Part 1: Noble Beginnings.
Throughout recent history, Conservatives have arguably been the most dominant force in electoral politics. While Republicans have a major structural problem at the Presidential level, they have a firm grip on power at virtually every other level of government. They hold this power despite their views not being widely shared by the electorate. How did this happen? This series will explore the rise of modern conservatism.
For most of the Republican Party’s lifetime, conservatives weren’t particularly dominant. While the GOP is now seen as as essentially the only viable party to be in for conservatives, this was not always the case.
When it first appeared, the Republican Party was actually comprised of progressive reformists. A few of the GOP’s most beloved Presidents have proven the point. These four Presidents, spanning nearly 100 years of the party’s history probe this point.
I: Abraham Lincoln (1861–1865)
Abraham Lincoln ultimately outlawed slavery-a move that had been considered radically left wing just a decade before it happened. He was left wing on other important issues of his time and even had a correspondence with Karl Marx. He signed the first progressive income tax legislation. He believed in placing huge tariffs on foreign products so he could fund infrastructure projects. He expanded the railway system to truly connect the country’s major population centers. He signed the largest transfer of wealth to anyone who wanted it through the HomeStead Act and enacted a national bank for the first time in decades. Lincoln even signed the Land Grant Law that led to the creation of the State University system. General Sherman, one of Lincoln’s Generals and confidantes even promised 40 acres and a mule to freed slaves, although this never came to pass in the aftermath of Lincoln’s assassination.
II: Ulysses S. Grant. (1869–1877)
Grant was a President dedicated to rebuilding the union, but doing so in a way that his progressive ideals would remain in tact. Grant created the Department of Justice and aggressively prosecuted the KKK to tackle white supremacy, a worldview many if his colleagues even on the union side subscribed to. He oversaw a key transition point during reconstruction, when the southern governments under interim military rule were re admitted to the union. Grant helped manage the transition of the south to a non slave economy and oversaw the election…