Rewriting history and ‘Looking Backward’

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One thing that’s incredibly tiresome about being a conservative is how people rewrite history so that they can pigeonhole you as a racist, a fascist or a dangerous radical.

The most common tactic is to claim that Republicans were the party of slavery and that they had opposed equal rights for blacks. This is, of course, untrue, but in a culture that devalues history and inflates the value of punditry, truth is whatever is repeated often enough in a chain e-mail.

An example of this kind of distortion occurred last week in response to Louisiana state Sen. Elbert Guillory’s announcement that he was switching from the Democratic to Republican party. He pointed out that, “It was the Republican President Dwight Eisenhower who championed the Civil Rights Act of 1957, but it was Democrats in the Senate who filibustered the bill.”

This outraged many liberals, including blogger Sean McElwee, who writes for a website called “The Moderate Voice.” In his column, “Elbert Guillory’s Confused History,” he calls out the newly declared Republican for stopping his historical review with Eisenhower.

“After all,” he says, “it was Democrats that pushed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965 through Congress...”

And thus, once again, the conservative voice is silenced — or at least slandered (I don’t think Sen. Guillory has any intention of keeping quiet!) — by distortions and outright lies.

Let’s revisit the historical record on those two landmark pieces of legislation that were supposedly pushed through Congress by Democrats. It’s not that hard to find out the truth — but sometimes it’s hard for “moderate” writers like McElwee to tell it.

A quick Internet search reveals the following: 69 percent of Senate Democrats supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but that margin of support was far surpassed by the Republican Party — where the bill had 82 percent support!

It was virtually the same story in the House, where only 63 percent of Democrats supported the end of Jim Crow laws, but fully 80 percent of Republicans did! Makes sense considering that Republicans were the party of Lincoln, abolition and emancipation!

By the following year, Democrats were starting to come along, and a larger proportion of them supported the Voting Rights Act of 1965, but they still trailed behind Republicans. In the Senate, particularly, Republican support (94 percent) far outweighed Democratic support (73 percent).

You could make the case that McElwee made an honest error, but maybe he was intentionally misleading his readers the same way he does by putting his column on a website called The Moderate Voice. His “moderate” voice in the last month has blasted Tea Party advocate Michele Bachman, touted the usefulness of gun-control laws, lamented the “manufactured Benghazi scandal,” and praised “affirmative action.”

Besides, no matter how many people point out his error, it is very likely no correction will be forthcoming because McElwee — like so many progressive authors — is writing about the world he wants to exist, not the one that does exist.

Maybe what really outraged McElwee is the fact that Sen. Guillory is not just conservative, not just Republican, but also a black conservative and that he is speaking out against what he calls “the illusion that ... [Democratic] policies are what’s best for black people.”

Guillory’s message continues:

“You see, at the heart of liberalism is the idea that only a great and powerful big government can be the benefactor of social justice for all Americans. But the left is only concerned with one thing: control. And they disguise this control as charity.”

You can find evidence of this throughout the progressive movement — from Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood who was an avowed racist and a proponent of eugenics “to assist the race toward the elimination of the unfit” — to Occupy Wall Street, which wants to create a benevolent society based on two concepts — redistribution of wealth and reinvention of human nature.

If you sense a disconnect between the two strains of progressivism — taking care of everyone’s needs on the one hand and eliminating the unfit on the other — then you are close to penetrating the legerdemain of misdirection that has kept so many enthralled to progressive rhetoric for so long.

Back in the early 1890s, the socialist Edward Bellamy was seeking to fundamentally transform the country into a place where “the economic equality of all the citizens [would be] the guarantee of individual liberty and dignity.”

That quote is from an 1894 interview with The Galveston News that makes for fascinating reading today because of its hints about the progressive world view that has come to dominate Washington, D.C., in recent years.

Bellamy’s utopian novel “Looking Backward” engendered a cadre of like-minded socialists who envisioned “the abolition of private capitalism and the substitution of some form of co-operative industry” run by the state. The collapse of his Nationalist movement, coincidentally, is dated to have occurred in 1894, although it is certainly arguable that much of what Bellamy fancied has ultimately come to pass — namely, Dictatorship by Benevolent Big Government.

As Bellamy told the Galveston News reporter in 1894: “The only hope for the laboring classes is the collective or public conduct of industry by the people through their governmental agencies for the common interest. More and more, the working masses are beginning to see that this is for them the only way out.”

In other words, Bellamy foresaw a world where Big Government would be the champion of the working people, and the workers would accept the heavy hand of the government gladly because it provided for their needs, if not always their wants.

Of course, the right hand did not always know what the left hand was doing. Bellamy argued that the people would rise up in revolution in order to better themselves, but as in Orwell’s “Animal Farm,” some of the people were more equal than others.

Good progressive that he was, Bellamy looked forward to a world where people could be socially engineered from their backwards state into good Americans. Sen. Guillory might be worried that Bellamy was talking about the black population, but no, his disdain was directed toward the Slavs — the people of Eastern Europe, who at that time were immigrating to America in great numbers.

Asked by the reporter whether he was worried “that the immigration of large masses of ignorant people, especially the Slavs, has anything more than a temporary effect on the general intelligence,” Bellamy coolly replied, “This is bad of course,” but he generously opined that even the Slavs “have as much right to come here as my forefathers had.”

But would they help the peaceful revolution that Bellamy anticipated?

“You must not imagine... that these people are Socialists or Nationalists. They have no idea whatever. They are not intelligent enough.”

You would not expect a progressive to say such a nasty thing, mostly because we have been taught for the past 20 years or so that only conservatives say frightful things about classes of people. But there it is. In black and white. A progressive who is a racist — or at least a bigot. Imagine that.

Bellamy went on to explain why massive immigration was not going to be stopped anytime soon by “legal legislative check,” and perhaps that explanation is worth considering today as we are on the eve of so-called “comprehensive immigration reform.”

“The labor organizations are not likely to succeed in this [effort to restrict immigration], because the capitalist interests desire that this immigration shall continue and that it shall be from the poorest classes of Europeans, because they desire cheap labor and the presence of these poorer classes of European immigrants enables them to reduce the wages of the American working man more successfully than they otherwise would be enabled to do.”

Substitute “Latin Americans” for “Europeans,” and you begin to sense a common thread between today’s immigration fight and the one of 1894. And while I disagree heartily with Bellamy’s disdain for the Slavs, I have to agree with him that immigration policy is set not for the benefit of the worker, but for the benefit of the employer. If we are really going to empower the working people, we should start with our own — and not just import millions of foreign workers for the convenience (connivance?) of Big Business.

Now that is a progressive idea I can get behind.

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