Dave Belton letter short on facts (part 2)
To the Editor:
Some time ago Dave Belton wrote a piece published in this paper extolling the strong civil rights record of the Republican Party. Other than the fact that nearly everything in it was erroneous, it showed a complete misunderstanding of American political history. This past week, again, Brother Dave has missed the mark. He said, “After all, what did Dr. Martin Luther King know? He was just a Republican.” Can it truly be that Dave Belton actually thinks that Dr. King was a Republican?
Mr. Belton is not alone, however; many Americans, Paul Broun among them, find the details of history burdensome and often pontificate on subjects with a stout bow and empty quiver. During less agitated times dispensing such preposterous balderdash might be dismissed as harmless bleating, but our country is in the most difficult circumstances it has ever found itself and it is paramount that facts be brought forward in a clear, succinct manner.
Mr. Belton’s first misstep is the most critical as he attempts to bring Abraham Lincoln into the Party of Reagan and then continues to cast his net to snare Frederick Douglas, Harriet Tubman and Susan B. Anthony. Belton also writes, “Republicans led the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1866.” The problem with all of these statements is that the Republican Party of 1860s has absolutely NOTHING to do with the party of the same name that nominated Nixon, Reagan and Bush.
Also by this same standard, the Democratic Party of the mid- to late-1800s was NOT the Democratic Party of F.D. Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, et al. The Republican Party of the 1860s was Liberal and Radical in the best sense of those terms.
The 19th century Democratic Party in the South was reactionary and pro-slavery. Democrats in the North were divided between those against the war “Copperheads” and “Butternuts” and those who, while not against slavery, thought the Union should be preserved.
It was during the years that led up to Lincoln’s election that saw Christian churches in the United States separate over the question of slavery. Dirty, rotten, low-life, radical, un-American, yellow-bellied Republicans read the gospels and felt that slavery was immoral and against the teachings of Jesus. Democratic states' rights, conservative “Southern Christians” believed that slavery was God’s will and quoted chapter and verse to prove their point.
After the war the South remained “Democratic” for nearly 100 years. The Ku Klux Klan, founded in Pulaski, Tennessee, was formed to “enforce the policies of the Democratic Party” there. Democrats and Jim Crow ruled a one-party South until the 1960s.
As the 19th century drew to a close the Republican Party gradually became the party of big business and national Democrats slowly incorporated agrarian and workers rights reforms in their platforms. By World War I the parties were totally different from their mid-19th century counterparts. The Democratic Party stood for fairness for farmers, workers, women and children and the Republican Party advocated for bankers and big business.
After WWII, Southern Democrats found themselves isolated as the National Democratic Party began to espouse civil rights. When Harry Truman integrated the nation’s military, a titanic shift resulted as Southern Democrats began to leave. Strom Thurman ran for president as a Dixiecrat in 1948, carrying four Southern states. By 1970, old style Southern Democrats were leaving he party in droves. Soon he would become a modern Republican.
The last election in Georgia that saw a good ole Jim Crow Democrat campaign was in 1970. J.B. Stoner ran in the September 9th Democratic Primary for Governor on a platform of “private white schools, textbooks for private and church schools, lower taxes, cutting off welfare money to blacks and smashing the Black Hippie Revolutionists in Georgia.”
By 1980, the transformation was complete. Ronald Reagan knew exactly what he was doing when he opened his bid for president in Neshoba County, Mississippi. Dave, why would the governor of California travel to Philadelphia, Mississippi, to begin his campaign for President of the United States? Do you remember? Fifteen years earlier, three civil rights workers were murdered there. So, before thousands of vociferous supporters and a sea of Confederate flags at the Neshoba County Fair, Ronald Reagan uttered the magic words “states' rights.”
The speech, a classic "get Washington off our backs, small government is better than big government," said something else. Everyone knew what the euphemism “states' rights” meant and it was not “civil rights.”
Yes, Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglas were “Republicans." In 1870, their party was still the Party of Lincoln. But it is an affront to the legacy of those who toiled and marched and died so that a black student could attend the University of Georgia; that a woman might vote; that a five-year-old boy would not be forced to work in a mine six days a week…it is an affront for Mr. Belton to say that the modern Republican Party has a “laudable legacy of civil rights reform.”