Would Black Leaders Be Better Off as Outsiders?

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Mr. Kashatus is a scholar based at the Chester County Historical Society in Pennsylvania and a writer for the History News Service.

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Next week, Americans will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington. The march's signature event, Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech, continues to stir the nation after four decades.

Yet the black community still struggles to decide whether to follow King's prophetic tradition or to lead via political office. It's a difficult choice. Should black leadership choose the latter course, forgetting King's prophetic voice would be a serious mistake.

What is the "prophetic tradition"? It's a biblical approach to leadership that has allowed the black community to proudly maintain its political independence while serving as the conscience of society. Instead of aligning themselves with a political party, prophetic leaders criticize the existing order, while exhorting the community to adhere to the core values of social justice, personal witness to God's saving grace and the vision of a new world.

Today's black leaders have strayed from the prophetic example by entering partisan politics in increasing numbers. They hesitate to criticize the policies of the Bush administration or even the platforms of their own political parties because of the risk of alienation. "Popularity" and "political correctness" have replaced the independence, moral certainty and spiritual integrity of the prophetic tradition, the hallmarks of King's civil rights movement.

King's historic speech and the sermonic power with which he delivered it marked the defining moment of the movement. He was near the end of his written speech when he decided to deviate from it and use the echoing phrase, "I have a dream. . ." Extemporaneously, he integrated quotations from the Declaration of Independence, the Old Testament prophet Isaiah and a traditional American patriotic song to convey his vision of a new American society.

King then mesmerized the 250,000 marchers by with images of "the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners sit[ting] down together at the table of brotherhood," a society where black children would be judged "not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character," and the unification of "all God's children" regardless of race or creed. He concluded with the hope that all Americans would one day be able to join hands and sing out, "Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Had King not deviated from his prepared text, it's doubtful that the dramatic phrasing of the speech would be remembered today. But he also used the speech, and his prophetic style of leadership, as a springboard for political change. He urged President Lyndon Johnson to support legislation for integrated public accommodations, voting rights and economic justice. He had already been jailed for his non-violent civil disobedience in pursuit of those goals.

Today's black leaders have lost the independent voice that King so dearly valued and repeatedly used. Their actions raise serious questions about the effectiveness of their leadership. Few black members of Congress, for example, were willing to publicly question Bush's decision to go to war in Iraq to the degree that King challenged Johnson's escalation of the war in Vietnam.

Similarly, Secretary of State Colin Powell, a leading African-American officeholder, finds himself hostage to the Republican Party. He has compromised his personal integrity in deference to the presidency, an office that King repeatedly criticized in his quest for social justice. Even more disturbing are the opinions of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who opposes affirmative action as well as many other civil rights measures that King himself struggled to achieve.

Even the children of notable movement leaders, such as Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois, have rejected the prophetic tradition for the rewards of the political arena, which King believed would compromise his integrity as a Christian leader.

The current generation of black leaders have established a pattern of leaving prophetic for political leadership that reflects a troubling break with the civil rights struggles of the 1960s. Unless current black leaders are willing to draw from the dynamic energy, spiritual integrity and compassion of the prophetic tradition, the black community will seriously diminish its ability to advance the causes it holds so dear.

This piece was distributed for non-exclusive use by the History News Service, an informal syndicate of professional historians who seek to improve the public's understanding of current events by setting these events in their historical contexts. The article may be republished as long as both the author and the History News Service are clearly credited.

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Derek Catsam - 8/29/2003

Actually, I must clarify one point and add one new one. AFDC was actually not created until 1961. The Social security Act instead offered matching funds to the statews for instituting or reinstituting old programs of assistance. But more importantly, throughout tha nation but especially in the South mothers of the minority race were all but excluded from these programs. So much for FDR's attempts to use welfare to destroy the black community.

Derek Catsam - 8/29/2003

So many factual errors, so little time, so I'll just hit your barely coherent last point and move on:
FH Thomas wrote:
"The last myth us that the Republicans were not the party formed in 1867 expressly for the purpose of removing slavery. Repent."

Er, when was the Republican Party founded? It's a myth that they were not founded in 1867? Well, the Republican Party was in fact founded in 1854, and not solely on the slqave question. But in any case, who cares? This is not a discussion of 19th century republicanism, which is not the same as its late 20th century ancestors. No one, or certainly not I, ever disagreed that the GOP was the party of choice for black Americans in the half century after the Civil War, and rightly so. But so what? Blacks eventually and overwhelmingly moved to the Democratic Party by the 1960s. So again, what we have here is Mr. Thomas apparentrly asserting that blacks are incapable of deciding what is in their own interest.
Of course Mr. Thomas also avers that the current state is worse than slavery, so this is what we are up against.

Meanwhile, unless I am misreading him, Thomas asserts that there is a 70-80% rate of poverty, drug use, and rate of illegitimate births. This is factually untrue. In 1999, according to the U.S. Bureau of the Census, 33.1 percent of black children lived in poverty. This is shameful, of course, but it is not 70% or anywhere near it. The 70% rate of drug use is simply wrong -- Thornton is clearly confusing incarceration rates for drug crimes with the percentage of the black population that uses drugs. In any case, many of us would argue that our ridiculous drug laws are the problem more than anything.

Meanwhile, where to begin with this litany of halftruths and flat-out lies:
"AFDC was re-focused during FDR's royal reign, using the old WW I widows and orphans fund as the seed, specifically to morph black society from a strong family, strongly contributing to the economy, into a cheaply bought (what could be cheaper than paid for by working voters?) electorial resource, with no families and no prospects, voter slaves. Its main principle is that dad had to leave or you won't get the check. It was bad then, and worse under LBJ. This situation must be changed."
First off, AFDC was not "retooled" under FDR. It was created under FDR as part of Social Security. Second, the overwhelming majority of recipients during the FDR administration were white, so your racial conspiracy theory is bizarre at best, but in any case is simply wrong. Nor did AFDC require the absence of a father.
But then again, according to Thornton, black problems have NOTHING to do with racism. So what can we say about this, nothing to do with racism and today blacks are in a worse situation than during slavery. Egads.

F.H. Thomas - 8/29/2003

Dear Mr. Wright,

I appreciate your comments, but would like to suggest just one point. When I use the word "vote slave" to refer to the degraded, dependent state of the lives of most blacks, it is to change it. I assume you too want to change this disaster of illegitimacy, addiction, and degrading dependency upon cynical leftie politicians, because you are clearly a good person, but you do not seem to see your way clear.

You said,


However, the "common sense solution" which seems to lie below your remarks appears to be simply more vote slavery. I do not see anything which would put the black dad back with his family, reduce addiction, or create constructive employment.

Snide remarks about successful blacks who are not vote slaves, or implying that funneling more financial support into a broken and evil system, are simply not going to make things any better. Witness LBJ's efforts to do just that. After a war on poverty, you have lots more poverty, as LBJ no doubt intended.

A black society where dad is at home, the parents work to better themselves, and nobody is addicted, is what is needed, but I do not see it coming from your approach, rather to the contrary.

By the way, you should read a little of Thomas' record on the court. I assume you have access to LEXIS. You may find that you have judged him hastily.

Roger T. Wright - 8/28/2003

Referring back to Anita's original statement, what African Americans need most is what all Americans need most, and that is neither "prophetic visions" nor "partisan politics" nor incompetent Uncle Toms or Uncle Clarences, but common sense solutions. Spending a billion bucks a week on Iraq while giving tax cuts to the wealthy here makes little sense, especially for those towards the low end of the economic ladder. A Republican Party rooted in common sense, like that of the 19th and early 20th century, would appeal to many black voters. It seems as far away from today, however, as Abe Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.

