Friday, July 17, 2020

Republicans & Civil Rights

Of all the historical distortions American students are subjected to in American education, maybe the most post powerful in securing political support for the Democrat party, is the one that portrays the Democrat party as the party of racial equality.

The fact that the Republican Party was formed as the party for the abolition of slavery and the establishment of American Constitutional ideals that ALL men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, is a little known fact among American youth. They hardly think about Republicans as the anti-slavery party, the party of emancipation, or the party of civil rights, but all of that is historical fact. It is also historical fact that the Democrat party is the party that protected slavery for a hundred years, and worked to disrupt the progresses of reconstruction, instituted segregation and Jim Crow laws in the south, and opposed both civil rights acts of 1954 and 1965.

Emancipation & Radical Republican Reconstruction

In 1867, following the American Civil War and the abolishment of slavery, the Radical Republican-dominated U.S. Congress passed the First Reconstruction Act over the veto of President Andrew Johnson. The act divided the South into five military districts and outlined how new governments based on universal manhood suffrage were to be established. During reconstruction many black Americans were elected to local political offices, and state offices. During Reconstruction, some 2,000 African Americans held public office, from the local level all the way up to the U.S. Senate.

During the first two years of Reconstruction, blacks organized Equal Rights Leagues throughout the South and held state and local conventions to protest discriminatory treatment and demand suffrage, as well as equality before the law. These African American activists bitterly opposed the Reconstruction policies of President Andrew Johnson, which excluded blacks from southern politics and allowed state legislatures to pass restrictive “black codes” regulating the lives of the freed men and women. Fierce resistance to these discriminatory laws, as well as growing opposition to Johnson’s policies in the North, led to a Republican victory in the U.S. congressional elections of 1866 and to a new phase of Reconstruction that would give African Americans a more active role in the political, economic and social life of the South.

The 15th Amendment granting African-American men the right to vote was adopted into the U.S. Constitution in 1870 under Republican leadership. Despite the amendment, by the late 1870s discriminatory practices by the Democrats in the south were used to prevent blacks from exercising their right to vote, especially in the South.

During the decade known as “Radical Reconstruction” (1867-77), the Republican Congress affirmed the rights of citizenship for all black American men the status and rights of citizenship as guaranteed by the 14th and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Beginning in 1867, branches of the Union League, which encouraged the political activism of black Americans, spread throughout the South. During the state constitutional conventions held in 1867-69, blacks and white Americans stood side by side for the first time in political life. The freedmen affiliated themselves with the Republican Party, and hundreds of black delegates participated in statewide political conventions. Blacks made up the overwhelming majority of southern Republican voters.

Black Americans exercised their rights and opportunities, such as equality before the law and the rights to own property, be married, attend schools, enter professions, and learn to read and write. One of the first opportunities the former slaves took advantage of was the chance to educate themselves and their children. The new Republican state governments took steps to provide adequate public schools for the first time in the south. Nearly 600,000 black students, from children to the elderly, were in southern schools by 1877.

The freedmen’s involvement in politics caused a great deal of controversy in the south, where the idea of former slaves holding office was not widely supported. Democrats in the south were outraged by the growing influence and freedom of blank Americans and as a tactic of oppression and terror the KKK was formed as the militant arm of the Democrat party. Members of the KKK, called “Klansmen,” rode around the south, hiding under white masks and robes, terrorizing Republicans and intimidating black voters. They went so far as to flog, mutilate, and even lynch blacks. Most youth in America today have no idea about the connection between the KKK, white supremacy, and the Democrat party.

The Republican Congress, outraged by the brutality of the vigilantes and the lack of local efforts to protect blacks and persecute their tormentors, struck back with three Enforcement Acts (1870-1871) designed to stop the terrorism and protect black voters. The Acts allowed the federal government to intervene when state authorities failed to protect citizens from the vigilantes. Aided by the military, the program of federal enforcement eventually undercut the power of the Ku Klux Klan. However, the Klan’s actions had already weakened black and Republican morale throughout the south.

By 1876, the work of the KKK had caused the collapse of all but two of the integrated Republican congresses in former Confederate states, and the Democratic Party took over. Despite the Republicans’ efforts, the planter elite were regaining control of the south. This group came to be known as the “Redeemers,” a coalition of prewar Democrats and Union Whigs who sought to undo the changes brought about in the south by the Civil War. Many were ex-plantation owners called “Bourbons” whose policies affected blacks and poor whites, leading to an increase in class division and racial violence in the post-war south.

Why did Reconstruction End?

In the election of 1868, General Ulysses S. Grant, the most popular northern hero to emerge from the Civil War, became president. Grant ran on the Republican ticket with the slogan, “Let us have peace” against the Democratic candidate Horatio Seymour. The Republican platform endorsed the Reconstruction policy of Congress and defense of black suffrage. Grant swept the Electoral College with 214 votes, however, Grant only had about 300,000 more popular votes, with the more than 500,000 black voters accounting for his margin of victory. Qualities that had made Grant a fine military leader did not serve him well as president. Grant had a dislike of politics and he was honest to the point of being the victim of unscrupulous friends and schemers. All of this left him ineffective and caused others to question his leadership abilities.

The scandals and incompetence surrounding Grant’s administration, along with disagreement among party members, led a group of Republicans to break off and start the reform-minded “Liberal Republican Party.” Unlike the other Republicans, the Liberal Republicans favored an end to military Reconstruction and the restoration of the rights of former Confederates. The Liberal Republicans were generally well educated and socially prominent, and most had initially supported Reconstruction. Despite this Grant won his second term with a popular majority of nearly 800,000 votes and with 286 Electoral votes. After Grant’s victory, the Republicans did clean house but an economic crisis in America followed shortly after the presidential election the Panic of 1873 caused the longest and most severe depression the country had experienced, and it resulted in a split of the Republican Party which helped the Democrats gain seats in the Senate and carry the House of Representatives in the 1874 congressional elections.

In the 1876 election the two factions of the Republican Party turned to a compromise candidate: Rutherford B. Hayes from Ohio. Hayes chief virtue was that no one knew much about him, so both Radicals and reformers accepted him. The Democratic Party nominated Samuel J. Tilden. On Election Day, Tilden garnered 184 electoral votes--only one short of the majority needed--and nearly 300,000 more popular votes than Hayes. However, there were 20 disputed electoral votes due to irregular returns from Oregon, Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina. In the three disputed southern states, rival canvassing boards submitted different returns to Congress: one supporting a Democratic win and the other supporting a Republican win. Unfortunately, the Constitution had no provisions outlined for such a situation, so in January 1877, Congress set up a special electoral commission consisting of 15 men from the Senate, House, and Supreme Court.

The electoral commission reviewed the votes for Oregon, Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina and, by partisan result of eight Republicans to seven Democrats, gave the Republicans the electoral votes. The House voted to accept the commission’s decision, declaring Hayes President by an electoral vote of 185 to 184. Many southern Democrats began to make informal agreements with the Republicans behind closed doors. In the Compromise of 1877, Republican Congressman James Garfield met with powerful southern Democrats at the Wormley Hotel in Washington. The Republicans promised that if Hayes was elected he would withdraw the last of the federal troops from the south, allowing the only remaining Republican Reconstruction governments to collapse.

The Compromise came at a price: It gave the Democrats justification to desert Tilden, since it would allow them to regain political rule in the south. With the compromise, the Republicans had quietly given up their fight for racial equality and blacks’ rights in the south. In 1877, Hayes withdrew the last federal troops from the south, and the bayonet-backed Republican governments collapsed, thereby ending Reconstruction. Over the next three decades, the civil rights that blacks had been promised during Reconstruction crumbled under white rule in the south. The plight of southern Blacks was forgotten in the north as they were segregated and condemned to live in poverty with little hope.

After Reconstruction Ended

Without the Radical Republican policies and protections of reconstruction progress toward racial equality was thwarted, particularly in the south. The end of Reconstruction did not mean an immediate end to African‐American political influence in the South. Blacks continued to serve in several state legislatures as late as 1900 and were even elected to Congress after 1877, albeit from all‐black districts. However, a change took place in the 1890s as attitudes about race became more strongly felt and the prospect of an electoral alliance between poor whites and blacks that could threaten the power structure became a possibility. This is visible in the fact that some Southern states spent nearly the same amount on the education of whites and blacks in 1890 but there was a tremendous disparity in spending in favor of whites within 20 years. Legalized segregation also reinforced the notions of white racial superiority and African‐American inferiority, creating an atmosphere that encouraged violence, and during the 1890s lynchings of blacks rose significantly.

By 1900, segregation was institutionalized throughout the South, and the civil rights of blacks were sharply curtailed. Jim Crow laws and segregation. Under the Civil Rights Act of 1875, racial discrimination in public accommodations such as hotels, railroads, and theaters was prohibited. Several challenges to the law were mounted in the courts. In 1883 the Supreme Court ruled in the Civil Rights Cases that the Act was invalid because it addressed social as opposed to civil rights. The Supreme Court upheld such Jim Crow laws that enforced racial segregation in its landmark decision in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896). In this case, the Court set forth its famous separate but equal doctrine, which stated that segregation in itself did not violate the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, provided the facilities for blacks and whites were equal. Despite these obvious problems, the concept of separate but equal was not overturned by the Supreme Court until 1954.

The March for Civil Rights

While the Fifteenth Amendment ensured that African‐Americans could not be denied the right to vote simply because they were African‐American, the southern Democrats came up with various ways to disenfranchise blacks. These obstructions to the civil rights of black Americans continued to be opposed by Republicans and some Northern Democrats and ultimately led to actions such as the integration of the army by Executive Order. Democrat President Harry S. Truman abolished discrimination "on the basis of race, color, religion or national origin" in the United States Armed Forces in 1948. Most of the actual enforcement of the order was accomplished by Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower's administration (1953–1961), including the desegregation of military schools, hospitals, and bases. The last of the all-black units in the United States military was abolished in September 1954.

Between 1920 and 1950, the thick of Jim Crow oppression in the South, the rest of the country was growing ever more integrated and in favor of civil rights legislation, however, the progress toward civil right legislation was slow because institutionalized racism was most prevalent in the south and was an issue that didn’t motivate voters in other regions of the country because they were removed from the worst of it by geographically. It took the civil rights movement led by black faith leaders in the south to bring national attention to the plight of black Americans and move the country to act. Martin Luther King Jr. and his compatriots where Republicans and it was with their Republican Party allies that they mobilized the political power to push through civil rights legislation.

The Civil Rights Act of 1957 was the first federal civil rights legislation passed by the United States Congress since the Civil Rights Act of 1875. The bill was passed by the Republicans in the 85th United States Congress and signed into law by Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower on September 9, 1957.

The Supreme Court's 1954 ruling in the case of Brown v. Board of Education brought the issue of school desegregation to the fore of public attention, as Southern Democrat leaders began a campaign of "massive resistance" against desegregation. In the midst of this campaign, President Eisenhower proposed a civil rights bill designed to provide federal protection for African-American voting rights; most African Americans in the Southern United States had been effectively disenfranchised by various state and local laws passed by Democrats. Though the civil rights bill passed Congress, Democrat opponents of the act were able to remove several provisions, limiting its immediate impact. During the debate over the law, Senator Strom Thurmond conducted the longest one-person filibuster in Senate history.

The Democrat party often claims credit for black Americans gaining federal protections for civil liberties because Democrat Lyndon B Johnson signed into law the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which addressed the obstructions Democrats threw in the way of the civil rights act of 1957. These Democrat impaired barriers were outlawed at the state and local levels if they denied African-Americans their right to vote under the 15th Amendment. Today most Americans children are taught that the Democrat party is the party of civil rights because Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson signed the 1965 act, however, only senators of Southern states voted against the civil rights act of 1965, among those who voted against it there were only two Republicans. 

Another extraordinary shift was taking place in American politics in the 50s and 60s. The Democrat party was losing it's constituencies. On one hand Americans had just fought a war against socialism, fascism, and were now at war with communism. The progressive era socialist had taken root in the Democrat party. This put the party out of touch with Americans who had been exposed to the evils of these systems of government in their experience in World War II. In addition, the country was becoming more racially integrated and was turning away from the racist politics that had characterized the Democrat party for over a hundred years.  

The Democrats had a perception problem and shrinking constituencies. This presented a challenge, but the solution was brilliant. Democrats recemented their power by doing a 180 on civil rights legislation, embracing the sexual revolution and anti-war hippies, and using their socialist ideology to sell a "helping hand" to poor black Americans. In other words, the Democrats capitalized on the revolution, re-branded socialism for the modern age, and became the benevolent Fathers of black America rather than the party of slave holders.

It became a powerful political narrative and cemented black Americans as a primary constituency of the Democratic Party for generations to follow. Democrats built a massive welfare state to address inequalities; yet, the disparities remained, and the anger and desperation escalated. For the black family the disaster deepened and so did the poverty trap. Under Democrat policies and welfare’s “helping hand” black Americans have the highest poverty rate among any racial or ethnic group in America. 27% of black Americans live under the poverty line today, with 38% of black children living under the poverty line. The welfare state has married black women to the state and weakened the black family. Today somewhere between 72-75% of black children are born to single mothers and only 8% of black children are born to married parents. All the inner city black communities with the highest crime rates are led by Democrats, and yet it is Republicans that received the ire from black Americans. It’s the Republican opposition to welfare politics that have earned Republicans the charge of racism.

The story told today is that the Democrat & Republican parties had a massive change of heart in the 1960’s, and did a complete flip flop. The Democrats became the party of racial equality and the Republicans became the party of racial superiority. There are glaring fallacies in this narrative as well. I’ll save those for another post. I want to end with a question to ponder. One thing we know is certain, the primary opposition to civil rights for black Americans all the way through the 1960s were Democrats and American education, which has been largely controlled by Democrats over the last fifty years, has hid the true history of the Republican Party and obscured the true history of the Democrat party. Why? What political agenda benefits from keeping American children from learning the truth? Only one political party benefits from this deception and it’s about time Americans start asking questions.

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