Historical Ignorance Thy Name is Spielberg

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As he unveiled his Lincoln biopic that is being released next month, director Steven Spielberg proclaimed that he did not want the film to be a political football and then promptly made it into one with this remark:

“Because it’s kind of confusing. The parties traded political places over the last 150 years. That in itself is a great story, how the Republican Party went from a progressive party in 1865, and how the Democrats were represented in the picture, to the way it’s just the opposite today. But that’s a whole other story.”

This would be funny if the historical ignorance were not so vast.  The Republican party, from its inception, has held that the government may not discriminate on the basis of race.

From the 1856 Republican platform, the first Republican platform:

Resolved: That the maintenance of the principles promulgated in the Declaration of Independence, and embodied in the Federal Constitution are essential to the preservation of our Republican institutions, and that the Federal Constitution, the rights of the States, and the union of the States, must and shall be preserved.

Resolved: That, with our Republican fathers, we hold it to be a self-evident truth, that all men are endowed with the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and that the primary object and ulterior design of our Federal Government were to secure these rights to all persons under its exclusive jurisdiction; that, as our Republican fathers, when they had abolished Slavery in all our National Territory, ordained that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law, it becomes our duty to maintain this provision of the Constitution against all attempts to violate it for the purpose of establishing Slavery in the Territories of the United States by positive legislation, prohibiting its existence or extension therein. That we deny the authority of Congress, of a Territorial Legislation, of any individual, or association of individuals, to give legal existence to Slavery in any Territory of the United States, while the present Constitution shall be maintained.

Resolved: That the Constitution confers upon Congress sovereign powers over the Territories of the United States for their government; and that in the exercise of this power, it is both the right and the imperative duty of Congress to prohibit in the Territories those twin relics of barbarism — Polygamy, and Slavery.

The Republican party has been true to this position throughout its history.  From the Republican platform of 1932:

The Negro

For seventy years the Republican Party has been the friend of the American Negro. Vindication of the rights of the Negro citizen to enjoy the full benefits of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is traditional in the Republican Party, and our party stands pledged to maintain equal opportunity and rights for Negro citizens. We do not propose to depart from that tradition nor to alter the spirit or letter of that pledge.

From the 1944 Republican platform:

Racial and Religious Intolerance

We unreservedly condemn the injection into American life of appeals to racial or religious prejudice.

We pledge an immediate Congressional inquiry to ascertain the extent to which mistreatment, segregation and discrimination against Negroes who are in our armed forces are impairing morale and efficiency, and the adoption of corrective legislation.

We pledge the establishment by Federal legislation of a permanent Fair Employment Practice Commission.

Anti-Poll Tax

The payment of any poll tax should not be a condition of voting in Federal elections and we favor immediate submission of a Constitutional amendment for its abolition.

Anti-Lynching

We favor legislation against lynching and pledge our sincere efforts in behalf of its early enactment.

The Democrat Party, with honorable exceptions, has usually fought tooth and nail against this belief.  Up to the Civil Rights legislation of the Fifties and the Sixties of the last century, when just enough Democrats joined the overwhelming majority of Republicans to pass the legislation,  it was bitter and unyielding Democrat opposition that prevented effective enforcement of the Constitutional guarantees for blacks.  Throughout this time period the Republican party fought a lonely crusade for civil rights for blacks, always in the teeth of virulent hatred.  When Theodore Roosevelt had Booker T. Washington to dine at the White House, Senator Benjamin “Pitchfork Ben” Tillman, (D.SC) responded,  The action of President Roosevelt in entertaining that nigger will necessitate our killing a thousand niggers in the South before they learn their place again.

Throughout this same time period Democrats frequently campaigned with the basest appeals to racial prejudice as one of the chief weapons in their arsenal against the Republicans, for example the whispering campaign against Warren G. Harding in 1920 that he had negro ancestry, an allegation that Harding courageously, considering the virulent racism of his day, refused to deny.

