Politics vs. History
Let me start out by saying that I was born a white male, with primarily European ancestry, and I'm a protestant Christian. In the eyes of some on the left, that means that I must be a bigoted racist, bathing in white privilege. But I'm not, I'm a Conservative Republican. But wait, those on the left say, that just confirms it! No, it most certainly does not and those with even a passing understanding of Republican Party values and American history know better. The Republican Party was founded on the bedrock principle of freedom that continues to hold true today. Frederick Douglass summed up his belief in the Republican Party: "I am a Republican, a black, dyed in the wool Republican, and I never intend to belong to any other party than the party of freedom and progress.". As with many things, there is important historic context to explore here. Let's review these historic facts:
- The Republican party was founded in 1854 to stop the spread of slavery into the new western territories and work to abolish slavery entirely. The Republican party nominated Abraham Lincoln for President in 1860 and he went on to win the Presidency.
- In 1857 the Dred Scott case rose to the Supreme Court where 8 Democrats overruled two 2 Republicans and determined that slaves were property and not human beings, and must be returned to their owners if they escape.
- Democrat dominated state legislatures started the Civil War by voting for southern states to succeed from the Union, following Abraham Lincoln's election, but before he was even in office, based on the fear that Republicans might succeed in their goal of abolishing slavery.
- After the bloodiest conflict in the nation's history, the Union suppressed the Democrat-driven rebellion of the southern states.
- John Wilkes Booth, a Democrat, assassinated Abraham Lincoln, a Republican
- Democrats unanimously opposed the 13th Amendment which abolished slavery, Republicans unanimously supported it, and it passed in 1865
- Democrats unanimously opposed the 14th Amendment which gave blacks citizenship, Republicans unanimously supported it, and it passed in 1868
- Democrats unanimously opposed the 15th Amendment which gave blacks voting rights, Republicans unanimously supported it, and it passed in 1870
- When Democrats were elected to positions of power in the south, they quickly passed laws restricting blacks, including laws that restricted the ability of blacks to own property, run businesses, vote (poll taxes & literacy tests), own firearms to protect themselves (gun control), or to marry who they like (marriage licenses). These were known as "black codes" or "Jim Crow laws"
- Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Democrat, founded the Ku Klux Klan which was, according to Democrat historian Eric Foner, "a military force serving the interests of the Democratic party" which lynched thousands of blacks throughout it's history and worked to suppress black voting and other behaviors through intimidation
- Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat, re-segregated federal agencies, and watched the very first movie in the White House - The Birth of a Nation - a racist film by the KKK.
- Civil Rights protests were smashed time and time again by Democrats Bull Connor, Lester Maddox, and George Wallace in the 50s and 60s.
- The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was supported by around 80% of Republicans, and 70% of Democrats, but was filibustered for 75 days by Southern Democrats like Bob Byrd, a KKK member. It finally passed, resulting in Democrat President Johnson's new strategy called The Great Society to increase social welfare programs aimed primarily at blacks, about which he remarked to two Democrat governors "I'll have them n*****s voting Democrat for 200 years."
- Massive government welfare has indeed locked in much of the black vote in exchange for government handouts. According to black Rev. Cecil Blye “Fifty years ago President Johnson gave us the notion of the Great Society... The paradigm of government as parent has destroyed the black family and made black fatherhood irrelevant. Our welfare policies have incentivized co-habitation, single motherhood, and unemployment.”
But what about the supposed "southern strategy?" Didn't the parties flip flop platforms in the 60s and 70s? Well, as it turns out, that myth was fabricated by the left to smear the GOP and is simply not true. Republicans started becoming competitive in the south not in the 70s, but as early as 1928 with Herbert Hoover winning 47% of the southern popular vote. Dwight Eisenhower won 4 southern states in 1952, and 3 more in 1956 - after he supported the Brown v Board of Education Supreme Court decision that desegregated public schools by sending the 101st Airborne to enforce their ruling in Little Rock, Arkansas against Democrat governor Orval Faubus who had ordered the Arkansas National Guard to prevent the desegregation order from being enforced. Democrat Presidents Carter and Clinton both won most of the south, long after the supposed "party switch." In fact, it wasn't until the late 80s and early 90s that many southern Senate and House seats became Republican, and those were not due to racial issues at all. In fact, the House didn't become Republican until 1994, which was a direct result of Clinton's passage of the "assault weapons ban" which was strongly opposed across America, and particularly in the south. In addition to gun control, southerners bristled at many other policies of the Democratic Party during the 80s and 90s, such as supporting abortion, increasing taxes, and weakening national security, all of which drove southern Democrats to switch to the Republican Party. The south has changed dramatically in the last 40 years, and is no longer driven by racism as evidenced by the election of black Sen. Tim Scott (R) of South Carolina, among others. A study of history clearly reveals that the Republican Party did not change any of it's values or it's platform to suit southern voters (though of course, it has courted them). Rather, southern values have evolved to embrace more values of the Republican Party than the Democratic Party. Trump did relatively well with black voters in 2016, and there are more black Republicans today than there were in 1960, so there is evidence that more and more blacks are recognizing the situation, as Rev. Cecil Blye has; and Johnson's plan may be starting to unravel.
Naturally, some white racists still exist out there - the neo-Nazis and other white supremacists, but they are having a hard time finding a home and getting their message out. Today, neither the Republican Party or the Democratic Party welcome them, and in fact leaders from both parties condemn them from Trump to Clinton. Still, they have the First Amendment right to speak, as we all do, it's just that few people listen in modern America. The media has attempted to peg them with the term "alt-right" thus trying to claim that they are part of the Republican Party, and supported by Trump, both nonsensical claims. In Trump's own words from August 14, 2017:
"As I said on Saturday, we condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence. It has no place in America. And as I have said many times before: No matter the color of our skin, we all live under the same laws, we all salute the same great flag, and we are all made by the same almighty God. We must love each other, show affection for each other, and unite together in condemnation of hatred, bigotry, and violence. We must rediscover the bonds of love and loyalty that bring us together as Americans. Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans. We are a nation founded on the truth that all of us are created equal. We are equal in the eyes of our Creator. We are equal under the law. And we are equal under our Constitution. Those who spread violence in the name of bigotry strike at the very core of America."
I agree completely with his statement. Of course, it cuts both ways. Racist groups exist on all sides and in all races, and most of them have violent elements. From white neo-Nazis to latino La Raza to black BLM, and others, it's incumbent upon all major parties to denounce both racism and violence. At the same time, we need to recognize that we are, as Trump states, all equal under the law and our Constitution, and thus everyone in this nation has a right to free speech, regardless of the content of that speech.
Trump went on to recognize that some protesters were not violent, and were not racist, but were simply there "to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee. This week it's Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder is it George Washington next week and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?” I believe it is a legitimate defensible position to stand for the preservation of American history. After all, as George Santayana wisely noted, "those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it."
Statues of Confederate soldiers and leaders primarily exist in the south to pay homage to the history of the American south and southerners' ancestors that fought valiantly for their cause. This is no different than statues of Martin Luther King, Harriet Tubman, Malcolm X, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and countless others who shaped our collective history. Whitewashing history by removing statues, burning books, and suppressing opposing viewpoints has happened many times throughout history, and has never ended well.