Blogs > Liberty and Power > Republicans Were on the Right Side of Civil Rights History Long Before Democrats

Mar 6, 2006 7:01 am


Republicans Were on the Right Side of Civil Rights History Long Before Democrats



The following speech, “The Ship and the Sea: ‘The Party of Lincoln’ and Civil Rights,” was presented to the Jackson County Republicans Lincoln Day Dinner (keynote address) (March 4, 2006). Professor Bean teaches History at Southern Illinois University; his web page is here

A member of that other political party, Harry S Truman, once said that"The only thing new in the world is the history you don't know.”

My book-in-progress, Right on Race: Conservative Voices for Racial Freedom offers the “history we don’t know” about conservatives, the Republican Party, and race. My goal is simple and radical: To turn our concept of the civil rights movement upside down, and place the Republican Party and conservatives at the center of a 150 year movement for racial freedom.

We need this book more than ever. Since the 1960s, young Americans have been taught to equate the Democratic Party with civil rights, while being taught that the Republican Party was on the “wrong side” of history. The media and our schools have drummed this myth into our heads so that Republican politicians fear to even deal with civil rights because, as they say, “you can’t fight the race card.” This is bad history, betrays our proud party tradition, and offers no vision for the future. By looking backward at the Republican Party record on race, my book offers ammunition for those willing to “fight the race card” and promote colorblind justice.

For 150 years, the Republican Party held high the banner of civil rights. Meanwhile, the Democratic Party defended slavery, segregation and allied itself with the Ku Klux Klan to take the vote away from black and white Republicans and terrorize them into submission. Little wonder the Democratic Party was known as the “party of the Klan” well into the 20th century. When Democrats finally embraced the cause of racial freedom in the 1960s, they were the “Johnny come latelys” of the civil rights movement, simply undoing the damage their Party had inflicted on racial minorities during the prior 100 years. We, the Party of Lincoln and Frederick Douglass and Ward Connerly, have a far better claim to civil rights but we have forgotten our own history.

Here are a few of the forgotten voices I reclaim in my book:

Lewis Tappan took the lead in defending the slaves who mutinied on the Amistad – a court case made famous by Steven Spielberg’s film. Tappan was an evangelical Christian and conservative businessman. He used his network of antislavery men, including Abraham Lincoln, to create a credit reporting system–Dun & Bradstreet--that covered North America.

Another early Republican leader, Salmon P. Chase, earned the nickname “Attorney General of Fugitive Slaves” for defending runaway slaves.

The most famous runaway, Frederick Douglass, was the Martin Luther King, Jr. of the 19th century. Douglass said "The Republican Party is the ship and all else is the sea."

Then there was Abraham Lincoln, who gave his name to “the Party of Lincoln.” He not only emancipated slaves, but spent his late political career calling slavery “a relic of barbarism” and advocating its “ultimate extinction.”

After the Civil War, a Republican Congress advanced a “Second American Revolution” by passing Civil Rights Acts and three constitutional amendments: abolishing slavery, guaranteeing equal protection of the law and securing voting rights. This Congress also asserted the individual right to bear arms as needed for blacks (and others) to protect themselves from the Ku Klux Klan.

Republicans were equally concerned with the rights of other racial minorities. For example, a conservative Republican Senator, Joseph Hawley, was the chief opponent of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which barred any Chinese from entering this country.

Republican civil rights advocates also used the courts to advance a colorblind vision of America. Thus, it was Republican Justice Harlan who dissented from the “separate but equal” ruling of Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), declaring that “our Constitution is colorblind.” This became the rallying cry of the NAACP in its later battles to undo the segregation imposed on the South by the Democratic Party.

In fact, Republicans were also influential in the NAACP. The group’s first president, Moorefield Storey, denounced Democrat Woodrow Wilson’s segregation of the federal government and also won the first Supreme Court case ruling residential segregation unconstitutional – in 1917 (37 years before Brown v. Board).

During this same period, Republican businessmen used their philanthropy to improve the lives of African Americans in the South. Julius Rosenwald, the head of Sears & Roebuck, was a staunch advocate of laissez-faire and a great philanthropist. One of the notable expressions of his “give while you live” charity was the creation of 5,000 “Rosenwald Schools” in the South for poor black youth.

During the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan arose again as a national force. Republican presidents Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge denounced KKK violence and supported a federal anti-lynch law, which passed the Republican House before repeatedly dying in the Democrat-controlled Senate.

Continuing through the 1930s and 1940s, when Franklin Roosevelt refused to have pictures taken with blacks, the Republican Party called for desegregation of the military, antilynching laws, and the right to vote. Furthermore, while FDR sent Japanese Americans to internment camps, a conservative newspaper chain denounced this violation of civil rights, as did the influential black conservative George Schuyler.

In 1964, Lyndon Johnson passed the landmark Civil Rights Act only after Republicans introduced their own bill and overcame a Democratic filibuster. 89% of Republicans voted for the Civil Rights Act–a far greater percentage than the Democrats, who mustered a bare majority.

Almost immediately, however, the Democratic Party returned to its tradition of racial discrimination by instituting racial preferences that judged people by the color of their skin. In this era, I include excerpts from George Schuyler, Ronald Reagan, Thomas Sowell, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Linda Chavez, Ward Connerly, and Jorge Mas Conosa.

To return to Truman: His supporters said “Give ‘em hell, Harry.” For all the Harrys of the Republican Party who are afraid to speak their mind on civil rights, afraid to fight the “race card” and the race hustlers of the Democratic Party, I say: Read my book and “Give ‘em hell.”

Deroy Murdock, “Grand Old Party” (National Review Online, 2005) – wonderful overview of Republican civil rights record, 1850s-present. Drawn from House Policy Committee document, “2005 Republican Freedom Calendar” http://policy.house.gov/2005_calendar/2005_calendar.pdf




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Jonathan J. Bean - 2/9/2007

Dear Ralph,

Your comment was apt and I didn't mean to write off black males -- indeed, there IS a crisis and I emphathize. The NUL has listed the black male shortage in college (2:1 gap between women and men) as one of black America's top problems.

