Facebook again. Somebody posted this on their Facebook feed. It’s supposed to be a history lesson. In fact, its title is “Quick History Lesson.” It is quick. Here’s what it says:
The name of this blog is Skeptical Analysis, so let’s do some analysis.
1. The statements regarding the 13th Amendment are correct.
On January 31, 1865, the House called another vote on the amendment, with neither side being certain of the outcome. Every Republican supported the measure, as well as 16 Democrats, almost all of them lame ducks. The amendment finally passed by a vote of 119 to 56, narrowly reaching the required two-thirds majority.
2. The statements regarding the 14th Amendment are essentially correct.
Over 70 proposals for an amendment were drafted. In late 1865, the Joint Committee on Reconstruction proposed an amendment stating that any citizens barred from voting on the basis of race by a state would not be counted for purposes of representation of that state. This amendment passed the House, but was blocked in the Senate by a coalition of Radical Republicans led by Charles Sumner, who believed the proposal a “compromise with wrong”, and Democrats opposed to black rights. Consideration then turned to a proposed amendment by Representative John A. Bingham of Ohio, which would enable Congress to safeguard “equal protection of life, liberty, and property” of all citizens; this proposal failed to pass the House. In April 1866, the Joint Committee forwarded a third proposal to Congress, a carefully negotiated compromise that combined elements of the first and second proposals as well as addressing the issues of Confederate debt and voting by ex-Confederates. The wording was further modified by several close votes in the House and Senate. This compromise version passed both houses in a largely party-line vote, with Republicans supporting and Democrats opposed.
3. The statements regarding the 15th Amendment are essentially correct.
The vote in the House was 144 to 44, with 35 not voting. The House vote was almost entirely along party lines, with no Democrats supporting the bill and only 3 Republicans voting against it. The final vote in the Senate was 39 to 13, with 14 not voting. Some Radicals, such as Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner, abstained from voting because the amendment did not prohibit literacy tests and poll taxes.
4. The statements regarding Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act) are essentially correct. No references will be cited.
What the posted meme wants to say is that in the cases of the three constitutional amendments granting freedom to slaves plus other protections for civil liberties, the Republican Party supported these laudable measures and the Democratic Party opposed them. In the case of the ACC, a law enacted to assure affordable health insurance to all legal residents of the United States, the Republican Party unanimously opposed the measure, while the Democratic Party largely supported it. That’s what it says.
There’s something else said here that was supposed to remain hidden. A bit of analysis reveals the trick is in the language. In the instance of the three constitutional amendments, the language uses party names, but does not identify the people involved. I will make a slight change in language without changing any of the facts:
- Liberals supported abolition of slavery. Conservatives opposed abolition of slavery.
- Liberals supported giving citizenship to freed slaves. Conservatives opposed giving citizenship to freed slaves.
- Liberals supported the right to vote for all. Conservatives opposed the right to vote for all.
- Liberals supported making affordable health insurance available to all. Conservatives opposed making affordable health insurance available to all.
What has largely changed since the passage of the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments to the constitution is the character of the political parties. When those amendments were passed the Republican Party, whose first president was Abraham Lincoln, was a progressive movement, while the Democratic party represented the entrenched, conservative, element of our society. Since the time of President Franklin D. Roosevelt the Democratic Party has come to represent the progressive and liberal segment, and conservatives, many of them former members of the Democratic Party, have fled to the Republican Party. The roles in the past 150 years have reversed.
As mentioned, I obtained the “Quick History Lesson” meme from a Facebook posting. What makes this all so ironic is that it was posted by a person espousing conservative (Republican) ideals. I have no idea what thinking went into the Facebook posting. Was the poster not fully aware of the actual history and its implications? Did the person deliberately set out to deceive? What audience would gladly accept the message that was supposed to be conveyed and not appreciate the underlying facts? We may never know.
A few days back I posted on another meme with a similar thought.
This was originally posted by the same person who posted the first one, and my response was much the same:
The story line is accurate as far as it goes. Historically in the 1850s the major political party in the United States was the Democratic Party, founded just a few years previous by Andrew Jackson, no friend of racial equality, but he got his picture on the $20 bill. The Republican Party was founded in 1854 by people seeking to abolish slavery. The Democratic Party at the time and for the next 100 years opposed the abolition of slavery in the beginning and equal rights for former slaves and descendants of slaves following that. The Democratic Party’s base during the first half of the 20th century was the American Deep South—the region of the former Confederacy.
That was a “Short History Lesson.” Here is a not-so-short history lesson:
The 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote. It would appear this measure had considerable liberal support and not much in the way of conservative support:
The Nineteenth Amendment’s text was drafted by Susan B. Anthony with the assistance of Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The proposed amendment was first introduced in the Senate, colloquially as the “Anthony Amendment”, by Republican Senator Aaron A. Sargent of California. Sargent, who had met and befriended Anthony on a train ride in 1872, was a dedicated women’s suffrage advocate. He had frequently attempted to insert women’s suffrage provisions into unrelated bills, but did not formally introduce a constitutional amendment until January 1878. Stanton and other women testified before the Senate in support of the amendment. The proposal sat in a committee until it was considered by the full Senate and rejected in a 16 to 34 vote in 1887.
