by Paul Bradford
The House of Representatives voted last week to remove all Confederate-related statues from public view. Only 120 lawmakers—all Republicans—voted against the measure. One defender of the move was House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). He said it was a good idea because all the banished figures were Democrats.
“What’s interesting is the statues that need to be removed were sent to the Capitol by states that were majority-controlled by Democrats sent to a House that had a majority controlled by Democrats accepting of these statues. I think the bill should go further. Maybe it’s time the Democrats changed the name of their party,” McCarthy said on the House floor.
“[Democrats] may be desperate to pretend their party has progressed from their days of supporting slavery, pushing Jim Crow laws and supporting the KKK. But let’s be honest . . . if those fundamentals rest somewhere, we cannot let them,” he added.
The intended audience for McCarthy’s message remains a mystery. Every Democrat voted for the statue removal. Not a single Democrat bothered to respond to McCarthy’s speech, nor did any seem shaken by his suggestions about the party’s historic racism. The speech elicited mockery online and that’s about it.
McCarthy is certainly not the first to argue that “Democrats are the real racists!” It’s a common trope among Republicans and conservative commentators. It’s often deployed to rebut spurious charges of racism from Democrats about Republicans. But increasingly, it’s little more than a rhetorical device used by Republicans to persuade other Republicans and conservatives to accept left-wing goals.
Democrats didn’t care about McCarthy’s speech because ultimately he voted for what they wanted: erasure of American history. They don’t care what arguments he uses to persuade others to go along with the actions they want, nor do they care about the historical Democratic Party. Unlike Republicans, they realize most Americans aren’t concerned with the Democrats of the 19th century—they’re concerned about what they do now.
And Democrats, unlike Republicans, tend to get what they want.
This trope would be merely dumb if used for benign purposes. But it is downright pathetic when used to justify capitulation to the Left.
We were treated to another example of this when Democrats made Juneteenth a federal holiday. The day, ostensibly meant to celebrate the end of slavery, was pushed because the Left could easily turn it into a way to promote critical race theory. Here’s how U.S. Representative Cori Bush (D-Mo.) sees the holiday:
It’s Juneteenth AND reparations.
It’s Juneteenth AND end police violence + the War on Drugs.
It’s Juneteenth AND end housing + education apartheid.
It’s Juneteenth AND teach the truth about white supremacy in our country.
Black liberation in its totality must be prioritized.
— Cori Bush (@CoriBush) June 17, 2021
Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.), one of the few Republicans to vote against the holiday, understood the true purpose of the push for the new holiday. He wrote in an op-ed:
Juneteenth will become the high holy day of the Left’s calendar, a Lenten repentance to Pride Month’s Easter celebration. It will serve as a day to recollect all of the gravest of America’s sins. There will be educational programs about the brutality of slavery, with no mention of the national agony of the Civil War or how the nation has struggled mightily to live up to its founding creed. There will be specials on the Tulsa race riot, the Birmingham church bombings. There will be retrospectives on the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Michael Brown, and Trayvon Martin.
Unfortunately, this opinion was not shared by most conservative commentators. They preferred to claim the day was a remembrance of Democratic racism. Breitbart senior editor Joel Pollak declared Juneteenth “a Republican victory over Democrat racists.” The Gateway Pundit claimed Democrats only voted for the holiday to hide their racist past. Even though conservatives were insistent the holiday was a chance to celebrate Republican triumphs, corporate America had none of that and used it instead as an occasion to celebrate black power. Twitter made the Juneteenth hashtag carry a rainbow-colored black power fist to signify the holiday’s meaning.
Republicans particularly use the “Democrats are racist” line to celebrate the cancellation of important American historical figures. Conservatives were giddy when Princeton University removed Woodrow Wilson’s name from its prestigious public and international affairs school. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) tweeted that he agreed with his alma mater’s decision but he wondered why the university didn’t mention that Wilson was a Democrat. Probably because it didn’t matter to Princeton and not a single Democrat in America felt owned by this fact. Cruz, on the other hand, cheered on an American institution bowing down to the Left’s war on history because it happened to target a Democrat.
Fully agree that Wilson was an unmitigated racist.
But how did you write an entire statement without mentioning which party Wilson led (as a so-called leftist “progressive”)?
Spoiler alert: he was a Democrat. https://t.co/lhKSv5YoKM
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) June 27, 2020
One of the worst examples of this behavior is the celebration of Harriet Tubman replacing Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill. In 2016, several conservatives said this was a great idea because it favored a black Republican over a racist Democrat. This feeling subsided with the election of Donald Trump and his notable affection for Jackson, but it quickly returned when the Biden Administration announced it would speed up the replacement. According to conservatives, it is fine to cancel one of the greatest and most consequential presidents in American history because he’s a Democrat.
The alleged purpose of this trope is to “own the libs,” but it does nothing of the sort. No liberal has ever been owned by this argument. Conservatives only bamboozle themselves into agreement with the Left and they gleefully cope with it by quote tweeting: “These were racist DEMOCRATS.” Liberals condescendingly chuckle at this rejoinder. They know it doesn’t challenge their grip over the culture. It simply makes the liberal worldview palatable to misguided conservatives.
Conservatives need to retire “Democrats are the real racists” ASAP. It doesn’t persuade anyone and it merely masks surrender for red-state America. Moreover, it demonizes millions of Americans who helped build this country because they happened to vote for a party that is completely different from the one that shares its name today. Democrats are not the devils of American history, and many great Americans were Democrats. No Republican would condemn the great astronaut John Glenn merely because he was a Democrat. So why should they deploy such braindead arguments about Andrew Jackson or James K. Polk?
Republicans need a smarter response to liberal attacks on our history than reminders that some of their targets were Democrats. Our representatives should defend our heritage, regardless of party affiliation. Every person with common sense can see McCarthy’s argument is nothing more than a self-own.
– – –
Paul Bradford is a Capitol Hill refugee now earning an honest living.