For years, I have been mystified by the dogged attachment that most African Americans seem to have to the Democratic Party. Indeed, many would seem to rather be boiled in oil rather than even consider voting for a Republican candidate for any office. This has always seemed odd to me. As a kid, I remember reading about the civil rights movement in the papers and hearing about marches and riots in the news. I remember George Wallace, a Democrat, on the steps of the University of Alabama. I remember Bull Connor, a Democrat, ordering the use of fire hoses and police attack dogs on civil rights activists in Birmingham.
I recall from my history books that it was Democrats in the South who were the ones who fought to keep Blacks in chains in America. It was Republicans, a party started by abolitionists, who ultimately freed them after much bloodshed. Many of the first Blacks elected to public office in America were Republicans.
Hiram Rhoades Revels was the very first African American US Senator, elected as a Republican in January 1870 in Mississippi, filling the seat left vacant by Jefferson Davis in 1861. At the time, US Senators were still appointed by their respective state legislatures, and Mississippi’s state legislature was firmly in Republican hands. He only served until March 1871, when the term expired. Nevertheless, he is the first. He wasn’t the only one. Blanche Kelso Bruce, Republican was elected by his state legislature as a US Senator from Mississippi and served from 1875 to 1881.
In the House, there was Joseph H. Rainey, South Carolina, 1869 to 1879; Jefferson F. Long, Georgia, 1870-1871; Josiah T. Walls, Florida, 1871 to 1876; Benjamin S. Turner, Alabama, 1871 to 1873; Robert Carlos DeLarge, South Carolina, 1871-1873; Robert B. Elliot, South Carolina, 1871 to 1874; Richard H. Cain, South Carolina, 1873 to 1875 and 1877 to 1879; Alonzo J. Ransier, South Carolina, 1873 to 1875; James T. Rapier, Alabama, 1873 to 1875, and the list goes on. Some of these men were born slaves; some were born free men. All had one thing in common – they were Republicans.
During reconstruction, 265 African-American delegates, all Republican, were elected to state constitutional conventions, more than 600 were elected to state legislatures, and hundreds more held local offices across the South. The first 41 blacks elected to office in Texas, the first 190 in South Carolina, the first 112 in Mississippi, the first 99 in Alabama, and the first 127 elected in Louisiana were all Republicans. The Republican Party in Texas was formed on July 4, 1867 by 20 whites and 150 blacks.
As part of the backlash by southern Democrats, who were not happy that former slaves had been given the right to vote and hold office, the Ku Klux Klan – populated by Democrats, not Republicans, targeted local Republican leaders and blacks. These attacks by the Klan were not limited to the reconstruction period; they continued up through the modern era.
As a military brat, I had a somewhat sheltered upbringing. Racial segregation and discrimination were ended in the military in 1948 when President Harry S. Truman (in fairness, a Democrat), signed Executive Order 9981, nine years before I was born. I grew up in an integrated military. I went to school with black kids, I played sports with them; they were my friends. Oh sure, I saw stuff. Just because someone signed a piece of paper did not mean that everyone’s hearts and minds automatically changed. But what I saw and experienced were very different from what was going on around me outside the Air Force installations where we lived. Indeed, I spent much of my upbringing overseas and missed most of the racial tensions of the ‘60s and ‘70s.
My dad is a Democrat from Kentucky, my mom a Republican from Illinois. I was raised an American. I was raised to believe that what was important wasn’t the color of a person’s skin, but rather the content of their character. When it came to doing a job, what was important wasn’t how much melanin a person had, but rather, could they do the job? I read a lot as a kid; darned near anything I could get my hands on. In grade school I was really interested in paleontology. I read every book I could find in the base library. My mom had to check them out for me as the librarian didn’t believe I could read and comprehend them.
From paleontology, I went to Astronomy. Then I got interested in history and read everything I could find on the founding of our country, the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Civil War, and World War II. For some reason, I was never as interested in World War I, though I did acquaint myself with it. As time went on (and I exhausted all the books on the subjects in the base library), I became interested in Science Fiction and Fantasy and still read that heavily today. My personal library has increased to several thousand books, on all topics.
Reading a lot doesn’t make me smarter than everyone else, and that is not the message I am trying to convey here. But it has exposed me to a lot of different opinions on a lot of different topics. It has shaped my world view and my understanding of the world around me. I have gained a lot of respect for the founders of our country, for the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, and the ideals they stood for; ideals that are timeless and apply to all people, not just a select few. Living overseas as a kid too, helped me appreciate my country, and to understand the term "American exceptionalism" in its proper context. Not that other countries don't have their points, but they simply are not America and are missing a lot that we take for granted every day.
