It seems the Republicans need to pump themselves up every couple of months or so these days. It’s not so much that they are meeting that troubles me. It’s sorta like an AA meeting except here it’s where “ideologue-holics” come together and try to sober up on their 2008 Presidential defeat with new rhetoric that gets more and more extreme with each outing. This time, it was at the 2010 Southern Republican Convention in New Orleans that the more “radical” elements of the party come together to try to micromanage the Presidency and give a demented spin on the course of current affairs.
What we’ve learned in the Reagan and post-Reagan eras is that truth is a relative engagement for the Republicans. There is the truth told by the Republicans, then there is the truth, period. They make it up and spit it out as gospel. Then they make up their own facts to support their own opinions. They’re entitled to their own opinions, but pass them off as for what they really are, opinions. Don’t pass them off as fact. They are not entitled to make up their own facts, which they are regularly prone to do. This weekend was no different, and on this occasion Republican relativism and radical rhetoric crashed head on.
Who better than to remake the Republican truth than its master rhetorician himself, former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich. It was Gingrich who orchestrated the last big lie passed off as the truth, the Contract with America, an anti-taxation, anti-affirmative action, anti-big government, family values (anti-abortion, anti-welfare) agenda that sought to hogtie Washington from addressing social and economic disparities. The rhetoric worked for the most part and government aid dwindled while personal wealth of the rich and corporations skyrocketed. Gingrich, before his own sex scandal, thought he was the “King of Congress.” His rhetoric couldn’t save him and he got out of Congress before he could take the hit.
Well, he’s back, trying to redeem the glory past of Republican government reform and this weekend Gingrich called President Barack Obama the “most radical President in American History.” Now let’s think about that for a minute. Clearly, that title has historically gone to Abraham Lincoln, the President who took a direct hand in abolishing slavery by issuing a proclamation freeing slaves in states in rebellion against the Union, and by signing the resolution for a new amendment totally abolishing slavery (though he didn’t live to see its passing).
The party of Lincoln was called “the Radical Republicans,” and they ushered in, not one but three “reconstruction” amendments to try to legislate social and political equality, something that 140 years later still has yet to be achieved. It was clearly most radical act in our history as a nation, but there were other “radical” Presidents. What about Andrew Jackson shutting down the national bank? Or Rutherford B. Hayes’ withdrawal of federal troops from the South, or Grover Cleveland’s “Veto term” (414 vetoes) to negate Congress, or FDR’s court-packing scheme, or Dwight Eisenhower’s use of the 101st Airborne to enforce desegregation? How about Nixon’s use of government to target “enemies” or Ford’s pardon of Nixon?
I could go on and on…but Gingrich’s assertion comes in the aftermath of Obama signing the universal health care bill. Radical rhetoric if you ever heard some. And he doesn’t stop there. In trying to dissect Obama’s inaugural day address in references to Lincoln, he stated that he noticed after one year that Obama uses “parts of things” but not total context, stating that Obama’s used “a new birth of freedom” from Lincoln’s Gettysburg’s Address, but not “One Nation Under God.” Then he states the Republican Party was “founded on Freedom, not founded on serfdom.”
Gingrich continued the rhetoric to repeated rounds of applause that the Republican Party was “founded on the work ethic, not on redistribution ethic,” and founded on “defending America, not hiring lawyers for terrorists.” I’m sure the freedom that Newt is talking about is not the freedom that Lincoln’s Radical Republicans were talking about. Now, correct me if I’m wrong but was not the Reconstruction era about political and equality redistribution? The point here is that the latter day Republicans have mastered code language. “Defending America.” He might as well said “defending whiteness.” “One Nation Under God” is a signal to the righteous right and the draconian views they support.
One truth the Republicans will never acknowledge Obama’s popularity, nor his accomplishments. These conventions are nothing more than “feel-good” sessions to pump up the politically depressed…and politically irrelevant. To regain power, they have to craft a new message, or a new rhetoric. Seems like it’s going to be based on the same relativism of Republican “truths” of past years. It’s not exactly the kind of inspiration Lincoln would want to hear-I think. Lincoln did say he’d tolerate slavery and colonize Blacks.
Had he lived…but that’s beside the point now. These are not the same Republicans. These Republicans gave up on Lincoln years ago. He was, and still is, the inspiration for new freedoms and ideas radical “redeemers” cannot tolerate. All rhetoric and relativism aside.
Anthony Asadullah Samad, Ph.D., is a national columnist, managing director of the Urban Issues Forum and author of the upcoming book, REAL EYEZ: Race, Reality and Politics in 21 Century Politics. He can be reached at www.AnthonySamad.com
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