During the 2012 election I was taking a philosophy class at my local university. A couple days after the election, race relations came up as a class discussion. It was during this discussion that one of the other students stated, “Race is the major reason people oppose President Obama.” I quickly countered, listing the multiple conservatives of African descent, and noting that Herman Cain had almost won the Republican nomination. Despite the fact that many in the Republican Party and conservative movement are of minorities, it is a widely held belief that somehow the Republicans are anti-minority.
In order to combat this claim, it is helpful to look at the history of the Republican and Democrat parties. In 1864, in the midst of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln was re-elected. He ran as a Republican and on a party platform that declared, “We are in favor, furthermore, of such an amendment to the Constitution, to be made by the people in conformity with its provisions, as shall terminate and forever prohibit the existence of Slavery within the limits of the jurisdiction of the United States.” This statement was reminiscent of the first Republican party platform, which declared slavery to be barbaric. The Democrat party, however, refused to discuss slavery in their 1864 platform.
Despite the failure of Democrats to discuss slavery in the 1864 platform, their opinion on the matter was made perfectly clear. In 1865 the vote to abolish slavery by passing the 13th Amendment was taken. Out of the 82 Democrats in Congress, only 19 voted for the Amendment, whereas 100% (118) of the Republican members approved the 13th Amendment. Similar results followed with the ratification of the 14th and 15th Amendments. By 1900, Democrats began actively seeking the repeal of the 14th and 15th Amendments. Senator Tillman (D) from South Carolina summed up the Democratic sentiment: “We had made up our minds that the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution were themselves null and void; [and] that the acts of Congress were null and void.” The first Representative of African descent elected to Congress was Republican Joseph Rainey in 1868 who said about the Republican party: "We intend to continue to vote so long as the government gives us the right and necessary protection; and I know that the right accorded to us will never be withheld in the future if left to the Republican Party."
The first Democratic Representative of African descent was elected in 1934, but by that time 21 Republican Representatives of African descent had been elected. In the same way, by the time the first Democrat of African decent was elected to the Senate in 1993, three African American Republicans had held Senate offices, the first being Hiram Revels in 1870.
Today there are more Americans of African descent in the Democratic party than 100 years ago, but the fact still remains that it was the Republican Party and not the Democratic Party that led the charge for the abolition of slavery and for civil rights. Indeed, even today the racial divide of the parties is not what many would claim. Currently there are two Senators who are of African descent: Senator Tim Scott, a Republican from South Carolina, and Senator Cory Booker, a Democrat from New Jersey. Only in the House of Representatives are the numbers in favor of the Democrats, but this is not for lack of candidates on the part of Republicans. Mayor Mia Love and Representative Allan West are two notable candidates who lost their 2012 elections.
The same is true in the executive branch, although President Obama was the first African American elected as President. Republican Presidents had appointed Americans of African descent to high ranking positions. For example, under George W. Bush, both Secretaries of State were African Americans. It was also a Republican President who sought the advice of Booker T. Washington.
The Republican party is the party that pushed for civil rights and the abolition of slavery. The Republican party is the party that lives out Dr. King's dream. The Republican party strives to judge a person, not based upon the color of their skin, but on the content of their character. It is the Democrats that insist on injecting race into politics -- Republicans wish to see the issue left behind. We do not care what color a person’s skin is, but we do care what the content of their character is.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…”
American History in Black and White by David Barton
Blog post by Amber D.