Monday, January 11, 2010

Harry Reid and History

I actually enjoy listening to Rush Limbaugh sometimes. He says a lot of stupid things, and not much that I agree with, but he is still the best at what he does, just a master of radio who could teach a lot of people a lot about how to use the medium. And he can be really entertaining to listen to. Anyway, I tuned him in on the way to work to hear his comments on the whole Harry Reid episode (the revelation that Reid said during the campaign that Obama was light-skinned and did not have a Negro dialect). I figure, why begrudge Rush the chance to go to town with material like this.

I did not agree with him that Reid’s comment is worse than Trent Lott saying that we would be better off today if Strom Thurmond had been elected president in 1948. To say that is like saying that it would be better if we still lived in a segregated society. It is a repudiation of the whole Civil Rights movement, so to me Lott’s statement seems much worse. But on the other hand Rush made some fair, and funny, points about Harry Reid’s racism, Joe Biden’s “clean and articulate” remark, Clinton’s comment to Ted Kennedy that Obama would have been serving coffee to them not too long ago, Robert Byrd’s being a member of the KKK and all of that. It is fair game as far as I am concerned to point out that all these guys have some deeply ingrained racist attitudes. They all have a lot to learn, and they all deserve the criticism that has been heaped on them for their stupid remarks. And they all should be smart enough to admit that.

I can also sympathize with Republicans who think that a double standard is applied to how we treat racist white Republicans, and excuse racist white Democrats. But the fact is that it was the Democrats who got the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed, which then caused practically all the whites in the South to switch to the Republican party, and all the blacks to join the Democratic party, and that is just the way it has been for a generation. Of course I understand that the biggest opponents of Civil Rights were Southern Democrats, but it was Lyndon Johnson who got it done, and who took the credit and suffered the consequences for it. When he signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Johnson said that the Democrats had now lost the South for the next generation and he was of course completely right about that. But that is why 80 or 90% of blacks are Democrats. Just as when Lincoln freed the slaves, almost all freed slaves became Republicans. If they hadn't been denied the vote for the next hundred years, maybe more of them would have remained Republicans.

So I think all this will change gradually over time. It would probably be a good thing if more blacks became Republicans, and it would probably also be a good thing if more whites who joined the Republican Party in reaction to civil rights were to return to the Democratic Party. And maybe in another generation we won’t talk about the color of people’s skin any more at all.

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