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ku-xlargeAs I ponder the tackiness that was Sarah Palin’s ET interview last night, I can’t help wonder something I’ve been thinking about for years, beginning on the 150th Anniversary of the creation of the Republican party.

Why doesn’t the Republican party appeal more to its institutional history?

Founded to stop the spread of slavery in the territories and ending the evil institution with the 13th Amendment in the nineteenth century, the Republican party waged a political war against the New Deal’s disordering of the American Constitution in the twentieth century and helped bring down the Wall on November 9, 1989. Was there a better president of the 20th century than Ronald Reagan? Why not appeal to such events, to such heritage, to such men?

And, if there’s going to be mudslinging, why not at least make it honest? I could see a very powerful video produced by the Republican party:

“We authored the Trail of Tears in the 1830s
We spilt immeasurable blood to keep the institution of slavery in the 1860s
We passed the Jim Crow laws in the 1890s
We re-segregated the military under Woodrow Wilson
We imprisoned Japanese-American men, women, and children in the 1940s
We nuked two Japanese cities in 1945
We introduced stagflation in the 1970s
We exploited female interns in the 1990s
We attempted to nationalize the health and auto industries in the 2000s
Who are we? We’re the Democratic Party of America. And, we’ve been promoting the degradation of the human person since 1827.”

It would certainly be more powerful than anything Bill Moyers produced against Barry Goldwater.

And, at least the video I propose would be historically accurate.

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4 replies to this post
  1. True, yet I have to say that every political ad, every yard sign, every slogan, makes me feel just about the same. The truth of our sound-bites is certainly important, but to me, carefully adjusting mass-ad truth claims feels like taking a hairbrush to a yak. Will anyone realize that the truth is being told, when we're all immersed in a culture of shallow, echoing invective? In my experience, the only ones who see the truth of an ad are those who already know the truth. Everyone else falls back upon vague distrust, compounded by ocular exhaustion.

    At the same time, maybe you think the purpose of ads to be the education of the faithful–convincing further those who are already inclined to your side. There's something to be said for this, though I'm still not sure it's worth the cultural price we're going to have to pay for our decades of low-content, bellowing political culture. Aren't we working with the political equivalent of the Burned Over District in 19th c. New York?

  2. Brad, Brad, Brad:

    You didn't think you were going to get away with this, did you? I refer to the second point in your proposed commercial for the Republican Party. Thought you would just slip in the arguments that the Southern Democrats were responsible for starting the Civil War and that the war was all about slavery? We can argue the latter point forever, of course, but it is simply a fact that the war would not have occurred unless Lincoln, the Republican Party leader, had chosen to commence it. (The issue of Fort Sumter and the first shot was used by the wily Lincoln to cloud this obvious truth.) The South simply asked to be left alone, as Jefferson Davis put it.

    You also assert that the Republican Party was "founded to stop the spread of slavery in the territories." Well, yes, the party was founded partly for that reason, though except for a tiny minority of abolitionists, most Republicans adopted an anti-slavery stance because they wanted the West to be an area where white labor would not be "degraded" by competition with "inferior" blacks. Whites were well aware that where slavery existed, eventually free blacks would exist. This was the history of most of the Northern colonies/states, and the North's response to dealing with free blacks was its own version of Jim Crow. The West, to most Republicans, was to be a new North, free of blacks of any status. The specter of free blacks living alongside whites in the West and competing in the labor market tainted the dream of Manifest Destiny.

    Americans are ahistorical, and attempts by political parties to claim the mantle of American history's icons usually fall flat. I wonder, however, if twenty-first century Republicans really want the public to know this dark side of Republican Party history.

  3. Read Alexander Stephens' "Cornerstone Speech" that the Confederacy is built upon the "great moral truth" of slavery and the natural inferiority of blacks. He says that the Founders absolutely believed that "all men are created equal" but that they were terribly wrong.

  4. Dear Mr. Crandall,

    I was indeed the director of education at the National Constitution Center. You can probably guess why I left that position after a year!

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