Derek Catsam - 8/28/2003

Well, no, I won't admit that liberals have been at all a failure -- not when ending poverty, increasing access to higher education, and, oh yeah, the civil rights movement, all improved the lot of black Americans, of Americans as a whole. Head Start? School lunch programs? Federal financial aid programs?
Ahhh, clever Bill -- coming up with a bunch of bad things "F" might represent. But of course it stands for Families, despite your leaving it out earlier, and AFDC has given a substantial leg up to struggling families, the majority of whom have always used welfare as a stopgap and have gotten off in relatively short periods of time. Do you see social security as a failure too?
In any case, generalizations such as "liberals are suspect in almost everything that they touch" and "Self promoting do-gooders who care more about process than consequences and who would rather feel and sound good than really help people have become quite suspect to most" are nice Coulteresque phrases, devoid of any real meaning. Define "most," first, then explain how 'self-promotion" is the domain of the left more than right, then show that liberals aren't concerned with outcomes (the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act were not outcome oriented? Really? The War on Poverty was not outcome oriented? Your worldview that what you think is right and what others think is wrong would be cute if it weren't so appalling. But I'm just one of these self-promoting and do gooding liberals, so what do I know? Unless you don't consider Truman to have been a liberal? FDR? You obviously aren't willing to differentiate the good of the Great Society from the bad, throwing it all out. So fine, all liberals are suspect. I'll counter that with "all conservatives are racists." At least the liberals mean well. Forget that neither of those patently absurd statements are true, but the latter holds up every bit as well as the former.

Bill Heuisler - 8/28/2003

Yes, Liberals are suspect in almost everything they touch.
Self promoting do-gooders who care more about process than consequences and who would rather feel and sound good than really help people have become quite suspect to most. Many people would rather analyse results than intentions.

AFDC? What does the F stand for Derek? Does it stand for the 70% of black Females who have babies out of wedlock? Does it stand for the Fortress-projects in our Eastern cities where the gangs rule, garbage piles up and police are targets? Does it stand for the Failure of Great Society programs that made Liberals feel good, but destroyed black families, churches and neighborhoods?

As usual, we're talking past each other, but just once admit the Liberal experiment on Black Americans is an abject failure every where but the ballot box. Admit the urban black community is ill served by people like Rangel and Lewis who constantly call for more government programs and more dependency - who derive power by offering old, tired socialist solutions that never seem to arrive. Why black voters turn out 90% for their new plantation owners perplexes me, but some day they will realize the years of self-serving betrayal...I hope.
Bill Heuisler

F.H. THOMAS - 8/28/2003

It is sad to see, so prevalent in this useful discussion, the presence of tired, dumb old myths about the main subject.

Regarding the black population as a whole, we see a 70-80% range of illegitimate births, and a similar range of drug abuse. Both of these correlate near 1.0 to poverty. No, old Southern whitey absolutely did not do that. Old Northern liberal whitey did, aided by black mittlaeufer such as Jackson, etc. A great leader such as MLK, who wanted equality of opportunity, has no chance.

AFDC was re-focused during FDR's royal reign, using the old WW I widows and orphans fund as the seed, specifically to morph black society from a strong family, strongly contributing to the economy, into a cheaply bought (what could be cheaper than paid for by working voters?) electorial resource, with no families and no prospects, voter slaves. Its main principle is that dad had to leave or you won't get the check. It was bad then, and worse under LBJ. This situation must be changed.

This goal was accomplished, and most blacks are today economically prostrate, drugged and dependent, as was intended. I had a chance top review a magnificent group of Harlem photographs from 1920's, a couple of months ago. The contrast in economic activity to the Harlem of today was depressing: everyone was doing something, and nobody was standing on the corner selling poison to the kids. Butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers abounded, but not criminals.

Regarding today's black "leaders", few are worthy of the name. Jackson spends his days shaking down companies like Toyota, not for the benefit of blacks, but for his personal financial benefit, ot that of his family. Does he know that rascism has nothing to do with blacks' problems? Of course, but saying the opposite has everything to do with a successful shakedown. If any of his ill-gotten gains get through to other blacks, it's because his girlfriends are the recipients. What a jerk.

A variation on this theme is Sharpton, the welfare pimp. His entire effort, is when he is not pulling frauds like the Towana Brawley scam, is directed to keeping his followers squarely in the broken family, welfare recipient, slum dweller camp. Sharpton just goes on and on. No one has the courage to call him on his crimes.

Slavery in the South was better than this new vote slavery, though both were better than reconstruction with the scalawags.
The actual leaders such as Thomas and Powell do not come from this mileau. Powell comes from a tradition of Jamaican Maroons who would rather die than have a non-educated child in the family. Goess what? It works. Thomas clearly comes from the small minority of American blacks who are descended from the Ibo minority in Nigeria, one of whose members, Olesugun Obasanjo, has miraculously benn elected president with 94% of the vote, in a country dominated by hostile Hausa Filani. The Ibos have the same educational tradition going back to before slavery, and maintained it here. Perhaps the biggest myth is that because they are Republicans, they can't be black.

I would ask all who wish to continue vote slavery to sincerely repent, for what you have done is indeed a sin, to disavow your myths and support the world of those blacks who succeed by family, discipline, and hard work.

The last myth us that the Republicans were not the party formed in 1867 expressly for the purpose of removing slavery. Repent.

Derek Catsam - 8/28/2003

Ahh yes, you didn't bother putting scare quotes around "so-called, you just used the scare-quoptesque words "so-called" the implication being that whatever is prefaced by soi-called did not actually exist. That is esactly what the segregationists diod when they referred to the "so-called" Freedom Rides. Congratulations on your rhetorical partners.
New York and detroit liberals for riding those buses? So are you saying that because they were New Yorkmad detroit liberals, they are not worthy of support and respect? Was their cause any less just because thney were from New York and Detorit? And, oh yeah, not to let facts intrude, but John Lewis was from Alabama and lived in Nashville. Hank Thomas was from St. Petersburg, Florida and went to Howard. Ths list goes on "Diane Nash . . . James Bevel . . . Charles Jones . . .) New York and Detroit liberals indeed. And further, what of the Mississippi freedom Summer, in which the New York and Detroit liberals put their lives on the line alongside local blacks to fight for justice? What of the Birmingham Campaign and its clear involvement of local blacks? What on earth does the merit of a struggle have to do with where the person who fights it come from? And what of New York and detroit liberals who went to the Vietnam war? Who sigtned up voluntarily? If they are suspect on Civil Rights, it must follow that they are suspect on anything they touch?

As for when I defended HUD or AFDC (which, but he way has always gone to more whites than blacks. Always. And don't forget the F in AFDC), for the unpteenth post you argue against something I never ever ever wrote. Ever. Heroic. Incomprehensible, but truly heroic. As for cementing a view that government is the answer -- for some things it is. Or are those private mercenaries and UN trooops in Iraq these days? And is the military an arm of the US government? (Hint -- what is the Pentagon? Who is the Commander in Chief?) So yes. In some cases I firmly believe in government action on a whole range of issues. As do you. Or do you not drive the Interstate Highways in Arizona that the federal government is immensely responsible for. Do you not go to look at books at the University of Arizona, as you've told us many times? (PS -- when you did so last you lamented that Ann Coulter's treason was not available -- a portentous hint that the liberals infesting the university system were depriving you of your favorite polemecist. I'll help you out. Go to the U of A website. It's available, and here is the call #: E743 .C68 2003 -- its location is "Main" and while I am not familiar with their library, I discern that "Main" must be reasonably accessible. In any case, correct me -- 75% of all Americans who attend college go to public schools. Damn that government!) But in any case, as with so many of your heroic stands, I've never argued that government is the solution to every problem. So where I see scare quotes (that are implied) and exclamation points (dervived from the hysterical tone of arguments) you see whole arguments that are not there. My problems are thus ones of punctuation. Yours of reading comprehension.

