Oct 2, 2011

Rewriting History

Every time a racist flare lights up the political sky, like Perry's "niggerhead" welcome sign at his frequently frequented hunting grounds, some Republican Tea Party members jump in to remind us that
  1. It was the Republicans under Abraham Lincoln who fought for the freedom of slaves
  2. It was the Democrats who opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in larger numbers
(Ergo, as some argue, it is the Democrats who are the racists)

Which would be true if 
  1. We ignored a deeper analysis of the aforementioned facts
  2. We equated the Republican Tea Party to the party of Lincoln
(In other words, nice try)

At the outset, the claims are true, that it was the Republican Party under Abe that led the Union against the Confederacy. Likewise it was true that 80% of the Republicans in 1964 supported the Civil Rights Act whereas only about 61% of Democrats did.

Case closed, right?
Not so fast, note that the Union comprised of the northern states, and the Confederacy the southern states. I have noted the main cause of the Civil War elsewhere, and while the political constitution of the South has changed, the sentiments have remained largely the same.

These days, if you see a Confederate flag being waved, chances are that you are in a Southern state like Tennessee, South Carolina, or Georgia, and not in a liberal bastion like Washington, Maine, or Illinois. And when you do see one waved in a liberal bastion like California, chances are that it is in a red county. Orange County for instance.

Today, it is A Republican Thing.

By Republican I mean the party that comprises of members affiliated with the Republican Tea Party of 2011, not of 1864. Or 1964.

In 1864, eight out of ten Republicans were aligned with the leaders of the Union. Today, the figure is reversed; eight out of ten admire the Confederate leaders. This ain't your Lincoln's GOP!

In 1964, the votes were as follows:

The Senate:
  • Democratic Party: 46-21 (69%–31%)
  • Republican Party: 27-6 (82%–18%)
The House[1]:
  • Democratic Party: 153-91 (63%–37%) 152–96 (61–39%) 
  • Republican Party: 136-35 (80%–20%) 138–34 (80–20%)
But there's more. If you look at the voting pattern considering the Union vs. the Confederate States based on the classification of almost a century earlier, you'll find this:

The House:
  • Southern Democrats: 7–87 (7%–93%)
  • Southern Republicans: 0–10 (0%–100%)
The Senate:
  • Southern Democrats: 1–20 (5%–95%)
  • Southern Republicans: 0–1 (0%–100%)
What of the northern states, the ones that formed the Union during the Civil War era?

The House:
  • Northern Democrats: 145-9 (94%–6%)
  • Northern Republicans: 138-24 (85%–15%)
The Senate:
  • Northern Democrats: 45-1 (98%–2%)
  • Northern Republicans: 27-5 (84%–16%)
(Figures from Wikipedia)

A completely different picture, one'd have to admit. Over 90% of the Southerners (Democrats or Republicans) voted against the Civil Rights Act. Today, the South belongs to the Republicans, whereas in 1864 or 1964, it belonged to the Democrats and Dixiecrats.

Perhaps this would become clearer if we identified some of these elite Southerners in 1965:
  • John Tower
  • Richard Russell Jr.
  • Strom Thurmond
  • Robert Byrd
  • Barry Goldwater
  • Al Gore Sr.
In the immortal words of one who till his death insisted that he had done the right thing:
This so-called Civil Rights Proposals, which the President has sent to Capitol Hill for enactment into law, are unconstitutional, unnecessary, unwise and extend beyond the realm of reason. This is the worst civil-rights package ever presented to the Congress and is reminiscent of the Reconstruction proposals and actions of the radical Republican Congress
Yes, that was the Senator from South Carolina, Strom Thurmond, a proud beacon-bearer of the Republican Tea Party—not in 1964 though, he was a Democrat then.

I'd be remiss if I did not mention that Robert Byrd started and remained a Democrat. He was also a klans-man. However, unlike Thurmond, he renounced his bigotry. And his klan-ship.

In contrast, Rick Perry was a Democrat who turned Republican in the Reagan era. The other common bond between Byrd and Perry is that neither ever lost an election they contested.

Thurmond doubled down, much like the Republicans of today, and when asked in 1998 whether he wanted to apologize or recant, he said this:
I don't have anything to apologize for, I don't have any regrets...Yes, I do [think that the Dixiecrats were right.]
It is always a good idea to look deeper, so that you do not solely associate bigotry with party affiliation.
[1] Updated 8/3/2013. The original numbers reflected the House vote on the Senate version of the bill, and as a more careful reader (John Houck@Houckadoodledoo) pointed out, the figures do not add up. The breakdown was not available from the source for the House vote on the Senate version. I have therefore modified it to reflect the tally as it was in the House version.

No comments: