Something is stinking in the party of Lincoln

The party that for a century was the beacon for civil rights has been fighting a rear-guard reaction against racial tolerance. Now we have the numbers to prove the point.

I cannot believe anybody thinks Donald TrumpDonald TrumpBiden prepares to confront Putin Biden aims to bolster troubled Turkey ties in first Erdoğan meeting Senate investigation of insurrection falls short MORE is a better president than Abraham Lincoln, but most Republicans believe he is. A majority of Republicans pick the Great Divider over the Great Emancipator by a margin of 53 percent to 47 percent in the most recent Economist/YouGov weekly tracking poll. 

The partisan breakdown on the trial heat between Honest Abe and Don the Con is compelling, because it indicates how isolated the GOP is headed into the 2020 presidential election, and how far out of sync Republicans are with public opinion in modern America.


Comparing Trump to Lincoln is like comparing rotten apples to fresh oranges. Trump often compares himself to Lincoln, so I’m sure that the support he enjoys from fellow Republicans over Lincoln is a big ego boost. But everybody else has the good sense to prefer the 16th president over the 45th. Just about every Democrat (94 percent) and three out of every four independents (78 percent) vote Lincoln over Trump.

This mythical head-to-head matchup between the two Republican presidents has become a media sensation. But it really shouldn’t come as a surprise. The current president feeds on the adoration of his base, and Republican fanaticism towards their president further isolates him from reality.

Everything Donald Trump has done as a candidate and as president has been designed to motivate the GOP base. But the effect has been to isolate Trump from independents, who abandoned the Republican Party in the midterm elections, costing Republicans control of House of Representatives in 2018. Trump’s base-pandering will continue to alienate independent voters and may cost him the White House in 2020. In the mid-term elections, independent voters sided with Democratic congressional candidates by a margin of 54 percent to 42 percent. 

This partisanship on steroids has tragic consequences for American politics. Long ago and far away, there was a political consensus that just about every American could expect to respect. The reverence for Lincoln was part of that consensus. Those days are long gone.

Any Democratic presidential candidate or Democratic president who hopes to build a bridge to Republicans is running a fool's errand.


It’s hard to believe that anybody who thinks Trump is a better president than Lincoln will support a Democratic candidate over Trump even if he shoots someone in broad daylight on 5th Avenue in New York City. The Democratic nominee who tangles with Trump next fall shouldn’t waste his or her time reaching out for Republican votes. Independents are open to persuasion while Republicans are way out of reach.

If the Democratic nominee reaches the White House, he or she shouldn’t expect much or any Republican congressional support for major policy initiatives to control gun violence, fight climate change or reform the immigration system. This is a significant problem in the Senate, which will be more evenly divided and where the new president will need 60 votes to break Republican filibusters. The final stop on the Beltway to hell is gridlock and the failure to solve problems that are vital to America’s future.

The GOP is Southern fried, and there still are a lot of hard feelings in Dixie about Lincoln’s success in suppressing treason there and bringing the Southern states back into the union. Which is why below the Mason-Dixon line, it’s so easy to spot pickup trucks with Trump bumper stickers on one side and Confederate flag decals on the other. The Confederacy is the “lost cause,” and so is Trump’s presidency.

The differences between Trump and Lincoln are obvious to most Americans, but many Republicans seem oblivious to them.

Lincoln freed African Americans from slavery in the South, while Trump caged Latinos in concentration camps on the Mexican border.


Lincoln preached racial reconciliation while Trump goes out of his way to antagonize and denigrate anyone who isn’t white.

Lincoln worked his way up from poverty to become a successful lawyer, while Trump inherited a ton of dough from dear old dad and used his inheritance to build a financial house of cards on a scaffold of bankruptcies and unpaid bills.

Lincoln is the founding father of the Grand Old Party while Donald Trump may be presiding over its demise.

American historians have consistently ranked George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt as the three greatest presidents. I can only imagine how today’s Republicans feel about FDR, the father of the New Deal and Social Security. Washington might get a pass from the GOP because he defeated the British. But the memory of Abraham Lincoln is clearly a threat to the white nationalism that seems to fuel the contemporary GOP.

To paraphrase the immortal Chuck Berry, roll over Lincoln and tell FDR the news!

Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster and CEO of Bannon Communications Research. He is also the host of a radio podcast “Dateline D.C. With Brad Bannon” that airs on the Progressive Voices Network. Follow him on Twitter @BradBannon.