For every white Republican who wants to claim their “grand” old party abolished slavery, championed Abraham Lincoln, supported Civil Rights legislation, and had MLK Jr. within its ranks: none of this absolves fellow white Republicans of the crazy racist shit they pull in the present day.
First of all, something that existed 200 years ago is not going to be exactly the same in the contemporary moment. What Republicans did in the past doesn’t change what Republicans are doing now. The same goes for the Democratic party, which I don’t give a shit about defending. Having a debate about Republicans and Democrats that long ago is essentially a debate about which group of powerful white men compared and contrasted to another group of powerful white men. The nature of this debate has changed very little. Despite having a Black president, it’s still a matter of white majority party versus white majority party in the US. So even if the subject is The Civil Rights Act of 1964, it isn’t much of an impressive or mind-altering knowledge drop considering one white majority party mostly voted for it and the other white majority party mostly voted against it. “These apples once had a slightly nicer taste than these other apples” isn’t much of an argument.
Then there’s Honest Abe with his Emancipation Proclamation. A well-intentioned executive order, I’ll give you that, but claiming it abolished slavery is… a gross exaggeration and a horrendously inaccurate overstatement. Freeing some slaves from chattel slavery =/= abolishing chattel slavery. Emancipation was more of a political solution to secessionist violence in the South (see the Civil War), and it took a considerable amount of time for any freeing of slaves to actually occur. It was issued as a “necessary war measure,” not a social justice document. The Supreme Court had already passed the Dred Scott decision in 1857, which made it impossible for slaves to become citizens on the basis of them being less than human and voided the Missouri Compromise as “unconstitutional,” making slavery legal in all US territories. Only the Supreme Court (white male majority for centuries) had the power to legally abolish slavery.
The fact that you have to remind people that MLK Jr. was a Republican speaks volumes about how important his political affiliation was and is to the party itself. Republican politicians and pundits in the US rarely, if ever, speak with pride about Dr. King as a party member and/or use his image to promote their platforms and policies. Glenn Beck appropriated the anniversary of The Dream speech to have a “white civil rights” Tea Party rally, meaning this doesn’t count. Not to mention, throwing Dr. King’s image in the faces of Obama voters isn’t even remotely showing pride in his affiliation to the party either. Exploiting one Republican, whose history and life’s work were so much more than just being a Republican, does not change the party as a whole.