Since the Civil Rights legislation of the Sixties, the Democrats have continued to use race baiting tactics in elections, merely shifting the colors involved.

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They still hold that the government may discriminate among Americans on the basis of race.  When it comes to their stances in regard to government and race, the Republican and Democrat parties have remained remarkably consistent.

 

12 Responses to Historical Ignorance Thy Name is Spielberg

  • 160 years ago the majority of Democrats considered an entire class of people to be sub-human and undeserving of basic civil rights. Some Democrats didn’t consider themselves to be pro-slavery per se, but certainly didn’t want government interfering with that choice. The Republicans, meanwhile, fought to defend the dignity of all humans.

    Doesn’t sound like the parties have switched to me.

  • What I find so painful with lefties like Spielberg and Hanks is that they do such good work with WWII miniserieses like Band of Brothers and The Pacific. For Spielberg to say stuff like this and Hanks, on the occasion of his endorsement of Obama in 2008, prattle on about how blacks were once defined as 3/5 of a person.

    Now this betrays not only historical ignorance but downright stupidity. Since I will assume that readers will know what the 3/5 compromise was all about (those who don’t can look it up on their own), I won’t explain it here. But think about it: if you wanted to degrade someone you would call 3/5 of a person. You would say something more demeaning. One could rightly assert that blacks were treated far worse that 3/5 of a person for almost 200 years of our history. How the obvious escapes those who think they are smarter than the rest of us will never cease to amaze me.

  • The problem has been the lassitude of Republicans and conservatives to fight against the wholesale deception and rewriting of the historical record by the Left. The Left has always been practiced in photo “retouching” but conservatives until very recently couldn’t be bothered to produce the original photo. Woodrow Wilson was a horrible racist and Harding and Coolidge tried to ameliorate the damage. But Wilson is praised and Harding and Coolidge ridiculed. Repubs still don’t mention this. Look at the silly lie that the Bush tax cuts and Iraq war caused the financial panic. Did Bush, the Repubs or Romney ever come out with a detailed rebuttal over the past 4 years? The public views silence as consent.

  • i find it worthless to compare parties from radically different eras, whether in Spielberg’s simplistic view or the whole “Democrats used to have a Dixiecrat wing” deal. well OK “worthless” might be strong but when coalitions and ideologies realign it’s not always easy to draw a straight line in history.

    i mean a bunch the South switched its vote on the national level to the GOP in the ’60s. some people probably had certain prejudices. i think that can be acknowledged while pointing out that a) having certain prejudices, mild or not, does not necessarily discredit someone’s views on absolutely everything and b) the “GOP won because of the Southern strategy” is an extremely reductionist view that liberals use to try to cast GOP victories as illegitimate. Southern Democrats were not cultural liberals so it is not surprising that they would not find a McGovernized national Democratic Party appealing.

  • “Democrats used to have a Dixiecrat wing” deal”

    The problem with the Democrats is throughout the history of their party they have been comfortable using the power of the State to discriminate among Americans on the basis of race. In regard to the South converting to Republicanism it had virtually nothing to do with race and much to do with the national Democrat party hurtling to the Left following the capture of the party by the McGovern faction in 1972. Jimmy Carter in 1976 helped delay this process, but did not stop it as he was also a man of the Left in a Southern wrapping.

  • “160 years ago the majority of Democrats considered an entire class of people to be sub-human and undeserving of basic civil rights. Some Democrats didn’t consider themselves to be pro-slavery per se, but certainly didn’t want government interfering with that choice. The Republicans, meanwhile, fought to defend the dignity of all humans.

    Doesn’t sound like the parties have switched to me.”

    True Paul. One can imagine a modern day Democrat convention booing these sentiments because of their obvious applicability to the abortion debate and because of their reference to God:

    “These communities, by their representatives in old Independence Hall, said to the whole world of men: “We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” This was their majestic interpretation of the economy of the Universe. This was their lofty, and wise, and noble understanding of the justice of the Creator to His creatures. [Applause.] Yes, gentlemen, to all His creatures, to the whole great family of man. In their enlightened belief, nothing stamped with the Divine image and likeness was sent into the world to be trodden on, and degraded, and imbruted by its fellows.”

