The Evolution of the GOP from Abraham Lincoln to January 6, 2021

From Redeemers to Rebels

LENOIR, N.C. – The people who stormed the U.S. Capitol a year ago today are not patriots; rather, they are rebels. That distinction is critical. The original patriots, despite their faults and omissions, set up a government roughly 250 years ago on an incredible concept – self-government. The original rebels, 160 years ago, were determined to overthrow that fragile experiment.

So, the notion that the people who attacked the U.S. Capitol a year ago today are patriots, must be refuted. It is the basis of a false narrative for the events of Jan. 6, 2021. The facts tell a different story – Donald J. Trump staged an armed coup to overturn the results of an election that he lost. Thankfully, he was inept, as were his followers.

Most disturbingly, their most powerful enablers are Republicans. By any historical comparison, this is a stunning reversal of the core principles of any political party in our Republic.

Larry Hogan

And they are not done. With most Republicans under Trump’s spell and fearful of his rabble-rousing, the political party whose first president freed the slaves is now the party doing everything they can to return us to plantation days. Their cause – The Lost Cause (or so we thought) – is the cause that began in armed conflict, not last year, but on April 12, 1861. Their core theology – that white people are superior to others – was the root cause of slavery. It was the cause of the Civil War. It caused the birth of the Ku Klux Klan and their numerous cousins, including the groups assembled in Washington a year ago today. The GOP’s evolution from Abraham Lincoln to January 6, 2021 is a frightening and shameful history.

Liz Cheney

Stunningly, with a few notable exceptions such as Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and U.S. Representatives Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, the Republican Party is actively stonewalling investigations into the insurrection. The logical conclusion from these efforts is that the Republicans have much to hide. Only they can correct that suspicion by being transparent and truthful.

Adam Kinzinger

However, that isn’t an option with Trump looming over them, so, they continue with the strategy of telling “The Big Lie” that somehow 81.2 million Americans were able to conspire with election officials and workers, Democrats and the “fake news” to steal an election. Unbelievably, despite the indisputable truth that Biden won, roughly 20 million Americans believe Trump was the real winner. That these rebels fly their flag side-by-side with the Stars and Stripes is insultinly ironic. I encourage them to take a look at the photos taken by Mathew Brady during the Civil War. They will find that the people fighting under these flags were on opposite sides and spent four years furiously slaughtering each other.

I leave it to others to try and figure these fellow citizens out. We must now respond to the threat. We have been forced to choose sides. We can’t be neutral about people trying to stage a coup for an individual with a messianic mean streak in him. That will not go well for any of us, including the messiah’s followers. So, we must fight back – peacefully and legally.

The insurrectionists remain on the offensive. That is most evident in state legislatures, where curtailing voting rights is the prime directive of Republicans. They have no shame. Imagine what they’re doing behind closed doors – and in the backwoods.

We can’t be neutral about people trying to stage a coup for an individual with a messianic mean streak in him. That will not go well for any of us, including the messiah’s followers.

It is certainly a situation that should be treated like the existential threat it is. So,  we must hope the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is on the job. According to the FBI website, “The FBI investigates domestic hate groups within guidelines established by the attorney general. Investigations are conducted only when a threat or advocacy of force is made; when the group has the apparent ability to carry out the proclaimed act; and when the act would constitute a potential violation of federal law.”

Let’s review those guidelines in context of January 6, 2021:

  1. “A threat or advocacy of force is made.” ✔. In fact, force was used, which is why the federal government has made more than 700 arrests of individuals involved in last year’s Capitol attack.
  2. “When the group has the apparent ability to carry out the proclaimed act.” ✔. In fact, they demonstrated they have the ability, considering they moved about freely in the Capitol. Additionally, just hours after the failed coup attempt, more than 140 Republicans voted against certifying the election of Joe Biden as president. Clearly, these members of Congress have no intention of honoring their Oath of Office (see it at the end of this article).
  3. “The act would constitute a potential violation of federal law.” ✔. In fact, the rebels ran amuck, causing multiple deaths and injuries to hundreds, destroying property and desecrating our seat of government. Oh, and they intended to lynch the Vice President of the United States.

During the Civil War, the rebels never managed to penetrate Washington’s defenses. Despite their best efforts, that flag of rebellion and racism never flew in the Capitol. That changed on January 6, 2021, when Trump set his mob marching.

This is quite a contrast to the party’s beginnings. The election of the first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln in 1860, led to the Civil War. Just over two years later, when the outcome of the war remained in doubt, Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863, ending slavery in anticipation of a reunited nation following hostilities. For this, Lincoln was martyred at the end of the war he had won and has rightfully been hailed as the savior of the nation ever since.

However, by a century later in the 1960s, the tables had turned and Republicans were obstructing the passage of civil rights legislation and increasing gerrymandering efforts to disenfranchise black voters.

The Republican Party has gone from redeemers to rebels.  

On Nov. 5, 2024, Americans will be voting for president, several senators and all representatives. Mark that date on your calendar. If we don’t vote like our freedoms and very lives depend upon it, I doubt we’ll get another chance to vote.

Congressional Oath of Office

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.

© Michael M. Barrick, 2022. News Stand Photo by little plant on Unsplash


  1. A solid article, thank you. I might add that the Democratic Party has also evolved. In a sense, the two parties have flipped. The Democratic Party included many southern racists until Lyndon Johnson, under pressure, signed civil rights legislations. The Republican Party welcomed the southern Democrats with open arms.

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