Civil Rights

Political principles, slavery and abortion

When Abraham Lincoln, born 201 years ago today, delivered his immortal Gettysburg Address, he called for a "new birth of freedom." He had issued the Emancipation Proclamation more than a year before, which gave a wartime justification that he knew would ultimately be a peacetime bounty: the end of slavery in America. This "new birth" entailed shedding the remnants of old world conditions in the new by removing the massive contradiction between a free, republican constitution and the bondage of millions of human beings. No one understood more than Lincoln how revolutionary was this massive change in American life, but it took a man of his conservative thought and disposition to foresee its possibility long before and patiently await its consummation in the right circumstances. In his Lyceum speech given a quarter century before the enforcement of the Proclamation, Lincoln warned of a man of towering genius whose fame would eclipse the founders’ by either emancipating slaves, or enslaving freemen. Men of the highest political ambition are not satisfied with serving in a regime of someone else’s making. But this was also an implicit warning that the nation’s unresolved dilemma could not forever be ignored.

Some of Lincoln’s critics, whether among the die-hard confederate sympathizers or liberal debunkers, saw in this early speech signs of a Caesarist temper. But Lincoln proved by his years in Whig politics that he was not an abolitionist and not thirsting for unmerited glory. Indeed, by constantly harking back to the founding fathers and their political principles, particularly in the crisis spawned by the Democratic party’s continual efforts to expand the territory of slavery, he reminded the nation that those principles are a rebuke to domestic slavery that are not to be forever ignored.

As to why the founders did not themselves abolish slavery, it had long been understood that its massive presence in half of the original states had rendered that eminently desirable object impossible. But Lincoln turned attention back to the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which prohibited slavery in the future states of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin; not to mention the Missouri Compromise of 1819, which prohibited slavery in most of the Louisiana Territory–at least until the Kansas-Nebraska Act opened it up to that evil in 1854.

It is also a fact that northern states all prohibited slavery by the time of the Constitution’s completion in 1787. Lincoln’s explanation was as simple as it was profound: the "central idea" of the Declaration of Independence was "the standard maxim for free society." While it did not result in the complete prohibition or elimination of slavery, it was "constantly labored for," however imperfectly, as "circumstances would well admit." Those principles of equality and liberty are eternally right, but require the consent of the governed for their full implementation.

The right circumstances came in the midst of the Civil War, a conflict in which Lincoln, in his second inaugural address, identified slavery as its cause. Not only the survival of the Union but the future of liberty was at stake in that war, which dragged on far longer than anyone had foreseen or desired, and had forced a choice on the commander-in-chief. Defeating the rebels required that they be deprived of a powerful asset, namely, the continued labor of their slaves while the masters and their sons fought the war’s battles. Sustaining support for the war in the North required that the sacrifices of thousands of its men not result in maintaining an institution that shamed the nation in the eyes of the world. Thus did the "ancient faith" of the American people impose their authority decades after its utterance in their founding documents.

As Union soldiers overran rebel strongholds and ultimately forced their surrender, slavery was doomed. The ratification of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution which prohibited domestic slavery or involuntary servitude was at war’s end a foregone conclusion, thereby fulfilling Lincoln’s lifelong but long-delayed hope. But the imperatives of equality and liberty did not cease with the end of fighting. There were civil rights and voting rights to be guaranteed, in order that the gift of freedom for millions of Americans not be devoid of promise. But in fact that promise was long delayed, until agitation for equal protection of the laws a century later culminated in the passage of comprehensive civil rights laws.

Given the oppression that slavery and racial segregation uniquely imposed on persons of African descent, it is not surprising that lovers of liberty should continue, for good or for ill, to dedicate themselves to improving the lot of the race so afflicted. Yet it is well to remember that America’s crisis developed precisely because a growing number of its leaders–primarily but not entirely in the South–came to believe that freedom was for white people only. The "domestic" character of slavery, as well as its confinement south of the Mason-Dixon line, tended to place it out of sight and out of mind, enabling Americans outside the South to ignore it. Such, dear readers of this piece, is the plight of unborn children, who are not only primarily a "domestic" matter but completely invisible in their mother’s wombs–however visible their impact on their mother’s bodies.

