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Comments by YACCS
Friday, September 22, 2006

The paradox of the Black Republican pt 1

When I read that grovelling nonsense issued by the National Black Republican lackies, it made me laugh. It assumed that black people had no sense of history and they were going to enlighten

Which is why black Republicans are disdained by most black voters.

I know why black people became Republicans, because when my father was a 21 year old Marine, he registered as one, I think in 1957-8. My mother, who has lived in New York her entire life has been a Democrat for much of that time. The difference was simple. Until 1932, blacks who could vote were loyal Republicans. It was FDR who started the shift. In 1960, the split was equal between Nixon and Kennedy. But by 1964, the drive to integrate the Democratic Party was on in force. Why? One woman, Fanny Lou Hamer.

Hamer at the Democratic National Convention

In the summer of 1964, the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, or "Freedom Democrats" for short, was organized with the purpose of challenging Mississippi's all-white and anti-civil rights delegation to the Democratic National Convention of that year as not representative of all Mississippians. Hamer was elected Vice-Chair.

The Freedom Democrat' efforts drew national attention to the plight of African-Americans in Mississippi, and represented a challenge to President Lyndon B. Johnson, who was seeking the Democratic Party's nomination for a second term; their success would mean that other Southern delegations, who were already leaning toward Republican challenger Barry Goldwater, would publicly break from the convention's decision to nominate Johnson — meaning in turn that he would almost certainly lose those states' electoral votes in the election. Hamer, singing her signature hymns, drew a great deal of attention from the media, enraging Johnson, who referred to her in speaking to his advisors as "that illiterate woman".

Hamer was invited, along with the rest of the MFDP officers, to address the Convention's Credentials Committee. She recounted the problems she had encountered in registration, and the ordeal of the jail in Winona, and, near tears, concluded:

"All of this is on account we want to register [sic], to become first-class citizens, and if the Freedom Democratic Party is not seated now, I question America. Is this America, the land of the free and the home of the brave where we have to sleep with our telephones off the hooks because our lives be threatened daily because we want to live as decent human beings - in America?"

In Washington, D.C., Johnson panicked, calling an emergency press conference in an effort to divert press coverage away from Hamer's testimony; but many television networks ran the stunning speech unedited on their late news programs that night. The Credentials Committee received thousand of calls and letters in support of the Freedom Democrats.

Johnson then dispatched several trusted Democratic Party operatives to attempt to negotiate with the Freedom Democrats, including Senator Hubert H. Humphrey (who was campaigning for the Vice-Presidential nomination), Walter Mondale, Walter Reuther, and J. Edgar Hoover. They suggested a compromise which would give the MFDP two seats in exchange for other concessions, and secured the endorsement of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference for the plan. But when Humphrey outlined the compromise, saying that his position on the ticket was at stake, Hamer, invoking her Christian beliefs, sharply rebuked him:

"Do you mean to tell me that your position is more important than four hundred thousand black people's lives? Senator Humphrey, I know lots of people in Mississippi who have lost their jobs trying to register to vote. I had to leave the plantation where I worked in Sunflower County, Mississippi. Now if you lose this job of Vice-President because you do what is right, because you help the MFDP, everything will be all right. God will take care of you. But if you take [the nomination] this way, why, you will never be able to do any good for civil rights, for poor people, for peace, or any of those things you talk about. Senator Humphrey, I'm going to pray to Jesus for you."

Future negotiations were conducted without Hamer, and the compromise was modified such that the Convention would select the two delegates to be seated, for fear the MFDP would appoint Hamer. In the end, the MFDP rejected the compromise, but had changed the debate to the point that the Democratic Party adopted a clause which demanded equality of representation from their states' delegations in 1968.

Why didn't she just join the GOP? Well, Barry Goldwater opposed civil rights and the power base in the South was the Democratic Party. So she went where the power was. Martin Luther King, according to his biographers never announced a party preference, and he may have never voted, considering he lived in Atlanta and travelled a great deal. What he clearly was not was a Republican, one of the silly charges that this group makes.

