by Rod D. Martin
April 12, 2013
Over on Facebook I was asked:
Some people seem to think that a Republican 150 years ago would be a Democrat today. I’ve also heard that Pres. Kennedy would have been considered a Republican today. What are your thoughts Rod?
Kennedy was for a strong defense, intervention in Vietnam to contain Communism, and cutting taxes to stimulate economic growth. Not only was he for these things, he did all three.
He was also for Civil Rights, along with the overwhelming majority of all Republicans. It was the Republican Chief Justice Earl Warren whose Supreme Court gave you Brown vs. Board of Education. It was the Republican President who appointed him — Eisenhower — who sent Federal troops against the segregationist Faubus to integrate Little Rock Central High. It was the near-unanimous Republican minority in the House and Senate that put the Civil Rights agenda over the top: most Democrats were against it. Republicans would probably get credit for this had they not nominated Barry Goldwater in 1964 for President, since Goldwater voted against the Civil Rights Act (albeit on the ground that it was unconstitutional, not that it was wrong).
Martin Luther King was a Republican. So is his niece, my friend Alveda King. So was his closest confidant, Ralph David Abernathy.
It was Democrats who divided the nation over slavery, and then split the nation and took it to war. It was the northern Democrats who led the political charge to surrender to the South and let them (and the northern states) keep their slaves, even as Atlanta was falling to Sherman (two months before Lincoln won re-election). It was Democrats who created a “terror wing” for their party, the Ku Klux Klan, just as it was Massachusetts Democrats who long funded and armed the terror wing of Sinn Fein in Ireland, the Provisional Irish Republican Army. It was Democrats who removed all blacks from office, then all blacks from the schools and voting rolls, then enacted Jim Crow laws, then — 50 years after the Civil War, under Woodrow Wilson! — for the first time instituted segregation in federal hiring. It was Democrats who invented the “white primary”, statewide primary elections which barred any black person from voting at all (an evil the Supreme Court had to strike down at the very beginning of the civil rights era).
And what of that era? Was it not filled with lynchings that Democrats refused to legislate against or prosecute? Was it not filled with terror attacks by the Klan? Was it not characterized by men like Faubus and George Wallace and Bull Conner, Democrats all? And was it not equally characterized by courageous white political leaders who stood against the evil, like Winthrop Rockefeller in Arkansas, Nelson Rockefeller in New York, and George Romney in Michigan, Republicans all?
And when welfare proved a horrific systemic disaster, trapping black families in poverty and multi-generational breakdown, was it not Reagan and Kemp and Gingrich who worked to reform it, while Democrats stood in the way?
Under Reagan — in just eight years — the number of blacks in poverty fell from 2/3 to just 1/3. Who is the greatest champion of the poor in our era if not him?
Yes, Rand Paul is right. The Republicans and Democrats of 1860 are not much different from the Republicans and Democrats of 2013. The one party is still for the underdog, still fighting for liberty, still in love with the idea as well as the reality of America. The other party is still violently working to subvert if not destroy all of that, dividing us all into victim groups and pitting us all against one another so they can rule us all.
It is wicked. It is pathetic. And it is endless.