I understood (and still understand) that our founding had its flaws. But the flaws were in the application of the ideals enshrined in the founding documents, not in the ideals themselves. It took a lot of time and no little amount of bloodshed, but we as a nation have been growing into those ideals ever since the beginning, documents that were written in such a manner, and understood by many of the founders to be, applicable to all Americans – white, black, red, yellow, male and female. I believe in the ideals they express. I find those ideals to be superior to any others that governed men before they were penned, and to be superior to any other system devised since.
And it pains me greatly to see my fellow citizens belittle them and ignorantly, do their best to eradicate them from the fabric of the nation.
Which brings me back to my puzzlement as to why most black Americans seem to overwhelmingly support a political party that has more than half-way placed them back into bondage and which would gladly see them remain an economic underclass, firmly under their thumb, and beholding to them for time and all eternity.
So what changed? How is it that a party that once held blacks as slaves is now the party they solidly vote for election after election? How is it that the Republican Party, the party that freed them and to which they flocked originally, is now the party that they seem to think wants to put them “back on the plantation?”
I got a hint a few days ago as I was listening to Morning in America, Bill Bennett’s show, which was being guest hosted by Steve Hayward. The topic of discussion seemed to be Donald Trump, as usual. One of the callers, identified himself as an African-American, and proceeded to tell the host (and myself of course), that the reason why blacks such as he support Democrats is because the parties have flipped. The Republican Party they used to support was a liberal party and has now become a conservative party, while the Democrat Party that held them in bondage was a conservative party but has now become a liberal party. Because it was conservatives that kept them down and liberals that freed them, they now support the Democrats over the Republicans. They do not trust conservatives.
I also learned that, according to him anyway, my support for the 9th and 10th amendment to the constitution, “States rights”, is “code language” for putting blacks back in chains; that because I support state’s rights over an ever expanding federal government, I want to send blacks back to the plantation. It seems that following the dictum that “the powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined [while] those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite,” as laid forth by James Madison, the father of the Constitution is “code language” that really means that I want to send blacks back to the back of the bus; in short, I am a racist.
Wow. I stand for none of these things. I don’t speak “code language.” And I most definitely do not consider myself a racist. Where do I start?
Perhaps the biggest problem it seems is that term “conservative.” What does it mean anyway? What is it I am trying to “conserve”?
There is no doubt that in the South, during the Civil War, the Democratic Party was trying to “conserve” its “peculiar institution” of owning human beings as property. Having failed that, during reconstruction, they were trying to “conserve” white supremacy over the large number of black citizens they had brought to their states as slaves and who now had the right to vote. After reconstruction, with their power base restored, the Democratic Party continued to try and “conserve” this racist viewpoint, employing legislative tactics (poll taxes), and intimidation (the Klan) to keep their black citizens “in line” and out of the government.
In fact, post reconstruction, it wasn’t until 1967 that a black again held office as a US Senator (Edward William Brooke III, Massachusetts - Republican), and not until 2013 was a black seated in the US Senate from a state in the former Confederacy (Tim Scott, South Carolina – Republican). And while blacks did serve in the House (albeit with a considerable gap between 1901 (George Henry White, North Carolina - Republican) and 1929 (Oscar DePriest, Illinois - Republican), it wasn’t until 1969 that an American of African descent was once again elected to the US House of Representatives from a former state of the Confederacy (William Lacey Clay, Missouri – Democrat).
There is also no doubt that while all this was going on, the Republican Party took a more “liberal” stance than did the Democrats.
There is also no doubt that today, the Democratic Party considers itself “liberal”, while the loudest voices heard in the Republican Party proudly label themselves “conservative.” But what are Republicans trying to “conserve”?
Surely, we are not trying to “conserve” the same things that the Democrats during the Civil War, reconstruction, and post reconstruction through the 1960s were trying to conserve.
Conservativism to me means the following; smaller federal government, more responsive to the people and less responsive to special interests; a strong military – to keep us safe from outside aggression and to protect American interests around the world; balancing our budget, living within our means, and paying down the debt –so we are not beholding to foreign lenders; free and equitable trade with other nations – not to export American jobs overseas, but to strengthen our economy by exporting US goods (not jobs) to other nations; reducing or eliminating many of the regulations which have force of law, written by faceless and unaccountable federal minions that restrict our freedoms and strangle our economy; and becoming a nation of laws again, not a nation of whims, governed by our laws and our constitution, not the laws and constitutions of other nations.
