Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Convenient amnesia

In the wake of Charlottesville, and the spectacle of watching the id that resides in the White House condone Nazism, you've probably seen some justifications of leaving up statues, and some attempts to demonstrate that the Democrats are the real racists in this whole issue.

On the first count, there's the notion that if we take down the statues, we're erasing history. (Ignoring the history of the circumstances of how those statues were put up, and pretending that statues are the best way to remember history rather than, say, paying attention during history class.)

As for Dems being the real racists, there are memes like the one that I saw on Facebook because a friend had commented on it (not favorably, mind you). The meme pointed out that the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments were passed with overwhelming Republican support and little or no Democratic support, in contrast to Obamacare, which got overwhelming support from Democrats and not a single vote from Republicans.

Let's set aside the poster's view that it's a bad thing to pass a law that saves tens of thousands of lives a year, and avoids perhaps hundreds of thousands of bankruptcies.

Focus instead on the historical illiteracy of pretending that the Republican Party of the 1860s is anything like the Republican Party of 2017.

Teddy Roosevelt (a Republican) was not free of racism, but he did expand Blacks' access to government jobs for which they were qualified. A few years later, Woodrow Wilson (a Democrat) undid TR's modest but real progress.

Over the course of 20th century, the parties switched places on race. Democrats became more and more the party that spoke for civil rights and racial equality. That cost them support among the more racist parts of the public, who found a newly comfortable home in the Republican Party.

This is pretty basic stuff, hardly requiring a PhD in history to understand.

So we have people who want us to keep statues of traitorous supporters of human slavery, because we shouldn't wipe out history.

And we have people ignoring history to argue that Democrats are the real racists today, because a century ago and more the Republicans passed important amendments and some Democrats founded the KKK.

What's your guess for the degree of overlap between those two groups?

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