But this is my favorite, the coup de grace of the Bill Heuisler "don't you dare call me a racist" school of thought. You wrote this gem: "Blacks don't understand they're being patronized, don't know what's best. Their leaders like Jackson and Sharpton agree with the Liberals and Jesse and Al have black interests at heart." Funny, of all of the Democratic black representatives in Congress, Jackson and Sharpton's names don't come up. Forget that Jessie is neither all good nor all evil and these days is largely irrelevent. Forget the vast numbers of blacks in government at the state and local level who have not only black, but their whole constituents' interests at heart. Rather than name John Lewis, you choose Al Sharpton. Jesse Helms (onetime Democrat turned Republican, by the way. In 1970. But no matter.) would be proud of this sort of misrepresentation. But at least you admit it -- while calling me patronizing for earnestly believing in an issue or series of issues, you outright claim that not only are blacks being patronized -- they don't know it! But beyond that, they don't know what's best!

And I am very curious about what happened to all of those white supremacist voters -- the same people who supported Republicans, which was from the getgo a huge part of my argument. That in the realignment, in the Southern strategy, the GOP was willing to cater to these social conservatives, and they were willing to use the race issue. That does not make the Republican party racist. But it does mean that like the Democratic Party of the 1950s and 1960s, the GOP, especially its socially conservative wing, has a great deal to deal with on race.
So go onward and upward, Sweet William. I am prepared for your ardent case against a whole series of arguments I have never made! Go ahead -- pummel my unstated views about technology in the classroom! On fluoridation of water! On the meaning of writing on the back of highway signs! On cloning! On why the U of A has Coulter but you claimed that it did not! (Oh wait, I did comment on that). On why there is no college football playoff! (and how the overrated PAC 10 should be grateful). I look forward to your putting words in my mouth and then showing the sort of spunk that will, I am certain, make your wife stick with you despite her seemingly inevitable discovery that "Billy" is diminutive for Bill, especially when you decide to start throwing around "patronizing liberal" as an epithet.

Bill Heuisler - 8/27/2003

Calling me Billy is the last straw. I'm devastated. Your arguments have prevailed; You're right, I'm wrong. Those brave souls who went down South and helped the poor unfortunate black folks were true American heroes and every black man and woman who has a home and a job today should thank those New York and Detroit Liberals for riding those busses.

Now that you've won, a suggestion. Get some glasses - or better glasses. First exclamation points, then scare quotes...that don't exist. We all realize you're a much finer writer, researcher, scholar and expert on all and sundry having to do with Africans and African Americans than we are, but can you read? What scare quotes did you see, Derek?

The name is Walter Williams (as if you didn't know) and some of the finer disasters for black families were Aid To Dependent Children that gutted black families and the multitude of HUD housing projects that gutted our inner cities. But don't address the problems. Your extensive scholarship has cemented a point of view that government is the answer and black people should be damn glad they have Derek Catsams to fight for them. Brilliant.

For a little lagniappe, you wrote:
"And if liberals are patronizing toward blacks, it seems curious that blacks overwheomingly agree with these policies, thus their continued embrace of liberalism." Right. Blacks don't understand they're being patronized, don't know what's best. Their leaders like Jackson and Sharpton agree with the Liberals and Jesse and Al have black interests at heart. You're right, of course, but sometimes it's tough to agree with you. I'll try harder.

Which brings us back to our original agreement with Ms. Wills.
But Billy? The disgrace. My wife will probably leave me.

Derek Catsam - 8/27/2003

Ahhh yes, Bill, who NEVER calls names, starts up about childishness and starts tying HNN circular argumants to one's conduct in the classroom or among colleagues. Pretty dopey stuff.
In any case, if you actually read the first post that anyone made on this article, you'll notice mine, in which I condemned the article and its silly premise. Apparently that wasn't race obsessed enough for you.
"So-called civil rights legislation"? Nice scare quotes. Which ones "harmed rather than helped." Precision might help you.
My vaunted search engine? Actually, I have the Sowell book on my shelves -- there are lots of Williams' out there, so you'll need to be a bit more specifgic. I don't need the search engine to track down books on civil rights, Bill. And way to repeat "so called" as in "so called civil rights revoilution," as if there wasn't something rather revolutionary about what those brave souls did in the 50s and 60s. Meanwhile, why go to Sowerll when one can go to the statistical databases and see exactly what the rates (that is, percentages) of poverty were in 1960 and what they were in 1968and assume that maybe the Great Society had something to do with it? Or how yes, college education.
"Blacks are perfectly capable of success without government help." There you go again, Bill -- arguing heroically against something no one has actually said. I certainly don't single out blacks for government help -- I think lots of poor and working class folk (ie most of my students) need the help that comes in the form of government loans and grants. I know I needed them in college. I don't see any policies that are solely aimed toward blacks that I have endorsed. Do you? (Hint: the answer is no. I've never asserted government programs for blacks only, unless you are cynical enough to say that supporting civil rights laws that provided ther first steps toward not special treatment but equality is somehow a special program) I do support affirmative action, but not necessarily as a "government program", and not solely for blacks. And if liberals are patronizing toward blacks, it seems curious that blacks overwheomingly agree with these policies, thus their continued embrace of liberalism (even when they were Republicans they were of the liberal flank, a la Javits). So now who is being the racial separatist, Bill -- you are saying that if a black person and a white person embrace the same policy, the white person is being patrozozing but the black person is being -- what, patronizing toward blacks? What a tautological litmus test.
Of course you also claim to think race does not count and yet a while back said that it would be sad that black Democrats would not support a black Republican candidate -- so you think blacks should vote for someone they don't believe in just because that person is black? Curious. And talk about patronizing -- for four dacades-plus blacks have voted Democrat, but Bill knows what is best for them, especially if a black candidate happens to be on the ballot.
Your hypocrisy is showing. But sensitive Billy probably thinks that's name calling.

Bill Heuisler - 8/27/2003

Calling names is childish; epithets can't substitute facts and make you look petty. When a student is wrong, when a colleague disagrees, do you call him silly names or do you engage him?

Ms. Wills put it perfectly: "What is disturbing about this article is that it separates blacks from Americans as a whole."
The VRA was absolutely necessary. Segregation was absolutely wrong. Having said that, the following years of so-called Civil Rights legislation can be seen to have harmed rather than helped.

Sowell or Williams wrote about the plight of blacks since they've been singled out for the Federal Government's Draconian favor - can't remember the name of the book. Use your vaunted search engine. The research reconstructs the upward curve of black entrepeneurs, college grads, and participation in the Middle Class prior to the so called Civil Rights Revolution.

Blacks in the United States were following the upward ethnic path taken by other minorities until Liberals told them they were different - needed Government help to prosper - and couldn't succeed on their own. Can you defend the college grad stats per capita? Can you defend the urban unwed mother stats?
On a percentage basis, the case can be made the upward curve flattened in the sixties when Libs found a cause that made them feel superior and got votes. Blacks are quite capable of success without government help - Americans first and don't need fulsome special treatment from paternalistic Liberals.
Bill Heuisler

Derek Catsam - 8/27/2003

Bill --
Sorry to hear about the weather plight in Arizona and the damage it did to Chez Heuisler. You folks have seen fire and now torrential rains. Could locusts be far behind?

Derek Catsam - 8/27/2003

Bill -- Sometimes I think you are obtuse. Other times, simply a moron. I never denied that Republicans supportred the CRA and VRA. But those were still both bills that had immense support from the Northern and Western Democrats, and more Democrats supported the bills than Republicans. This is a simple fact. Further, without Johnson, who as I recall was a bit of a Democrat, the bill may never have been passed. Why you continue to ignore the divide between the liberal northern tier of the Democratic Party and the Southern conservcative segregationists is beyond me. (Outside of the South, support for the CRA ran 141-4 in the House as opposed to 138-34 among the GOP. So have your choice -- by numbers or by %, once you get away from Dixie, the Democrats were clearly in large part responsible for the CRA.) Again, I'll assume you're being obtuse.

You wrote:
"Well then why did you use a clearly false premise to explain why so many blacks have begun voting Democrat?"