I am not one of those who thinks we can gloss over this terrible educational gap between young black students and others. I have long criticized racial preferences, for example, not simply because of moral or constitutional reasons, but because they take our focus off the K-12 disaster. (I know because many of my former History-Ed students have gone off to teach in the "war zones" of Chicago school district). With reservations, I'm an advocate of school choice and radical educational reform.

I also see a place for HBCs--note that I termed them a success. On this point, I think Clarence Thomas may be right: You can get a good education in an all-black HBC. That is why Thomas criticized the Brown decision -- because of this condescending attitude that black success in education necessarily requires interaction with whites in all cases. Thomas believed the Court should have struck down the principle underlying segregation, declare our constitution color blind, and leave neighborhood schools alone. If they are mixed, fine. If they are predominantly black, that's OK too. Zora Neale Hurston had the same reaction to Brown when it was announced, and she was no apologist for Jim Crow.

My point, which was a bit flippant, is that we have Afrocentric professors teaching diversity theory when we ought to be doing the basics. (I had a student, and now good friend, who came from a HBC in North Carolina, and he said that there was more openness, and less nonsense (e.g., "diversity theory") at his HBC than at SIU and UNC (where his wife attended).

Morehead was a slip -- my sister-in-law went there. Of course, Morehouse. Did you find that there were advantages to HBCs? Are they less prone to some of the fads that afflict the rest of higher education?

So, if I came off flip, it's because of the silliness that attracts attention, while a Bill Cosby, the Thernstroms (_Closing the Gap_), and others are demonized by the academic "deep thinkers" for trying to address the problem you and I care about.

Sincerely,

Jonathan Bean
Visiting Scholar (Summer 2006)
Social Philosophy and Policy Center
Bowling Green, OH
419-372-8673
jbean@bgnet.bgsu.edu


Irfan Khawaja - 8/4/2006

I am not sure this is relevant to Prof Bean's book, but one issue omitted from this discussion is relation between local politics and race.

In New Jersey, for instance, the crucible of racial politics has been land-use policy and zoning a la the various Mt. Laurel decisions. But zoning and land use is a function of local politics, and typically goes undiscussed when it comes to big debates about civil rights, affirmative action and the like. And in my experience, party affiliations become rather confused at the local level: neither Democrats nor Republicans act true to type there (assuming there is a type) because, given their literal physical proximity to their constituencies, responsiveness-to-constituency ("pandering") matters more than ideology or party discipline.

I am not sure whether Democrats are worse than Republicans or vice versa on this issue, but the Republicans I have seen cannot be described as "good." Exclusive zoning was a fact of life until (and essentially throughout) the 1980s, and Republicans worked as diligently as Democrats to keep it in place, often citing veiled racial justifications for it. The story is cogently told in David Kirp et. al. Our Town: Race, Housing and the Soul of Suburbia, U Cal Press.

Zoning of course is one issue, but I also wonder about criminal prosecution. The statistics suggest that prosecutions for e.g., capital punishment are racially skewed, and since many prosecutors are local officials, it may be worth looking at their party affiliations. It is Republicans who tend to favor the death penalty, but given the biases intrinsic to the criminal justice system, that cuts against the Republicans as being the party of civil rights.

This isn't a matter of local politics per se, but I guess it would also be worth asking the question, which party has favored sentencing reform for a longer time and in a more consistent way? Sentencing reform is one of those non-obvious civil rights issues, but getting it done would probably be worth as much as any explicit civil rights legislation and wd. undo or forestall any number of racial injustices.


Robert Smith - 3/12/2006

It's beyond disingenuous to suggest that support for affirmative action (I assume that's what you mean by "racial preferences"), or quotas is exactly the same thing as forced segregation (as in apartheid South Africa), but this is what Mr. Bean suggests in both his article and later posts. I shouldn't not need to get into detail as to why this is false but briefly:

1) The intent is the EXACT OPPOSITE. Affrimative action is intended to create "diversity" in workplaces, not segregation.
2) AA only affects a small percentage of those in society (few will get jobs because of AA, few will get fired)
3) Most of these rules only apply to the government itself, for the most part there are not, and have never been, significant restrictions on private industry due to AA.
4) Nobody goes to prison for breaking affirmative action rules.

This has nothing to do with whether or not you approve of "racial preferences" as public policy. Affirmative action and related programs simply are not segregation.

Also, I strongly disagree with the notion that "racial preferences" are THE civil rights debate of the post 1964-era. What about women's rights, reproductive rights, and gay rights? I think abortion and gay marriage are bigger issues than affirmative action in the year 2006. "Racial preferences" weren't even on the radar in the 2004 elections.

Even in terms of race politics, I think the (general) treatment of Arabs is a much bigger issue in post 9/11 America.

The notion that, in the past, Republicans and the Republican Party had a excellent civil rights record, especially in regards to slavery, is neither novel nore suprising. It's all over the high school history textbooks I've read.

However, it's also abundantly clear that this changed in the 1960s when the Republicans began to absorb the "Dixecrats". If you were a white power type before the mid-1960s you were a Democrat, after the mid 1960s you're a Republican.

If the Rebublicans don't want to get tarred with the "racist" brush, they should make a concerted effort to drive the racists out of the party. There seems to be division in the party on this issue. For example, President Bush has called for a fairly liberal "work visa" program for illegal workers, but the "Minutemen" and other conservative groups are setting up militias on the southern border. Bush stopped short of condemning these militias as nutcases, which left his position somewhat ambiguous.


Kenneth R. Gregg - 3/10/2006

I'll have a post on Ralston with more detail on his life, probably next month, unless I get some time this month for him.
Cheers!


Mark Brady - 3/10/2006

Jonathan asks, "Part of the Civil Rights Act but not the whole baby -- what about the sections striking down state-sponsored discrimination (Jim Crow) in the South?"

