Could Abraham Lincoln secure Republican nomination today?

A sociologist argues that four traits held by Abraham Lincoln would make it difficult for him to become the Republican candidate for president today:

1. Lincoln ‘invented’ income tax…

2. He didn’t advertise his faith…

3. He wasn’t a looker…

4. He tended toward moderate positions and long, complex arguments.

I think #3 and #4 are more recent cultural trends than facts about the Republican party but #1 and #2 are interesting. Here is what they suggest and this would be helpful to remember during this upcoming presidential campaign: political parties do change their positions in response to their historical and cultural circumstances. Political parties may stand for some basic ideas and viewpoints but how these play out in response to changing cultural and historical conditions can vary. Therefore, Lincoln could push for an income tax because of a perceived time of need while current Republicans would like to limit income taxes. Additionally, strong outward demonstrations of conservative faith are relatively recent among Republicans (since the rise of evangelical voters in the late 1970s/early 1980s?) even as Americans generally prefer their presidential candidates to be persons of faith. Lincoln was elected by mostly northern voters as a Republican president (due mostly to northern voters, which goes against the image today of Republicans as southerners and midwesterners) roughly six years after the Republican Party was founded in response to issues of slavery. The Republican Party of today is far away from the particular issues of the late 1850s.

Of course, lots of people, including President Obama, like to claim Lincoln as their inspiration. As time passes, political parties and historical legacies change and are difficult to directly transpose into the present.

(This list of Lincoln’s traits was put together by a sociologist who studies Lincoln. See this earlier post about her thoughts about how Lincoln is regarded today.)

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