What premise did I use to explain why blacks vote Democrat? There are two main reasons early on -- black support of the New Deal began a trend, but more important was Kennedy's response to King's 1960 arrest in Georgia. This is demonstrably true. The numbers are clear that the 1960 election was a turning point, then after that, the national Democratic party's support of civil rights was a clincher. Further, as blacks became Democrats in the South, the white South became more and more Republican. I can keep referring you to books by the most respected political scientists in this arena (the Blacks), by eminent historians (Carter), and to memoirs by some of these white southern folk (Littlejohn), but you always know more about any particular issue than the people who make a career out of it, and so you certainly don't need to explain why others wee things differently from how you do.
As for the Great Society destroying black families, it seems odd to me that one could make that assertion without also explaining why since the 1960s there are more members of the black middle class, fewer in poverty as a percentage of population (and there is clear causality between declining poverty and the Great Society), and more college educated blacks than ever. You might also explain why many of the deleterious trends you discuss expanded so incredibly during the Reagan-Bush the Elder years.

My argument has almost never been about black flight from R to D, though when I have discussed it I've been clear as to why -- most notably, the big shift happened in the 1960s and the election in 1960 in particular. Look at the numbers. My main thrust has been about the Southern shift from D to R. But as we've all clearly seen, you are at your best when arguing about issues that no one raised.

Bill Heuisler - 8/26/2003

8/26. Monsoon rains inch and a half in two hours, ravine on my property running bank to bank (twenty feet) and four feet deep. Trees and cactus floating by, lots of wet critters. No mirages.

We were talking about black leaders and Ms. Wills made an excellent point I agreed with. I wish she'd chime in on our disagreement. Set you straight.

Bill Heuisler - 8/26/2003

Try to stay on message.
August 22 at 12:59 you wrote:
"...the three decades since the white supremacist wing of the Democratic Party fled into the arms of the GOP."

You were wrong. Dixiecrat may not be Democrat, but it sure as hell isn't Republican and they voted to organize both bodies as Democrats so they could keep their chairs of most of the major committees for twenty years. After your quote above you ask the rhetorical question about Republican Racism and then answer "of course not." Well then why did you use a clearly false premise to explain why so many blacks have begun voting Democrat?

I'll see your David Duke and raise you Robert Byrd while still denying the Republican Party is anti-black in any way. The reason many blacks vote Democrat might also be:
1) The urbanization of largely a rural populations and the in-place urban machines Democrats have had since Burr and Tweed.
2) Social Programs making urban blacks more dependent on the Federal Government and less on their communities, churches and families. Killing them with short-term kindness for votes.

As to your google-search, There's a lot about me you don't know. Next time you're in Tucson I'll fill you in. Meanwhile, use that search-engine to extract the numbers on CRA and VRA. You'll be surprised to note neither would have gotten out of Committee or passed the House or Senate without many Republican votes.
So much for your benevolent Democrats.

Instead of blaming black-flight from R to D on racism, why not give the dubious credit to LBJ and his Great Society alphabet programs that did so much to get black votes while destroying black families.

J. Fremont - 8/26/2003

Maybe it's the rage at "high" gas prices in Arizona ("high" meaning more than 10% of the real cost).

Derek Catsam - 8/26/2003

By the way -- does anyone else find it peculiar that Bill would accuse someone of being obsessed about race when both of us are responding to an article about, er, race? Is irony lost in the heat without humidity climate of the Southwest?

Derek Catsam - 8/26/2003

Bill -- A quick google search shows nothing under the name "Bill Heuisler." But I am sure you are the most prolific published writer this side of Halberstam. But to say that I am obsessed with race is factually wrong and that is why I pointed out what I wrote -- my pieces on the Red Sox and Israel had nothing to do with race. Words (obsessed, eg.) have meaning, irrespective of whether you think they do. In other words -- I was presenting my record of publishing as a counter to your dumb assertion that I am "obsessed" with race.
The Dixiecrats didn't change parties? Really? They went from being "Democrats" to being "Dixiecrats." (or, more accurate, "States Rights Party") That's changing parties. Is it that complex? It's quite simple, actually. "Democrat" and "Dixiecrat" are different parties. As in not the same. As in, your saying they never left the Democrats reveals either incredible ignorance or else willful obstinance. In either care you are wrong. (Aghain, for your remedial reading edification: Dixiecrats and Democrats are DIFFERENT. Not same. Different.)
You're right -- you did not use exclamation points. I see that you chose to address that, rather than, say, that more Democrats than Republicans supported the Civil Rights Act or other substance in my post. Good to see that you can discern what is substantial and what is not about someone else's argument. Nice work. Good diversionary tactic.
I love the Heuislerian technique continuing though, Bill. Someone takes the time to write something that DOES include facts, you get steamrolled in the argument in the process, and so you say vacuous things like "filling the screen with words changes nothing." Nope. I guess you must be right Bill. You're right about everything. Always. There was no struggle for civil rights. No Democrats from the segregated South became Republicans and none of it was based on the race issue. Facts be damned. There is no racism in the Republican Party at all -- it's all the Democrats fault (David Duke was from which party again? And he was elected? To a political position? Coulkdn't be. There is no racism in the GOP. Bill "king of published writing" Heuisler says so.)
I look forward to receiving the extensive and documented Bill Heuisler bibliography that isn't available on any known search engine but that surely has been enlightening the readers of the letters section of the Tucson Tattler (oh, sorry, it's the Tucson Weekly. Wouldn't want to confuse such a high-minded publication. You must be very proud.)lo these many years. A rather simpler solution would be not to make dumb-assed claims such as that people who have written about a diverse array of topics is "obsessed" with an issue that is of some import in American history. Though you deny that as well, so you are hopeless. Long live the non-party changing party changing Dixiecrats, eh Bill?

Bill Heuisler - 8/26/2003

Filling the screen with words changes nothing. You are wrong on your "open arms" diatribe. The Dixiecrats didn't change parties the way you said they did. Also, you do tend to be obsessed with race and you obviously can't read very well.
You wrote:
"So saying with indignant exclaimation points that he opposed something else is nice diversion, but does not address a thing i wrote."
Now you're seeing exclamation points? Read it again. No !!!s
Another thing, get off the I wrote and you didn't write crap. You haven't the slightest notion what I've written. But you lose an argument, change the subject and substitute facts with words. Typical.

J. Fremont - 8/25/2003

For an Israeli leader, especially in light of the origins of Israel, to stand back and let a massacre take place under his nose, should have resulted in his permanent disbarment from politics there. Check out the Belgium courts if you think this is my opinion only. Trent Lott is a juvenile delinquent in comparison, but still an unlikely magnet for black votes on the Pecos or the Santa Cruz.

Derek Catsam - 8/25/2003

Bill -- you are either a liar or a bad reader. Your choice. A few nuggets from your last tirade:

You wrote: "Most people are not obsessed with race the way you seem to be." I'm obsessed with race? Really? Funny, on this website alone (Derek: 2 articles. Bill Heuisler: 0) I have written full pieces AND engaged with my critics about Israel and the Red Sox. Obsessed indeed.

You wrote: ""many senators in particular remained Democrats but increasingly voted with the GOP in order to maintain their committee chairmanships". Nonsense. Where's your flight to open arms? The Republicans didn't hold a Senate Majority - except once in the Fifties - until recently." Er, Bill, a simple lesson -- the majority party controls chairmanships. Thus what you write here BOLSTERS my point (and the point of the Blacks; and the point of other writers -- Dan Carter, eg. or Tony Badger) -- that they stayed with the Dems to maintain their committee chairmanships because they'd have had no power -- no chairmanships -- in a GOP minority. But they did increasingly support proposals of the GOP. This is fact. Look at roll call votes from 1965 to 1980 to see how many crossed the aisle. Again, look at Black. Then follow the footnotes. Then tell me that voting patterns did not shift. Or look at Justice Littlejohn's memoirs if you'd like. He explains this process as well.