I was careful to write, "If classical liberals and libertarians wish to take individual rights seriously, they must oppose the use of state power to enforce racial integration and thus a large part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and similar legislation." You will note that I did not say "all of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and similar legislation." I don't see how libertarians can endorse legislation that prevents private individuals and institutions practicing racial discrimination. On the question of federal legislation "striking down state-sponsored discrimination (Jim Crow) in the South", it all depends on whether or not you think state-sponsored discrimination is a matter for the federal government, and that's a different issue from the one I raised.


Mark Brady - 3/10/2006

Although Richard Epstein wrote in this vein, I'm not "pushing" his thesis so much as making an argument that classical liberals and libertarians have made for decades.


Jonathan J. Bean - 3/9/2006

This is great stuff, Kenneth.

For the purposes of the book (not a speech), I don't care what political party he belonged to.

Great lead.


Jonathan J. Bean - 3/9/2006

Part of the Civil Rights Act but not the whole baby -- what about the sections striking down state-sponsored discrimination (Jim Crow) in the South?

One might have preferred the Court to have taken up Harlan's dissent ("our Constitution is colorblind") in Brown v. Board but the Court didn't.


Jonathan J. Bean - 3/9/2006

Perhaps my sense of humor is too dry (no pun intended).

Now tell me how NOT to pay taxes that exceed 50% on my self-employment income. Anarchist solution that won't get me thrown in prison?


Jonathan J. Bean - 3/9/2006

One last point: I was asked to post this SPEECH. The book will be more nuanced and take all your (expected) criticisms into account, with nuanced annotations of sources. I teach libertarian and conservative thought (in all their complexity) and am fully aware of the points raised here. That will be reflected in the book.

I have testified before state bodies (and soon the U.S. Senate), I have debated issues in Law Schools, I have moderated forums, and I have given speeches. Each has a different purpose, and my critics ought to take note of the difference.

So, I ask you this:

Are the forgotten voices reclaimed by me and others here worth adding to classroom discussions of civil rights? If the answer is "yes." Then how would YOU reconfigure or rephrase these voices? They were important in their time, they are ignored, how best to present them? "Forgotten Men: Lost Voices of Racial Freedom?"


Jonathan J. Bean - 3/9/2006

The vast majority of "voices" are classical liberal on civil rights, not necessarily on all other issues. Here we face a problem: the book is a counter to all the current readers, which exclude these voices while putting forth "radical" voices. The publishing industry seems to love trotting out those readers.

So, why not simply use "Classical Liberal Voices for Freedom." As a classical liberal who has gone through these debates ad nauseum, there is simply no way around the current-day semantics of "liberal." If anyone has a way around this, enlighten me. No one has come up with a good solution yet.

As for those who were statists on other issues (yes, I've read Hayek, "Why I am Not Conservative!"), these individuals were tied together by a classical liberal vision of civil rights. This evolved over time, individuals were not always consistent (particularly if politicians!) but that does not mean they do not need an airing -- "the other side of civil rights," if you will.

Get the current books -- _Eyes on the Prize_ reader, for example, and you will find none of these people.


Jonathan J. Bean - 3/9/2006

If individuals don't like a "big tent" approach, then we'll have to throw out almost every text (and many readers) on American conservatism (and probably liberalism). Be sensitive to the differences, evolving contexts, etc. but don't ignore it.

Another point bearing emphasis: Some of the authors were 100% consistent in taking a classical liberal (or conservative) approach ON CIVIL RIGHTS (not necessarily other issues), others spoke with different voices at different times. (God knows, as I prepare for U.S. Senate testimony how our government forces this kind of ambiguity into the speech of any politician!).


Jonathan J. Bean - 3/9/2006

This is very interesting.

Again, the "he should be remembered" (but is not) aspect of Curtis is what I am trying to capture in this primary source reader. I am DEFINITELY following up this lead.

FYI: There is new work, by my friend Robert Weems (U. of Missouri) on the origins of black capitalism initiatives under Hoover.


Jonathan J. Bean - 3/9/2006

You push Richard Epstein's thesis about the Civil Rights Act. A reader of this sort will discuss the nuances and differences but one cannot kabosh the whole enterprise -- this is a primary source reader of voices neglected by the civil rights canon.


Jonathan J. Bean - 3/9/2006

The vast majority of "voices" are classical liberal on civil rights, not necessarily on all other issues. Here we face a problem: the book is a counter to all the current readers, which exclude these voices while putting forth "radical" voices. The publishing industry seems to love trotting out those readers.

So, why not simply use "Classical Liberal Voices for Freedom." As a classical liberal who has gone through these debates ad nauseum, there is simply no way around the current-day semantics of "liberal." If anyone has a way around this, enlighten me. No one has come up with a good solution yet.

As for those who were statists on other issues (yes, I've read Hayek, "Why I am Not Conservative!"), these individuals were tied together by a classical liberal vision of civil rights. This evolved over time, individuals were not always consistent (particularly if politicians!) but that does not mean they do not need an airing -- "the other side of civil rights," if you will.


Jonathan J. Bean - 3/9/2006

The vast majority of "voices" are classical liberal on civil rights, not necessarily on all other issues. Here we face a problem: the book is a counter to all the current readers, which exclude these voices while putting forth "radical" voices. The publishing industry seems to love trotting out those readers.

So, why not simply use "Classical Liberal Voices for Freedom." As a classical liberal who has gone through these debates ad nauseum, there is simply no way around the current-day semantics of "liberal." If anyone has a way around this, enlighten me. No one has come up with a good solution yet.

As for those who were statists on other issues (yes, I've read Hayek, "Why I am Not Conservative!"), these individuals were tied together by a classical liberal vision of civil rights. This evolved over time, individuals were not always consistent (particularly if politicians!) but that does not mean they do not need an airing -- "the other side of civil rights," if you will.


Jonathan J. Bean - 3/9/2006

Perhaps my sense of humor is too dry (no pun intended).

Now tell me how NOT to pay taxes that exceed 50% on my self-employment income. Anarchist solution that won't get me thrown in prison?


