Friday, September 16, 2005

Guest column by Representative Paul Froehlich

Enjoy this guest column by Representative Paul Froehlich, who just had one of his up-and-comers in his Republican organization lured away by Speaker Madigan to run as a Democratic candidate against Republican incumbent Terry Parke, instead of as Froehlich was hoping, keep the guy as the GOP heir apparent to Parke. My partisan side is glad for the ruthless Dem move to help move the northwest suburbs into the Democratic column (which will help flip those congressional seats as well), but I feel for Froehlich. He was betrayed, and it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy. Hang in there Paul!

Contrasting the civil rights records of the two parties

by State Representative Paul Froehlich

Cook County Republicans belatedly understand something that hasn’t dawned on their counterparts in red states. The GOP cannot hope to ever win countywide elections until it figures out how to attract a large share of minority voters. The truth is that Republicans can’t win statewide elections either if they keep getting clobbered in the County of Cook.

What Republicans haven’t figured out yet is how to make the GOP more attractive to African-Americans, Latinos and Asian-Americans who currently prefer the Democrats by huge margins. A new documentary DVD called American History in Black & White (2004) by David Barton of reminds Republicans – and African-Americans – of what the party once stood for.

While it’s too long (at 1:45) and would be better with a black co-narrator, American History in Black & White is full of historical facts demonstrating that Republicans were once the champions of civil rights for black Americans while Democrats were fierce opponents. Here are some of the little-known events contrasting the civil rights records of the two parties:

* The Republican Party was founded in 1854 on the principle of preventing the spread of slavery, while the Democrat-controlled Supreme Court handed down the Dred Scott decision (1857) declaring blacks non-persons.

* When the 13th Amendment to abolish slavery passed Congress in 1865, 100 percent of Republican Congressmen voted for it, but only 23 percent of the Democrats.

* When the 14th Amendment passed Congress to protect freedmen from state violations of their rights, 94 percent of Republicans and no Democrats voted for it. Southern Democrats created the KKK, however, which was anti-Republican as well as anti-black.

* Republicans passed the 15th Amendment to guarantee the vote for freedmen, while not a single Democrat in Congress voted for it. Southern Democrats invented methods to disenfranchise blacks: poll taxes, literacy tests, grandfather clauses, black codes, white-only primaries, and so on.

* Every African-American elected to Congress between Reconstruction and 1934 was Republican.

* Republican Congressmen passed the 1871 Civil Rights Act against Klan violence and the.

1875 Civil Rights Act, while not a single Democrat voted for either. The 1875 law was the last civil rights bill to pass for 90 years due to Democrat opposition.

* Three African-Americans have presided over national Republican conventions: John R. Lynch, 1884, Edward Brook, 1968, and JC Watts in 2000. No African-American has presided over a Democrat convention.

* The U.S. Senate recently apologized for failing to enact laws against lynching until a few decades ago. Republicans and some Northern Democrats tried repeatedly to pass federal anti-lynching legislation well into the 20th century only to see it blocked year after year by Southern Democrats. That's why Herbert Hoover won 3 of 4 black votes in 1932 vs. FDR.

* Senator Dirksen (R, IL) provided the crucial votes to pass the 1964 Civil Rights Act over a Democrat filibuster.

This film reminds Republicans that the GOP was once dedicated to freedom for the enslaved and civil rights for the freedmen. It reminds that justice used to be the party’s top priority, and virtually all black voters were once Republicans. The film leaves out the Nixon Southern Stragety, however, that Ken Melman recently apologized for in a speech to the NAACP.

Unfortunately, Republicans no longer talk much about justice unless it’s to advocate the death penalty. Lowering taxes is more important to many Republicans today than correcting injustice.

It is this writer’s opinion that if the GOP is to make significant inroads in winning back black and other minority voters, Republicans will have to restore the pursuit of justice as a top priority. Republicans should take the lead, for example, in reforming the criminal justice system that convicts too many innocent minorities. Republicans should also recognize the injustice in gross school funding disparities and propose ways to reduce it.


Vasyl said...

Glossing over the Nixon Southern Strategy is no small oversight. Since 1968, the Republican Party has very systemically used the issue of race to become the majority party in the South.

Let's be clear about one thing: the segregationists and racists who were Democrats up to the 1960s switched parties. Strom Thurmond, Jesse Helms, and a whole slew of lesser-known figures didn't change their views; they simply found a home for their beliefs in the modern Republican Party.

Those segregationists who did stay in the Democratic Party (e.g., George Wallace) changed their opinions about race.

It's good to review the history of the Republican Party and its formerly populist, progressive beliefs. But it's just a history lesson. The Republican Party has become reactionary, and I see no real movement to change. All I see is the use of history as a way of projecting on to Democrats the Republicans' poor record on civil rights.

Lazerlou said...

Yes, the party label is meaningless, that is why the Republican claim to Lincoln is such a farse. The whole south switched parties. The party of Lincoln my ass.

BuckTurgidson said...

While we're at it, let's consider Theodore Roosevelt.

A populist who felt the government should help wherever it could; a conservationalist who created the national park system; and perhaps most strikingly, the "trust buster" who dissolved corporate monopolies, rather than enabling them, TR would feel even more alien in today's GOP than he did in the party he left almost a century ago.

History is important. But it is clearly no judge or present character.

Lazerlou said...

And not that I expect much from politicians, but you shouldn't feel badly for him having lost someone who makes the most serious political decicions, like which party to belong to, based on expedience and access to power. Someone with so little personal integrity should be bid good riddance, even should they prove valuable in some corrupt context where name recognition, who you know and popularity matter more than what one actually believes.