt, however, the Republican Party was born for a great and noble mission, established by people who believed that the institution of slavery and human degradation was fundamentally at odds with the ideals on which this great Nation was founded. These great American statesmen would be followed by others like Senator Everett Dirksen and President Dwight D. Eisenhower. This day, February 28th should be a day that is remembered by all American citizens as pivotal in our history.
Given this rich history, I think if fair to ask if today's Grand Old Party truly represents the men who gathered at that Congregational Church 156 years ago today. Would they recognize their party in Texas Governor Rick Perry, who after the election of the first black POTUS, became such an ardent fan of secession? Would they have recognized their party in President Ronald Reagan, who announced his candidacy for President in the hamlet where Cheney, Goodman & Schwerner were murdered and buried in an earthen dam for their efforts in the Civil Rights Movement? Would they have recognized their party in President Nixon's Southern Strategy? Would they recognize their party in the States Rights campaigning that sporadically occurs? Would they recognize their party in the electoral results map from the last election? The republican party has a rich and glorious history of fighting for the fullest inclusion of all citizens in the rights and responsibilities as expressed in the Constitution of the United States, a history that seemed to abruptly stop somewhere around 1965. I suspect that democrats would be in grave danger if republicans were to reach back past these last five decades and become the party that its founders would better recognize.