woody zimmerman 118 2007It’s becoming apparent that Democrats have run out of material to help them win policy-arguments with Republicans. Desperation has driven them to hurling wild charges of “racism” when they clearly have no other weapons for contending in the political arena. Just last week, Representative Steve Israel (D-NY), head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, opined that “…the Republican base …[has] elements that are animated by racism.” This was Mr. Israel’s validation of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s accusation that racist motives kept House Republicans from passing comprehensive immigration reform. They were just the latest salvos in Democrats’ long effort to brand Republicans as racists.

At a certain level, one has to admire Democrats’ success in their half-century campaign of standing the historical record of racism and politics in the USA completely on its head. So successful has this media-assisted effort been that most Americans born after 1960 have no idea that Democrats were the historical “4-S” Party – i.e., Slavery, Secession, Segregation, and Socialism – from 1860 to 1965. Indeed, even contemporary Democrats seem unaware that it was Republicans who championed blacks’ release from slavery and their integration into full participation in American life – including the right to vote. (If Democrats do actually know this, delicacy evidently prevents them from mentioning it.)

Most schoolchildren know that Lincoln and the Republicans freed the slaves. But I doubt if modern students are much taught that Democratschampioned not only the Confederacy, but also the Ku Klux Klan, Jim Crow laws, segregated water fountains, blacks eating at restaurant back-doors, segregated schools and hotels, poll taxes, voter-literacy tests, fire-hoses, police dogs and Sheriff Bull Connor. (How many under-45 voters even know this?) Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who grew up during the Jim Crow era, in Birmingham, Alabama, affirms that only Republicans would let colored people vote.

Democrats like to recall that after presidential candidate John F. Kennedy helped get Martin Luther King, Jr., released from jail, Dr. King endorsed JFK and blacks began to regard Democrats as supporters of their cause. But JFK didn’t approve of the great march on Washington in August 1963. Southern Democratic senators (including Al Gore Sr., Robert Byrd, and Sam Ervin) filibustered the 1964 Civil Rights bill for 83 days before Republicans, led by Everett Dirksen, shamed some Democrats into breaking the filibuster and passing the landmark law. Former Vice President Al Gore’s claim that his father had battled Tennessee racists over black civil rights was just a little off the mark. (Details, details…)

National Black Republicans Association Chair Frances Rice caused outrage among black Democrats in 2006 when she sponsored ads asserting that Martin Luther King, Jr., was a Republican. Standing by her ads, Dr. Rice said, “Dr. King absolutely was a Republican. We all were in those days. The Democrats were training fire hoses on us, siccing dogs on us.”

In a bit of comic relief (which he always dependably supplies), former DC Mayor Marion Barry spoke out on the Republican issue: “I heard a funny story that Abraham Lincoln was a Republican. Well, Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves, and I can tell you he was not a Republican.” (Will Rogers always said he got his best material from the newspapers.)

Although now retrospectively revised into a great friend of black civil rights, JFK actually voted against 1957 Civil Rights legislation, while he was a senator. Robert Kennedy, JFK’s Attorney General, had Dr. King wiretapped and investigated on suspicion of being a communist.

In her 2006 article on why MLK         was a Republican, Frances Rice notes the following seldom-recalled historical details about Republicans’ involvement with black civil rights:

  • Following the Civil War, Republicans amended the Constitution to grant blacks freedom (13th Amendment), citizenship (14th Amendment) and the right to vote (15th Amendment).
  • Republicans passed the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and the Reconstruction Act of 1867 – the latter designed to enfranchise blacks in the Democrat-controlled South.
  • Black Republicans started the NAACP in 1909.
  • Republicans founded most of today’s black colleges and universities.
  • President Richard Nixon's 1969 Philadelphia Plan (designed by black Republican Art Fletcher) established the nation's first “affirmative action” goals and timetables to help reverse President Woodrow Wilson’s 1913 segregation of the U. S. Civil Service.
  • Senator Everett Dirksen (R-Illinois) – key senator for civil rights legislation in 1957, ‘60, ’64, and ‘65 – wrote language for the 1965 Voting Rights Act and the 1968 Civil Rights Act.

