Why the heck not?
Seriously. Could a Democrat please tell me why now is not the perfect time to do this? Whether it is Representative Keith Ellison or Secretary Thomas E. Perez who wins the nomination to lead the D.N.C. (I hope it’s Rep. Ellison), Democrats may want to take up CNN commentator and right-wing troll Jeffrey Lord’s advise, let Democrats apologize for our party’s historic role in fighting to maintain the right of the Confederate states to hang onto slavery and our role in the number of oppressive government policies following the brief shining light of Reconstruction.
Alright, I know one answer might be this. “Lookit, this is no time for identity politics, we have to focus on fighting for those working class votes we lost to President Trump.”
OK, then. Why can’t Democrats do both?
In short, Democrats cannot give up the fight for civil rights we signed up for with President Johnson in 1964 and 1965. Democrats have suffered mind-numbing political consequences over the past 50 years due to this act which those on the right either now conveniently ignore or outright deny ever occurred(1). Democrats lost the entire Southern voting block and now, with Republican money and attention now focused in the broken industrial heart of America, Democrats lost the majority in the electoral college.
The thing is, despite Jeffrey Lord’s convenient rhetoric that Republicans are color blind, if you are paying attention to history and to policy we should all know, especially journalists, that Southern right-wing politics is all about race and identity politics.
Here is but one example of where Southern politics has taken our country and how this affects all of us. Take a look at these bullet points form the NAACP from their criminal justice fact sheet (highlights mine)
commentator troll Jeffrey Lord was once a political aide to President Reagan and he often chooses to shoot his segments in front of a photo of The Ronald.
President Reagan understood the Southern Strategy. One of his advisors, Lee Atwater, in a rare moment of candor which we will never get from Mr. Lord, explained it this way in 1981.
“here’s how I would quote that as a statistician or a political scientist, or no as a psychologist which I’m not, is…is how abstract you handle the race thing. In other words, you start out with, and now ya’ll don’t quote me now on this…i don’t want…
You start out in 1954 by saying nigger, nigger, nigger. By 1968, you can’t say nigger. That hurts you, it backfires, so you say stuff like…uh forced-busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you getting so abstract now you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all of these thing you talking about are totally economic things & the byproduct of them is blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it, I’m not saying that. But I’m saying, that if it is getting that abstract and that coded …uh that we…we’re doing away with the racial problem one way or the other…uh you follow me? ’cause obviously sitting around saying uh we want to cut taxes, we want to cut this, and we want- is much more abstract than even the busing thing. uh… and a hell of a lot more abstract than nigger, nigger, you know. So I- any way you look at it, race is coming on the back-burner.”
Take another look at the fact sheet from the NAACP, if these numbers are not already seared in your mind. The explosion in our prison/jail population happened in 1980, the year Ronald Reagan was elected. Let’s be clear, Democrats, even post 1965, are not angels in this, especially when vying for the Southern Democratic vote.
During the 2016 election we were able to take another look at how President Bill Clinton solidified his support among Southern Democrats. Here is one particularly damning photo from 1992 that Democrats should probably recognize and understand. (You can find context to this photo here.)
In some absurd sense, I agree with Jeffrey Lord. Democrats need to finally cleave the FDR Democratic wing from that of it’s founder whom President Trump rightly belongs in the office of the populist Republican President. Of course there is a great deal of overlap historically, but Democrats have been largely on the side of right and light since 1964. Because of an about-race on civil rights, Democrats have politically ceded the South for decades and possibly generations. They did it because partially because their hand was forced by Dr. King and the civil rights movement, but also because it was the right thing to do. As party of the people, there had to come a time when the Democratic Party addressed the paradox of being a Party that would support Jim Crow policies and it’s dedication to “wholesale oppression, control, disenfranchisement and exploitation of black Americans“. (see 1-d below)
And there is no more appropriate time, as President Obama’s term in office has ended, that Democrats make the break with their racist past clear. I can not think of any good reason why Democrats should wait any longer to apologize for our Party’s historic support of slavery and the oppressive state-sponsored policies that followed. Let’s say goodbye to the racist foundations of the Party’s founder, explaining why and talk about leaders like Republican President Abraham Lincoln and Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt who understood that we can become that modern nation that will serve in the interests of all it’s people while remaining that beacon of hope and light for the rest of the world that the Statue of Liberty represents.
Will an apology for slavery offend a few Trump supporters in the Midwest or South? Maybe. But I don’t believe Democrats have to chose between fighting for working class jobs, working for equal opportunity and protecting the vulnerable among us. We can clearly do all of the above. There is no good reason we can’t. (No, I’m not counting pandering to a Trump voter as a good reason.)
(1) Evidence of denial or obfuscation of the Southern Strategy and the resulting revolution in U.S. politics from one person’s (my) consumption of media.
(a) Dinesh D’Souza’s “Hilary’s America”.
(b) Local links from our local libertarian Fred Mangles, in this case from Ayn R Key during a discussion of CalExit.
Allegedly the parties have reversed roles on the subject of race, so if California were to lead a new wave of secession by the Democratic Party it would lead to untying the concept of secession from the racism.
(Follow the link to discover that the revolution in politics was based, largely, on the increased use of air conditioning in the South. Who knew!)
(c) When Googling DemExit (regarding progressives unhappy with Democrats) I found this lovely meme.
Note: We can start with an apology by using the clear words of Janell Ross from the Washington Post (click first “over”)
Let us be clear: When the group of former Confederate soldiers who founded the KKK began their bloody tirade, many if not all of them were, in fact, Democrats. They were members of a party that at that time counted among its central goals the wholesale oppression, control, disenfranchisement and exploitation of black Americans. As such, the Democratic Party at that time and for nearly 100 years more did not include black voters but was the political home of much of the most virulently and violently racist white Americans.
(e) And one more found while reviewing the intertubes for this post. From a smart guy too, John Fund.
“The American Civil Rights Union, a conservative group that has filed suit in favor of voter-integrity measures, has had enough of such tactics. Its leaders include former attorney general Ed Meese and former Ohio secretary of state Ken Blackwell. ACRU has just published a booklet on the real history of Jim Crow. Available for free at TheTruthAboutJimCrow.org, it sets the record straight on a hidden racial past that many Democrats would rather see swept under the carpet. While Richard Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” is constantly referenced in the media as a tool to attract white voters, less well remembered are Woodrow Wilson’s segregation of the entire federal civil service; FDR’s appointment of a member of the KKK to the Supreme Court; John F. Kennedy’s apathy toward civil-rights legislation; and the rise of Robert Byrd, a former member of the KKK, to the post of Democratic leader in the Senate in the 1980s.