The Democrats’ his­tory of racial dis­crim­i­na­tion

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

Charges of in­tol­er­ance are lev­eled rou­tinely at those who ques­tion the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s poli­cies. To lis­ten to the ac­cusers, one would think the en­tire his­tory of racial dis­crim­i­na­tion and dis­cord in this na­tion were prop­erly laid at the feet of Repub­li­cans. His­tory teaches oth­er­wise.

I grew up in the Deep South, a John F. Kennedy Demo­crat. My par­ents taught me that, as Martin Luther King would say later, peo­ple should be equal be­fore the law, judged by the con­tent of their char­ac­ter, not the color of their skin. Of course, that was not the pre­vail­ing view at the time, when racial dis­crim­i­na­tion led to sep­a­rate schools, the­ater seat­ing and wa­ter foun­tains.

The shame­ful pol­i­tics of racial divi­sion were prac­ticed skill­fully by the dem­a­gogues of the day. They were all Democrats. If you’re of a cer­tain age, you’ll re­mem­ber, among oth­ers: Ge­or­gia’s Lester Mad­dox, of ax-han­dle fame; Ge­orge Wal­lace of Alabama, who stood in the schoolhous­e door; Harry Byrd of “mas­sive re­sis­tance” Vir­ginia; and the ev­er­last­ing Sen. Robert C. Byrd of West Vir­ginia, who, along with Sen. Al Gore Sr. of Ten­nessee and other Democrats, fil­i­bus­tered against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for 57 days.

It was the Demo­cratic Party that con­ceived, im­ple­mented and per­pet­u­ated the per­ni­cious sys­tem of racial dis­crim-ina­tion and pref­er­ence that arose early in the last cen­tury and fi­nally crum­bled in the 1960s. They did this in or­der to sus­tain their own power. It worked for them, but not for the peo­ple. The Jim Crow sys­tem not only was morally rep­re­hen­si­ble and re­spon­si­ble for much in­jus­tice over many years, but also clearly re­tarded eco­nomic growth. This hurt whites and blacks alike for decades.

As of 1963, the Repub­li­can Party had a long record of sup­port for civil rights leg­is­la­tion — not so the Democrats. Repub­li­can sup­port for the ma­jor civil rights leg­is­la­tion en­acted dur­ing the pres­i­dency of Lyn­don B. John­son was stronger than that of the Democrats.

More than three times as many Demo­cratic se­na­tors (21) as Repub­li­cans (6) voted against the Civil Rights Act in 1964; in the House, the “no” votes came from 96 Democrats and 34 Repub­li­cans. In both cham­bers, greater per­cent­ages of Repub­li­cans than Democrats sup­ported both bills, by sig­nif­i­cant mar­gins. For ex­am­ple, 82 per­cent of Se­nate Repub­li­cans voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as op- posed to 69 per­cent of Democrats; for the Vot­ing Rights Act of 1965, 97 per­cent of Repub­li­can se­na­tors voted yes, ver­sus 74 per­cent of the Democrats.

There was a time when ma­jori­ties in both par­ties (even if nar­rower among Democrats) en­dorsed the equal treat­ment of all Amer­i­cans, without re­gard to race. Pub­lic opin­ion shifted heav­ily and quickly in the same di­rec­tion, per­haps be­cause the moral and ra­tio­nal case was com­pelling. As so­ci­ol­o­gist John Shel­ton Reed wrote, “Dur­ing the three years 1963 to 1966, sup­port for de jure seg­re­ga­tion be­came a mi­nor­ity view among white South­ern­ers. The per­cent­age of white South­ern par­ents who com­pletely op­posed pub­lic school de­seg­re­ga­tion, for ex­am­ple, dropped from 61 to 24.” That was a dra­matic shift in a short time. It was per­ma­nent, too, the death rat­tle of Jim Crow.

Sadly, how­ever, the as­cen­dancy of “col­or­blind” pol­i­tics in the Demo­cratic Party was fleet­ing. The Democrats were the mas­ters of racial pa­tron­age; with hardly a hic­cup, they took the game to an­other level. Where once they played on the fears and prej­u­dices of whites, they found new “vic­tim” con­stituen­cies to “pro­tect” with pledges of gov­ern­ment largesse and fa­voritism.

So, blacks and per­haps His­pan­ics, among oth­ers, be­came the new and in­creas­ingly de­pen­dent ben­e­fi­cia­ries of racial pref­er­ence. Other “peo­ples of color,” such as In­di­ans and Asians, per­ceived as in­tent on self-re­liance, gen­er­ally were not among the fa­vored. Thus, the same old game re­sumed, with a cyn­i­cal new ar­range­ment of pieces on the play­ing board. Once again, the Democrats sought gain through di­vi­sive means, play­ing on fear and re­sent­ment.

Then as now, op­po­nents were at­tacked per­son­ally. For a Wal­lace sup­porter, it was eas­ier to brand some­one as an “ag­i­ta­tor,” or worse, than to en­gage in a sub­stan­tive dis­cus­sion about the virtues and vices of racial seg­re­ga­tion and dis­crim­i­na­tion. Bet­ter to smear the op­po­si­tion, es­pe­cially when your po­si­tion on the mer­its is weak.

To­day, many Amer­i­cans are un­happy that Congress has en­acted, in a dra­mat­i­cally par­ti­san fash­ion, sweep­ing “health care” leg­is­la­tion that en­tails un­prece­dented fed­eral in­ter­fer­ence in doc­tor-pa­tient re­la­tion­ships, an ar­ray of new and higher taxes, and un­sus­tain­able in­creases in gov­ern­ment spending. Sim­i­larly un­wel­come are the union sweet­en­ers, the stu­dent loan takeover and the “ex­pert” pan­els that will re­strict ac­cess to med­i­ca­tions and treat­ments.

Per­haps most ou­tra­geous is the (un­der­re­ported) fact that our “rul­ing elite” have ex­empted them­selves from the regime be­ing im­posed on the rest of us. If it’s such a good thing, why do you sup­pose they carved them­selves out of it? In sum, there are a mul­ti­tude of grounds on which Amer­i­cans op­pose Oba­macare.

In re­sponse, the Democrats re­vert to Jim Crow tac­tics: Change the sub­ject via per­sonal at­tacks. They hurl ac­cu­sa­tions of “racism,” and use the vul­gar sex­ual in­nu­endo “tea-bag­ger” to as­sail fel­low Amer­i­cans who op­pose the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ag­gres­sive ex­pan­sion of fed­eral power.

In fact, in all of the is­sues raised by the dis­senters, there is not a trace of race. Would peo­ple be equally con­cerned if Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton were in of­fice and mov­ing force­fully to im­ple­ment the same agenda as Pres­i­dent Obama? I think so. Or, would peo­ple march in protest if a Pres­i­dent Colin L. Pow­ell or Con­doleezza Rice were pur­su­ing more moderate poli­cies? I think not.

Ray Hartwell is a Navy vet­eran and a Wash­ing­ton lawyer.

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