Democrat or Republican? If as a Galvestonian you’re a proud member of either of the two “major” parties, you should study U.S. history before you get too carried away attacking the other party’s preferences. The political ideals we celebrate every year in July haven’t always been, we all admit, ideas we agree on or ideals that we’ve reached.
Blind arrogance, fear, anger and changing or distorted views have never allowed things to settle down.
Examples: Democrats, be careful about what you say about Republicans, since it was past prominent Democrats who said:
• “Our slaves are Black, of another and inferior race. The status in which we’ve placed them is an elevation. They’re elevated from the condition in which God first created them, by being made our slaves.” — James Henry Hammond, Governor and U.S. Senator, South Carolina, in 1858 on the floor of the Senate.
• “White Supremacy, Honest Elections and the New Constitution, One and Inseparable” — the slogan on mail distributed by the Alabama Democratic State Campaign Committee, fall 1901.
• “I hope not. I don’t believe in it. The Lord created it that way. You read your Bible and you’ll find out.” — Harry Truman, when asked in 1963 if he thought integration would lead to interracial marriage.
• “... the mingling of Asiatic blood with European or American blood produces, in nine cases out of ten, the most unfortunate results.” — Franklin Delano Roosevelt, newspaper column, 1925.
Republicans, your turn — past major Republican leaders said:
• “Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.” — Abraham Lincoln, as president, 1861.
• “The divorce between church and state should be absolute.” — James Garfield, 1874.
• “I would suggest the taxation of all property equally, whether church or corporation.” — Ulysses Grant, as president, 1875.
• “The real difficulty is with the vast wealth and power in the hands of the few and the unscrupulous who represent or control capital.” — No, no, not Bernie Sanders, but President Rutherford B. Hayes, 1888.
And, before we even had political parties, George Washington declared something any Democrat or Republican should — but maybe wouldn’t — be proud to say. In 1784, he told his foreman about hiring workers, “If they are good workmen, they may be of Asia, Africa, or Europe. They may be Muslims, Jews, or Christians of any sect, or they may be atheists.”
Party affiliation isn’t meaningless nor always atypical and hypocritical, but, as with other political labels, the situation and history matters. And it’s not just that we all need to be aware of oversimplification regarding parties. Historical and political complexity requires thoughtful, careful, nuanced consideration of ideas more generally, too.
Happy Fourth of July.