It’s become pretty much a daily occurrence – one big government statist or another dredging up slavery and racism as THE reason to oppose decentralization, state sovereignty, and when you get right down to it, the federal system created by the Constitution.
Over the weekend, Jessie Jackson Jr. slapped down the race card.
“After all, it was the Tenth Amendment and states’ rights that protected the institution of slavery. The words ‘slave’ or ‘slavery’ did not appear in the Constitution. The institution of slavery, the Tenth Amendment and states’ rights are joined at the hip,” Jackson wrote.
I could easily debunk this asinine statement, pointing out the obvious – that the lack of the literal word “slavery” in the Constitution doesn’t prove that the federal government didn’t legally support the institution. It did. And Jessie Jackson Jr. surely knows this, as do most junior high history students. Then I could spend a considerable amount of time delving into the history of nullification and state assertion of sovereignty, showing how it was used by northern abolitionists to battle the federal Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.
I could tell the story of Joshua Glover, a runaway slave who was freed from prison and ushered along the Underground Railroad to freedom in Canada, and how the state of Wisconsin stood its ground, claiming “state’s rights” to aid those who helped Glover to freedom. I could examine the long list of evils states asserted sovereignty to battle, including child military conscription, free speech violations, unconstitutional tariffs and random deportation of foreign nationals at the president’s discretion.
But why bother? I’ve done this countless times, written volumes and made speeches. People like Jackson simply don’t listen. Their ears remain filled with the Siren Song of racism.
So I am going to simply accept Jackson’s premise. The Tenth Amendment, state sovereignty and nullification will always remain “attached at the hip” to slavery. I, as a proponent of limiting federal power to its constitutionally prescribed limits, must be a racist.
But if I am to truly embrace Jackson’s reasoning, I must conclude that he’s a racist too.
You see, the Democratic Party and slavery are joined at the hip.
It was, after all, the Democratic Party that supported the institution of slavery leading up to the Civil War. And it was the Democratic Party that embraced the KKK during reconstruction. In fact, the Ku Klux Clan was an informal arm of the Democratic Party in the late 1860s and 1870s. Klansmen not only targeted blacks, they also went after Republican politicians and engaged in voter intimidation. This helped the Democratic Party reestablish itself in the south during the post-war years.
In his book A Short History of Reconstruction, (Harper & Row Publishers, Inc., 1990), renowned historian Dr. Eric Foner wrote:
“Founded in 1866 as a Tennessee social club, the Ku Klux Klan spread into nearly every Southern state, launching a reign of terror against Republican leaders black and white.”
He went on to explain this “reign of terror.”
“In effect, the Klan was a military force serving the interests of the Democratic Party, the planter class, and all those who desired the restoration of white supremacy. It aimed to destroy the Republican Party’s infrastructure, undermine the Reconstruction state, reestablish control of the black labor force, and restore racial subordination in every aspect of Southern life.”
The Democratic Party’s racist ties didn’t end with Reconstruction. It was Democrats who by-and-large opposed the Civil Rights movement in the 1950’s and 1960s. Famed segregationist Alabama Governor George Wallace was, after all, a Democrat. Ninety-six Democratic Congressmen voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Heck, West Virginia favorite son Democrat Robert Byrd was a former Klansman.
Clearly, the Democratic Party sinks its roots deep into the soil of slavery and racism. Dragging with it such a hideous legacy, any reasonable person would have to conclude that Democrats have nothing of value to offer modern America. And obviously, any American taking on the Democratic Party mantel is really engaging in dog-whistle politics.
So, Rep Jessie Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.), welcome to the club.
Michael Maharrey [send him email] is the Communications Director for the Tenth Amendment Center. He proudly resides in the original home of the Principles of ’98 – Kentucky. See his blog archive here and his article archive here. He also maintains the blog, Tenther Gleanings.
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