Yeah, yeah, yeah – all that was the distant past, say current Democrats. But times have changed. Today, Democrats are the great friends of minorities of all colors, genders, and sexual proclivities (except raging heterosexuals), while Republicans are the real racists. What evidence is offered? Dems merely point to GOP opposition to Mr. Obama and his policies. The president is a black man. Obviously, all Republicans opposed to such a good, well-meaning man must be motivated by racism. What else could it possibly be?

This, of course, pulls the veil away from Democrats’ entire political strategy in the Obama era: color trumps all. Policies can no longer be debated and critiqued on their merits or economic realities. Anything proposed or championed by President Obama is sacrosanct. If his policies are opposed by Republicans anywhere, the charge – swift and certain – will be “racism (!).” And Big Media’s Storm Troopers will hammer it until it sticks. No more of “I yield to the Honorable Gentleman across the aisle…” That’s done. All Republicans are racists now. (We know it, and we don’t need no steenking evidence.)

The worst part of this scenario is that we seem to have forgotten how ugly real racism was. The term is now thrown around so blithely that we evidently don’t recall that a whole segment of the American population – millions of people, rich in talent and possessed of boundless potential – was denied full participation in the nation’s educational, vocational and commercial life for decades. In the process, the most outrageous racist stereotypes were propagated: we knew (absolutely knew!) that blacks were too stupid to be pro quarterbacks, or mechanics, or engineers, or lawyers, etc.; we knew they could never be expected to achieve at the same academic levels as white students; we knew they could never maintain a home in a respectable neighborhood; etc., etc. Yes, we knew all these things – but they were all lies.

In 1955 a Chicago teen named Emmett Till was lynched in rural Mississippi for flirting with a white woman. It wasn’t the last such incident, but it was the last straw from the Jim Crow era when hundreds – perhaps thousands – of blacks were lynched across the South for the “crime” of rising above their station, or for disobeying social norms which they had no voice in establishing. It was a savage time.

Finally, we elected a black man to the presidency who promised to lead us into a “post-racial” era. He seemed to have all the answers. “Praise God, Almighty!” we were going to be “free at last” of racism and its depressing legacy. Many old friends and relatives criticized me for not embracing the wonderful future this transcendent figure would bring.

However, I was raised to look under the hood of a car before buying. My old dad used to say, “When a thing seems too good to be true, it probably is.” That was my view of Barack Obama’s candidacy. Even if he would be “post-racial,” he had socialist leanings which I couldn’t overlook. But I admit that in my darkest imaginings I never anticipated how completely his administration and its supporters would drive down the “racist” road, once the public and the media began to see that his promises were a tissue of lies.

So now, having finally overcome racism’s vile calumny on our national character, we find ourselves politically and socially hamstrung by gross overuse of a term that once conveyed a truly wretched social construct. Now, it’s all “racism,” all the time. A dispute between Attorney General Eric Holder and the House Judicial Oversight Committee over documents from Operation Fast and Furious has degenerated into Mr. Holder’s accusations that the committee’s demands are motivated by (surprise!) racism. Mr. Holder has also publicly accused Republicans of racism toward President Obama – declaring that no previous president has had to endure such treatment. (Really? Did Mr. Holder snooze through the classes on the history of the presidencies of George Bush and Richard Nixon – or did he skip them entirely?)

As noted earlier, Democrats now say Republicans’ failure to enact the immigration legislation that Democrats desire is racially motivated. Certainly nothing trivial, like financial or social considerations, could make Republicans hesitate to legalize the 11 million illegal immigrants now living in the country. No, it must be racism. That’s all that Democrats can see in any opposition.

Outside the halls of government the “new racism” smear has invaded the academic and business worlds. There, the Word Police are busily scrubbing terms like “enslaved” or “black-and-white issue” or “horse of a different color” or “show me the color of your money,” etc., from the lingua franca. No doubt, the list of proscribed phrases will quickly reach tremendous size. In the Brave New World of America’s future, many “accidental racists” will be cast into Outer Darkness for using the wrong word or phrase.

In a perverse way, this might become the true legacy of our “transformative” president. He stands a good chance of setting race-relations back a half-century or more. But hopefully we’ll shake off our racial amnesia when the Obama Nightmare finally ends. Let’s pray that it will be so. With a lot of challenging rebuilding work ahead of us, we need to quit wasting our time on phony racism and other dumb stuff.