The 19th Century history they cite is much more complex than they want you to believe.In 1866, many white Southerners did not have the right to vote, while blacks did. Only those who had sworn loyalty to the Union had their rights restored. The Klan was created as a social union
which then morphed into terrorism. It was not founded by Democrats in the sense that it was a party organ, it wasn't. But as time went on, there was a LOT of overlap. But the most famous
cases of Klan dominance were in Republican-dominated states, Oregon and Indiana

David Curtiss (“Steve”) Stephenson (21 August 189128 June 1966) was Grand Dragon (state leader) of the Ku Klux Klan in Indiana and in 22 other northen states, whose conviction for murder led to the end of the second wave of Klan activity. He is considered to have been one of the most successful Klan leaders up until his downfall.

He was born in Houston, Texas, moved with his family to Maysville, Oklahoma, where he worked as a printer's apprentice and was active in the Socialist Party. In 1920 he moved to Evansville, Indiana, where he became a salesman and joined the Democratic Party and the Ku Klux Klan. In November 1922, Stephenson backed Hiram Wesley Evans in his attempt to unseat William J. Simmons as Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan; upon Evans' ascendancy, Stephenson was made Grand Dragon of Indiana and 22 other northern states.

Membership in the states for which he was Grand Dragon grew dramatically. Stephenson acquired great wealth, political power, and hubris. In a speech to the 1923 Fourth of July gathering of the Ku Klux Klan in Kokomo, Indiana, Stephenson began, “My worthy subjects, citizens of the Invisible Empire, Klansmen all, greetings. It grieves me to be late. The President of the United States kept me unduly long counseling on matters of state. Only my plea that this is the time and the place of my coronation obtained for me surcease from his prayers for guidance.” Encouraged by his success, in September 1923, Stephenson severed his ties with the existing national organization of the Ku Klux Klan, and formed a rival Ku Klux Klan. Stephenson changed his affiliation from the Democratic to the Republican Party; and notably supported Republican Ed Jackson when he ran (successfully) for Governor in 1924.

Publicly a Prohibitionist and a defender of “Protestant womanhood”, his spectacular 1925 trial for murder led to the downfall of the “Second Wave” of Klan activity. Stephenson was responsible for the abduction, forced intoxication, and sadistic rape of Madge Oberholtzer (who ran a state program to combat illiteracy), all leading to her death. Amongst other things, Stephenson had ferociously bitten her so many times that one man who saw her described her condition as having been “chewed by a cannibal”. Stephenson was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison on 25 November 1925.

In vengeful response to his conviction and to the refusal of Governor Jackson to grant clemency or to commute his sentence, on 09 September 1927 Stephenson released lists of public officials who were or had been on the Klan payroll.

The Klan defeated the Republican governor of Oregon and ran a Democrat who worked with a Republican legislature, Seventy percent of Oregon's voters were Republicans

The rise of the Klan
Perhaps the most menacing trend during the decade was the rise of anti-Catholic bigotry and racist vigilante movements, which established a firm foothold in the state. The Ku Klux Klan formed chapters in Portland, Eugene, Medford, Roseburg, and other Oregon communities. Its members donned robes and paraded through streets igniting crosses and intimidating Catholics and minorities. In 1921 Medford Klan organizers perpetrated "necktie-parties" (near lynchings) against two African Americans who they suspected of bootlegging as well as against a piano dealer who had filed a lawsuit against a Klan member. Deploring the incidents, Governor Ben Olcott declared that:

"Oregon needs no masked night riders, no invisible empire, to control her affairs.... The true spirit of Americanism resents bigotry, abhors secret machinations and terrorism, and demands that those who speak for and in her cause speak openly, with their faces to the sun."

But the Klan's rise in the early 1920s carried considerable political clout. In 1923, the Klan-dominated Oregon Legislature passed an Alien Land Law that barred Japanese land ownership. The new law came on the heels of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that Japanese people could not be naturalized citizens. And, the law passed despite the fact that Japanese Americans held less than one percent of Oregon land in 1920. Similar laws passed in Washington, California, and many other states.

The Ku Klux Klan enjoyed a warm reception from many Oregon communities in the 1920s as Catholics and minorities suffered both blatant and subtle bigotry.
The Ku Klux Klan enjoyed a warm reception from many Oregon communities in the 1920s as Catholics and minorities suffered both blatant and subtle bigotry.

The organization also endorsed an initiative measure to require children of ages 8 to 16 to go to public schools. While other reasons were given, a primary impetus of the measure was to wipe out Catholic schools in the state. Approximately seven percent of Oregon students attended private schools, many of which were Catholic. Most of the state's newspaper editors either supported the measure or remained neutral.

