The Republican party has become what southern Democrats used to be: the party of the Confederacy, for white folks only

Berry Craig
Berry Craig
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“The country’s been well served by elections run by state and local officials who could respond to state and local problems,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo), explaining his vote to block debate over the For the People Act.

The legislation is designed to keep “state and local officers” from solving “state and local problems” – like minority voting.

Today, Republicans are pushing race-based state laws to keep down the Democratic vote.

Time was, it was Southern white supremacist Democratic “state and local officials” who took exception to African Americans voting Republican and passed laws and amended state constitutions to deny Blacks the vote.

Blunt, and most of his party, are making the same “states’ rights” arguments the old segregationist Dixie Democrats used to justify slavery before the Civil War, and Jim Crow segregation and black disenfranchisement afterwards.

So, Sen. Blunt, here’s a history lesson: It took sweeping federal legislation to end Jim Crow racism – just as federal might won the Civil War, restored the Union, and ended slavery.

Sen. Blunt, you are proof, as if it were needed, that your party is what the Southern Democrats used to be: the white folks’ party.

Your words echo the likes of “Pitchfork Ben” Tillman, Theodore Bilbo, Richard Russell, Orval Faubus, “Big Jim” Eastland, Lester Maddox, George Wallace, Strom Thurmond, and Jesse Helms, Democrats all to the end – except Thurmond and Helms, who were part of the vanguard of a massive shift of Southern white Democrats to the reborn states’ rightist GOP because they were mad at the national Democrats for sending Jim Crow to the trash heap of history.

Sen. Blunt, your party was founded in the 1850s on nationalist and anti-slavery principles. Your party’s founders believed that Uncle Sam had the power to keep “state and local officials” from sanctioning the enslavement of Black people.

Your party, led by President Abraham Lincoln, led us to victory in the Civil War.

Your party championed the 13th Amendment, which ended the last vestiges of slavery; the 14th Amendment, which made African Americans citizens; and the 15th Amendment, which put the ballot in Black hands.

The Democrats, largely rooted in the slave-state South, were the pro-slavery party. (Northern Democrats supported slavery or were indifferent to the South’s “peculiar institution.”) Southern Democrats led Dixie out of the Union in 1860-1861. Southern Democrats led an armed rebellion to establish a Southern nation founded on the twin pillars of slavery and white supremacy.

Southern Democrats erected the whole Jim Crow system, which was underpinned by violence or the threat of violence against Blacks. The Ku Klux Klan and other vigilante groups functioned as the terrorist arm of the Southern Democratic Party in the former Confederacy.

Sen. Blunt, it is now your party which attracts support from violent, pro-Trump, neo-fascist white supremacist groups, some of whose members stormed the Capitol in an attempted coup to keep him president.

Your party’s repudiation of its historic roots started with Richard Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” in the 1960s and 1970s. With the rise of Trump and Trumpism, your party looks more and more like the party of Jeff Davis, while the Democrats, now the party of federal civil rights activism, resemble the party of Abe Lincoln.

Sen. Blunt, it is time to call your party what it is: a neo-Confederate party. Lincoln must be spinning in his grave … and Jeff Davis must be letting out Rebel yells from the beyond.

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Berry Craig

Berry Craig is a professor emeritus of history at West KY Community College, and an author of seven books and co-author of two more. (Read the rest on the Contributors page.)

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