You wrote: "The Republicans passed Civil Rights Legislation that wouldn't have passed without their votes. And you know full well Al Gore Senior voted against the Voting Rights Act. I'm damn tired of your broad-brush smears of the Republican Party. You call us racists and say the Southern electorate switched because of race. The real reasons? The Democrat Party became the Party of McGovern - tax, spend, anti-war, Boland Amendment etc." Ahhh, so much idiocy, so little time. The Republicans passed Civil Rights legislation? They sure helped, but in tye case of the CRA there were more Democrats than Republicans who supported the acts, (I do not have the data about the VRA in front of me -- I think it was the same, barring immense changes that did not happen between 194 and 1965) and in both cases if you separate by region, it is clear where the intransigence lay -- in the South almost solely. Do you still deny regional varioation in the Democratic Party in the Civil Rights era? Look at the breakdown! So what if Gore senior opposed the Voting Rights Act? What I argued, very clearly for those who managed to get passed third grade, was that Gore did not sign on to the Southern Manifesto. So saying with indignant exclaimation points that he opposed something else is nice diversion, but does not address a thing i wrote. Keep tilting at imaginary windmills Billy Boy. (Meanwhile the The 1964 Presidential nominee opposed the Civil Rights Act. One example does not a trend make, especially when one looks that Democrats outside of the South supported the 1964 Act 141-4 in the House. Though a President is the putative head of his party . . .) I called you racist? Where, Bill? Where did I say "The Republican Party are racists?" I never did. But your utterly guileless, unsophisticated reading style (and writing style. No matter.) reads not what is there, or not even what is discernible, but rather what you want to see to suddenly play victim when the facts are swamping you. No one ever said that race was the sole reason for the switch either, though in the 1960s it certainly played a huge role, especially at the state and local level.

So whine and cry all you want. Play the victim all you want. Rage against things never written all you want. Deny that the South realigned and claim that if it did, race had nothing to do with it. Blacks are apparently too dumb to realize where their interests lie even as they have increasingly rejected the covert and overt racism of SOME in the GOP. And then claim that Lott's past has ever had a racial blemish on it by claiming that people who have written about an array of issues (where you have written f***all, as they might say in other countries) is "obsessed" as if caring about race in the United States is a hopeless diversion and not at all relevant to our history. Then again, you deny that there was a struggle for civil rights in this country, so apparently things for blacks have actually always been good, and what gains were made came easily and were the result of the largesse of white folks. Yup Bill, you got it right. I guess I'm just obsessed.

Derek Catsam - 8/25/2003

Mr. Fremont --
I may not be an Israeli historian, but I have spent time there, have given it a great deal of thought, and certainly have as much to say as your typical columnist who flits from topic to topic and can say anty damned fool thing they want. I am well aware of Sharon's background and history, may well be able to tell you a thing or two, and dson't buy the parallel between white supremacy in the US and the Israel situation. Remind me of the 20 churchgoers killed on their way back from a service at the hands of civil rights workers and you'll have a starting point. Israel is not akin to the white supremacists no matter what you may say. Keep in mind also that Sharon is building the wall -- a policy supported not by likud but by the israeli left. No one seems to acknowledge that, largely because it does not fit into their caricatured view of Ari. Were I an Israeli citizen i would vote labor and would be less hardline than Sharon, but if I must choose between Sharon or Arafat, well, the choice should be obvious. Further, as to my qualifications to write about Israel, go back, read my piece from a couple of months back, make substantive criticisms about WHAT I WROTE and not your own preconceived notions, and then tell me whether i should be allowed to write about this topic.
As for southern history, it is my strength and my main focus. But unlike most academics, I reject the need to pigeonhole myself. I do both US and African history with an emphasis on race, politics and social movements in the US and South Africa, but also on modern US politics and an array of other areas.

Bill Heuisler - 8/25/2003

Mr. Fremont,
Your opinions seem endless. Have you any facts? Can your mind engage in discussion?

"Such a man", you sneer. Ariel Sharon. Haganah during British occupation, fought in the '48 Arab-Israeli War, raided Gaza in the 50s killing many Egyptian troops, as a General during the six-day-War led in the capture of East Jerusalem and the West Bank. In Knesset in '73; resigned to be security chief under Rabin. Goaded by PLO raids into Northern Israel he led a massive raid into Lebanon all the way to Beirut and occupied a wide area of Southern Lebanon. The move stopped the PLO using Lebanon to launch attacks against Israel, but also resulted in the massacre of hundreds of Palestinians by Lebanese Christian militiamen in two Beirut refugee camps under nominal Israeli control. Sharon was removed from office in 1983 when an Israeli tribunal found him indirectly responsible for the killings.

Indirectly. Yasser and Saddam actually pay for murders of innocents, but I'll bet you don't waste much of your moral outrage on either of them. Or do you think Sharon was directly responsible, Mr. Fremont? Perhaps you have evidence he planned Shatilla. Can your brain produce specifics or are you merely another empty-headed Leftist?
Bill Heuisler

Bill Heuisler - 8/24/2003

Certainly it's deniable. Most people are not obsessed with race the way you seem to be. Trent Lott and Thurmond do not make your open arms case. You had a list of fifty or so Democrats and couldn't name one (except Thurmond) who switched parties.

Then you have the gall to say, "many senators in particular remained Democrats but increasingly voted with the GOP in order to maintain their committee chairmanships". Nonsense. Where's your flight to open arms? The Republicans didn't hold a Senate Majority - except once in the Fifties - until recently. Those Dixiecrats stayed in their Party until they retired. Admit it.

The Republicans passed Civil Rights Legislation that wouldn't have passed without their votes. And you know full well Al Gore Senior voted against the Voting Rights Act. I'm damn tired of your broad-brush smears of the Republican Party. You call us racists and say the Southern electorate switched because of race. The real reasons? The Democrat Party became the Party of McGovern - tax, spend, anti-war, Boland Amendment etc.

My opinion is the Vietnam War caused seismic shifts in voting patterns and racial politics have become more a tool for demagogues and race-baiters than real motivation at the polls for non-black voters of either party.

J. Fremont - 8/24/2003

Derek, Bill Heuisler would deny that the sun rises in the east, if it suited his particular rant of the moment. (He'd probably tell you what a Marxist fool you are for not realizing that sun screen is of no use until after the sun is already up anyway).

You seem to be pretty up on your southern political history, maybe you should drop the Israeli history in favor of this, or start looking more closely at Ariel Sharon's history in Lebanon and ask yourself how such a man could go even further in his party than Trent Lott did in his.

Derek Catsam - 8/24/2003

Trent Lott's record on racial matters has never been criticized as far as you know? Are you serious?

Let's look at the risible record:
First off, he has admitted that in the 1960s he opposed "forced integration." Very convenient for a resident of a state that would only accept integration by force.
Meanwhile his first post law school job was one working for the arch-segregationist Representative William Colmer. Lott ran to succeed his mentor Colmer in 1972.
In 1978 Lott was at the forefront of a movement to restore citizenship status to jefferson Davis (!) and soon after lobbied to restore tax breaks to segregated private schools (in his letter to Reagan complaining of these tax policies, Lott averred that witholding tax-exempt status from these schools would alienate some of Reagan's most ardent supporters. Hmmmmm . . .) He opposed busing, not uncommon or necassarily racist, but the man who wanted to restore Davis' citizenship rights also opposed the MLK Jr. holiday, opposed continuation of the 64 CRA, twice voted against extending the VRA.
As GOP Platform Committee head in 1984 he declared that the "spirit of Jefferson Davis was alive and well in the Republican Party." Meanwhile, twenty or so years before his supposedly poorly chosen comments about Strom Thurmond, in 1980, Lott declared "You know, if we had elected this man thirty years ago, we wouldn't be in this mess we are today." Hmmmm.
And what of Lott's ties to the Council of Conservative Citizens, a white supremacist group? In 1999!