That the issues of the Civil War should be revisited in our time will surprise–or disturb–only those who believe that they concerned only the place of blacks in American society. But the principles are universal and only incidentally concern race, which is, after all, only an accidental and not an essential attribute of our human nature. It can hardly be doubted that everyone generated by the union of a male and female human being is a human being from the moment of conception. And while the founders (or Lincoln) could not be said to have had the unborn specifically in mind when they dedicated their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to winning independence from a despotic regime, their principles are no respecter of persons. No member or class of the human race can claim a monopoly on liberty and equal rights.

The language of the Declaration of Independence is clear: "All men are created equal." Children are not created at the moment of their birth, but rather nine months prior. However unequipped to exercise or understand their rights (and what child is before his or her majority?) , unborn children are at the very least entitled to equal treatment and freedom from oppression or death at the hands of those nurturing them. With ultrasound technology, we no longer have the excuse of not knowing that children are developing before birth and we see bodily features and movements which settle the question of their humanity.

From the moment the United States Supreme Court issued its infamous decisions in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton in 1973, the nation has not been wanting in conscientious citizens who argued for the humanity of unborn children, and thus their entitlement to the law’s protection; and in due course the parallel they saw with the plight of blacks held in slavery. More to the point, an earlier Court, in an equally infamous decision in 1857, Dred Scott v. Sanford, declared that black men had no rights which white men were bound to respect. It galls today’s cast of sensible and not-so-sensible civil rights leaders for anyone to make the comparison between Negroes and unborn children, partly because they fear that it distracts attention from a more compelling issue and partly because they have adopted the feminists’ claim that women’s rights entail the right to an abortion at any time during the entire nine months of pregnancy.

But the founders’ principles and Lincoln’s recurrence to them continue to work out their consequences in the hearts and minds of Americans. Just as the premises "All men are created equal" and "all blacks are men," lead to the conclusion that "all blacks are created equal," so too do the premises, "All men are created equal," and "all unborn children are men," lead to the conclusion that "all unborn children are created equal." We must not be tempted, as the nation was tempted in the mid-nineteenth century, to abandon the faith of our founding fathers. And perhaps we will be spared from paying the heavy price it paid for that apostasy.

Ft. Hood shows danger of political correctness

There is a pernicious disease in America that even the massive health care bill can't cure: Political correctness. We have become deaf, dumb and blind to obvious threats in our midst because we are too worried about offending some minority group. There is no question in my mind that when all the evidence is in, it will turn out that authorities knew about Malik Hasan and his radical views for months and did little to nothing about it.

Why? Because Hasan is a Muslim, and in the past eight years since 9/11, the Council for American Islamic Relations (CAIR), the ACLU and other liberal interest groups have bludgeoned the government into submission. The Democrats in Congress -- including Jack Murtha and others -- tried and convicted Marines for violence against innocent Muslims in Iraq in the press, and failed to apologize when charges were dismissed. The din to close Guantanamo was buttressed by dozens of lawsuits seeking redress for the U.S. government's abuse of detainees -- even as the abuse charges were found to be false and misleading. Civil society in the U.S. has been under attack -- not by terrorists but by their liberal defenders who see a government bogeyman behind every tree.

There is no question in my mind that the Fort Hood shooting is a terrorist attack and is a direct result of the U.S. Army and FBI using kid gloves to deal with a very real threat. To avoid an ugly confrontation, the FBI apparently didn't act quickly enough on information that Hasan had posted writings on an Islamic website that were supportive of suicide bombings against Americans, and may have had links to the Mosque that provided support to three of the 9/11 hijackers. But the FBI has been cowed into submission on this kind of thing, and in the absence of a "smoking gun" they are loathe to act.

