How To Make A Career Out Of Lying (Or How Republicans Cheat History)
Republicans and “right wing intellectuals” have been rewriting American history for years now — some have even gone so far as to build entire careers out of it. Take, for example, far-right provocateur Dinesh D'Souza who has been producing revisionist history books (read: propaganda) and films he peddles as documentaries since 1995. D’Souza claims, among other things, that progressives are solely responsible for the worst evils of the 19th and 20th century, including slavery, the Civil War, and the Ku Klux Klan.
D’Souza’s propaganda is part of a concerted effort by the right-wing to absolve itself of its many sins and to discredit the political left, while weakening American democracy. It’s a strategy that relies heavily on omission, purposeful misinterpretation, and the inherent ignorance of the American population as to its own history. It’s a strategy that’s resonating among a radical base eager to excuse away the blatant white supremacy and bigotry at the heart of its beliefs. And in recent years, it’s a strategy that’s been increasingly amplified by mainstream Republicans.
Allen West, the current Chairman of the Texas Republican Party said of Democrats in 2014: “They're the party of segregation. They're the party of the Ku Klux Klan.” In 2015 Ben Carson, the current Secretary of Health and Human Services, asked and answered: “Who started the KKK? That was the Democrats,” before going on a long diatribe equating social safety programs to slavery. And in 2017, Texas Senator, and porn aficionado, Ted Cruz, declared unequivocally in a FOX News interview: “The Democrats are the party of the Ku Klux Klan.”
More recently, on July 22 of this year, Representative Dan Crenshaw, another rising star of the right-wing coming out of Texas, posted a tweet laying the sins of segregation and racism solely at the feet of the Democrats.
“Republicans won the civil war. That’s our history,” Crenshaw posted of his vote to remove the statues of Confederates from the Capitol. “Democrats have a long list of segregationists & KKK members. That’s their history. I’m glad to help them confront that racist past & voted to remove these Democrat statues from positions of prominence.”
When it comes to race and racism in American society the struggle has never traditionally been between Democrats and Republicans. It has always been between white supremacists and anti-racists, and for eighty years following the Civil War both parties were home to both factions.
The shift by which the Democrats became the anti-racist party and the Republicans became the party of white supremacy, began in 1948 when liberal Southern Democrat, Harry S. Truman, desegregated the military and introduced a pro-civil rights platform at that year’s party convention. The reaction of Southern Democrats, or “Dixiecrats,” was to walk out of the convention and nominate their own presidential nominee, South Carolina Governor, devout segregationist, and future Republican, Strom Thurmond. Truman won anyway, and Dixiecrats began, slowly at first, to abandon ship.
The real break came when another liberal Southern Democrat, Lyndon B. Johnson, used his not insignificant political knowhow, to secure passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The trickle of white supremacist defections to the Republican Party, where they were welcomed by their brethren with open arms, became a flood, causing Johnson to lament that Democrats had “lost the South for a generation.” The final blow was delivered by Republican Richard Nixon, whose “Southern strategy,” a deliberate appeal to white Southerners resentful of forced integration, turned the old Confederacy red.
By the time Ronald Reagan was sworn into office the Republicans had become the party of racial resentment, devoted to expanding the power and wealth of traditional (white) elites. Today, under Donald Trump, white supremacy born out of the Confederacy and the nation’s history of slavery, is on open display.
In 2018, Trump, speaking in Kansas city, said to his followers: "Don't believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news. ... What you're seeing and what you're reading is not what's happening."
The reason Trump doesn’t want his followers to believe what they see is because one only needs to look at the makeup, rhetoric, and policies of our two modern political parties to see which has stronger ties to Crenshaw’s “Democrat statues.” Statues that likely won’t be removed from the US Capitol anytime soon due to Republican opposition.
White supremacy is anti-democratic. Its central tenet, after all, that one group is superior to all others, is inherently fascist. It’s easy to see why such an ideology would find its home in a party that values the interests of wealthy elites over those of common people. But how do you convince Americans to reject universal enfranchisement? How do you make white supremacy palatable to the mainstream? You do what the right has always done, from Benito Mussolini to Donald Trump, you take your greatest weakness and you turn it against your enemy, hoping your base is too fervent, or ignorant, to check if what you say is true.
In this upside down world, Republicans claim that the modern Democratic party founded the Confederacy, while actively blocking efforts to remove Confederate statues. In this upside down world, the likes of Ted Cruz and Dan Crenshaw blame the evils of slavery on Democrats, while supporting Republican efforts to strip the vote from millions of Black Americans. In this upside down world Dinesh D'Souza, a convicted felon with no formal training in history, is considered a historical authority by a movement ravenous to justify its bigotry.
Don’t let Republicans and the extreme right deceive you about the past and its links to the present. Under Nixon and the Republicans that followed white supremacy was consolidated into a single party. The result today is Trumpism, an anti-democratic populist movement that relies on racial hatred to divide Americans as a means to blind them to the blatant redistribution of their wealth to those at the very top.