Chris Matthews: Would Lincoln Be A Republican Today?

At the conclusion of a program that included Chris Matthews inviting on Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen to compare the Tea Party to the KKK, the Hardball host finished his Thursday episode with a "Let Me Finish" rant where he questioned if Abraham Lincoln would even be a Republican today and wondered if the GOP would even "like him?" Matthews even went as far to ask his audience "who do you think represents the spirit of Lincoln in today's politics," Obama or the GOP?

The following teaser and final commentary were aired on the April 8 edition of Hardball:

CHRIS MATTHEWS: When we return which party would Abraham Lincoln join today? Would he still be a Republican after all the talk about state's rights and honoring the Confederacy? Would they like him? You're watching Hardball! It's choosing up sides time for Abraham Lincoln. Only on MSNBC.

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MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with some thoughts about the Republican Party. It's about its brand. The party of Lincoln, as it's been called, was formed to fight the expansion of slavery into the territories, it was formed by a merge of the old Whig Party and the abolitionist movement which was committed to the end of slavery as an American institution. In 1860, the Republican candidate, Abraham Lincoln, was elected President of the United States. He became the symbol of the Republican Party for all the generations to come. Lincoln Day dinners have always been one of the party's annual rituals. When the Republicans hold a convention a portrait of Lincoln has been right up there. Do they really want him up there anymore?

Ever since the passage of the 1964 civil rights bill, the segregationist wing of the Democratic Party has been migrating to the Republicans. Lyndon Johnson who signed that bill, said it would happen and it did. After some Dixiecrats voted later that year for Barry Goldwater, who opposed the civil rights bill on constitutional grounds, they voted for George Wallace in 1968 before gradually making themselves at home in the Republican Party. Now the Dixiecrats are really showing their stuff. No more of this pretending to be Grand Old Party types, they're talking like real Confederates. You hear Texas Governor Rick Perry talking about secession. Virginia Governor McDonnell singing the praises of the Confederacy itself, calling the Civil War a noble fight for independence against the power of the dreaded Union Army. The other day a Republican Congressman from North Carolina said we ought to dump General Grant - who led the Union forces - from the $50 bill and replace him with something closer to the Confederate heart, Ronald Reagan. The guy running for Florida governor is leading the fight against the new health care bill as quote "an invasion of the state's sovereignty." Do we really think this crowd wants Abraham Lincoln as its hero?

Let's be honest, on both sides. This whole party thing has gone topsy-turvy. Who started his presidential campaign in Springfield, Illinois, paying tribute to its favorite son, Abraham Lincoln? Who do you think represents the spirit of Lincoln in today's politics and who doesn't? Not a bit. You call it. The Democratic Party of Barack Obama or the one that's talking up secession, putting down General Grant, singing about state's rights and pining for them good old days? That's Hardball for now. Thanks for being with us.

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.