Turning the Progressive tool of direct legislation into a reactionary weapon, supporters convinced Oregon voters to pass the compulsory school measure by a vote of 115,506 to 103,685 in the November 1922 election. They also managed to get Walter Pierce, who supported the measure, elected governor, replacing Ben Olcott, a staunch opponent.

The Oregon Legislature decided not to enforce the measure until the courts ruled on it. Finally, the United States Supreme Court in "Pierce vs. Society of Sisters" unanimously ruled in 1925 that the bill was an unconstitutional violation of parents' rights to send their children to schools of their own choice. By the time of the ruling, the Klan largely had faded from prominence, a victim of internal conflicts, corruption rumors, and the second thoughts of Oregonians.
It seems that the Black Republicans have forgotten about the easy alliance between the Klan and the Republican Party, which was never as open as it was in the 1920's. The Democrats certainly have a long and nasty relationship with the Klan, but only in Republican dominated states, did the Klan actually take power. That's not something Frances Rice mentions when she's posting up at Free Republic and buying radio time.

What they also don't mention is the Southern Strategy

In addition to the splits in the Democratic Party, the population movements of World War II had a significant effect on the makeup of the South. The addition of many Northern transplants significantly bolstered the base of the Republican Party in the South. In the post-war Presidential campaigns, Republicans did best in the fastest-growing states of the South with the most Northern settlers. In the 1952, 1956 and 1960 elections, Virginia, Tennessee and Florida went Republican all three times, while Louisiana went Republican in 1956, and Texas twice voted for Eisenhower and once for Kennedy. In 1956, Eisenhower received 48.9% of the Southern vote, and he became the second Republican in history (after Grant) to get a plurality of Southern votes.

Many states' rights Democrats were attracted to the 1964 presidential campaign of Republican Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona. Goldwater was notably more conservative than previous Republican nominees, such as Dwight D. Eisenhower. Goldwater's principle opponent in the primary election, Governor Nelson Rockefeller of New York, was widely seen as representing the more moderate (and pro-Civil Rights), Northern wing of the party (See Rockefeller Republican, Goldwater Republican). Rockefeller's defeat in the primary is seen as one turning point towards a more conservative Republican party, and the beginning of a long decline for moderate and especially liberal Republicans. Goldwater’s primary victory is also seen as a shift of the center of Republican power to the West and South

In the 1964 presidential race, Barry Goldwater ran a very conservative campaign (sometimes described as libertarian), part of which was an emphasis on "states' rights". As a conservative, Goldwater broadly opposed strong action by the federal government. In his state of Arizona, Barry Goldwater has been a co-founder of the state NAACP and had led the campaign to desegregate the state’s public schools. However, although he had supported all previous federal Civil Rights legislation, after much consideration, Goldwater made the decision to oppose the Civil Rights Act of 1964. His stance was based on his view that the act was an intrusion of the federal government into the affairs of states and second, and that it was an interference with the rights of private persons to do business, or not, with whomever they chose. This States' Rights stand has been interpreted as an appeal to racist white Southern Democrats, and undoubtedly attracted many. However, this vote proved devastating to Goldwater’s campaign, contributing to his landslide defeat in 1964. One Johnson ad, “Confessions of a Republican” ran in the North, and associated Goldwater with the Ku Klux Klan. At the same time, Johnson’s campaign in the Deep South publicized Goldwater’s full history on civil rights. In the end, Johnson swept the election, including a significant majority in the South. However, besides his home state of Arizona, Goldwater managed to pick off five Deep South states: Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina, almost certainly because of his anti-civil rights position.

At this time, Senator Goldwater’s position was at odds with most of the prominent members of the Republican Party, dominated at that time by the East Coast Episcopalian Establishment. A higher percentage of the Republican Party supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964 than did the Democratic Party, as they had on all previous Civil Rights legislation. The Southern Democrats often opposed their Northern Party mates--and their Presidents (Kennedy and Johnson) on civil rights issues. The point man in the Senate for delivering the votes to break the filibuster against the measure by 17 Democrats and one Republican was conservative Republican Senator Everett Dirksen from Illinois.

