The Republican Party was founded in Wisconsin as a progressive political organization that sought to prevent the spread of slavery and address growing economic and social inequality in the United States. For the first century of its existence, the Grand Old Party maintained at least a measure of fidelity to its founding values.
Unfortunately, the past several decades have seen the party move toward extremes that in many senses mirror the politics that the GOP was established to oppose. This movement has accelerated in recent years with the rise of political charlatans like Scott Walker and Donald Trump. The association of the name “Republican” with the likes of Walker and Trump is a tragedy for the party of Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower, and for the broader discourse of a nation that, for now at least, is saddled with a two-party system.
The heroes in today’s Republican Party are those men and women who object to what it has become — and who argue for a return to the more responsible and righteous politics of its heritage.
Robert Meyer, the Sun Prairie businessman who has mounted an uphill challenge to Gov. Scott Walker in Tuesday’s Republican primary, is such a hero. His name recognition is low, his campaign is not well funded, and he has received little attention compared with that accorded the headline-grabbing incumbent.
Yet Meyer has soldiered on — dutifully detailing moderately conservative positions, respecting the need for an open and honest discourse, speaking forcefully on behalf of a diverse Republican Party that welcomes the Americans that Donald Trump and Scott Walker keep pushing away.
We disagree with Meyer on plenty of issues. But we have come to respect his sincerity and his commitment to position his party closer to the mainstream. Meyer is an honest conservative who represents old-school Republican values. He is also an optimist, arguing that a politics of division and cruelty must not define the GOP’s future.
Meyer recognizes the wisdom of the unifying politics of past Republicans — beginning with Abraham Lincoln’s assertion: “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
At this point in the Republican story, Robert Meyer’s chances may be slim. But those who vote for him in Tuesday’s primary will be signaling that they are not prepared to give up on what once made the Republican Party a great and honorable force in our politics.
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