This is a partial list, but nowhere in there am I supporting such things as slavery, Jim Crow laws, or anything that would make my fellow African American citizens (or any other citizens) less an American than me. I am trying to conserve freedom; freedom for all Americans. We have enough enemies outside our borders – we don’t need to be fighting each other inside them. There is no “code-language” in any of this. If you want to know what I “really mean” then listen to what I really say.
I consider my conservatism more akin to classic Jeffersonian liberalism than I do the Democrat version of “conservatism” practiced in the 18th through late 20th century. In no way does the liberal progressivism, practiced by the Democrats of the early 20th century, and which has taken over the party today, in any way, shape or form resemble classical Jeffersonian liberalism.
In many respects, this problem over labels, which has shifted the African-American vote to supporting something that is diametrically opposed to their interests and the way they actually live their lives, can also be blamed for the Jewish community’s support of Democrats as well. Jews typically favor “liberals” over “conservatives” because of their centuries of experience in Europe, culminating with the mass exterminations carried out by the Nazi’s in World War II.
It is fashionable these days to label movements such as the Nazis as an example of “far-right conservatism.” However, the Nazis party was a socialist party – the National Socialist Workers Party. Indeed, although Progressives on the left today decry Mussolini’s Fascist party to be “extreme far-right”, back in the 1930’s, Progressives thought quite favorably of Mussolini. And those on the left have long been enamored of Communism, another brand of socialism, despite the millions of lives lost to such communist despots as Joseph Stalin, Mao Tse-tung, and Pot Pol.
By successfully relabeling themselves as “liberal” and Republicans as “conservative” (with Republican’s willingly going along), they have managed to pull in voting groups that typically would not side with their politics by playing on the differing meanings of the words between the various groups.
Like with blacks, it has always struck me as odd that Jews so deeply mistrust conservatives in the US, and in particular conservative, evangelical Christians, when there is probably no group of people more supportive of Jews and Israel in the United States than conservative Christians. It simply goes back to words and the meanings assigned to those words by different groups.
With Progressives, it is important to remember that “words mean things” and that the same words may mean different things to different people.
It is long past time that white conservatives sit down with their fellow black citizens and really talk; not about the weather or how the Spurs are doing, but rather about each other; what we think, what we really mean when we say something, and what the other side thinks we mean. There is a disconnect going on that needs to be fixed. We need to discuss race, why such an insignificant thing as skin color remains such a big issue, and how we can move past this without further antagonizing each other.
It is difficult and painful to discuss race, as I am personally aware. I and others like me have been conditioned over the years to not discuss race, lest we give offence, to the extent that it is difficult to even know where to start. This is probably the most effective tactic the left has employed; for how can we reconcile our differences if we can’t even talk about our problems? This is the same tactic we now see being employed with respect to radical Islam; how can we fight something we can’t even properly name, much less discuss?
I don’t want to give offence, I don’t want to alienate friends, and I most certainly don’t want to get into a shouting match. However when my saying to someone that I am a conservative conjures up images in their mind of men in white sheets, burning crosses, and bodies hanging from trees, then we most certainly need to sit down and talk! Such people (and I use the term loosely) in no way represent me or my thinking on any subject.
The divide is only growing. It has widened considerably under our first black president, who far from being a “uniter” has instead widened, sharpened, and deepened the divisions between us. Truly, I have nothing against a black president; I just wish we could have had a different one. Too bad we couldn’t have talked Condi into running!
This cannot stand. We are all Americans. We all want the same things for ourselves and our children; to live in freedom and equality. We may not agree on all things or how to accomplish these goals, but we no-doubt agree on many things, likely on most things, and together we can make it work. As Ben Franklin put it, “we must all hang together or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
Let me close with a link to an article entitled Black Conservative Son Educates Dad on Dems’ Race Lies, by Lloyd Marcus which appeared in December 2014 in the American Thinker. An active, black member of the Tea Party, he puts things quite succinctly, and, as an American of African descent, gives me hope that the blinders, however slowly, are beginning to come off, that real issues can be discussed, and that just perhaps, America can weather this storm and remain the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Because divided, we shall certainly fall. But united, as one people, under God, none can stand against us.