Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) recently played the most shopworn trick in the liberal playbook. While debating health-care “reform,” he ferociously deployed the race card.
Reid claimed last Monday that Obamacare’s opponents were like those who “dug in their heels and said, ‘Slow down, it’s too early. Let’s wait. Things aren’t bad enough about slavery.’”
It is outrageous to equate those who seek the defeat of Reid’s 2,074-page, $2.5 trillion legislative monstrosity with people who applauded while blacks were chained, robbed of their back-breaking labor, and traded hither and yon like cattle. The fact that Reid uses such insulting, insensitive language shows that he has run out of credible arguments to defend his own proposal.
Reid’s remarks cannot be dismissed as thoughtless words blurted out in the heat of legislative battle. In fact, Reid read his scripted comments from his lectern in the Senate chamber. He also said: “When this body was on the verge of guaranteeing equal civil rights to everyone regardless of the color of their skin, some senators resorted to the same filibuster threats that we hear today.”
Reid presumably intended to hammer Republicans for blockading the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Did he flunk American history?
Mychal Massie chairs Project 21, a Washington, D.C.-based organization of pro-market black thinkers and activists on whose advisory board I serve. Massie crisply corrected the staggering historical ignorance that Reid displayed when he hurled these tired, baseless, and idiotic charges against Republicans.
“Six of the nine original planks of the Republican party at its inception in 1856 were based on opposition to slavery and promoting civil rights,” Massie recalls. “Did Reid also forget what party Lyndon Johnson worked with to get the Civil Rights Act of 1964 not only passed but even to get it through committee and onto the floor for a vote? A key Democratic opponent — Sen. Robert Byrd (D., W.Va.), a former Klansman — still serves today and is third in the presidential line of succession as the Senate’s president pro tem. Reid’s daring to brand opponents as racist indicates how far liberals will go to control Americans from the cradle to the grave.”
Reid ignored the fact that the Emancipation Proclamation was signed by Abraham Lincoln, America’s first Republican president. Lincoln also fought the Civil War, largely to vanquish the very slavery that Reid now attempts to pin on the GOP.
After his appointment by Republican president Dwight Eisenhower, former governor Earl Warren (R., Calif.) led the U.S. Supreme Court in its landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, which ruled school segregation unconstitutional in 1954.
Senate Republican leader Everett Dirksen of Illinois unraveled the filibuster against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and secured its Senate passage. As John Fonte noted in the Jan. 9, 2003, issue of National Review, 82 percent of Senate Republicans voted for this legislation, versus only 66 percent of Democrats. Senators who filibustered the bill included Arkansas’s J. William Fulbright, Tennessee’s Albert Gore, Sr., and the aforementioned Robert Byrd (a former Exalted Cyclops of the Ku Klux Klan) — Democrats all.
Today’s top Senate Democrat owes an immediate apology to congressional Republicans, 39 House Democrats who voted against Obamacare on November 7, and the 52 percent of Americans from coast to coast who a recent Quinnipiac University survey found are against it. Senior citizens should worry about the $464.6 billion that Reid diverts from Medicare to Obamacare. Unless they are at least 144 years old, not one of them owned a slave.
If Harry Reid truly believes that Americans who criticize his high-cost, low-quality, deficit-swelling health-care “reform” also hold warm feelings for slavery, he is further detached from reality than anyone to date has feared. If he actually does not believe this, he should stop cynically firing rhetorical mortar shells at decent Americans who merely disagree with his intrusive, spendthrift approach to health-care “reform.”
— Deroy Murdock is a New York-based columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution.