Chrisfaggle Matthews.en. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) recently spoke to students at Howard University in an effort to reach minority voters. During the interview Mr. Paul revealed a troubling lack of concern for history regarding the Republican Party's record on civil rights. The purpose of this piece is to set the record straight.
Paul stated as a matter of fact that the GOP has always been the party of civil rights, a common talking point on the right. A simple history of America's political realignments tells a very different story.
When President Abraham Lincoln said that the Republicans had lost the South, he was right. The Civil War and Reconstruction left the South resentful of the North and of the GOP, the party of Lincoln, the dictator. It became known as the "Solid South" because the states of Louisiana, Alabama, South Carolina, Mississippi, Missouri, Virginia, West Virginia, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Texas became a stronghold for the Democratic Party. Because these states had long traditions of racism which meant that the Democratic Party by extension also had a tradition of racism. A consequence of the Civil War was that the Republicans controlled the political frame.
That all changed when the stock market crashed in 1929 due to out of control lending on Wall Street, and the combination of uninsured, unregulated banks and the lack of a safety net transformed an ordinary recession into what we know as the Great Depression. People lost their entire savings and had no way of recovering the losses. Republican president Herbert Hoover's limited response did little to ease the suffering of the American people which cost him the election, and had an even farther reaching impact on the GOP in general. When Franklin D. Roosevelt enacted his New Deal legislation, reassuring citizens that the government was acting on their behalf, the political frame shifted in favor of the Democrats. These policies became especially popular in the rural South -- southerners liked the New Deal but only wanted it to extend to whites. This was the start of a Democratic realignment. It would take the Republicans until the Gingrich Revolution to retake the House.
But if there's one thing politics teaches us its that nothing lasts forever. On February 2, 1948, Democratic President Harry Truman issued Executive Order 9981 in a special announcement to Congress, calling for the desegregation of the armed services. "Whereas it is essential that there be maintained in the armed services of the United States the highest standards of democracy, with equality of treatment and opportunity for all those who serve in our country's defense..." he began, "It is hereby declared to be the policy of the President that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion or national origin." The message had a different meaning to southerners: their party was abandoning them.
Correcting Rand Paul on the GOP's Troubling Civil Rights Record
Posted in the Minneapolis Forum
#2 Jun 16, 2013
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