Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The GOP Is the Party of Civil Rights

Little more is needed to be known about the writer of this opinion piece than the title of his latest book: "Wrong on Race: The Democratic Party's Buried Past". His opinion piece follows that line, as in: Everyone knows this, but it's worth repeating: The Republican Party is the party of Abraham Lincoln and was established in 1854 to block the expansion of slavery. The Democratic Party was the party of slavery: Its two founders, Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson, owned large numbers of slaves, and every party platform before the Civil War defended the institution unequivocally.

True, as was true that George Washington owned slaves. But, so what? That was two centuries ago.

After the war, it was the Republican Party that rammed through the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments to the Constitution over Democratic opposition. Republicans also enacted a series of civil-rights laws that culminated in the Civil Rights Act of 1875, which basically did what the Civil Rights Act of 1964 accomplished.

Ah, yes. The Civil Rights Acts. If the 1875 Act was passed, why was the 1964 Act needed? Southern recalcitrance at accepting Negroes was human beings with full rights, at a time when the Democratic Party was the dominant party in the South.

Unfortunately, the Supreme Court struck down the Civil Rights Act of 1875, as well as a number of other civil-rights measures enacted by Republicans to protect the freed slaves. In Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), the court gave constitutional cover to segregation, effectively prohibiting federal efforts to tackle racial inequality until Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. And any federal civil-rights laws left on the books were repealed by Democrats once they got control of Congress and the White House in 1893.

Those Southern Democrats are now Republicans.

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