The Republican surrender of the House of Representatives to Democrats and the reestablishment of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) ought to remind us of the history of Democratic tyranny.
They are, after all, the party of slavery, the Klan, and segregation. This criticism is not just dated, but outrageously unfair you say? After all, aren’t the Democrats the party with overwhelming black support and two recent black presidents—Bill Clinton and then Barack Obama?
Let’s review the history.
Thinking about the question of tyranny—which is a better way to say injustice—in terms of race, as we now automatically seem to do, disguises the most fundamental problem: the lust for power that animates tyranny. Democrats not only have always despised restraints on their power, whether internal or constitutional—they have always been the slave power, by which I don’t only mean chattel slavery (though they certainly did their bit to support that).
Thomas Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican party (which is the antecedent but not exactly the same thing as today’s Democrats) defended the natural rights of the Declaration of Independence by putting up a fight against the power of the Adams-Hamilton wing of the then-dominant Federalist government, by working through the state governments.
But this changed in the early 19th century, as the meaning of the Declaration of Independence began to be forgotten and distorted. Shedding the view that the founders regarded the necessary evil of slavery as shameful, the nation beheld the enhanced economic advantages slavery brought to them and became increasingly convinced of the positive case for slavery.
The slave-holding South controlled the national government, with the 3/5 clause distorting its advantage in the House, and more senators, with the expansion of slave states; this added up to an electoral college advantage for presidential candidates favorable to slave interests. And of course there followed a pro-slavery judiciary.
From a protector of natural rights who stood in opposition to the Federalists for fear of their expansion of national power, the Democratic-Republicans became a party that protected slavery. The Slave Power was unchallenged (with the exception of two war-hero Whig Presidents) until the unlikely coalition that led to the rise of the Republican Party.
Lincoln attacked the core injustice of slavery: you work, I eat. His attack had nothing to do with race. And Lincoln refused to condemn the slaveholders as evil men: they are what we would be if our places were reversed. Only such a president could deliver the Second Inaugural, with its plea for “charity for all.”
Following the Civil War, the Democrats attempted to restore the tyranny of slavery through the tyranny of Jim Crow laws. Republican resistance to these forced Democrats to be more clever about their grabs at power. The Progressive Democrat Woodrow Wilson then tried to destroy our greatest defense against tyranny by denouncing the Declaration as irrelevant and outmoded. But Wilson was, like most tyrannical souls, arrogant, in presuming he could so readily, so fecklessly dispose of the central document protecting American freedom.
Franklin Roosevelt had a shrewder idea—he would reinterpret both the Declaration and the Constitution to favor unlimited government power. His First Inaugural said it all: the crisis of the Depression required all Americans to obey their anointed leader as soldiers do their commander! (Ronald Reagan called ordinary Americans heroes, who are their own commanders.) In his 1944 State of the Union Address, in the midst of World War II, FDR compared Republicans to fascists and declared that the war was wasted effort if that was what America would return to.
Not to be outdone, Roosevelt’s successor, Harry Truman, accused Republicans of shielding fascist, racist, anti-Catholic, and anti-Semitic forces. Very little in Democratic campaign tactics has changed since those days. The only Republican who appears to have learned from Truman’s victorious strategy is Donald Trump. Democrats today, however, retain this preposterous comparison of Republicans with the worst enemies of America—for the purpose of justifying lawless tactics against those who love their country.
Lyndon Johnson, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama all did their part in constructing an administrative state, a bureaucracy headed by activist intellectuals that shuts down self-governing citizens with their edicts, hostility to religion, and political correctness. “You work, I eat” is a politically incorrect view of what the security state means for citizens. The tyranny of the administrative state can be soft—offering security in place of choice and freedom—though it can also be harsh, as the EPA’s lawless dictates reveal. But object to this unconstitutional arrangement, and you’ll be accused of being fascist, racist, anti-Catholic, and anti-Semitic. It’s an old story, with the twist that now condemns those who are the real fighters for freedom.
The tyranny of the Democratic Party was most visibly on display in their conspiracy to destroy Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Here a completely fabricated case was foisted upon the American public and then embellished with stories that their peddlers now admit are fake. No Democrat raised objections at the time to this ghastly proceeding. Now no Democrat dares defend this shameful scene, which defamed a jurist for unproven episodes that allegedly took place in his high school days. That’s the tyrannical procedure radical feminism wishes to foist into employment, education, and society overall.
How has the world’s oldest political party come to such a shameful condition as it now presumes to share elected power with the Senate and presidency?
They were aided in part by slavish Republican timidity. The Republican story begins with the idea of freedom as the purpose of politics, which was the Democrats’ forgotten purpose as well. In each instance of tyranny, Democrats preferred groups over citizens. Most all of these groups were also worthy of being part of American political life—immigrants, Catholics, blacks, intellectuals (some, at any rate), and so on. But they were interesting to Democrats only insofar as they were instrumental in bringing them to power. Their actual status as Americans was always secondary.
In empowering them as groups rather than equal and individual Americans, Democrats brought out the worst in their character and encouraged them to form factions, that is, tyrannical groups that know no moderation. This fanaticism is best exemplified in our current obsession with multiculturalism. Claremont Institute Board Chairman Thomas Klingenstein clarified the relationship in a recent essay: “During the 2016 campaign, Trump exposed multiculturalism as the revolutionary movement it is. He showed us that multiculturalism, like slavery in the 1850s, is an existential threat.”
Times change, but the themes of tyranny and freedom remain constant.
A just nation needs to know itself as an arrangement of constitutional offices and, above all, of citizens—it is not a “Hunger Games” of competing and various identity groups. Telling the stories of both imperfect parties together is America’s never-ending and necessary task of creating a politics of the common good.
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