Well, at least the one’s that live and vote in Maryland. Not to put too fine a point on it, but that’s the only reason I can think of for some of his campaign moves. The man is dancing as fast as he can, moving his feet and hoping that he keeps it up African American voters won’t where he stands; or who he really is, for that matter. One minute he’s not really a Republican. Two steps later he wants you to think he’s a Democrat. (A Rove fundraiser and $500,000 from Bush say otherwise.) Turn around, and the Democrats are the party of slavery and segregation.
Well. I can understand that from a tactical point of view, and it might work. But running ads like this one, in an attempt to fool people, instead insults their intelligence.
The spot begins with one woman telling another, “Dr. King was a real man. You know he was a Republican.”
Steve Klein, a senior researcher with the Atlanta-based King Center, said Thursday that King never endorsed candidates from either party.
“I think it’s highly inaccurate to say he was a Republican because there’s really no evidence,” Klein said.
A King biographer, Taylor Branch, also said Thursday that King was nonpartisan.
In the ad, the woman goes on to say, “Democrats passed those black codes and Jim Crow laws. Democrats started the Ku Klux Klan.” Her companion replies, “The Klan? White hoods and sheets?”
The KKK, never a political party, was a racist group of white men that started in the South after the Civil War, when Republicans were almost unheard of in former Confederate states. The mainstream Democratic Party never endorsed the Klan nor claimed to have founded it.
The first woman also says, “Democrats fought all civil rights legislation from the 1860s to the 1960s. Democrats released those vicious dogs and fire hoses on blacks.”
The ad asserts that “Democrats want to keep us poor while voting only Democrat” and “Democrats want us to accept same-sex marriages, teen abortions without a parent’s consent and suing the Boy Scouts for saying ‘God’ in their pledge.”
About the Republicans, the ad says: “Republicans freed us from slavery and put our right to vote in the Constitution.”
I’m not even going to go down the path of asking if Steele or the National Black Republican Association actually believe this — they may have convinced themselves of it by now — but do they actually think a significant number of African Americans will be so ignorant of history as to buy this?
I will grant them one thing. Abraham Lincoln did sign the Emancipation proclamation, and I’ll even ascribe his statements on white superiority to the times he lived in. But the rest doesn’t pass the laugh test, and anyone who buys it would have to manage the task of ignoring both the past and the present at the same time.
Let’s start with the past. Yes there were a great many Southern Democrats adamantly opposed to desegregation, etc. But, unless you skipped several chapters in American history, you don’t have to be a college professor to know that a major flip between the two parties. (But it helps, I guess.)
Ronald Walters, a political scientist at the University of Maryland, said he heard the ad while driving yesterday and found the historical references to be distortions.
“It is a totally fallacious rendition of the platform of the parties because, in effect, what happened is, the two parties essentially switched ideology,” Walters said.
Walters said he did not think it would help Steele win votes and could hurt him among those who are offended.
“You’re not likely to find African Americans having historical amnesia about their own history,” Walters said. “This is clearly a sales pitch, and not a very good one.”
The professor is right on the first count. (And I hope he’s right on the part about people being offended.) I’m not a college professor, but I’ll toss out a pop quiz anyway. Anybody ever heard of the Dixiecrats? Nevermind, just put your pencils down. They were the segregationists who peeled off from the Democrats in 1948, because black folks were getting too uppity even then, and ran their own presidential candidate: Strom Thurmond.
I’ll get back to Strom later, but let’s keep in mind that this was a good 16 years before Lyndon Johnson (Democrat, by the way) signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and was heard to intone “We have lost the South for a generation.” A year later, Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act. Three years later, he signed the Civil Rights Act of 1968. But no matter how many pens Johnson drained signing all these civil rights bills, he turned out to be right after all. All of that civil rights business, while it might not have been the only factor involved, greased the chute for what got it’s real start in 1948; the migration of Southern Democrats into the…
Well, which party did Strom Thurmond end up in? And, yes. I’m aware of Byrd. Thurmond never renounced his segregationist beliefs. Byrd, at least, did. We shouldn’t be too hard on Strom though. He really did love black folks, in his way. Still, went to his grave a Republican and an unrepentant segregationist.
Now, yes, the 15th amendment did give freed slaves the right to vote back in 1870. And yes, it was ratified with Republican support then. But for the sake of the Union, and some semblance of peace with “unreconstructed” Southern Dems, most blacks were grandfathered out of that right, with some help from the Klan and none help from (Republican) president Rutherford Hayes.
Back to the present. When the migration of the Dixiecrats into the modern Republican party finished, I don’t now. But by the time of Zell Miller’s appearance at the Republican Convention I’d say it was pretty much complete. And it takes a conservative (albeit a gay one) to remind us of Zell’s past.
Then you see Zell Miller, his face rigid with anger, his eyes blazing with years of frustration as his Dixiecrat vision became slowly eclipsed among the Democrats. Remember who this man is: once a proud supporter of racial segregation, a man who lambasted LBJ for selling his soul to the negroes.
Yeah. Zell also worked for Lester Maddox back in the day, a former governor of Georgia famous for his “axe-handle campaign,” named for his weapon of choice when chasing out blacks who tried to integrate his restaurant. Zell may well have been the last Dixiecrat out of the Democratic party, in all but name.
But never mind Zell. How’s the party of Lincoln doing today? Well, you don’t find many Democrats publicly yearning (or at least seeming to) for the days of segregation, or even the confederacy, but Republicans? Well, there was Trent Lott’s slip-o-the-lip at that party for Strom Thurmond, when he seemed to regret that American failed to elect an avowed segregationist in 1948. That was a while back, but just this week Georgia’s Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss seemed almost disappointed that the Confederacy didn’t win the Civil War.
Of course, you can allow yourself to think that might not have been such a bad thing for blacks in the long run anyway. There are at least a few Republicans who think slavery was a blessing. A good number of Republican Senators thought slavery wasn’t worth apologizing for. Surely slave owners would have brought the system to an end in a generation or three. And former Republican Senator (and former segregationist) Jesse Helms wrote in his memoir that southerners would have given up segregation, eventually, and it’s just a shame we didn’t wait to find out how soon.
Now, I’m not a history expert, but I know all of this. The only thing I had to look up were the links.
The Steele commercials suggest two possibilities. Either Steele and the National Black Republican Association doesn’t know this stuff, or they don’ think most African Americans in Maryland know this stuff.
If the former is true, then it’s Steele and the Black Republicans who are in trouble. If both are true, and what Steele and the Black Republican thik about the rest of us is true?
Well. We’re all in trouble.