Why Republican candidates in Minnesota — yes, Republicans — bash Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln
Library of CongressAbraham Lincoln

Nolan West is a 25-year-old Republican candidate for the Minnesota House of Representatives. On paper, he has all the ingredients needed to be a successful candidate. A graduate of the University of Minnesota, he was raised in Blaine, where he is running for office, and where his mother is a well-know Anoka County commissioner.

And until not that long ago, West’s plan to replace his boss in the Minnesota House, Rep. Tim Sanders, seemed like safe bet for Republicans.

That all changed last week, after the Star Tribune reported that West had authored numerous posts on Facebook that — among other things — called Abraham Lincoln “the single worst president this country has ever seen,” while praising  Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy during the Civil War.

The controversial posts were deleted by West, who later apologized and then resigned from his day job with the Minnesota House of Representatives. But the damage was done, and West’s chances of serving in the Minnesota House of Representatives now seem a lot less certain than they once were.

And yet, West isn’t the only Republican who seems to have a problem with the Great Emancipator. In the Second Congressional District, GOP candidate Jason Lewis has been criticized by both Republicans and Democrats about his past comments about Lincoln and slavery. In his book, “Power Divided Is Power Checked: The Argument for States’ Rights,” Lewis wrote that Lincoln “exploited the issue” of slavery, adding the Civil War had “more to do with secession” than slavery. Throughout the book, Lewis is critical of the expanded role of the federal government that Lincoln initiated to preserve the Union. 

Lincoln? Really?

It may be surprising to see Republicans, especially Republicans from Minnesota — the first state to offer a regiment of volunteer militia to fight in the Civil War — take such a strong public stance against Lincoln. But such opinions are shared by a sizable faction of the Libertarian-wing of Republican Party.

Blame (or credit) Ron Paul, the former congressman who ran for president three times: once as a member of the Libertarian Party and twice as a Republican. For decades, he’s occupied a prominent place as the anti-Lincoln spokesman inside the GOP. And though Paul left office in 2013, he cultivated a loyal following among Republicans who were all too willing to parrot his criticisms of Lincoln.

In comments echoed by West and Lewis, Paul has long been critical of Lincoln’s policies as president, specifically his leadership during the Civil War, a conflict that Paul has called a “senseless” war to “get rid of the original intent of the republic.” 

Even before Paul ended his career in public office, his legion of followers/supporters were more than happy to support Paul’s son, Rand Paul, who was elected to the U.S. Senate from Kentucky in 2010 and made a bid for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. 

Not surprisingly, Lewis’ campaign in Minnesota has been endorsed by Paul, and the Second Congressional District is home to an active group of Libertarian/Republican activists who identify with the Paul’s political ideology. 

And while it goes without saying that Lincoln is plenty admired by an overwhelming majority of Republican activists (there’s a reason the Republican Party of Minnesota’s annual fundraising dinner is called the Lincoln-Reagan dinner), the comments by West and Lewis have handed their DFL opponents and easy opportunity to criticize them, and further narrowed the Republican candidates’ paths to victory.

In an election year that long ago lost any capacity to surprise, perhaps it’s fitting that Democrats in Minnesota seem more comfortable defending the legacy of Lincoln than members of his own party.

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Comments (8)

  1. Submitted by elliot rothenberg on 09/20/2016 - 11:59 am.

    To the current Republican “base”………………………

    ………………..or what was generally regarded as the lunatic fringe pre-1980, Abraham Lincoln was a RINO [Republican in name only], even though he founded the Republican Party.

  2. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 09/20/2016 - 01:21 pm.

    The Republican party of 1860 had a pretty big dose of “states rights” in their platform. To wit:

    (quote)

    …. 4. That the maintenance inviolate of the rights of the states, and especially the right of each state to order and control its own domestic institutions according to its own judgment exclusively, is essential to that balance of powers on which the perfection and endurance of our political fabric depends; and we denounce the lawless invasion by armed force of the soil of any state or territory, no matter under what pretext, as among the gravest of crimes….

    (end quote)

    BUT

    (quote)

    ….9. That we brand the recent reopening of the African slave trade, under the cover of our national flag, aided by perversions of judicial power, as a crime against humanity and a burning shame to our country and age; and we call upon Congress to take prompt and efficient measures for the total and final suppression of that execrable traffic….

    (end quote)

    Lincoln–a man of his party and its platform.

    (end quote)

  3. Submitted by William Stahl on 09/20/2016 - 01:59 pm.

    Lincoln?

    Thanks for an interesting column. I do wish the Republicans would do some–no a lot–of intellectual house cleaning. Jason Lewis seems to be self-taught, and his problem is that his teacher didn’t know very much or read very widely. The Civil War really was about slavery, as Lincoln noted in his Second Inaugural Address. This has been documented in various ways, including research on the language employed in popular appeals and public debates in southern states as they were preparing to vote on secession.

  4. Submitted by Bill Kahn on 09/20/2016 - 02:58 pm.

    Perhaps Lincoln, arguably the first ‘log cabin’ Republican, just won’t mix with God, guns, and gays mindset of today’s GOP.

  5. Submitted by Thomas Newcomer on 09/21/2016 - 12:52 pm.

    President Lincoln

    Mr West, along with Dr Ron Paul, is absolutely correct. Lincoln may have started well, but he ended a tyrant. He was willing to see 1,200,000 dead bodies in order to “save the Union.” Today, as a result, we have a tyrannical government working untold havoc in the world. Forced unity is not unity. Forced integration is not integration.
    Tom Newcomer
    Confederate Sympathizer

    • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 09/22/2016 - 11:31 am.

      Well…

      Does your admiration for Mr. West include some “lynching time” in 2008?

      It is easy to find anti-Lincoln sentiment in white supremacist organizations like the Conservative Citizens Council. That these sentiments have crept into alleged mainstream MN GOP candidates is further evidence that the party is morally bankrupt along with financially bankrupt.

  6. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 09/21/2016 - 01:46 pm.

    Why

    So why do some Republicans bash Abraham Lincoln?

  7. Submitted by Ellen Hoerle on 09/21/2016 - 08:14 pm.

    Brilliant

    “And though Paul left office in 2013, he cultivated a loyal following among Republicans who were all too willing to parrot his criticisms of Lincoln.”

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