Frederick Thomas - 3/8/2006


Mr. Howard:

I hesitate to do this because you bear a noble name, but I believe you may have missed a couple of points in preparing your comment.

The WPA and the rest of the unconstitutional FDR agencies combined with the economics of amateur economists took a worldwide recession and turned it into a depression here, but nowhere else.

Why blame FDR? Because NO OTHER country experienced depression. Only the US. By 1936, after 4 years in power for the US, Brit, French, and German regimes, the US still had 13% unemployment, and all the others had 6% or less. Germany, the best run, had near zero. It happened because FDRs boys did all the wrong things. They had more hubris than sense. No economist today would do as they did.

Result: the US under FDRs policies had workers who suffered unnecessarily after the others overseas were prosperous. UCLA recently published a landmark study which detailed how FDRs interventions stopped economic growth, and delayed the recovery by seven years:

www.econ.ucla.edu/whatsbruin/news/FDRarticle.htm

As far as blacks are concerned, they suffered worst, but all suffered horribly, and needlessly, for a decade. Then FDR gave them a war.

Under LBJ, to pick up your point, the AFDC program was changed to that the black fathers had to be absent for the mother to receive benefits. This act destroyed the black family in America. And look what the war on poverty did: gave us more poor blacks than ever. Is that anyone's idea of a good program?

You may not like this, but it is economic history, something which few "historians" have a clue about. We cannot overlay political partizanship on it and call poor economic performance by any name but its own: the predictable result of ineptitude, of which FDR was the most inept in history, barring Stalin and Mao.




John H. Lederer - 3/8/2006

"thereafter"?

Pretty hard to be elected from the south after 1880 unless you were a Democrat, or in the case of Virginia, a Readjuster.


Jim Howard - 3/8/2006

I don't have time or enough to catalogue all the instances of fatuous fudging that make Mr. Bean's absurd thesis possible. In order to smear FDR as a racist, Mr. Bean is forced to ignore the fact that the WPA saved the South during the Depression and that thus, thereafter, right up until LBJ's prophecy about the Civil Rights Act came true, you couldn't get elected in the South unless you pretended to be a Democrat. Dixiecrats were never true Democrats, and Mr. Bean knows it -- or else he doesn't, and actually believes all the other nonsense in his litany as well. How can so much misinformation (and, as another comment put it, mislabeling) be packed into such a short speech? And how does it arrive here in a shameless book plug disguised as "history"?


John H. Lederer - 3/8/2006

In my opinion, whether racism does or does not exist to a significant degree, affirmative action in the form of racial preferences is not a legitimate answer.

Among other things it treats people as fungible compnonents of a group rather than as individuals. It is itself based on racist assumptions because it assumes that race is the primary determinant of what a person is and what a person dserves.

I think it wrong to refuse or give a person a job, or admission to education because of his race. Affirmative action in the form of racial preferences is wrong, even if the wrongness is leavened a touch because the motive seems laudatory.

It becomes particularly repugnant when the beneficiary is not the person wronged by the discimination but someone who is related only by his skin color, and the person punished is not the person who discriminated, but someone related only by the color of their skin.


Harold Robert Hunter Jr - 3/8/2006

I think that you miss a point from me.

People have different opinions about different things. It's one thing to voice your opinion, but it's another thing to start a political campaign based off lies, rumors, and half truths.

That campaign against affirmative action - (the way it was marketed and sold to the public) was NEVER true. As a result of the load of BS floated out there with that campaign, many whites mistakenly believe that racism is no longer a problem for blacks - thus we don't need AA anymore and now AA amounts to reverse discrimination. That has been the major argument against affirmative action that the public has been spouting for several years.

The idea that racism is no longer a problem for blacks can be proven to be totally false. (see http://www.affirmative-action.us). Race relations are better, but racism is still a major problem.

The problem with floating rumors/lies/half truths out there is that these anti-affirmative action campaigners have the majority of the white public wanting to hear something that is not true (i.e. that racism is no longer a problem for blacks, that it's all equal - so we don't need AA anymore and now AA amounts to reverse discrimination).

So the white public wants to hear something that is not true, but we cannot lie to the white public and tell them what they want to hear in many cases due to all of the penalties for lying to people. Do you see the problem???

- Harold Hunter Jr, Esq.
http://www.affirmative-action.us


John Lochlan Godwin - 3/8/2006

The problem with Bean's approach is not with the factual content of his various assertions, but with his understanding of the "race card".
The race card has too often been a joker.
Consequently, one cannot always take the various actions of either political party at face value.
Doesn't Bean know this?
Is he a joker?


M.D. Fulwiler - 3/8/2006

"Then there was Abraham Lincoln, who gave his name to “the Party of Lincoln.” He not only emancipated slaves, but spent his late political career calling slavery “a relic of barbarism” and advocating its “ultimate extinction.”"

You mean the same President Lincoln who exempted the Union states from the Emancipation Proclamation, thought preserving the Union was much more important than slavery, and who also seriously proposed shipping slaves back to Africa and supported a Constitutional Amendment protecting slavery? That is while he wasn't burning and looting the South, tossing his political opponants into jail, shutting down newspapers, and making himself de facto dictator. That Lincoln? Great guy!


Anthony Gregory - 3/8/2006

Lincolnian Republicans were always quick to draw the bigotry card. The GOP's founding agenda to obtain mainstream appeal of their Free Soil philosophy relied on the fear in the North that black slaves would leave the South and compete with free white labor. Lincoln's generals wiped out Plains Indians as though they were an insect species. The Teddy Roosevelt Republicans were horribly racist against foreigners, notably the Filipinos who didn't want to be "Christianized" by Uncle Sam. The Republican Party has always been full of racist slimeballs, as has the Democratic Party. The "Civil Rights" establishment was always a trick, so far as the politicians were concerned, to further consolidate power in Washington, DC, which slaughtered millions of foreigners throughout the Cold War in clearly bigoted ways, and then launched a racist drug war upon its own subjects, all while it pretended to care about the plight of America's minorities.


the blue nomad - 3/8/2006

I would add that if today's GOP is really the party of civil rights why do such a small percentage of African-Americans continue to vote for Democrats? The poll suggesting a 2% approval rating among African-Americans for Mr. Bush last fall is by now well known.