    That is, until they realized that the speaker was quoting Abraham Lincoln:

    http://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=lincoln;cc=lincoln;type=simple;rgn=div1;q1=Speech%20at%20Lewistown;view=text;subview=detail;sort=occur;idno=lincoln2;node=lincoln2%3A567

  • Don, I just wanted to let you know that since finding TAC, and reading your homages and references to Mr. Lincoln, I have downloaded the entire library of Lincoln’s writings and speeches to my Kindle, and am pursuing a concentrated effort to add their essences to my intellectual aresenal. This will undoubtedly necessitate some mental remodeling, if not outright expansion if such is possible, as the volume is ponderous. Nor are they ‘quick reads;’ indeed, the tankard is large, but each sip is so rich and delectable that it will be a very long time before I can consider a refill.

    Coupled with the Papal encyclicals (so far) Rerum Novarum, Humanae Vitae and Caritas in Veritate I am finding an amazing recharging of the basic, commonsense tenets that life has beaten out of me over the past few decades. It’s like returning home in a way that might have made Thomas Wolfe rethink a few things.

    The wonderful dichotomy of simplicity and elegance contained in the wisdom of these works has also brought home the truly loathsome nature of the sin of selfishness; I would beat the drum and blare the trumpet to call attention, but for how far I have yet to go before I can even begin to think myself a worthy example. Perhaps someday.

    Thank you for the tremendous efforts. You truly are a City on a Hill.

  • “have downloaded the entire library of Lincoln’s writings and speeches to my Kindle”

    Enjoy WK. Mr. Lincoln is a master stylist and could pack more thought in fewer words than any other writer of the English tongue.

    “Thank you for the tremendous efforts. You truly are a City on a Hill.”

    I would blush WK if it were still possible for me to do so after three decades at the bar! :)

  • “The problem with the Democrats is throughout the history of their party they have been comfortable using the power of the State to discriminate among Americans on the basis of race.”

    yes but, for example, if the George Wallace of 1968 was here today he wouldn’t be for affirmative action.

    calling affirmative action racist, regardless of its truth, isn’t going to gain a lot of traction with people who aren’t already against it IMO. what’s needed is to point out that it perpetuates this idea that black people cannot succeed without it/that all their current problems can be blamed on white racism, it promotes skepticism even for blacks who didn’t get a boost from it, and it isn’t just — also that it screws over working-class whites who aren’t “privileged” in any sense of the term.

    Jim Webb i thought wrote a good piece against it a while back, obviously benefiting from some leeway since he’s a Democrat

  • “calling affirmative action racist, regardless of its truth,”

    Always best to stick with the truth in determining government policy. The racial spoils system celebrated by the Democrats has had an evil impact on the nation as a whole, and, in particular, in regard to the supposed beneficiaries.

    “yes but, for example, if the George Wallace of 1968 was here today he wouldn’t be for affirmative action.”

    The Wallace of 1968 was for affirmative action, for whites. By the end of his life he was still embracing affirmative action with the colors shifted.

    “Jim Webb”

    I can think of few political positions that Jim Webb hasn’t betrayed, sometimes more than once.

  • “Enjoy WK. Mr. Lincoln is a master stylist and could pack more thought in fewer words than any other writer of the English tongue.”

    Reagan was much this way as well. If you get the book “Reagan in His Own Hand”, you will see, especailly in the radio spots he did from about 1976 to when he stsrted gearing up for the 1980 run, he could pack more information in a few minute sound bite than anybody I ever knew. This affrims my belief that the most profound truths are elementary and take few words to demonstrate and the most pernicious errors take few words to expose. Unfortunately, few understand that.

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