Well, they have a smoking gun now, and 13 dead soldiers and civilians to show for it. So now they are all over it.

Too little, too late.

And how is the mainstream media covering this? With typical political correctness -- even going so far as to claiming that Hasan is the victim of Post Traumatic Sress Disorder (PTSD). The only problem with this analysis, of course, is that PTSD is for those who have actually served overseas and in combat. Hasan has never been deployed. Maybe he caught it second hand from someone else, but to think that his actions are linked to PTSD is a joke. But anything to avoid looking at the very real possibility that Hasan is a (gasp) Muslim and might in fact be a radical (gulp) Islamic terrorist. No, it just can't be that. Islam is a religion of peace, after all!

Bill O'Reilly did a great job on the media bias this past week -- and the absurdity of the PTSD defense that is now making the rounds of the MSM.   Check out the piece on You Tube:

O'Reilly on the media coverage of Fort Hood shooting

The Fort Hood attack shows that while we have been focused abroad on the terrorist threat, the enemy has been organizing against us here at home.  And the enemy isn't just the terrorists like Hasan.  It is the left-wing orthodoxy that forces a "hear no evil, speak no evil" political correctness upon us.

Racism is alive and well--among Dems

As the growing extent and intensity of public opposition to the Obama Administration’s policies threaten to shut down its agenda, defenders of the Administration have resorted to systematic name calling. The most favored epithet is "racist." No less a personage than former President James Earl Carter last week alleged that most of the opposition to the Obama agenda is due to the President’s partly African origins. It is amazing that those same voters who cast their ballots for the President last year but are opposed to his agenda now suddenly have become transformed from public-spirited citizens into bigots.

Democrats have been calling Republicans racists for years, and it is as false as ever. It was the Republican party, after all, which brought about an end to slavery against powerful Democrat opposition. And it was the southern Democrats who maintained apartheid for a century after emancipation and who opposed civil rights legislation until President John Kennedy reluctantly supported Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s efforts to end segregation.

In fact, a greater percentage of Republicans than Democrats supported the omnibus Civil Rights Act of 1964, as such southern "liberals" as William Fulbright and Albert Gore, Sr., and former Ku Klux Klan member Robert Byrd, voted "no.".

Kennedy owed his election in the close 1960 contest to the heavy support of black voters in our largest cities, largely because he won the support of King over Republican Richard Nixon. This came at an opportune time, for growing numbers of suburban dwellers were supporting the Republican party.

In spite of the long history of Democrat racism, party leaders seized upon the opposition to the civil rights bill of the 1964 Republican presidential nominee, Sen. Barry Goldwater. Goldwater had a history of opposition to segregation in his home state of Arizona, having desegregated the National Guard. But he believed that the Constitution prohibited the federal government from regulating matters of state jurisdiction.

That vote won Goldwater only five southern states plus Arizona, as he lost to Lyndon Johnson in a landslide. But his opposition to the civil rights bill was enough to earn the racist tag for his party. When Richard Nixon picked a border state governor as his running mate in 1968, enabling him to win several southern states in a very close election, the racist tag stuck.

It is too bad that, in retrospect, Goldwater’s worst fears were vindicated, as the Great Society corrupted the principle of equality from opportunity to entitlement, with affirmative action, goals and timetables and even racial quotas–racial discrimination in reverse.

The same Lyndon Johnson who, as Senate majority leader in the 1950s watered down Republican-sponsored civil rights legislation, became a "born again" civil rights advocate when the electoral needs of his party dictated the shift. But the shocking–and revealing–fact is that there was no change in principle. Whereas Democrat racism once took the form of favoritism for whites, it easily slid over to favoritism for members of racial minorities.

As former President George W. Bush put it one of his 2000 campaign speeches, the Democrats now preach "the soft bigotry of low expectations." Instead of keeping blacks down by denying them the opportunity to advance of their own merits, Democrats now favor hiring or promoting employees, or admitting students, on the basis of their race or ethnicity.