Name one Lost Cause Republican type who can match any of the ones that you named? How many times do I have to name Strom Thurmond, Democrat turned Republican? (PS -- keep in mind that Al Gore Sr. did not sign the Southern Manifesto).
At the local, state and national level a number of southerners found a home in the GOP (see Justice C. Bruce Littlejohn's memoir on this -- he was a South Carolinian who did so and recounts the trend in his state) also in SC, Albert Watson changed.
Furthermore, the region of white supremacy converted to Republicanism. This is not insignificant, as the politics of race continued to play a role in the South (and across the nation) and most of those who used to vote Democrat became Republicans largely, if not solely, on the basis of race, at least at first. many senators in particular remained Democrats but increasingly voted with the GOP in order to maintain their committee chairmanships, but by the 1970s, new faces had been elected from the South on (inter alia) tha race issue. Today racial conservatives certainly reside most prtominently in the Republican Party. I cannot possibly see how that is deniable.

J.. Fremont - 8/23/2003

Thanks, my atlas is still accurate. I wouldn't mind redrawing the lines a bit so that Crawford Ranch is in Mexico, but that would be unkind to our friendly neighbors down south.

Claim Santa Cruz if you want (lots of long-haired surfers there though, and I don't mean surfers of neanderthal websites), but I spotted you in Rosa's Cantina in the West Texas town of El Paso recently. You were cornered there by a lynch mob of collectivist press magnates who were going to force you to run for mayor of El Amok, Iraq, but you managed to convince them you were too busy lassoing Marxist cyclones. Impressed with your wit and bravery in battle, they let you go. On to the Pecos, Bill, where there are lots of black voters eagerly awaiting trickle-down economics and the arrival of the next ice age.

Bill Heuisler - 8/23/2003

Mr. Fremont,
Shouldn't it be Santa Cruz Bill? The Pecos is in Texas. Thank you for complimenting my Vast Collectivist Newspapers Theory. Many of us, I'm sure, would love to hear your theories on this matter...if it's not too much trouble.
Bill Heuisler

Bill Heuisler - 8/23/2003

No. Clinton's eulogy to Fulbright. What exactly did W ever say about Strom Thurmond, Derek? Do you recall?

As to the "open arms" subject, guess I need to learn to write.
Copying that execrable list of Democrat Racists was done so you (a student of the period) could tell me how many comfortable Democrat Committee Chairmen whose names we all grew up hearing in news clips became Republicans? My opinion? Not many at all. Therefore your flight to the Republican Party theory is wrong.
I wrote:
"Can you find any Republicans other than Thurmond and maybe Whitten? I can't, but you're more up on this period than I am."
Perhaps I should've written "who became Republicans".

We agree on almost everything except Republican culpability by association. I dispute Byrd's record and his position in the Democrat Party after his term "white n---" was used. Wasn't he Senate President at the time? I don't remember, but deference he receives from press and colleagues speaks for itself. Trent Lott's record on matters of race has never been criticized as far as I can recall. For my edification, please name one "Lost Cause" type Republican who can match Byrd, Heflin, Fulbright - or Al Gore Senior, for that matter - from the South or otherwise.

Derek Catsam - 8/23/2003

Bill --
Your latter point actually makes my point. That the shift of Southern whites from Democrat to Republican occurred after the Civil Rights Movement. But the beginning of the breakdown of the Solid South -- the willingness to consider what would previously have been apostasy -- began in 1948 when the Dixiecrats broke. From that point on, the Southern Dems saw themselves at war with their own party over the issue of race, and that eventaully caused many of them to run to the GOP, and furthermore, cause Southern voters to turn to the GOP.

As for the beginning of the black shift from R to D, certainly that began with FDR, but it is not really disputed that it was the 1960 election that solidified this -- until 1960, thre majority of blacks were GOP, thereaafter, Democrat.

A President praising a segregationist? Are you referring to Bush's praise of Strom? Klansman as permanent SenatePresident? You keep bringing this up as if anyone ever said that the Democrats had utterly clean hands on race. But you know what? In the end, we judge our politicians by their voting records and what they do in office, and by any estimate, Byrd has a solid and better record on issues of race in terms of voting -- don't ask me, ask the CBC or the NAACP. But should he ever have been in any positions of leadership after his use of the "N" word? No. Was he? No. The differencde between him and Lott is that Lott had an abysmal record on matters of race, worse than Byrd's KKK membership in many ways (make sure not to confuse your Byrds), in terms of how recently he did what he did. Did Lott leave the Senate after his wretched words? No. He stepped down from his leadership position -- most surmise, by the way, at the behest of his President.

Back to the 1956 Manifesto (which again proves my point , -- that the Demicrats still had ther yoke of white supremacy around their necks. What you curiously omit is how many of those signers became Republicans in the decade and a half to follow.

Ultimately there were two Democratis Parties -- the liberal Northern/midwestern wing and the conservativbe Southern flank. This division would continue to a degree -- obviously not every Southerner became a Republican, but in many ways, the GOP now faces what the Dems did in the 1960s and 1970s inasmuch as their are two repblican Parties, a socially conservative wing that has its weight in the South, and a more socially moderate and fiscally conservative republicanism of the West and North. It is that former group that has the remnants of the Lost Cause, "Never!", Stand in the Schoolhouse Door types.

J. Fremont - 8/22/2003

The mighty websurfer of histrionics, Pecos Bill Heuisler proclaimeth: Blacks switched parties en mass because they were brainwashed by a conspiracy of collectivist newspapers. Maybe this is what he meant by "intellectual racism".

Bill Heuisler - 8/22/2003

A President praising a segregationist, no high-level black Clinton appointments and a Klansman as permanent Senate President when the Dems are in majority means nothing to you?
Maybe my writing wasn't clear. When I said voting shift, I referred to the original topic. Black voters shifted from R to D. during the period FDR through LBJ because of flawed history and lazy, lousy, negligent press coverage.

And as to your historic shift of elected Dixiecrats, Where is it? Other than Strom and one or two more, I can't locate any massive flight from the Democrat Party.

For example, examine the signers of the 1956 Southern Manifesto:
Walter George, Richard Russell, John Stennis, Sam Elvin, Strom Thurmond, Harry Byrd, A. Willis Robertson, John McClellan, Allen Ellender, Russell Long, Lister Hill, James Eastland, W. Kerr Scott, John Sparkman, Olin Johnston, Price Daniel, J. Fulbright, George Smathers, Spessard Holland, Frank Boykin, George Grant, George Andrews, Kenneth Roberts, Albert Rains, Armistead Selden, Carl Elliott, Robert Jones, George Huddleston, E.C. Gathings, Wilbur Mills, James Trimble, Oren Harris, Brooks Hays, W.F. Norrell, Charles Bennett, Robert Sikes, A.S. Herlong, Paul Rogers, James Haley, D.R. Matthews, Prince Preston, John Pilcher, E.L. Forrester, John James Flynt, James Davis, Carl Vinson, Henderson Lanham, Iris Blitch, Phil Landrum, Paul Brown, F. Edward Hebert, Hale Boggs, Edwin Willis, Overton Brooks, Otto Passman, James Morrison, T. Ashton Thompson, George Long, Thomas Abernathy, Jamie Whitten, Frank Smith, John Bell Williams, Arthur Winstead, William Colmer, Herbert Bonner, L.H. Fountain, Graham Barden, Carl Durham, F. Ertel Carlyle, Hugh Alexander, Woodrow Jones, George Shuford, Mendel Rivers, John Riley, W.J. Bryan Dorn, Robert Ashmore, James Richards, John McMillan, James Frazier, Tom Murray, Jere Cooper and Clifford Davis.

Can you find any Republicans other than Thurmond and maybe Whitten? I can't, but you're more up on this period than I am.
Face it, the Democrat Party gets the Black vote for the same reason Cruz Bustamonte gets away with using the "N" word.
Our mainstream press wants it that way.

Derek Catsam - 8/22/2003

Bill -- no time to address you many misstatements, but the most respected of Southern political observers, Earl and Merle Black show that by numbers, by percentage, or by any other measure, the brunt of the transition of the Southern whites from Dem to GOP occurred in the 60s and 70s, and in any case, that trend had not even barely begun until after 1948 and the Dixiecrats. These are simple historical facts. How many Southerners changed from D to R in the period from 1940 to 1947 -- in fact, how many GOP Senators or Congressmen were there in toto from below Mason and Dixon's Line in 1947? Your FDR statem,ents are simply wrong. No numbers will support them because there are no such numbers. Were there some defections? Not many, and in any case, to compare them to the 1960s and 1970s is to show an utter misunderstanding of both historical facts and rudimentary math.

