As Long as Harry Reid Raises the Subject...

Harry Reid's comments on the Senate floor yesterday likening opponents of the Democrats' health care legislation to proponents of slavery were inexcusable. Just to set the record straight:

The Democratic Party vehemently opposed the abolition of slavery, Reconstruction, and black suffrage. Today, the Democratic Party aggressively pursues an enslavement platform through socialist ideology. One cause of the Civil War was the contrasting economic philosophies between the North and the South. Northern Republicans embraced free-market economic principles while Southern Democrats embraced a labor-based economy reliant upon slavery for its existence. 

Formed in the mid-1850s, the Republican Party plank called for the immediate abolition of slavery in the southern states, while the Democratic Party plank explicitly called for a continuation of slavery. This was not only an issue of "all men are created equal and no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, and property without due process of the law," but also of states' rights versus the federal government and a free-market society versus a slave-labor society. In his book Back to Basics for the Republican Party, author Michael Zak writes:

Republicans correctly viewed the Civil War as a battle for supremacy between the slave system and the free market society.  The slave system, the very opposite of the free market society the Republican Party advocated, required a vast regulatory and enforcement infrastructure to keep people enchained for the benefit of others, just as the socialist policies of the Democratic Party do today. [Emphasis added.] Trapped in the role once filled by slaves before the war and then afterward by poor blacks during the Jim Crow era, an underclass today maintains the political and economic power of the Democratic Party elite and those in their employ, if indirectly, in the government bureaucracy.  No underclass would mean no immense bureaucracy to run the welfare state established by the Democrat Lyndon Johnson administration.

The Democratic Party is drenched in the blood of slavery. Not only did they explicitly include pro-slavery positions in official party planks for decades, but they also instituted insidious laws throughout the South referred to as "black codes" and, later, Jim Crow laws. For nearly one hundred years the Democratic Party opposed all civil rights legislation, the 13th through 15th Amendments, reconstruction efforts, anti-lynching legislation, and desegregation. To add insult to injury, the Ku Klux Klan was formed in the late 1860s and functioned as the terrorist wing of the Democratic Party. From the 1860s to the 1960s, approximately 4,700 people were lynched in the United States -- roughly 3,500 black people and 1,200 white people, most of them Republican. The official Democrat and Republican Party planks can be found here. A full historical accounting and commentary on civil rights legislation by both parties can be found here. The Democratic Party has a long and illustrious history with slavery.

Reconstruction efforts by the Republicans were delayed by three years due to the assassination of President Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth. Lincoln's vice president was Democrat Andrew Johnson. For the next three years, President Johnson blocked reconstruction efforts and allowed Southern state governments to form under Confederate leadership and stood idly by while Southern states instituted black codes. Republicans voted unanimously for the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution. Nearly every Democrat in Congress voted against the 13th Amendment. Every Democrat in Congress voted against the 14th Amendment, and President Johnson vetoed it. In fact, President Johnson offered $20,000 towards defeating the 14th Amendment's ratification. After Lincoln's assassination, the Democratic Party seized power, and Republicans were unable to quickly reconstruct the South into a free-market economy. Unfortunately, the effort to guarantee civil rights to black Americans was an agonizing, century-long struggle.

Over the next ninety years, the Democratic Party oppressed blacks through intimidation, violence, and Jim Crow laws. Poll taxes, literacy tests, and other obstacles were instituted to keep black men from voting. For the most part, blacks were kept poor and uneducated by the Democratic Party. Finally, in the mid-1960s civil rights legislation was introduced in Congress. This legislation was nearly identical to Charles Sumner's Civil Rights Act of 1875.  Most Southern Democrats fiercely opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 just as they opposed Sumner's Civil Rights Act of 1875. Nearly all congressional Republicans voted for it. 

The Senate Majority Leader needs some remedial education.