In what black journalist and author Star Parker identifies as the "government plantation," having what used to be called in the slave and segregated South "one drop of Negro blood" makes all the difference. What previously closed doors for millions now opens them.

But it is a trap. Unearned advantages antagonize those losing out, even as the fact of favoritism is not lost on the supposed beneficiaries. "Soft bigotry" benefits only those who, like the slave masters and racists of old, determine who wins and who loses. The modern bureaucratic state, once thought to be based on merit, now teaches us every day that race trumps character.

When Democrats call their critics "racists," they are engaging in what psychologists identify as "projection." Painfully aware of their racist history, Democrats convince themselves that in their current pose as the friend of racial minorities they alone can be trusted with political power. They imagine that Republicans, who do not pose as friends but actually support equal rights, must be racists too unenlightened to appreciate Democrats’ allegedly good intentions.

Democrats believe that if they call Republicans racists long enough the people will forget about slavery and segregation. But the existence of the race-based government plantation gives the whole show away. Race is the Democrat calling card.

Blue Dogs perpetuate Democrat racism

History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce. - Karl Marx While not in the habit of quoting the father of "scientific socialism," I know a good Marxian quotation when I see one–and boy does it ever apply to the current follies in Washington, D.C. Governing parties in America are always unstable coalitions which, in the Democrats’ case is not surprising, given the racist legacy which is at the core of their being.

There is much talk these days about the Blue Dogs in the Democratic party who have slowed the Obama Administration’s rush toward socialized health care. Although the Democrats have solid majorities in both houses of Congress, and therefore theoretically have the votes to pass any bills they wish, approximately 50 Democrat members of the House of Representative are haggling over the cost, the funding and the coverage of so-called Obama Care.

This has not stopped Democrat spokesmen from denouncing Republicans for all the "lies" they’ve been telling about the estimated trillion dollar program that Obama claims will save the taxpayers money. But if we take a longer historical perspective than the first few months of his administration, we will recall that when the Democrats ruled Congress between New Deal and Great Society days, northern and western liberals shared power with white southern racists.

The only difference is, now the racists are primarily outside the South, and come in both black and white. For years the dream of full equality for former slaves and their descendants was stalled by Democrat apartheid south of the Mason-Dixon line, even with the ascendancy of liberal Democrat politics. As long as northern Democrats did not challenge racism and southern Democrats did not oppose Big Government, the party kept its majority.

Civil rights legislation proposed by the Eisenhower Administration was watered down by a Congress dominated by two Texans, Senate majority leader Lyndon Johnson and Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn. When Johnson became president he saw the advantages to his party from the 90 percent black vote in metropolitan areas outside the South. His embrace of Civil Rights legislation came at the corrupt price of converting the idea of equality of opportunity to, as Johnson put it, "equality as a fact and equality as a result."

As black columnist Star Parker has so often written, liberal Democrats have switched to black racism and bringing blacks onto what she astutely calls "the government plantation" of perpetual dependency and missing out on full citizenship.

Back in 2006, Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer devised a clever scheme in which they ran moderate Democrats in traditionally Republican districts. Their object was to gain a House majority, enabling her to become Speaker and Hoyer to become majority leader. All the candidates had to do was to speak and act like Republicans (pro-life, fiscally conservative, etc.) so that Republicans unhappy with their party would feel comfortable voting for a Democrat.

The strategy worked. But when Barack Obama became president and sent costly and intrusive stimulus, cap and trade, and government health care bills up, the relatively less liberal newcomers began to show signs of independence. Currently, they have prevented passage of any sort of health care bill by the time of the August recess, as planned.

Of course, this independence is tenuous. The House leadership controls the committee assignments and is not above abandoning the Blue Dogs when they run in their party’s primaries next year. Thus, it is premature to declare that these worthies will do anything more than delay bad legislation, shave off a few billion dollars here and there, or kill controversial provisions.