As for a party praising an ex-segregationist, funny, I recall a few bouquets tossed Ol' Strom's way. But I guess the former segregationist Governor of South Carolina and Dixiecrat candidate for p[resident (what did they stand for again?) doesn't count.

More later. There's doin's afoot (as the father from Shelbyville told his son when the Springfield folk were taking back their lemon tree.).

Bill Heuisler - 8/22/2003

Please stop the "safe haven" rhetoric. The opposite is true.
Were Robert Byrd a Republican and elected Senate President each time the Party controlled the US Senate, there would be rampant apoplexy among Liberal ranks and the mainstream press. As former Kleagle(sp?) his committment to the KKK was rather more than mere membership. Were President Bush to extoll the virtues of an avowed segregationist ex-Senator the way President Clinton praised his mentor, J. William Fulbright, howls would be heard. Didn't Al Gore Senior vote against a Civil Rights Voting Act?
In fact, the Democrat Party has always - and continues - a wink and nod attitude toward their institutional embarrassments. A Leftist on this site referred to Justice Thomas as "slappy" and not one of you "holier than thou" Libs even squeaked.

Powell& Rice. Name a similar high-level appointment Clinton made.
The first black President will probably be a Republican and she won't get a majority of the black vote. Tragic. But you guys have won the hearts and minds through misstatement of history.

To sluff off the voting shift to the seventies is wrong. You will find the shift from D to R occurred during FDR's term and was further accomplished during LBJ's Presidency. Why? The Civil Rights struggle has been solely attributed to the Democrats in the national press. But both Parties participated. As we've discussed in the past, the sixties Civil Rights Legislation would not have passed without a majority of Republican votes.

Dixiecrats (think Stennis, Hefner, etc) did not massively flee the Dems, but voted from their safe seats to obstruct Civil Rights. Republicans of unimpeachable character (think Goldwater, Mundt) made the horrible political blunder of standing up for States Rights technicalities. Unfairly, they were painted as having racial motives. Unfortunately, the charge has stuck.
Best, Bill

Derek Catsam - 8/22/2003

Bill --
Maybe some people see you as a self-anointed spokesman for the GOP because you so often condemn all Democrats in your posts, as you did when you asked "will Democrats listen" yesterday and your other attempts to make your points by counterpoising them against the Democrats. You may not be a spokesman for the Republicans; you certainly seem to have an axe to grind against the Democrats.
As to the selection of politicians you choose -- Byrd, Heflin, Fulbright -- are these really by any stretch representative of the current Democratic Party? Are Rice, Powell, and Thomas really representative of the GOP? Analytically, this is a hugely problematic proposition, whether or not your initial question -- why blacks support the Dems over the GOP -- is fully legitimate, and important for both parties to understand. But I can think of about three dozen Democrats whose values do appear to be more in line with what that 90% of black Americans have consistently supported for the three decades since the white supremacist wing of the Democratic Party fled into the arms of the GOP. Does this make the Republican Party the party of white supremacy? Of course not. And when lefties use such rhetoric, they should be ignored, dismissed out of hand, or forced to read a few books, if only they would let themselves understand them. But it does mean that the GOP has the problematic relationship with race that the Democrats have largely purged the party of -- I do not mean to say that there are not racist Democrats. But rather that as a party there is no longer the same safe haven there once was, and the GOP has made the decision to allow those racial conservatives who are also sometimes racists to find a comfortable home in the Republican Party.

Jesse Lamovsky - 8/22/2003

True enough about Mr. Goldwater and his advocacy of nukes on North Vietnam. But would he really have taken such a course? A lot of the tales circulating about Goldwater's so-called extremist views during the '64 campaign were overblown. I'm reminded of the words of a Vietnam protester; "I was told that if I voted for Goldwater, we'd be at war in six months. I did- and we were."

Lindbergh? Hmm...

As for black politicians who may be, in the words of Dwight Eisenhower, "presidential timber":

Condi Rice: Her credibility may be shot (and rightfully so) because of the 16-word brouhaha, and I've heard she is, for all intents and purposes, George W.'s right-hand gal. She's a true neo-con, which is not a good thing if events really start to head south in Iraq, as they look like they are. I'm guessing that if the war turns into a liability to Mr. Bush, neo-cons like Paul Wolfowitz will be the first people tossed overboard. Condi may be one of these sacrifices (although she may survive, because she's personally very close to Bush, and he probably won't be able to find another minority female to run the NSC anyway).

Colin Powell: His popularity ratings actually exceed that of the President, and if the Iraq war really goes sour (as if it hasn't already), he may be the only man in this Administration to walk away relatively unscathed. He has an air of solidity, of trustworthiness, about him. If he runs, he could definitely win. He'd get the Buchananite, "true conservative" vote (Pat had some nice things to say about Mr. Powell in "The American Conservative" a few months back), he'd probably get a lot of crossover Democratic votes because of his relatively liberal social views (pro-choice, pro-affirmative action), and I daresay he'd get a lot of votes from the kind of people who would brag about how "tolerant" and "enlightened" they are, voting for a black man (this sounds a bit cynical, I know).

Short of, say, Walter Williams deciding to throw his hat in the ring, I don't know. Any other African-Americans who may fit the bill?

J. Fremont - 8/21/2003

RE: Self-appointed spokespeople needing help

Your above-referenced request is hereby declined. Real heirs to Lincoln understand "malice towards none and charity for all". They do not understand "condescension and intellectual racism", and they are not, at this time, able to assist bogus claimants to Lincoln's legacy.

Bill Heuisler - 8/21/2003

Mr. Fremont,
May we assume you are a full-time historian and you discovered I was a spokesperson for the Republican Party during research. Then you know we sometimes-historian-spokesmen need help.

Given your superior knowledge, can you explain why the party of Rice, Powell and Thomas gets fewer black votes than the party of Heflin, Byrd and Fulbright?
Bill Heuisler

Jerome Fremont - 8/21/2003

"Will Democrats listen" to Martin Luther King ?,
asks the sometimes historian Mr. Heuisler.

Yes, I think the 90% of black Americans who vote Democratic have listened and will listen.

It is ironic that the party of Lincoln is today such an collossal failure at garnering the votes of descendants of emancipated slaves.

I am not African American myself, and won't try to claim that nothing has changed in the preferences of African Americans over the past century and a half. Nevertheless, I think I am on safe ground in assuming that Republican Party going from 90% to 10% of the black vote was due more to changes in the Republican Party than to changes in the preferences of black voters. And, with spokespeople like Mr. Heuisler, it is easy to see how this might have happened.

Roger Wright - 8/21/2003

Though John Dean's been looking pretty interesting too lately...

But didn't Goldwater advocate using nukes on North Vietnam ?

Charles Lindbergh sounds more up your alley.

And, since the subject is supposed to be black American leaders,
what about Condi ?

Bill Heuisler - 8/21/2003

Ms. Wills,
Allow me to rejoice in nearly total agreement. When you wrote, "Dr. Kings dream was not just for black Americans, it was for all Americans." you said it all. But will Democrats listen?

While supporting the Bush administration, I find the designation of race as harbinger of attitude or clue to politics odious. For instance, Justice Clarence Thomas has as much right to his conservative beliefs as Condaleeza Rice has to hers. Attacking these Americans because their politics don't reflect prevailing Liberal attitudes is condescension and intellectual racism.
Bill Heuisler

Jesse Lamovsky - 8/21/2003


I'm no fan of George W. Bush, who I'm convinced is a liberal wolf in conservative sheep's clothing. Which is exactly why I can't understand the animus toward him from the left.

