Monday, March 09, 2015

When GOP celebrated wrong rights in the South

Much criticism has fallen on the 3 GOP House leaders, Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Majority Whip Steve Scalise for skipping the 50th anniversary commemoration of Bloody Sunday on Alabama's Edmund Pettis Bridge. It is understandable they stayed away. They'd be a tad uncomfortable as President Obama said this about Republican attempts to suppress the minority vote in the 21st century to roll back advances gained by civil rights pioneers of the 20th century:

"With effort, we can protect the foundation stone of our democracy for which so many marched across this bridge – and that is the right to vote. Right now, in 2015, fifty years after Selma, there are laws across this country designed to make it harder for people to vote. As we speak, more of such laws are being proposed. Meanwhile, the Voting Rights Act, the culmination of so much blood and sweat and tears, the product of so much sacrifice in the face of wanton violence, stands weakened, its future subject to partisan rancor."

The GOP absence brings to mind a time, 35 years ago, when the GOP did come to celebrate rights in the South. Back on August 3, 1980, GOP presidential nominee Ronald Reagan kicked off his successful bid by communing with the white southern majority he needed to become president. His choice of location was grotesquely symbolic: Philadelphia, MS, where 3 civil rights workers were slain by county authorities during the Freedom Summer of 1964. Reagan didn't come down to Philadelphia to preach civil rights. He came to preach states rights which was the cornerstone of the Jim Crow society being dismantled by the force of strong federal action. In contrast to President Obama, here is what Reagan promoted:

"I still believe the answer to any problem lies with the people. I believe in states' rights and I believe in people doing as much as they can for themselves at the community level and at the private level. I believe we have distorted the balance of our government today by giving powers that were never intended to be given in the Constitution to that federal establishment. I promise to restore to states and local governments the power that properly belongs to them."

Some claim today's GOP is inclusive and promoting full political rights for all. I believe their efforts on behalf of people peaked when they came out against slavery during their founding in 1854.


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