Roots of the Southern Strategy

In the election of 1968, Richard Nixon saw the cracks in the Solid South as an opportunity to tap into a group of voters that had heretofore been beyond the reach of the Republican Party. The United States was undergoing a very turbulent period in 1968. The founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and most influential member of the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968. His death was followed by black rioting throughout the country. Martin Luther King’s policy of non-violence was being challenged by more radical blacks and by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. There were protests, often violent, against the Vietnam War. The drug subculture was causing alarm in many sectors. Nixon, with the aid of Harry Dent and then South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond, who had switched to the Republican party in 1964, ran on a campaign of states' rights and "law and order". Many liberals accused Nixon of pandering to racist Southern whites, especially with regards to his "states' rights" and "law and order" stands.

As a result, every state that had been in the Confederacy, except Texas, voted for either Nixon or George Wallace (a Southern Democrat running as an independent), despite a strong tradition of supporting Democrats. Meanwhile, Nixon parlayed a wide perception as a moderate into wins in other states, taking a solid majority in the electoral college. He was able to appear this way to most Americans, because the strategy often consisted of code words that meant nothing to most Americans, but were emotionally charged for those in the south. Because of this result, the election of 1968 is sometimes cited as a realigning election, but such a belief also ignores the fact that the Democratic Party swept every Southern state except for Virginia in the Presidential election of 1976, after the last admitted advocates of the Southern Strategy had left positions of influence within the Republican Party. Others argue that the strong Democratic showing in the South in 1976 was the exception that proves the rule, and was directly influenced by the fallout of the Watergate scandal, in which Southerner Jimmy Carter defeated incumbent Ford and a disgraced Republican Administration.

Evolution of the Southern Strategy

As civil rights grew more accepted throughout the nation, basing a general election strategy on appeals to "states' rights" as a naked play against civil rights laws would have resulted in a national backlash. In addition, the idea of "states' rights" superficially took on the patina of a broader meaning than simply a reference to civil rights laws, eventually encompassing federalism as the means to forestall Federal intervention in the culture wars.

On August 4, 1980, Ronald Reagan, as a candidate, delivered a speech near Philadelphia, Mississippi at the annual Neshoba County Fair. Reagan excited the crowd wild when he announced, "I believe in states' rights. I believe we have distorted the balance of our government today by giving powers that were never intended to be given in the Constitution to that federal establishment." He went on to promise to "restore to states and local governments the power that properly belongs to them." Philadelphia was the scene of the June 21, 1964 murder of civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, and this speech has used by critics to demonstrate Reagan’s alleged hidden racist message. However, it is difficult to argue that the choice of site in itself was inherently racist. The Neshoba County Fair has been a popular campaign stop for presidential candidates, and has also been visited by John Glenn, Jack Kemp and Michael Dukakis during their respective Presidential campaigns.

Charges of racism have been lodged in subsequent Republican races for the House and Senate in the South. The Willie Horton commercials used by supporters of George H.W. Bush in the election of 1988 were considered by many to be racist. Other examples include the 1990 re-election campaign of Jesse Helms, which attacked his opponent's alleged support of "racial quotas," most notably through an ad in which a white person's hands are seen crumpling a letter indicating that he was denied a job because of the color of his skin. Most professional academics—historians, political scientists, sociologists, culture critics, etc.––as well as Democratic party supporters argue that support for what conservative acolytes depict as a new "Federalism" in the Republican party platform is, and always has been, nothing but a code word for the politics of resentment, of which racism provides the fuel.

Bob Herbert, a New York Times columnist, reported in the October 6, 2005 edition of the New York Times of a 1981 interview with Lee Atwater, published in Southern Politics in the 1990s by Prof. Alexander P. Lamis, in which Lee Atwater discusses politics in the South:

You start out in 1954 by saying, "Nigger, nigger, nigger." By 1968 you can't say 'nigger'—that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights and all that stuff. You're getting so abstract now [that] you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] 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, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me—because obviously sitting around saying, "We want to cut this," is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than "Nigger, nigger." [1]

The thing is that Black Republicans have to ignore a lot of history to try and convince black voters to vote Republican. They have to create a partial history which bears little resemblence to reality. Much of what they claim simply distorts history and is clearly not true.

But why did they do it? Because of a bizarre mix of delusion and off-kilter racial appeals. But more on that later.

posted by Steve @ 2:43:00 AM

2:43:00 AM

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