The Corner

Re: Wow

As I expected, my swipe at Harry Reid below has resulted in a slew of the same dog-eared arguments we hear everytime someone points out that the Democratic Party has a worse racist legacy than the Republican Party. Here’s a typical one:

“Yeah, weren’t they mostly Democrats?”

Yes, Mr. Goldberg, they were Democrats. Now, indisputably, those very same people (white southern racists) are Republicans. I presume you’ve taken a look at an electoral map recently? What do you imagine happened to all of the throngs of people who were screaming “segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever,” forty odd years ago?

What do you think is more likely, that, today, those people and their children and grandchildren are watching Rachel Maddow and Keith Olberman, reading the Daily Kos, or listening to Air America? Or that they are watching Glen Beck, reading RedState, and listening to Rush Limbaugh?

You could argue, I suppose, that Southern whites were magically cleansed of their shameful history of violent racism by the simple act of switching party registration, but I don’t think that you, or anyone with a functioning brain cell, really believes that.

I would humbly suggest that NRO keep its lines of attack straight. Democrats can’t simultaneously be lazy, fecund, grasping, minorities (“welfare queens” etc.) and racist white crackers in favor of Jim Crow. Since the GOP is wildly popular in all of the old Dixie states, and is increasingly loathed pretty much everywhere else in the country, it seems pretty clear what happened.

Of course I have a sneaking suspicion you don’t really believe what you wrote, and that it was merely an attempt to extract outraged replies from gullible, stupid, people such as myself.

This has been discussed endlessly in the Corner and elsewhere. I’m on a deadline so I’m not going to wade too deeply into it. But a few quick points.

1. It’s a very strange, though alas very common, argument to contend that even though the Democrats opposed civil rights and the Republicans supported them, the Republicans must suffer from guilt-by-association with racist Democrats but Democrats can never suffer from guilt by association with Democrats. Some people seem to believe that all the non-racist Republicans left the GOP and joined the Democrats. This is a convenient and self-serving bit of otherworldly grandstanding and moral preening. But even if it were so, and even including the Nixon strategy, why should the GOP own acts it didn’t commit? Surely, it would be a better country — on liberal terms — if the GOP took pride in its stance on civil rights. People like this reader seem to want the GOP to embrace a racist identity solely so it will make them feel better. I’m not going to help with that.

2. Whatever evils the GOP committed after the civil rights acts on race — thank you Mr. Nixon (one of the most liberal presidents, of either party) — it is irrefutable that they are lesser evils than the ones committed by the Democrats. Yes, some racists joined the GOP but with a few exceptions, they had to jettison their support for Jim Crow. For instance, I despise what the GOP did, in collusion with the Congressional Black Caucus, to carve up the south along racial lines for gerrymandering purposes. But that’s not quite the same as supporting slavery or segregation, now is it?

3. For those interested in this history, I highly recommend Gerard Alexander’s essay on the subject. And since the script usually leads to someone bringing up Reagan’s Mississippi speech, I recommend Steve Hayward’s take on that.

4. The notion that my playful poking of Reid is an outrageous oversimplification of political history while Reid’s disgusting attempt to make opposition to Obamacare somehow akin to supporting slavery is just fine is beyond ridiculous.

5. All those racists didn’t join the GOP. I believe the only politically active (and perhaps the only living) Democrat to fillibuster civil rights is still a Democrat. His name is Robert Byrd, the senior Senator from West Virginia and Dean of the Senate.

Update: From a reader:

Hi Jonah,

You left out all the nasty racist comments/cartoons made by Democrats/Liberals about conservative blacks i.e.. Aunt Jemima, Oreo, etc. And, I’d contend, the left’s championing of welfare dependency may be characterized as horrifically racist, given its damaging effects on the black community.

Yeah, I left out a lot. For more you might look at the race chapter of a certain book.

Jonah Goldberg — Jonah Goldberg is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a senior editor of National Review. His new book, The Suicide of The West, will be released on April 24.

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