In This Review

Lincoln Unbound: How an Ambitious Young Railsplitter Saved the American Dream--and How We Can Do It Again
Lincoln Unbound: How an Ambitious Young Railsplitter Saved the American Dream--and How We Can Do It Again
By Rich Lowry
Broadside Books, 2013, 288 pp

The Republican Party is experiencing its most wrenching period of division and confusion since the troubled years between Watergate and Ronald Reagan’s presidential election in 1980. Its traditional vision of an alliance between government and big corporations in pursuing an ambitious foreign policy and creating a strong business climate at home faces opposition from a libertarian Tea Party wing that hates crony capitalism and is suspicious of ambitious government projects. In a book that deserves to be read by Republicans who care about their party’s future, Lowry calls for a return to the ideas of President Abraham Lincoln, who represented large railroad corporations as an attorney but who passionately believed in individual opportunity as the best remedy for poverty. Lowry is mostly right about Lincoln’s politics, although not many establishment Republicans today would support Lincoln’s archprotectionist industrial policies. And it remains to be seen whether the approach that some have termed “opportunity conservatism” could appeal to both wings of today’s divided GOP. After all, part of the party’s problem is cultural: some of today’s most enthusiastic Republicans seem more nostalgic for Robert E. Lee than for Lincoln.