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.

Ed Buckner is a native of League City who now lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

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(11) comments

Charles Douglas

God article! Enjoyed it! [thumbup]

Charles Douglas

Put another "o" in it and it will say "good article' ..which is what I meant.

Ed Buckner


Carlos Ponce

"I would suggest the taxation of all property equally, whether church or corporation, exempting only the last resting place of the dead and possibly, with proper restrictions, church edifices." Ulysses S. Grant December 7, 1875

“The divorce between Church and State ought to be absolute. It ought to be so absolute that no Church property anywhere, in any state or in the nation, should be exempt from equal taxation; for if you exempt the property of any church organization, to that extent you impose a tax upon the whole community.” Congressman James A. Garfield of Ohio

Ed Buckner

Carlos Ponce, the word limit on guest columns prevented me from giving the fuller quotes--thank you for posting them here. And, as you no doubt realize, Congressman Garfield went on to be President, though he was shot on 2 July 1881 (exactly 140 years ago yesterday).

See for more details --Ed B.

Ted Gillis

I approve with Mr. Garfield's quote.

Bailey Jones

"Republican" and "Democrat" are the names of political parties, not ideologies. If you're going to divide the populace up into opposing camps, I'd go with conservatives and progressives, two ideologies that have ebbed and flowed in both parties.

America was born in a fit of radical progressivism - a tossing out of the old pre-Enlightenment order which placed God at the top, with God's anointed monarchs on earth right below Him, and the fates of the lessor born structured by a hereditary aristocracy that ordered every man's life, from birth to death. The founders replaced it with a republican and somewhat democratic meritocracy where every (free) man could make of his life what he would.

Conservatives in 1776 were known as "Tories" and opposed this radical re-interpretation of the social order. In fact, "conservatism" as a philosophy was in many ways a reaction to the progressive ideals of the Enlightenment. Tens of thousands of American tories fled the colonies during the Revolution. (No need to thank us, Canada.)

The history of America since its founding has been the back and forth herky-jerky of progressives pushing the boundaries of freedom and justice and conservatives pushing back to protect the traditional social order.

We've seen this play out many times over many issues - slavery, civil rights, women's suffrage, LGBT rights, immigration, the rights of labor and capital, public education, economic justice, the role of government - and most recently, voting and elections.

This is a healthy dichotomy. It is the yin and yang of American politics and the American people's never-ending quest to do something that pre-Enlightenment people never even dreamed of - to create a nation in their own image according to their own ideals.

And that is certainly worth celebrating - whether you believe that we've yet to fulfill the promise of America's founding or that we've taken it all too far.

Ed Buckner

Good analysis, as always, Mr. Jones. My intention in providing quotes tied to parties was merely to remind those current partisans who value their political party more than good ideas and good sense that the party labels have been poor predictors of stands in re ideas. I agree with the words that Republicans said in my essay and disagree with those from Democrats pretty uniformly, but I still prefer the Democratic leaders and platforms over the recent GOP ones.

Wayne D Holt

When you're on, you're on, Bailey. [thumbup]

Wayne D Holt

Well done, Ed! Lose the tags, focus on the ideas, sort through differences, reach compromise. Make America Better Than Ever...

Ed Buckner

Thanks--great summary of what I intended, Mr. Holt.

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