The fact of the matter is we have no idea how the likes of Lewis Tappan or Wendell Phillips would have voted today, but we do know that a majority of New England moderates have become either Democrats or Independents. Certainly most of the Tappans I know are.

It may be that the Republicans will make marginal inroads into African-American vote in the South by pandering to their fear and loathing of homosexuals and immigrants, but this is hardly a moral or decent brand of politics; it smacks more of Antebellum Democrats than Lincoln Republicans.


the blue nomad - 3/8/2006

The author is correct that the Republican Party (and Whigs before them) once carried the banner of civil rights, but as a descendant of the Tappan and Adams family, as well as just some guy who doesn't especially care to see history distorted by left or right-wing revisionists, this piece left me fuming.

To be blunt: this isn't your grandfather's Republican Party. The Northerners who were once Whigs and Lincoln Republicans are today mostly Democrats, and the Southerners who were at one time Confederates and protectors and defenders of racial apartheid in this country are the base of today's GOP; no amount of spin can change that.

Mr Bean should be ashamed of himself.

Kenneth Edward Tappan Hempel


Mark Brady - 3/7/2006

Jonathan, here's another problem with your "big tent." If classical liberals and libertarians wish to take individual rights seriously, they must oppose the use of state power to enforce racial integration and thus a large part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and similar legislation. Libertarians respect the right of private individuals and private institutions to practice racial discrimination if they so choose. And, equally, they respect the right of private individuals and institutions to practice affirmative action if they so choose. Libertarians are thus clearly distinguished from most of today's Republicans.


Kenneth R. Gregg - 3/7/2006

Thomas Nixon Carver, who was a devout Republican and known at Harvard, where he taught economics for many years, as "Mr. Capitalism" is one that you might want to look into. After he retired, he moved to Los Angeles where he was one of Leonard Read's mentor for years. You can find a lot of quotes from his writings in The Freeman during the 50's-60's. Just a thought.
Just Ken
CLASSical Liberalism


John H. Lederer - 3/7/2006

I think you miss a point. For many civil rights and affirmative action in the form of preferences are anithetical.


Oscar Chamberlain - 3/7/2006

"big tent" fashion"

Dr. Bean
You might enlighten some of us by saying what holds this "tent" together, because quite honesly, you are looking sillier and sillier all the time. An Ann Coulter with an academic pedigree.

PS Even in a political setting, historians should not lie.


Kenneth R. Gregg - 3/7/2006

Jonathan,
You might want to look at Jackson H. Ralston's (1857-1945) career. I've been researching his life and he was a life-long classical liberal (and Georgist) and D.C. attorney who lectured and wrote on international law (see his A Quest for International Order (1941) as an example). He fought for the rights of the Japanese-Americans as the Northern California attorney for the ACLU's brief on two important 1943 cases, Hirabayashi v. United States and Yasui v. United States.

While he was in D.C., he appears to have been the attorney responsible for the District of Columbia courts to recognize trial by jury (not a state, so didn't need to).

Don't know if he was GOP or Dem yet, though.

Just a thought.
Just Ken
CLASSical Liberalism


John H. Lederer - 3/7/2006

I would be interested in a source for the LBJ quote. I have seen it before attributed as LBJ to Califano, LBJ to Mansfield, LBJ to Moyers, LBJ to Humphrey.

It has mever seemed to me an obvious thing for LBJ to say -- the bill had passed because Dirksen, the Republican minority leader, had assembled enough Republican votes to pass cloture on the filibuster in which Robert Byrd had given a continuous address of some prodigous length.


Walter D. Kamphoefner - 3/7/2006

I haven't read the book, but there's nothing new in this article but the (mis)labeling. "Republicans Were on the Right Side of Civil Rights History Long Before Democrats " True; if only they still were! But it's rather disingenuous to label these 19th century Republicans as "conservatives" when their enemies designated themselves conservatives and called the Republicans radicals--a label many of them wore proudly. And when there were factional disputes within the postbellum Republican Party, it was the radicals, not the conservatives, who were the strongest supporters of black civil rights.
For two-thirds of the 20th century, the government was an agent of racial inequality by enforcing only the "separate" part of "separate but equal" doctrine. Given this precedent, it's suspicious, to say the least, that Republicans now demand that government be totally race-neutral.
After he signed the (bipartisan) Civil Rights Act: of 1964, LBJ told his aide Bill Moyers: "I think we just delivered the South to the Republican Party for your lifetime and mine." Now it may be pure coincidence, but no Democratic Presidential candidate since LBJ has won majority of white votes.


John H. Lederer - 3/7/2006

You said:

"This is factually inaccurate, and if you do not know that your understanding of recent history is not very good.'

Response:
I think we disagree, though I can understand your position. However I think you confuse "factually inaccurate" with "factually accurate, but misleading because the underlying motivations are different". As a factual matter, in general, Democrats are more favorable to governmental and institutional racial preferences than are Republicans. Do you really disagree with that?


It is my opinion that Democrats are, in general, far more racially conscious than Republicans. I suspect that this is part of a general tendency to tend to see political, economic, and social questions in terms of groups.

Assuming I am correct about that tendency, combined with a generally greater acceptance of government and institutional intervention, is it surprising that democrats might more frequently see a need for government to "even things out" by preferences for this group or that group?

Democrats may well explain that their goal is "equality" but the road to that goal that they frequently see is preferences for various groups (or sometimes disfavor for other groups, particularly when the groups are economic, e.g., "windfall profits taxes").

When the groups are racial this willingness to entertain preferences results in racial preferences.

You said:

"Support for affirmative action indicated an impatience with the prospects for equality in a world with only de jure equality. Remember the north--in both democratic and republican states--had managed to marginalize African Americans without the legal structure used by the South. It was hardly a radical conclusion in the 1960s and 1970s to wonder if the changes in law had simply made the south safe to be like the segregated north.