Nevertheless, the irony is rich. Whereas in the mid twentieth century white and black liberals needed white racists to keep control of Congress, how black and white racists need Democrats that look like Republicans to maintain and expand their Big Government plantation that keeps minorities down with what former President Bush called "the soft bigotry of low expectations."

Of course, President Obama does not consider himself a racist, for he means to make members of all races dependent on federal largesse and regulation so that no one gets too far ahead of anyone else.

As long as we "spread the wealth around," as he revealingly said to Joe the Plumber last fall, everyone gets to be on the plantation. There may be some overseers around to keep uppity folks under control, but no one said that commandeering the lives, liberties and properties of 300 million people was going to be easy.

Race & the Constitution: Remedial 101

While the mortgage mess gets sorted out, let's circle back to an important moment the other day when Whoopi Goldberg the celebrity and John McCain the presidential candidate both displayed abysmal ignorance of how durably the U.S. Constitution has fulfilled its declared purpose "to establish justice" for over 220 years now. Appearing on ABC's "The View," McCain said he'd appoint judges "who interpret the Constitution of the United States the way our Founding Fathers envisioned," to which panelist Goldberg flippantly retorted: “Should I be worried about being a slave, about being returned to slavery? Because certain things happened in the Constitution that you had to change.”

McCain then conceded, heaven help him: “I understand that point. That’s an excellent point.” The video is here; notice from the applause that many in the audience seemed to think it an excellent point as well.

Ross Kaminsky took Mac to the woodshed, but good, for his constitutional and historical illiteracy on a couple of days later. Excellent post. What Ross didn't do, and what I haven't read anywhere, is suggest an actual answer, suitable for the moment on live TV, that the GOP candidate should have given. As a onetime speechwriter, let me give it a try.

Thanks for asking that. I know it's a question in many people's minds, as a result of confusion spread by historians, educators, and politicians who don't know better. But here are the facts.

It is only because of the Constitution and judges who were faithful to it that black Americans are free and equal citizens today

The Constitution enabled the northern states to battle the southern states, first politically and then militarily, at the cost of half a million white people's lives, until slavery was ended and blacks were emancipated. After that victory, the Constitution was strengthened from a document that disapproved slavery into one that forever disallows slavery.

The Constitution is also what Dr. King, Justice Marshall, and Presidents Eisenhower and Johnson used to finally end segregation and guarantee civil rights for all.

Going forward, the Constitution and courts faithful to it are the best protection our country has for securing majority rule and minority rights in a free society. You and I should be grateful for that, and vigilant about it.

The last thing we want in America today is public officials who ignore the Constitution like the judges who denied black citizenship with the Dred Scott decision, the slave state governments who seceded and went to war, or the southern governors who resisted school desegregation.

That's what I want to prevent by appointing judges who will keep their oath to the Constitution without fail.

And by the way, Whoopi, those Dred Scott judges and secessionist states and Jim Crow governors were all Democrats, all of them. The Democratic Party has had a really shameful record on racial equality until very recently.

It was my party, the Republicans, who freed the slaves, led the way on school desegregation, and passed the first civil rights bill of modern times. Our country's historic ideal of liberty and justice for all, the envy of the world for over 200 years, is safest in Republican hands for this new century.

The above argument is less developed and documented than Ross's fine piece on Sept. 15, but it's plausible, I think, as something a real politician with his civic compass in working order could have said under those real circumstances in which McCain found himself on Sept. 12. Too bad he didn't; this now becomes one more reinforcement of the Big Lie that our country was founded on hypocrisy, amorality, and racism.

The best refutation for that lie that I know of is a pair of books in which massive, conclusive evidence is presented for the case which I've made here and which Ross made in his earlier post. Those books, both by colleagues of mine at the Claremont Institute, are Vindicating the Founders by Thomas G. West and Vindicating Lincoln by Thomas Krannawitter. Buy them, read them. Maybe buy extras to send Mr. McCain. They'd be wasted, I'm afraid, if sent to Ms. Goldberg.