Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Conservatism Indefensible in Area of Civil Rights

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Conservatism Indefensible in Area of Civil Rights

Article excerpt

This one's for John. He's a reader who took issue with my recent column arguing that conservatism has become an angry and incoherent mess. John was particularly upset that I described conservatives as resistant to social change. Wrote John:

"(sic) Tell that to the right side of the aisle who signed in the civil rights voting act in 1965. Which party resisted that? ... Who resisted the proclamation that freed the slaves? Southern democrat party of course and who was it's military arm during reconstruction? The KKK. Today that organization is tied into the liberalism more than conservatism. ... Your party, the liberals who now call themselves progressives, are the party of Strom thurmond, Robert Byrd, Lester Maddox, George wallace - and ... Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson.

Please note what John did there. He responded to a critique of social conservatism by mounting a defense of the Republican Party, as if the two were synonymous. Granted, they are now, but in the eras John mentions? Not so much.

Indeed, when Abraham Lincoln issued that proclamation John is so proud of, it was considered an act not of conservatism, but of radical extremism. And those Republicans who voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were moderates, i.e., the kind of people who have been driven out of a harshly conservative party that now considers moderation apostasy.

The truth, as any first-year history student could tell you, is that Republicans were the more socially liberal party and Democrats the more socially conservative for at least seven decades after Lincoln. But in the years since then, they have essentially swapped ideologies.

The reason John engages in this linguistic shell game, the reason he defends the party that wasn't attacked instead of the ideology that was, is simple: The ideology is indefensible, at least where civil rights is concerned. …

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