Thursday, April 11, 2013

Rand's Folly

Mr. Paul has been the man about town, recently giving an address at Howard University, apparently aimed at trying to lure young African-American voters into the Republican Party.  Mr. Paul seems to think the major shift in black voting from Republican to Democrat occurred when Franklin Roosevelt ushered in “The Age of Handouts,” even if he says, Republicans had remained loyal to their roots as the Party of Lincoln.  But, it seems the Howard students weren’t buying it.

It’s not like Mr. Paul’s address was really aimed at them anyway.  The Republicans have become very good at staging events where one of their gladiators goes into a “lion’s den” (so to speak) to offer interesting historical interpretations that immediately go viral on the Internet and our lapped up by their constituency.  You might recall, Mr. Romney approached the NAACP with a similar message during his campaign last year.  It didn’t work for Mr. Romney, and it probably won’t work for Mr. Paul either in broadening the base of their political party. 

Radical Republicans today are a far cry from those of the 1860s, who didn’t necessarily identify themselves with Lincoln.  They were more in the mold of William Seward, pushing for abolition legislation and radical reconstruction efforts that would lift not only Blacks, but Whites as well, in the depressed Southern states during and after the Civil War. 

Eric Foner and Leon Litwack evoked W.E.B. Dubois’ classic work on Reconstruction in describing an era of massive public projects, including the introduction of public education and health care on an unprecedented level.  The Reconstruction era didn’t last long, thanks in large part to the Radicals being sold out by their own party in compromises made by U.S. Grant and Rutherford B. Hayes, which allowed for the “redemption” of the Southern states and the end of Reconstruction in 1876. 

Romare Bearden

Some of the effects of Reconstruction lingered until the end of the 19th century, but with the introduction of Jim Crow laws in the South, Blacks once again found themselves subjugated by a White political majority.  As a result, a major demographic shift toward Northern and Midwestern cities occurred in the early decades of the 20th century.  The Harlem Renaissance was largely born out of this migration, where black artists were free to explore new ground, which was barred to them in the South.

Except for a few high profile figures, many Blacks voted Democratic by 1912, as it offered more hope to them than the Republican Party, despite their misgivings with Wilson.  Granted, there was an upswing during FDR’s years, given the massive work programs he inaugurated, but let’s not forget that FDR refused to sign the anti-lynching bill put forward by Congress out of fear of losing white Democratic voters in the South.  No major civil rights legislation was passed during his time.  The dream of true universal suffrage remained deferred, with poll taxes and other forms of black voter repression still firmly in place, mostly because of Democratic leaders in the South. 

The irony is that the state which Rand Paul comes from, along with all the Southern states, were traditionally Democratic states, but have become Republican in the wake of the so-called Reagan Revolution, who himself switched from the Democratic to the Republican Party in 1962.  These states did so largely in response to the affect of the Civil Rights legislation passed in the 1960s.  It was Reagan who chose to carry the mantel of Goldwater, who notoriously opposed Civil Rights legislation.  As a result, the former Dixiecrats now form the rump of the Republican Party.  Yet, Mr. Paul believes the GOP hasn’t changed.

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