In a speech to fellow Republicans in Chicago in December 1856, Abraham Lincoln said: “Our government rests in public opinion. Whoever can change public opinion, can change the government, practically just so much. Public opinion, or any subject, always has a ‘central idea,’ from which all its minor thoughts radiate. That ‘central idea’ in our political public opinion, at the beginning was, and until recently has continued to be, ‘the equality of men.’”
For Lincoln, this central idea was the Declaration of Independence and its notion of equality as the basis for republican government – the simple idea that no one has the right by nature to rule over another without the latter’s consent: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Lincoln saw more clearly than his critics that equality is inseparable from democracy. I’m Alaska Native of Tlingit and Haida descent from the Heinyaa Kwaan (Water People) of Southeast Alaska, I am a woman and I’ve been a registered republican my entire adult life. Often I am asked, “How can you be a republican?” as if I violated some law by being Native and a Republican.
My response is simple and unscripted. I believe in the founding principals of the Republican Party: equality, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. As a Republican I believe my commitment to our country and countrymen and women is to the dedication to keeping these truths despite public opinion.
When the United States was formed in 1776, slavery was worldwide. However slavery was only part of the world’s reality. Prior to America being founded, all regimes were based on the principle of interest—the interest of the stronger, that principle was articulated by the Greek historian Thucydides: “Questions of justice arise only between equals. As for the rest, the strong do what they will. The weak suffer what they must.”
I believe we have to look in the mirror and ask ourselves, as a Republican, am I dedicated to protecting the inalienable rights of all Americans, not just the strong, or popular or rich or poor.
Are we dedicated to the principles of the Republican party or do we support the radicals who have hijacked our party, those who hold instead that rights are “prescriptive,” i.e. that government determines what constitutes a right and then distributes those rights unequally according to its own preferences.
Prescriptive, such as: gay citizens have limited rights, Native American citizens cannot govern their land, America does not have to honor the treaties our forefathers signed, women cannot chose what happens to their bodies, insurance companies will cover what we tell them to based upon our religious preferences.
When you make laws that dictate you are enslaving those citizens. At the Cooper Union Address in 1860 President Lincoln “urged fellow Republicans not to capitulate to Southern demands to recognize slavery as being right, but to “stand by our duty, fearlessly and effectively.” I ask fellow Republicans to not capitulate to extreme radical Republicans who hide under a cloak of “god-fearing,” “family values,” “real Christians” or “real Americans.”
Don’t allow Rush Limbaugh to call a law student at Georgetown University a slut or prostitute for advocating health insurance plans to cover the cost of contraception. When we shift federal funds to private schools and our public schools are falling apart; we have created and support segregation for the elite. In 2010 when a schoolteacher paid more income tax proportionately than GE Corporation we prove to the world that America has fallen prey to the principles of Interest – the interest of the stronger.
As Citizens of this great country, I believe we must defend the separation of church and state, equal liberty and justice for all. As Dr. Martin Luther King so eloquently said, “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”
Myrna Gardner is the CEO of 3R Products and the Managing Member of MGM Properties, LLC. She resides in Juneau, Alaska.