Let’s Not Get Back to Our Roots as “the party of President Abraham Lincoln”

I recently read the agenda for the Massachusetts Republican Party Growing Grass Roots 2011 Conference. I applaud those responsible for putting this conference together.

The party seems intent on working on nuts and bolts issues. While all that is important, I often wonder about messaging. I hate being a nitpicker, but couldn’t notice this segment on the agenda:

9:15 – 9:30am  Why we are Republicans?  History of the Republican Party. Going back to our roots – the party of President Abraham Lincoln.

Let’s not get back to our roots as “the party of President Abraham Lincoln”. I’ve heard this for years and it makes me roll my eyes every time. Obviously, its not a practical goal. But worse it demonstrates how little the state party understands the modern conservative movement and the issues.

A political party is nothing but an apparatus. It has no permanent platform. Instead, it is defined by its occupants and the times. Trying to draw a seamless web to the 1860s and a Civil War president always seemed a little silly to me. Are we so adrift that we have to search for a sense of purpose by reaching back 150 years to find inspiration in a progressive, big government, war time president? It was a different time with different battle lines.

One of the greatest, most conservative presidents in our nation’s history comes from our own backyard — Calvin Coolidge. If we must look backwards, why not Coolidge? Some Tea Party activists have even started referring to Coolidge as the patron state of the Tea Party movement, but you would never know it in Massachusetts. He is a wonderful, but forsaken part of this state’s rich history. A great conservative and president ignored by liberal academics and historians, who idolize the progressives of the era. They hate Coolidge because he is the anti-FDR and because he was far more successful than they would like to admit. FDR is still relevant for Democrats, and Coolidge must be relevant for Republicans.

There is a growing movement to take Coolidge out of the dustbins and put him back in the forefront of history, where he belongs. It would be just if that movement was embraced in Massachusetts.

Perhaps some think Coolidge is still too old to be a compass for our party. How about Goldwater? Has anyone ever heard of a guy named Ronald Reagan? Maybe we should just focus on blazing a new path.  

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