Anyway, I don't know if I'd pick any of them, for the following reasons:

George W. Bush: A warmonger and a puppet of his neoconservative advisors

John McCain: A war-nut, plain and simple

Dennis Kucinich: A socialist who helped drive the city of Cleveland into bankrupcy (and who is also on record as saying that he would use his executive powers to overturn any anti-affirmative action laws passed by Congress)

Howard Dean (you do mean Howard, right?): I'm not convinced of his anti-war credentials- even he warns that peace people "should not fall in love with him", and he may try to spring a socialized health care system on us

I'd vote for the candidate who is non-intervention, anti-welfare (in all its forms), pro-2nd amendment, and who respects the separation of powers. Since such a candidate is not going to come along in '04 (unless Barry Goldwater comes back to life), I may stay home.

It was probably a mistake on my part to include "hate-Bush" in my screed. I may have left the impression that I have some sort of affinity for the man. I do not. Thanks for your inquiry!

Roger T. Wright - 8/21/2003

I not keeping a running tally, Jesse, but excoriations about "liberal-leftists" using "code-words" to promote "hate-Bush" ideologies sound out of synch for you. If you care to tell me which of the following you'd rather see as U.S. President, that would clear up my confusion about your positions, I think:

George W. Bush
John McCain
Dennis Kucinich
John Dean
Condelezza Rice

Jesse Lamovsky - 8/21/2003

Thanks for the (qualified) praise. You mention contradictions, though not specifics, so I'm going to have to guess at what these contradictions are.

My guess is that they concern my praise of Colin Powell, which doesn't exactly jibe with my criticisms of the Bush Administration in other postings. I acknowledge that Mr. Powell's performance at the UN was shameful, and he must shoulder his share of the responsibility for the Iraq fiasco. Nevertheless, he does command a great deal of respect around the world, as I've said, and his moderating influence on the Bush Administration- however much that is- may have been enough for this country not to spread the war to Syria just after the fall of Baghdad. If my comments on Powell aren't the contradiction of which you speak- please enlighten me!

As for Justice Thomas, I have heard the criticisms of his intellectual gravity similar to yours, particularly from his first years on the Court, when he was considered to be not much more than a shadow of Antonin Scalia. However, his dissents in the recent Michigan Law School and Texas sodomy cases were lucid and well-reasoned, and at any rate, his committment to the Constitution, and the earnestness of his duty to uphold it, are a lot more gratifying than the intellectual gymnastics displayed by Justice O'Connor.

Stephen Kriz - 8/20/2003


Anita Wills - 8/20/2003

It is interesting that Mr. Kashutus would chose this topic to attack blacks on. What is disturbing about this article is that it seperates blacks from Americans as a whole. The article accuses black leaders of abandoning Martin Luther Kings platform, and focusing on partisan politics.

Yet, the writer gives no examples of blacks participating in partisan politics. Although, it should not surprise anyone to find black leaders doing exactly what other groups do. I would say that whites, Hispanics, and Asians also engage in partisan politics. Dr. Kings dream was not just for black Americans, it was for all Americans. Every American must work together to make the dream a reality, not just black Americans.

Colin Powell has the right, and freedom to work with anyone he choses. What if he left his position as Secretary of State? I believe the situation would be worse, if he were to leave. I do not support the Bush Administrations policy, but would not say that whites have abandoned Kennedy's vision. That makes no sense, and it divides Americans along racial lines. Please know that within my community, which is the black community, there are conservatives, liberals, and all in between. We are a community that is as diverse as any community you will find in America.

Until you understand that you will not grasp the importance of Dr. Kings movement.

Roger T. Wright - 8/20/2003

You do okay on your little tirade, Jesse, even make a few legitimate points (despite contradicting your earlier posts on other pages of the website), until the very end here when you throw it all away.

By all accounts, Clarence Thomas is the all-time most incompetent member of the Supreme Court. Every time there is major ruling, he is conspicuous by the brevity of his opinion, usually giving no opinion at all, just a concurrence in some other justice's opinion. His ignorance of constitutional law and lack of prior judicial experience are inescapable. He is polite and the other justices are polite to him, but he is a standing embarrassment not just to black Republicans but to all Americans. His positions on affirmative action are an utter triviality in comparison. The one trait shared by both Papa and Junior Bush, a legacy of mediocre appointments, has reached its epitome (so far !) here.

Jesse Lamovsky - 8/19/2003

Mr. Kashatus's exhortation to African-Americans to divorce themselves from practical politics and, in his words, "proudly maintain its political independence while serving as the conscience of society" contains a number of problems. First off, if there is a "prophetic tradition" to the African-American approach to politics, my guess is that it springs more from the fact that blacks were forcibly kept out of the political arena for a hundred years than from any conscious strategy on the part of that community. Once African-Americans were given the right to participate in mainstream politics, they would have been foolish not to. The advantages that blacks enjoy today- the billions of dollars in entitlements, affirmative action and the like- came about as the result of political pressure. Would Mr. Kashatus argue that other ethnic groups- Jews, Hispanics, Italians, Irish- would have benefited from eschewing mainstream politics?

Some of Kashatus's assessments of King are off the mark as well. He was deeply involved in politics for the last several years of his life- advocating social democratic legislative solutions to the economic problems faced by blacks, throwing himself into the battle over the status of the Freedom Democratic Party at the 1964 Democratic Convention in Atlantic City, planning the Poor Peoples' March on Washington at the time he was killed. To suggest that Dr. King stayed serenely above the political fray is a stretch, to say the least. Just because he didn't run for office doesn't mean he wasn't involved in politics.

Kashatus also resorts to the kind of loaded language the liberal left usually employs when it comes to contemporary race relations. What he refers to as "economic justice" and "social justice" are just code-terms for stealing the wealth of the productive and handing it over to the non-productive (welfare), and depriving one group of employment and enrollment opportunities in favor of another, preferred group (affirmative action, itself a code-term for race quotas).

The ideological biases masquerading as truth abound. The notion that "black members of Congress... were willing to publicly question Bush's decision to go to war in Iraq... raise serious questions about the effectiveness of their leadership" is a good example. Not only does Kashatus ignore the fact that a good many black legislators (Cynthia McKinney, Earl Hilliard, and Charles Rangel, to name a few) spoke out vehemently against President Bush's post-9/11 foreign policy, but he conflates any possible agreement with the Bush Adminstration with "ineffective" leadership. In other words, according to Mr. Kashatus, if you're not an angry, hate-whitey, hate-Bush, gimme-a-handout, race hustler, you're simply not an "effective" black leader.

Which leads us to the old standby: the attacks on Colin Powell and Justice Thomas. Powell, a distinguished soldier and the one man in this administration who is generally admired the world over, is to Kashatus a "hostage to the Republican party", who has "compromised his integrity". Of course, to Kashatus, if you're a black man and you aren't still whining about slavery and demanding trillions in reparations (handouts) from Whitey, well, you've got no integrity; in fact, you're just a tool of those mean, racist Republicans. And of course Mr. Kashatus finds it "disturbing" that Justice Thomas, the one man on the Supreme Court who, along with Mr. Scalia, understands that his duty is to protect the Constitution, not promote "social justice", does not support so-called affirmative action. Yeah, old Clarence is a real racist alright- he actually believes that you should earn what you get, and not take it from someone else! The nerve of him? Why can't he be a "good boy" and toe the line?

I understand that Mr. Kashatus has opinions. Fine. But he should have the integrity to call them opinions, and not try to disguise them as facts. Because he can't fool all of us.

Derek Catsam - 8/19/2003

The author presents a false dichotomy between the prophetic tradition and the political path. King himself never rejected politics or politicians -- indeed, much of his aim was to get politicians to act. He believed that by appealing to the morality of the power structure, he could simultaneously change the legal (and thus political) elements of that culture. It was King who said that you may not be able to make a man love him, but you could stop him from lynching him. Further, a good number of those from the prophetic tradition entered politics, showing that they too did not see that the two aspects were at odds with one another.