People supported affirmative action, in part, to avoid that. That is not the same thing is consistently desiring to favor one race over another."

Why isn't it the same thing as consistently desiring to provide preferences to one race over another? Democrats believed in preferences for whites. They now believe in preferences for blacks. Except for a transitory period when they shifted from whites to blacks they have always believed in preferences for one group over another. I concur that for present Democrats this is supported as a tool to reach equality, but the fact is that they have pretty consistently supported racial preferences.

I will admit to harboring a suspicion that a view that tends to see people as members of groups is likely to never see perfect equality, and thus never see a point where the tool of preferences is no longer needed. Its object will change, but it will, I submit likely always be needed in such a view.


You said:
"However, John, my position does support in part one of your other comments. You say that "Republicans with their belief in color blindness, reinforced by states' rights, were, albeit not a good fit, a better fit than Democrats became." That is true, because some of those whites believed, or at least hoped, that this color blindness would slow the march to equality."

Response:

I think that is true. However, I have noted that Republicans seem far more willing than Democrats to condemn, punish, or excommunicate those who are racists. That may be because Republicans perceive themselves as having an image problem, but it may also be based on better motives. Democrats seem to have a far higher tolerance for racism, particularly if it is by a member of a favored group. Compare for instance the Republican reaction to David Duke and the Democratic reaction to Al Sharpton.


Kurt Reiger - 3/7/2006

Curtis was Senate Majority Leader in the 1920's and from Kansas. He grew up on the Kaw reservation, but did not move with the tribe when they left for Indian Territory (or, as we call it here, Oklahoma). Nothing, however, sends you to the dust bin of history quicker than being Hoover's VP. This is a shame, because Curtis should be famous today amoung all Americans interested in race relations. Curtis could not have been such a successful politician had he been mixed African American. But as a mix Indian, he was the Bob Dole of his day. Except Dole never made it to VP. Of course, Curtis had to leave the reservation to become a leader of white men. Some today would say he stopped being an Indian when he left, but Curtis would disagree.


Oscar Chamberlain - 3/7/2006

"The principal change has been in which race(s) the Democrats believe should be favored."

This is factually inaccurate, and if you do not know that your understanding of recent history is not very good.

Moving toward equality after centuries of slavery and discrimination was and is a hard business. It is hardly surprising that people with the same goal looked to different mechanisms and locked horns over them.

Support for affirmative action indicated an impatience with the prospects for equality in a world with only de jure equality. Remember the north--in both democratic and republican states--had managed to marginalize African Americans without the legal structure used by the South. It was hardly a radical conclusion in the 1960s and 1970s to wonder if the changes in law had simply made the south safe to be like the segregated north.

People supported affirmative action, in part, to avoid that. That is not the same thing is consistently desiring to favor one race over another.

However, John, my position does support in part one of your other comments. You say that "Republicans with their belief in color blindness, reinforced by states' rights, were, albeit not a good fit, a better fit than Democrats became." That is true, because some of those whites believed, or at least hoped, that this color blindness would slow the march to equality.

Somehow I don’t think that will become a part of Jonathon Bean’s stump speeches.


Jeff Riggenbach - 3/6/2006

Mr. Bean's "Big Tent" is ahistorical to the point of absurdity. He should take a look sometime at Murray Rothbard's classic essay "Left & Right: The Prospects for Liberty." In fact, conservatism and liberalism *are* "fixed categories that we can read back through the past," as Ed Schmitt puts it. Conservatives have always been advocates of big government, subsidies to favored business enterprises, trade barriers, and war. Liberals have always been advocates of individual freedom, free trade, and peace. For reasons Rothbard explains in more detail, many liberals, beginning in the 19th Century, became enamored of the idea of pursuing liberal goals by using conservative means -- for example, using the power of the State to achieve the economic improvement of the poor, instead of relying on the market to achieve that end. Hence the appeal to many of the more easily confused liberals of socialism and progressivism. Hence the sorry state of today's Democratic party -- historically the party of free markets, free trade, and individual liberty.

Libertarians are liberals -- paleoliberals, if you like. They are *not* conservatives in any sense of the word. Abe Lincoln, by contrast, *was* a conservative, and his party, the Republican Party, has always been devoted to big government, subsidies to favored business enterprises, trade barriers, and war.


Alice Lillie - 3/6/2006

I don't think either major party has a very good civil rights record.

Please see and reply to my own blog! It's long, but skip around the segments if desired. But early on, 1/4 of the way down I am discussing Lincoln and the origin of the GOP.

http://www.alicelillieandher.blogspot.com .

Thank you.


John H. Lederer - 3/6/2006

It makes the position of white supremacists more explicable. They were democrats when Democrats belived in white supremacy. When Democrats swung into and through equality to government favoring blacks, they became Republicans, since Republicans with their belief in color blindness, reinforced by states' rights, were, albeit not a good fit, a better fit than Democrats became.


Christopher Riggs - 3/6/2006

Curtis was a Republican and was VP for (I think) Herbert Hoover. There is a chapter on him in R. David Edmunds, The New Warriors (Lincoln, 2001).


Jonathan J. Bean - 3/6/2006

Wow! Thanks. Just curious: What party did he belong to?


Kurt Reiger - 3/6/2006

Here is a suggestion- Include Charles Curtis in your discussion. Curtis was a mix white - Kaw Indian, and US Senator, Senate Majority Leader and Vice-President of the US. How did our racist great-grandfathers elect an Indian to be one heartbeat away from the Presidency?


Jonathan J. Bean - 3/6/2006

See my earlier comments on GOP complicity in affirmative action. Also read my book, _Big Government and Affirmative Action_ for the same point.


Jonathan J. Bean - 3/6/2006

That's a very provocative restating. I need to reflect on it. Thanks!


Jeff Riggenbach - 3/6/2006

Neither Mencken nor Nock was a "conservative" in any intelligible sense of the word. And no classical liberal was ever a "conservative" either. A classical liberal was and is a liberal.


