A Talking Point You May Have Missed

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Occasionally, I'll have a student whose understanding of American history is largely informed by conservative talk, who will be of the belief that civil rights legislation largely came out of  the conservative movement. 

They know, after all, that Lincoln was a Republican - and that many of the southern leaders supporting segregation were Democrats.  And that's pretty much the extent that is demanded by Rush and Hannity.

Now, you and I know that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was fought for and supported by the left and (eventually) mainstream Democrats (although Democrats and Republicans were far behind the American Communists in their civil rights support - the connections between the communists and civil rights were noted by all the red baiters at the time, and probably appear somewhere on Simple Jack's chalkboard) and signed by Lyndon Johnson.  And you and I know that establishment Republicans opposed it, and have continued (to this day) to oppose many civil rights measures as examples of big government, or social engineering, or special treatment for minorities.  You and I know that the passage of the Civil Rights Act split the Democratic Party, and the southern Democrats who had made up the "solid South" since the formation of the Party under Andrew Jackson, left to become Republicans.  You and I know that the Republicans used a "southern strategy" of race-baiting to forge 40 years of electoral victories.  From the election of FDR in '32 through LBJ winning in '64, the only Republican elected President was Ike, who not only won WWII, but coined the term "military-industrial complex" in a speech which would cause him to be labeled anti-American by Fox were he to give it today (I never thought the deified Reagan his ownself would be too liberal for the Republicans, but take a look at this purity test) But after '64 - after '64 - the next 44 years saw only 2 Democrats elected to the White House - and both of those were from southern states.  Until Obama.  Who apparently is both our first black and our first Nazi President.  What are the odds? 

A congresswoman from North Carolina stood on the floor of the House of Representatives last week and said that not only were Republicans the real environmentalists - but they passed Civil Rights legislation without the help of the Democrats.

You can see discussion of this here. 

It's being called revisionist history, but that's not what it is.  Revisionist history is fine.  No reason why the first historian to get a crack at something automatically should be believed.  What's happening here is just false.  2+2=5 level of false. 

This level of false is not singular.  I'm uncertain what Simple Jack's 100 year plan will actually consist of, aside from planned marches on the anniversary of the I Have a Dream speech and an anti-Obama rally on 9/11 - but there does seem to be styled an "educational" component where he will look to roll back the past hundred years of US history - as instead of locating all of America's sins in the 1960s (which would be the typical conservative lament - I mean, they apparently now love the part where they were pushing for civil rights legislation when the Democrats were smoking dope and listening to Country Joe and the Fish) he's fixated on the Progressive Era as the source for all evil.  You know, all that health and safety legislation that brought the US out of the Gilded Age (and was the first stage in saving capitalism; what Simple Jack sees as the dawn of socialism was actually the softening of capitalism's edges enough to prevent the type of radical change seen elsewhere in the world.  The New Deal was the second stage; and if its introduction here rings a bell it should; recall the stimulus package comparison to the New Deal - one of the current conservative claims is the New Deal made the Great Depression worse.  It would be sad if it weren't getting in the way of your life right now.  The problem with Obama's stimulus, according to most economists, is it wasn't nearly large enough - but instead of a second massive round of stimulus, which is what we need - we'll be interested primarily in deficit reduction.  Republicans always talk deficit when they're not in power to dramatically raise it with trillion dollar wars and tax reductions for the wealthy.  But the "tighten our belts" mantra is going to frighten Obama, who thusfar has shown as little political will as could have been expected, and the Democrats, playing as "conservatively" as do my Niners in first halves, are showing just as strong a result.  I knew I could shoehorn sports into this parenthetical if I made it long enough.  Sports!)  There is an undercurrent of Simple Jack's blackboard presentations where he fixates on the word progressive as being related to communism and Nazism and ACORN and Bernie the Toiletless Nextdoor Neighbor (which would be news to Fightin' Bob LaFollette) and it seems to me as if the conservative re-education plan involves a broadside at this portion of US history.

Which makes sense.  If the FDA was proposed today it would be seen as government intrusion upon the relationship normal, every day, middle Americans have with their butchers.  The tea parties would be BBQs where godfearing carnivores would scream "If You Want my Tainted Bratwurst You'll Have to Pry it Out of My Cold, Dead, Chubby Hands."

(If you haven't seen this little slice of American ugliness, you should. )

For virtually everyone who will ever read this - the idea that anyone could believe that the civil rights movement in this country was conservative - Republicans fighting those liberals at every turn (and look how African-Americans have paid them back, voting with the Democrats at a 90+% clip ever since) is just fantasy-land stuff that isn't worth any more of your time than wondering if the world really is going to end in 2012 (I have students who believe that too). 

But there's a congresswoman who believes it -who believes it and has said it. 

Your tax dollars at work.

I wish there were a better movie than Mike Judge's Idiocracy that I could reference that so starkly demonstrates a United States of Amnesia, where we so quickly unlearn truths that took generations to acquire (the film's a bit of a mess).  But until then, that's the dystopian look at our future which strikes me as most worthy of your notice.

Palin/Simple Jack in 2012.  Things have taken a bad turn.

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