The Grand Old (White) Party

By September 6, 2008 August 23rd, 2019 Commentaries/Opinions
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By Walter Fields —

What we just witnessed in St. Paul Minnesota is the beginning of the end for the Republican Party. No matter if John McCain is successful in November, it will be a pyrrhic victory. The scene inside the Excel Energy Center, site of the Republican National Convention, was shameful at best, disturbing at worst.

The fact that in 2008 a major political party in the United States; one that by name only is associated with Abraham Lincoln and Reconstruction, could see fit to hold a national convention where only three dozen of the gathered delegates were Black is a national disgrace. The sea of white faces around the arena hearkened back to a day when another political party – the Democratic Party – saw fit to seat Jim Crow before Black Democrats from southern states. In a strange and warped sort of way, the Democrats racism was rooted in two hundred years of government sanctioned white supremacy. The behavior of the modern Republican Party has no reasonable explanation. The party that just eight years ago pulled Blacks out of the woodwork to put them on stage in Philadelphia could not even muster the appearance of inclusion in one of the most significant political eras in our nation’s history.

It’s important to remember just how far the Republican Party has fallen off the racial inclusion path, and we don’t have to go all the way back to “honest Abe” to measure the gulf. It was as recent as the 1950’s when a Republican, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, named the first Black to ever serve in the Executive Office of the President – E. Frederick Morrow from my birthplace of Hackensack, New Jersey. In the 1960’s we witnessed the election of Edward Brooke of Massachusetts to the United States Senate, the first Black to serve in the upper house of Congress since Reconstruction. Then in the 1970’s President Richard Nixon appointed Benjamin Hooks to the Federal Communications Commission. Even Nixon’s attempt to circumvent the civil rights establishment by pushing “Black capitalism” had some residual benefit to our community. The elder President Bush brought General Colin Powell and Dr. Condoleeza Rice into his inner circle. And say what you may about George W. Bush, he did make General Powell the first Black Secretary of State and appointed Condoleeza Rice to succeed the general.

Now the John McCain Republicans have cast their party’s legacy to the waste heap and permanently damaged their prospects for the future by holding a convention that was one Confederate flag short of a White Citizens Council meeting. The blame for that debacle must be laid at the foot of the candidate himself, who forgot to include inclusion in his litany of reform that he touted from the podium. Somewhere along the way his “Straight Talk Express” went off course and landed in the backwoods of Jim Crow Mississippi. Apparently the “Real McCain” is code for the “Grand Old (White) Party.”

It is a frightening prospect that the Republican Party can put forth this image as a legitimate expression of democracy. Every aspect of the GOP Convention was dripping with contempt of not only Senator Obama but Black people in general. How else is one to interpret Governor Sarah Palin’s mocking of Senator Obama’s work as a community organizer? We know full well that for many white, conservative Republicans the word “community” evokes their own warped perceptions of Blacks as violent, uneducated, lazy and prone to so-called “radical” expressions of anti-American sentiment.

Then there is the blatantly racist proposition that somehow Senator Obama is an elitist because he had the good fortune of being educated at two institutions of higher learning that are internationally recognized for their quality of instruction and academic standards. To hear him literally called “Uppity” hearkens back to a time when a Black man could get lynched simply for having the audacity to look a white person in the eye. And to see Governor Palin cast that stone is sickening given the many episodes historically where Black boys or men were lynched over incidents where they supposedly showed disrespect toward a white woman; always bringing accusations from whites of the Jim Crow era toward Black males of being “uppity” or not knowing “one’s place.” Does Emmett Till ring a bell? Somehow, the charge of elitism does not apply to a Clarence Thomas or any Black person that takes positions counter to and against the interests of most Blacks in this nation.

John McCain did his fare share of fanning the flames. His railing against federal judges who he claims “legislates” from the bench leaves me to question if McCain believes the original Supreme Court ruling in Plessey v. Ferguson was legitimate. The senator seems to proscribe some divine power to federal judges while failing to acknowledge that for the better part of two hundred years the federal court system violated the very tenets of the Constitution it was supposed to uphold. The Republican nominee seems to long for the day when federal judges ruled from the Jim Crow playbook. Senator McCain’s acquiescence to some of his party’s most extreme voices in the choosing of Palin suggests we can totally abandon any hope that a McCain administration would address inequities driven by racial disparities.

If nothing else, the GOP’s staging of their convention sends a clear message to Blacks that the national Republican Party of the 21st century has drawn a color line in the sand, and Black has been removed from the palette.

Walter L. Fields Jr.

About Walter L. Fields Jr.