John H. Lederer - 3/6/2006

If one takes the Republican position as "government should not treat people of different races differently". and the Democratic position as "government should treat people of different races differently", then aren't the political positions fairly consistent since the Civil War?

The principal change has been in which race(s) the Democrats believe should be favored.

Stated differntly, the legitimacy of race as a determinant of government policy is the difference between the parties.


Anthony Gregory - 3/6/2006

I don't understand what's so racist about preferring Thurmond. He didn't have the blood of hundreds of thousands of innocent Japanese on his hands. Of course I oppose government segregation, but why is the man who conducted racist mass murder the lesser evil?


Jonathan J. Bean - 3/6/2006

See my comments above about the differing nature of the speech and book.

I teach a course on American conservative thought and am sensitive to these issues. Here is my starting point:

Conservatism" will be used in "big tent" fashion to include those advocating individual liberty (including freedom of contract), limited government, strict interpretation of the Constitution, anti-Communism; as well as those former liberals who saw "progressive" racial policies as inimical to racial equality and freedom. In short, the "conservative voices" will include classical liberals (libertarians), paleoconservatives ("Old Right"), libertarian-conservative fusionists ("New Right"), neoconservatives, and minorities who turned rightward because their dissent from Political Correctness rendered them persona non grata.


Jonathan J. Bean - 3/6/2006

Here's where I explain the nature of the book and the speech:

The speech was to a Republican audience, but the book is about conservatives (I define that in "big tent" fashion) including nonRepublican classical liberals (and forerunners like Tappan, who did come to appreciate Lincoln in his final days).


Jonathan J. Bean - 3/6/2006

"However, to equate those people--both Democrat and Republican, white and black--who embraced it in the 1960s and 70s with pre-1960 southern Democrats is simply wrong."

Obviously, I don't. I still argue it is a marked deviation (you seem to agree) and this is one reason why it was hidden for ten years or more. (See Graham, Bean, Skrentny, and others).

Part of the problem is that I am awaiting a contract and don't want to let everything out. The other thing to remember is the nature of this speech: It was a partisan audience on Lincoln Day. If I gave it to a scholarly group, I would flesh all of this out, as we are doing here. At any rate, it seems to have generated some discussion here, which is good.

Anyone interested in the fuller contents of the book-in-progress, with context, nuance, etc. may request one from me. I need to check back with the current prospective publisher so this is a helpful way to nudge them. LOL


Oscar Chamberlain - 3/6/2006

Mencken supported Coolidge; I have no idea about Nock.


Ed Schmitt - 3/6/2006

It seems to me that the important issue to consider in reflecting upon this essay is the evolving and historically contextualized meaning of what not only the two major parties have stood for in American history, but also what liberalism and conservatism have meant and how amorphous those categories can be. One of the frustrating aspects of political debate today is the sense that American conservatism and liberalism can are fixed categories that we can read back through the past. And if this is problematic, it is all the moreso problematic to try to affix these principles to the shifting sands of the major parties. So just because Lincoln was a Republican, it is not clear to me that he was a conservative, as Prof. Bean's title implies. I would be very interested in seeing which criteria he applies to place him within that category. By the Republican=conservative and Democrat=liberal formulae, I wonder if Prof. Bean considers southern Democrats aside from Lyndon Johnson liberals. I fear this type of framework is reading our present political sensibilities backward into the past.


Jeff Riggenbach - 3/6/2006

What do Mencken and Nock have to do with the Republican Party?


Oscar Chamberlain - 3/6/2006

Your point about acknowledging sincere efforts that fail is a good one (though I'm not sure that I would have used the Mensheviks as an example).

I find your comments on affirmative action more problematic, because I think that you do not look at the context carefully.

I find that the context is clearer if one substitutes for "segregation" the term "ghettoization." Between the 13th amendment and the 1960s, minorities, particularly African Americans--had been ghettoized. In the South this was de jure; in the North de facto. In both, ghettoization limited freedom and extended in time the damage done by slavery by inhibiting any healing process.

By the mid 1960s, de jure discrimination was newly dead, but de facto discrimination was still alive both in the physical patterns left by ghettoization and in the mental constructs--conscious and unconscious--of Americans.

The question then became how rapidly we as a nation wanted to try and break down the remaining barriers and patterns shaped by a 100 years of ghettoization that followed several hundred years of slavery.

That, of course, is where affirmative action comes in. Legitimate arguments can be made in its favor and against it, too. However, to equate those people--both Democrat and Republican, white and black--who embraced it in the 1960s and 70s with pre-1960 southern Democrats is simply wrong.

The Southern Democrats wanted to continue ghettoization; the supporters of affirmative action--with some rare exceptions on their far left--hoped it would continue to break down ghettoization.


Harold Robert Hunter Jr - 3/6/2006

Post removed at request of the poster.


Jonathan J. Bean - 3/6/2006

Every section of sources will have full context concerning the "good and the bad." The book is primarily aimed at reclaiming the voices of those who spoke against the bad but I will give a full, complete and balanced picture of the total political scene.

This is a primary source reader, and I would LOVE recommendations.


Jonathan J. Bean - 3/6/2006

David Duke? Please.

The Republican Party, if anything, has said one thing (classical liberal rhetoric about colorblind government) and done another in recent years -- i.e., openly or covertly supporting racial preferences.

I had Ward Connerly here last month. How much support did he get in California, Florida and elsewhere from the GOP? They ran for the hills or opposed his initiative, based on the language of the Civil Rights Act.

Nixon, Reagan, Bush all expanded racial preferences. In this latest period, I will talk about the divisions within the party, between civil rights activists and the political opportunists in power who "just don't get it." They think a "me-too" policy of affirmative action will somehow woo minority voters.

In short, the dominant GOP policy IN PRACTICE, is pro-racial preference rather than Dixiecrat. Now, textbooks keep prattling about this but it just ain't so.

Please remind me, also, of how the GOP responded to Duke when he ran in LA? They excommunicated him.


