Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Jim Crow and the Republican Party


The Republican Party today is a safe haven for bigotry, racially divisive tactics and outright anti-Black policies.  They are endlessly insulting to minorities and overwhelmingly hostile to their interests.  Their indulgence in claims of kinship to Black heroes is some twisted fantasy that ignores history and insults Black’s hard-won liberties. Ignorant Tea Partiers who wish to claim Frederick Douglas as one of their own have clearly never read his letter to his former slavemaster.

“You remember when I used to make seven or eight, or even nine dollars a week in Baltimore, you would take every cent of it from me every Saturday night, saying that I belonged to you, and my earnings also...
I remember the chain, the gag, the bloody whip, the deathlike gloom overshadowing the broken spirit of the fettered bondman, the appalling liability of his being torn away from wife and children, and sold like a beast in the market....
How, let me ask, would you look upon me, were I...to enter the precincts of your...dwelling and seize...your...daughter Amanda, and carry her off from your family, friends and all the loved ones of her youth--make her my slave--compel her to work, and I take her wages--place her name on my ledger as property--disregard her personal right--deny her the right and privilege of learning to read and write--feed her coarsely--clothe her scantily...whip her on the naked back...leave her unprotected--a degraded victim to the brutal lust of fiendish overseers, who would...rob her of all dignity--destroy her virtue, and annihilate all in her person the graces that adorn the character of virtuous womanhood? 
I ask how would you regard me, if such were my conduct?”
I dare say, Frederick Douglas would not claim them, nor would Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., who no-doubt voted for President Kennedy and barnstormed the country promoting the election of Johnson.  The idea that the Republicans were the great emancipators and carried the torch of civil liberties ignores their evolution. In the interest of history and truth, I am compelled to tell the story, yet again.

ONCE UPON A TIME, in the early 1790s,  Thomas Jefferson and James Madison organized the Democratic-Republican Party. The party split over the choice of a successor to President James Monroe.   

In the 1850s,  anti-slavery Democrats and Democrats in favor of war switched to the Republican Party.  Until the “New Deal” era of Franklin Delano Roosevelt beginning in 1932, African Americans supported the Republicans who were against the expansion of slavery. 
During Reconstruction, after former slaves were granted citizenship and the right to vote by an Act of Congress,  Blacks registered and flooded the polls, breaking what had been a Democratic Party stronghold.  Republicans took the governor's office and many legislative seats, including the election of African Americans to many offices and over a dozen Black men to the United States Congress.  
Democrats acted swiftly to reverse the Republican dominance and the election of African Americans. White paramilitary organizations such as the Red Shirts and White League arose to serve as "the military arm of the Democratic Party."

In order to restore the Democrats to power by repressing civil rights and voting by Blacks, the Red Shirts used violence.  In Vicksburg, the Black sheriff was shot in the head by his White deputy and armed gangs murdered up to 300 Blacks in the city's vicinity.  The Governor was impeached and the Black States Attorney run out of town.  Armed patrols prevented Blacks from voting and succeeded in defeating all Republican city officials and set the precedent for The Mississippi Plan.  

A new constitution was written stating that:   
“Negroes were denied the right to vote because as long as they had voted, corruption and fraud had characterized government in the state of Mississippi....To restore "purity" to the governance of the state of Mississippi, Blacks must no longer be allowed to vote." 
Once whites regained control of the state legislatures,  they used gerrymandering of election districts to further reduce Black voting strength and minimize the number of Black elected officials

A Second Mississippi Plan in 1890, placed restrictions at the point of registration.... states passed new constitutions or amendments that effectively disfranchised Blacks and tens of thousands of poor whites.  The Plan was later adopted by: South Carolina (1895), Louisiana (1898), North Carolina (1900), Alabama (1901), Virginia (1901), Georgia (1908), and Oklahoma (1910).  Southern states later used "White primaries" and other devices to exclude Black voters.  

The Civil Rights Act inspired a realignment of the parties.  When Barry Goldwater’s opposition to the Civil Right’s Act made him popular in the Deep South, the Republican party  shifted its national base by appealing to whites' disaffection with racial policies.   

President Nixon played what came to be known as the  "Southern strategy" by promoting "wedge" issues that split the Democratic coalition of the white working class and Black voters. The strategy produced the racial party alignment that prevails today. 

Reagan, the G.O.P.’s biggest hero,  launched his 1980 presidential bid in Philadelphia, Mississippi, a small southern town who’s only claim to fame is the murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, who’d gone to Mississippi to help register Black’s to vote. It was a symbolic appearance meant to  embrace the white voters who could never forgive the Democratic Party for its support of civil rights and voting rights for Blacks.  There, he declared, ''I believe in states' rights.''

It was fitting, since Reagan opposed voting rights and fair housing laws, condemned busing for school integration, opposed affirmative action and felt homosexuals with AIDS were “getting what they deserved”.   It was dog-whistle politics in the Republican tradition as confirmed by the late Lee Atwater.

The modern-day Mississippi Plan.   

Ten days before the inauguration of President Obama, Rush Limbaugh declared, “I hope he fails.”  One month after the inauguration, he said: 
"The dirty little secret ... is that every Republican in this country wants Obama to fail, but none of them have the guts to say so; I am willing to say it”.

The first Tea Party rally took place February 27, 2009. President Obama had been in office 37 days. 

Amid the denials, whites openly expressed their apprehension about having a “Black man” in the most powerful office in the country.


To explain their staunch opposition to President Obama, many Republicans and Tea Party members point to the passage of universal healthcare as the culprit, claiming the very idea infringes on Republican ideology and the Constitution.  

But the history of universal health care tells a different story.  

In order to counter the Clinton healthcare legislation, in 1993, Republicans twice introduced health care bills that contained an individual health insurance mandate. Co-sponsors of the bill included the now outspoken opponents of ObamaCare, Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Charles Grassley (R-IA). 

Again in 2007,  during the Bush administration a coalition of Democrats and Republicans introduced a bi-partisan bill containing the individual mandate.  In fact, the president who came closest to passing universal healthcare was Republican President, Richard Nixon.  

According to Ben Smith at Politico, "Conservatives for Patient’s Rights"  organized 104 conservative activists for a conference call (July 2009) dealing with health care reform. During the call, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C) offered,  
 "If we're able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo.  It will break him." 
Most people know that Waterloo refers to the defeat and fall of Napoleon at the battle of Waterloo. The term represents a final crushing defeat...”he met his Waterloo”.  On the other hand, the reference to “breaking” him is an old Southern term that referred to a Master’s ability to arrest the rebellious spirit of a slave and bring him to submission. 

The “Southern Strategy” is in full bloom and Republicans are seeking to reenact the Mississippi Plan.

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