4 reasons Abraham Lincoln wouldn't win the GOP nomination in 2012

Yes, Abraham Lincoln was America's first Republican president, and, yes, the GOP proudly calls itself the Party of Lincoln. But Bradley University sociology chair Jackie Hogan wonders: Could Lincoln win his party’s nomination in 2012? Here Hogan considers his stance on some of the hot-button issues in the Republican primary race.

1.Lincoln 'invented' income tax

A couple share a moment during their visit to the Abraham Lincoln Memorial in Washington Feb. 12, 2009. (Jason Reed/REUTERS)

While Republican candidates today win kudos for signing Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge, it is unlikely that Lincoln would sign on, since he, in effect, invented income tax. That is to say he was the first American president to sign federal income tax into law. And not only that, but it was a progressive income tax, with the wealthiest Americans paying a higher rate.

He made no distinctions between earned income and capital gains – money made was money earned – and Lincoln’s administration needed its cut to pull the nation back from the brink of collapse. Strike one against Honest Abe.

He didn't advertise his faith

Strike two: He didn’t advertise his faith. Debate over Lincoln’s religious beliefs is heated. But there’s good evidence that he questioned Christian orthodoxy, perhaps not so surprising at a time when Biblical verses were routinely used to defend slavery, an institution he found morally repugnant.

While it’s true that Lincoln frequently evoked the Divine in his speeches, he never took up membership in a church, and certainly never spoke publicly about his personal relationship with Christ.

He wasn't a looker

Sad to say, Lincoln’s appearance would be another handicap. When a political rival once accused him of being two-faced, Lincoln replied, “If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?”

Gaunt and gangly, with suits that never quite fit, a mop of unruly hair, sunken eyes and an off-kilter smile, Lincoln would be hard-pressed competing for camera time with his well-coifed, media-savvy competitors.

He tended toward moderate positions and long, complex arguments

Nor would his image be improved by his tendency toward moderate positions and long, complex arguments. Of course, today the most beloved of Lincoln’s speeches is his famously brief and achingly beautiful Gettysburg Address. But Lincoln rose to national prominence on the strength of his detailed and nuanced explorations of the most pressing issues of his day.

His pivotal Cooper Union address ran to one and a half hours. His career-defining1854 Peoria speech topped three hours. And in the now legendary Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858, audiences braved the elements as the candidates took turns speaking for up to ninety minutes at a time.

A far cry from the quick and dirty potshots and zingers of today’s slickly produced debates. Another strike for the Great Emancipator.

Parts of Lincoln's record still might score well among parts of today's GOP electorate

Lincoln’s record would serve him well among some segments of today’s electorate, however.

He was critical of interventionist foreign wars (which would no doubt win him points among Ron Paul supporters).

He also took several actions to curtail civil liberties in the name of national security. During the Civil War he implemented military tribunals for civilians, suspended habeas corpus, and authorized indefinite detention of persons deemed to pose a security risk to the nation (policies that would appeal to defenders of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp).

And he was a longtime supporter of "colonization," an assisted migration scheme to encourage blacks to leave America for colonies in AfricaCentral America, and elsewhere – a policy that would likely track well among supporters of "self-deportation" for illegal immigrants.

So could Abraham Lincoln win the 2012 GOP nomination? As commentators are fond of observing, in this dizzyingly mercurial primary race, anything is possible. Perhaps the more important question, however, is whether Mr. Lincoln would want the nomination.

Jackie Hogan is chair of Sociology at Bradley University in Peoria, Ill. and author of “Lincoln, Inc.: Selling the Sixteenth President in Contemporary America.”