A three-decade period known as “the doldrums” followed, during which the amendment was not considered by Congress and the women’s suffrage movement achieved few victories. During this period, the suffragists pressed for the right to vote in the laws of individual states and territories while retaining the goal of federal recognition. A flurry of activity began in 1910 and 1911 with surprise successes in Washington and California. Over the next few years, most western states passed legislation or voter referenda enacting full or partial suffrage for women. These successes were linked to the 1912 election, which saw the rise of the Progressive and Socialist parties, as well as the election of Democratic President Woodrow Wilson. Not until 1914 was the constitutional amendment again considered by the Senate, where it was again rejected.
On January 12, 1915, a proposal to amend the Constitution to provide for women’s suffrage was brought before the House of Representatives, but was defeated by a vote of 204 to 174. Another proposal was brought before the House on January 10, 1918. During the previous evening, President Wilson made a strong and widely published appeal to the House to pass the amendment. It was passed by the required two-thirds of the House, with only one vote to spare. The vote was then carried into the Senate. Wilson again made an appeal, but on September 30, 1918, the proposal fell two votes short of passage. On February 10, 1919, it was again voted upon and failed by only one vote.
Not mentioned in the foregoing is the support for women’s suffrage by William Jennings Bryan, three-time Democratic Party candidate for president. Wilson and Bryan were noted “progressives,” and their support for liberal causes represented a break from the traditional conservative Democratic Party base at the time.
Also, it would appear the Voting Rights Act of 1965 had considerable liberal support and not much conservative support.
On April 22, the full Senate started debating the bill. [Senator Everett] Dirksen [of Illinois] spoke first on behalf of the bill, concluding by saying that “legislation is needed if the unequivocal mandate of the 15th Amendment … is to be enforced and made effective, and if the Declaration of Independence is to be made truly meaningful.” Senator Strom Thurmond (R-SC) retorted that the bill would lead to “tyranny and despotism”, while Senator Sam Ervin (D-NC) argued that the bill was unconstitutional because it deprived states of their right under Article 1, Section III of the Constitution to establish voting qualifications, and because the bill targeted only jurisdictions that used literacy tests. On May 6, Ervin offered an amendment to abolish the coverage formula’s automatic trigger and instead allow federal judges to appoint examiners. This amendment overwhelmingly failed, with 45 Democrats and 22 Republicans voting against it. After lengthy debate, Ted Kennedy’s amendment to prohibit poll taxes also failed 49-45. However, Dirksen and Mansfield agreed to include a provision authorizing the Attorney General to bring lawsuits against any jurisdiction, covered or non-covered, to enjoin the enforcement of poll taxes that imposed “unreasonable financial hardship” or had “the purpose or effect of denying the right to vote on account of race or color.” and a separate provision declaring that the poll taxes was being used in some jurisdictions to unconstitutionally discriminate. An amendment offered by Senator Robert Kennedy (D-NY) to grant the right to vote illiterate citizens who had achieved at least an 8th grade education in a non-English-speaking school also passed by 48-19. Southern legislators then offered a series of amendments to weaken the bill, all of which failed.
Some elaboration will be helpful:
Strom Thurmond is one of those Democrats who deserted the Party when it started becoming too liberal in 1964.
James Strom Thurmond (December 5, 1902 – June 26, 2003) was an American politician who served for 48 years as a United States Senator. He ran for president in 1948 as the States Rights Democratic Party (Dixiecrat) candidate, receiving 2.4% of the popular vote and 39 electoral votes. Thurmond represented South Carolina in the United States Senate from 1954 until 2003, at first as a Democrat and, after 1964, as a Republican. He switched because of his opposition to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, disaffection with the liberalism of the national party, and his support for the conservatism and opposition to the Civil Rights bill of the Republican presidential candidate Senator Barry Goldwater. He left office as the only senator to reach the age of 100 while still in office and as the oldest-serving and longest-serving senator in U.S. history (although he was later surpassed in length of service by Robert Byrd and Daniel Inouye). Thurmond holds the record at 14 years as the longest-serving Dean of the United States Senate in U.S. history.
A Democratic (not all that liberal) president ended racial discrimination in the United States Military services. More recently, liberals, principally of the Democratic Party, have championed laws forbidding hiring discrimination against homosexuals. A liberal Democratic president has ordered a halt to anti-homosexual bias in the military services. These have been liberal initiatives with little or no support from the conservative faction.
I state without further elaboration that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and similar civil rights legislation would not exist today if the conservatives presently representing the Tea Party coalition had their way.
Please view again the “Charlie Brown” cartoon posted above. Before being posted by my conservative Facebook friend it appeared on the Comical Conservative Facebook Facebook feed. My Facebook friend merely copied the cartoon from there and re-posted it on Facebook. It’s supposed to show that the Republican Party is being unfairly called racist by one of the cartoon characters. The other, the Charlie Brown character, refutes this by citing the Republican Party’s past support for civil rights and the Democratic Party’s support for Jim Crow laws and the KKK and its opposition to civil rights. Aside from the lack of relevance (which I have addressed), there is something else notable:
It is not a white kid standing there calling the Republican Party racist. It’s a black kid. Why did the cartoonist see fit to draw a black kid calling the Republican’s racist? The choice was not an accident. It represents a lingering mindset of America’s conservative cellar.