Jonathan J. Bean - 3/6/2006

Well, racial preferences have become THE civil rights debate of the post-1964 era. They clearly deviate from the longstanding civil rights tradition. That is why they were covert and subversive in the mid-late 1960s, first under a liberal democratic administration, then under Nixon.

And, yes, I would like more on other minorities. Help is appreciated.

As for the nothing happened between 1891 onward, look at the anti-lynching efforts and the work of Joseph Martin, Dyer, Storey, and others.

Now, in the end, there was no anti-lynching law. But you don't blame the Mensheviks (minority party) for the horrors of the Bolsheviks? Leftists are fond of studying those who "fought the good fight" in their generation, even if they lost then. Why can't we do the same for the "forgotten voices" of classical liberalism and business conservatism?


Michael Glen Wade - 3/6/2006

Bean's comments offer a useful,if not especially new, reminder of the stance of some Republicans on behalf of civil rights while properly indicating the servitude of the national Democratic Party to southern segregationists. However, there doesn't seem to be much on the Republican wooing of disaffected Southern segregationists from the late 1960s on, a process whose negotiations actually began in the late 1940s with the Dixiecrats. So, this would appear to be mostly about the the 100 years from 1865 to 1965, with the relatively shameful process which produced the Republican David Duke understated, to say the least.


Jonathan J. Bean - 3/6/2006

New quantitative studies show it is class, not race, that best explains the shift in the South.

As for Nixon's so-called "southern strategy," it was the brainchild of one aide, Harry Dent, and historian Dean Kotlowski (_Nixon's Civil Rights_, Harvard UP, 2004) does an excellent job of showing how there was NO southern strategy by Nixon but old myths die hard.

If anything, Nixon was the founding father of affirmative action "as we know it" -- so he's on the side of the "angels" as statist liberals would have it.

My point is this: Both parties have been wrong on race in many ways in the past forty years, but those who have held to the classical liberal vision of civil rights extending back to the mid-1800s are libertarians or conservatives, and find any of them in the Democratic Party.


Jonathan J. Bean - 3/6/2006

These are only a few select items.

Read civil rights histories today:

Who hears of Morefield Storey? Rep. Dyer (R-MO), the great anti-lynching champion in Congress? H.L. Mencken and Albert Jay Nock denouncing lynching (Mencken, in unusual fashion, actually testified before Congress on the issue). President Harding's race address in BIRMINGHAM? Or Coolidge's public papers (printed at the time) furiously denouncing the proposition of a letter writer that "this is a white man's government?" Or Joseph Martin, the GOP leader in the 1930s, and his aggressive civil rights outreach? I could go on and on but you get my point. I was allowed 15 minutes for this speech and you have to consider the audience. The full proposal has many "I didn't know that" moments for students of history.

The standard histories go like this:

Civil War -- Reconstruction = two cheers.

Long do-nothing politics from 1877-1955.

There is also a section on business and race that readers here might find interesting.

On American Indians and other nonblack groups, I would LOVE citations. Send them to jonbean@siu.edu

Thanks!


James W Loewen - 3/6/2006

I hope Bean in his book shows the continuing interest of the "stalwart" Republicans in civil rights for all (blacks, Chinese, sometimes Native Americans) until 1891. But then he needs to show the two key times Republicans fell away from the cause: 1891, after the failure of the Federal Elections Act, when they abandoned civil rights, and 1964-68 (and continuing). To suggest that Democrats returned to their old ways, with the absurd phrase,
"Almost immediately, however, the Democratic Party returned to its tradition of racial discrimination by instituting racial preferences...," is rhetorically cute but such bad history that Bean should be ashamed to let it see the light of day.


Paul Rogat Loeb - 3/6/2006

Yes the party of Lincoln fought for abolition. But the Republican party of today is the direct heirs of the Dixiecrats...It was Nixon's southern strategy that made the South a Republican bastion after Johnson took the political risk of putting all his political capital on the line for the civil rights and voting rights acts. He did get support from moderate northern Republicans but in all those battles, the predecessors of the current Republicans were aboslutely on the wrong side


Steve Broce - 3/6/2006

And of course no liberal academic piece about “Republican racism” is ever complete without inclusion of the canard that it was racism that explains the State, local and Federal response to Katrina.

Tell me, Mike, does racism explain New Orleans’s African-American mayor, Ray Nagan’s pathetic response to Katrina?

How ‘bout Louisiana’s Democrat governor, Kathleen Blanco, botched efforts?

As for Trent Lott, I always marvel at the selective outrage ( not to mention, outright hypocrisy) that liberal academics manage to muster against his misguided comments, while all the while studiously ignoring Democrat Senator Robert Byrd’s use of the “N-word” TWICE on national television on March 4, 2001.

Of course, hypocrisy is the coin of the realm in Washington, where liberals can cozy up to Byrd, a former KKK member, while they simultaneously denounce Lott.

What was that about strange “bed fellows”?


Jonathan Dresner - 3/6/2006

Indeed: this stuff is pretty old hat, actually; I'm wondering where the "new" is in this article.


Brian Martin - 3/6/2006

because the Sand Creek Massacre, the Long Walk, the Camp Grant Massacre and the Wounded Knee Massacre all occured during Republican administrations. The subjugation of the Lakota and Apache tribes also occured mainly during periods of Republican rule.

Not that the Democrats would have been any better in that regard, but we must take the bad along with the good.


Michael Green - 3/6/2006

I spent many years researching and writing a dissertation on the Republican party during the Civil War, and turned it into a book. In doing so, I continually marveled at the depth of commitment that Republicans revealed to the idea that slavery was wrong. I didn't find one of them who would think that George W. Bush did right by the African Americans of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, or agree with Trent Lott that the country would have been better off with Strom Thurmond as president. I found a significant number of Civil War-era Democrats who would feel that way. The last time I looked, none of them serves in Congress today. History is very useful for understanding what has happened, happens, and may happen, but not to turn a political party back into something it once was when those in it demonstrate no commitment to being that way again.

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