Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Why I Am a Democrat

The Civil Rights Act introduced to Congress by President Kennedy in 1963 and signed into law by President Johnson in 1964 dramatically changed both the Democratic and the Republican Parties. When the bill came up for debate in the Senate in March of '64 Democratic Senator Richard Russell of Georgia said, "We will resist to the bitter end any measure or any movement which would have a tendency to bring about social equality and intermingling and amalgamation of the races in our (Southern) states." He then led a filibuster by Southern Democrats that lasted 57 days culminated by a speech given by Senator Robert Byrd, Democrat from West Virginia, that lasted 14 hours and 13 minutes. After a compromise was reached the legislation finally passed the Senate 73-27 with almost all Southern Democrats voting nay. When President Johnson signed this historic document on July 2, 1964, he put down his pen and said to an aide, "We (meaning we Democrats) have lost the South for a generation."

The Southern Strategy was the brain-child of Nixon's strategist Kevin Phillips. Here is what he told the New York Times in an interview in 1970:

"From now on, the Republicans are never going to get more than 10 to 20 percent of the Negro vote and they don't need any more than that... but Republicans would be shortsighted if they weakened enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That's where the votes are. Without that prodding from the blacks, the whites will backslide into their old comfortable arrangement with the local Democrats."

The Republicans have used this Southern Strategy to win elections ever since. In 1980 Ronald Reagan gave a speech in Philadelphia, Mississippi promising to restore "State's Rights" and telling a crowd of whites at a County Fair that he, as President, would return control of education and all programs that affected local entities to state and local control. Philadelphia, Mississippi was the scene of the June 21, 1964 murder of civil rights workers James Chancy, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner. Reagan was cheered with a standing ovation. He went on to carry Mississippi and the entire South except for Georgia in 1980 and every Southern state in 1984.

Today the entire South is Republican. A vast majority of the governors of Southern states are Republican and almost all legislative bodies in the South are in Republican hands. And racism is the reason. I'm not inferring that every Republican is a racist only that the party has used racist politics to gain and hold on to political power.

The Democratic Party doesn't exactly have clean hands when it comes to using racism to gain and hold on to political power. Before the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Democrats held on to what was called the Solid South in every Presidential election since the end of the Civil War. The so called Jim Crow laws were enacted by Democratic controlled Southern Legislators and signed into law by Democratic governors. Some of the most racist Congressmen and Senators in Washington used to be Democrats. Thankfully they've all either died off, reformed or switched to the Republican Party.

If you have read the last two posts to this blog it should be as obvious to you as it is to me that we have been vicariously re-fighting the Civil War for 140 years every four years in the voting booth. This is undoubtedly the most salient fact that is considered "too hot to handle" by the mainstream media in this country. No media outlet dares to talk about this obvious, all important salient fact but the New York Times and the Washington Post and when they do they get hammered for being too liberal, elitist and out of touch with mainstream American values.

Before November of this year Republicans will be working hard to shore up their base which used to be based on the high ideals of holding our nation together and enfranchising all of our citizens but has changed recently to catering to the three or more r's of radical religiosity, racism and reducing taxes (which translates to reaming the poor to reward the rich) and reducing spending which translates into less funding for social programs that help those of us Americans who are less fortunate to gain a foothold to better ourselves or even provide ourselves and our children adequate nutrition, education and health care.

It has only been since the 2000 elections that the mainstream media has begun to talk about Red States and Blue States. We ought to be truthful with ourselves and keep the blue states blue and change the red states to gray. Go look at the last two posts of this blog to see what I mean.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Something Peculiar-Two or Our Peculiar Institution

"Our Peculiar Institution" was the euphemism for slavery used particularly in the antebellum South. I haven't been able to find when the term first originated but it was an extremely popular euphemistic term that newspapers and public speakers, i.e. preachers and politicians, used in order to keep from having to utter the word slavery. I first came across the term, Our Peculiar Institution, while reading John Jakes' Civil War trilogy, North and South, which ought to be, by the way, required reading in every high school in America.

Nowadays we find it peculiar that when Thomas Jefferson first wrote the words, "All men are created equal," he was certainly not referring to his own male slaves or those of George Washington and the many other Founding Fathers who were slave owners. Jefferson, we can only imagine, must have had second thoughts about those words. Of all the Founding Fathers he was one of the most intellectual and forward-thinking and he must have known that those words would come back to haunt the nation that he was having a hand in creating.

Most of us now even find it somewhat peculiar that it took so long for the U.S. Supreme Court to outlaw segregation (Brown v. the Board of Education, 1954). It now, with hindsight, seems peculiar that it took our country so long to ban State anti-miscegenation laws outlawing interracial marriage (Loving v. Virginia, 1967).

The enslavement of African Americans in what is now the U.S. formally began in the 1630's and lasted for some 230 years. The Civil War ended the enslavement of African Americans only 143 years ago and until only 41 years ago it was perfectly acceptable for States to have laws making it illegal for a white citizen of our country to marry a black citizen.

Most of us find it peculiar now that our ancestors used the Bible to justify Our Peculiar Institution. "[Slavery] was established by decree of Almighty God...it is sanctioned in the Bible, in both Testaments, from Genesis to Revelation..." Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America. This statement is correct. I defy you to find one sentence in the New or Old Testaments that denigrates the practice of human slavery.

A lot of us find it peculiar that the Reverend Jeremiah Wright is angry that attitudes are less easily changed than laws. Our Peculiar Institution was legally deconstructed by the Emancipation Proclamation a hundred and forty something years ago. His point is that the Emancipation Proclamation and Brown v. the Board of Education and Loving v. Virginia not to mention the Civil Rights Act of 1964 took far too long in coming and did little more than put words on paper and certainly didn't etch those sentiments onto the hearts and minds of a great many of us Americans who have yet to totally disown Our Peculiar Institution.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Something "Peculiar"

Take a look at these two maps that I came across while Googleing around on the Internet.

Why do these two maps, representing pictures in time separated by 140 years, look almost identical? Could it be that on some very important though subliminal level we Americans are still fighting the Civil War? I honestly believe a great many of us are.

I found another map that shows how the individual States and Territories voted in the 1860 presidential election. This was between the two dominate political parties at the time: the Republicans (Lincoln) and the Southern Democrats (John C. Breckinridge) and the third and fourth parties, the Constitutional Union Party (John Bell) and the Northern Democrats (Stephen Douglas). Here's this map.

I suspect that all three of these maps will look almost identical to the election results that we will be seeing in November when the election results begin to be tabulated on the television networks.

The more I look back at the way that the South and the North and their Western allies have voted in every presidential election for the last 140 years the more convinced I am that Race is the predominate elephant in the room being ignored and it probably will be for a while. No one, not even Barack Obama, is going to be elected President any time soon if he or she tries to explain to the American people why these maps look so peculiarly similar.