History shows republicans have improved civil rights

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Recently a friend of mine from New York turned me on to a refreshing article written by conservative African-American female writer, Helena Edwards.

The article, “Republicans, not democrats, support educated minorities,” published in the July 8 edition of the Westchester Guardian, was a breath of fresh air for more than one reason.

First is the assumption that it is unfashionable for African-Americans, or anyone for that matter, to break from the liberal mantra that all good things come from the Democratic Party.

Second, and equally unpopular, is the illumination of numerous pivotal points in history when republicans, not democrats, created opportunities for minorities to ascend to positions of justly earned greatness.

Edwards does a masterful job of documenting the seldom-reported instances of when Republicans championed causes for minorities. Take the case in 1866 when a Republican-controlled Congress worked to create the “Buffalo Soldiers,” six black regiments that proudly served in the Spanish-American War.

In 1867, Republicans worked together to bring about the charter and to pass the bill that created one of the most prestigious black colleges in the country, Howard University.

Edwards further highlights that Ebenezer Bassett, the first African-American to be made ambassador of Haiti, was appointed by republican President Ulysses S. Grant.

In 1869, a Republican-controlled Congress passed the 15th Amendment over stiff Democratic opposition to give blacks the right to vote. I would only add to Edwards’ historical observances of the 1800s the substantial services of republican Abraham Lincoln, above and beyond his obvious action of freeing the slaves. It is from moral clarity and fortitude of will that the Republican Party grew from the ashes of the Whig Party.

The Whig Party, which prior to the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858, had been in a two-party system in agreement on the continued existence of slavery.

Democrat Stephen Douglas was well-known for perpetuating slavery through the Compromise of 1850, which momentarily quelled dissention over the issue of legalized slavery and the southern states’ desire to expand the institution into new territories.

In 1854, Douglas was arguably the most powerful democrat in the party and the creator of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which opened the door for the expansion of slavery into those states by what was termed “popular sovereignty.”

The Lincoln-Douglas debates were truly David-vs.-Goliath events. It pitted not just man against man, but the newly formed Republican Party against the well-oiled democratic political machine. The transcripts of these seven debates were more than three hours each, long enough to dry the tongues, dull the minds and probably irreparably destroy the careers of many of today’s politicians, are fascinating reads. They also show clearly the division between the two parties that were apparent then and today.

Douglas called Lincoln a radical abolitionist who wanted to mix blacks and whites as not only political, but social equals. Lincoln argued that slavery could not be left to stand through popular sovereignty because it was morally wrong. If he had lived today, the left would no doubt describe Lincoln as a ‘Republican Bible-clinger.’

I agree that the present is as copious as the past with examples of republicans opening opportunities to minorities above and beyond, and even against the will of democrats. Who appointed the first African-American to the Supreme Court? George H.W. Bush, a republican. George W. Bush was the first to extensively fill influential cabinet positions with minorities including Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and Alberto Gonzales.

The Democratic Party, on the other hand, opposed the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which outlawed school segregation and inequality in voter registration. Democrats led an excruciatingly long filibuster to deny civil rights to blacks, which was eventually defeated. Despite the claims by many liberals that the democrats of yesteryear are the republicans of today, all we have to do is look to the recently departed grand statesman of today’s Democratic Party, Robert Byrd, to see the inaccuracies in that statement.

As Dale Hurd of CBN News reported on June 28, Byrd played an intricate part in the democrat-led filibuster of the 1964 Act. Byrd, who has been “struttin’ and cluckin'” with the veracity of the human equivalent of “Foghorn Leghorn” for almost six decades was also — by his admission — a local chapter leader of the Ku Klux Klan. He more than flourished in today’s Democratic Party.

Only time and printing space limit the examples that can be forwarded on the disparity between words and action when it comes to which political party has been more beneficial to minorities in this country. Americans should not dust off these historical facts that break with liberal narratives of political reality.

It’s not just because the truth deserves a little sunlight every once in a while. More importantly, the realization of this often-deceptive issue might illuminate new paths for productive action, and in this endeavor it is more than worth the future scars of heated debate.

– Paul Ibbetson is a graduate in sociolgoy. Please send comments to [email protected]

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