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What would Lincoln do?

In the lead-up to the presidential election, the Republican and Democratic parties held remote conventions, giving voters the chance to see alternative visions of the nation’s future.

The Democratic National Convention (DNC) presented plans to combat COVID, revitalize the economy, reform criminal justice, and improve education and childcare. DNC speakers ranged from primary challengers like Bernie Sanders, to Republicans like John Kasich and Colin Powell. They delivered messages of optimism and unity, joining forces to endorse the Biden-Harris platform to restore America’s character and alleviate the present environmental, social, and economic chaos.

In contrast, the Republican National Convention (RNC) was a darker and more flamboyant affair. It attempted to rewrite the last four years of history and fabricate an alternate reality where the president’s inaction had not caused the deaths of over 190,000 Americans.

RNC speakers discouraged trust in democracy and delivered messages of division, anger and fear. Patricia and Mark McCloskey (a couple facing felony charges for pointing guns at peaceful protestors), warned that Biden will “abolish the suburbs”. Former Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle claimed President Trump had “defeated ISIS” and “brought peace to the Middle East”. Vice President Pence pointed to the chaos ensuing in Trump’s America, and pretended that it’s actually Biden’s America.

But the most troubling thing about this RNC was its lack of a substantive vision for the nation’s future and the complete absence of policy proposals. For the first time in the GOP’s 166-year history, it declined to release a policy platform. Republicans presented no plan to contend with COVID, help unemployed Americans, rebuild the economy, or address any other issue. The RNC was not about policy, it was about Trump.

The president’s re-election bid is devoid of substance and his first term is characterized by disinterest in executive leadership and policymaking. The only substantive legislative accomplishment of this presidency is a massive tax break for corporations and the wealthy. The GOP has become a vehicle for the extremely rich to buy elections and manipulate working Americans into voting against their own interests. The 2020 RNC and Trump presidency indicate that at the federal level, the GOP has abandoned its principles and values.

Since 2016, the Republican Party has not stood for conservative ideals. It has not pursued fiscal responsibility, embodied family or religious values, protected personal freedoms, or even protected our troops. It has increased the national debt and weakened US agriculture, manufacturing and trade. It undermines the rule of law and the Constitution.

Traditional conservative values have disappeared, and most Republican leaders with them. Conservative politicians have either bowed to Trump (e.g. Lindsey Graham), exited the public policy arena (e.g. Paul Ryan), or now oppose the Trump Administration (e.g. Rick Snyder).

Real Republicans believe in conservative principles because they believe that these principles are in the best interest of the United States. I disagreed with various policy proposals from leaders like Mitt Romney and John McCain, but I never doubted that these men were motivated by love of country. I never doubted that they sincerely believed their policies, ideology and leadership would benefit US citizens.

The present federal Republican Party has ceased to be the party of Lincoln. The actions of the Trump administration and of Mitch McConnell’s Senate betray the ideals of the United States. The GOP has decayed into a cult of personality around Donald Trump, and a means for the rich to self-deal on the backs of taxpayers.

In November, our choice is not between a Republican and a Democrat. It’s between a man who loves his country, and a man who has demonstrated that he does not. Between a candidate who wants to build a stronger United States, and one that peddles fear and division. Between a constituency with detailed policy plans, and an administration that shows no interest in governing. Between a leader who wants to serve every American as president, and someone who uses the presidency only for himself.

Regardless of your party allegiance, vote for substance, integrity, and responsible leadership. Vote to protect democracy and restore American principles. Vote to build a better future.

Nick Wilson is a senior at Boston College and is studying environmental sciences.

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