The Messenger is More Important Than the Message

“The messenger is more important than the message.”

Personally I find that philosophy absurd, preposterous, ludicrous, and plain ole BS, pig pellets, squirrel squirts, or nutria nuts.

I did not get the memo, text, call, or face-to-face that people are no longer unique. Can anyone tell me when they received their information?

Now I can try, but I doubt if I will be able to make blanket, one-size-fits-all decisions, opinions, or judgments about people based on some broad umbrella grouping. Of course that doesn’t excite or build an audience. It doesn’t make one wealthy or popular.

With people I regard as friends, our friendship is not based on skin color, religious positions, political positions, gender, sexual preferences, or whatever. Sure we probably have similar interests in any number of things (we probably wouldn’t make it a point to communicate on a consistent basis if we did not), but our views aren’t necessarily the same.  The thing that matters is that a degree of mutual respect exists.

Seriously folks, in my opinion you can actually dislike the New Orleans Saints, crawfish, and strawberries and still be a good person. Believe it or not, you can be passionate about all 3 and we still might not be friends or even get along to the point of being able to exist together within the same building.

Today’s obsession with political parties in the United States confounds me. Has it really become do for your Party no matter the cost to the country?

A growing struggle with teaching history has been trying to get students to realize that few groups, if any, are 100 percent perfect. We can take assorted snippets from anything to make it fit our personal agenda. So can the person with a different agenda. That’s not new, but the scary part is that too many people only hear what they want to hear and listen to those with whom they agree. Excuses run rampant if some discrepancy is alleged and then any discussion becomes an emotional tirade.

With its anniversary several outlets have featured the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Personally I’ve been inundated recently with viewpoints from the modern “conservative” side. In years past, many people sent me examples from the “liberal” side, but for simplicity I’m keeping this specific piece on what I’ve seen recently. At some point, I’ll dig through some files to retrieve examples from the other perspective but honestly commenting on those merely requires changing the focal points and casting what doesn’t fit into the shadows.

I’ll let you in on a real secret. The popular prevailing question of today is which political party historically, Republican or Democrat, has done more for Civil Rights?  The Purloined Letter answer which partisan pundits refuse to see is either both or neither.

I’m taking the easy way out. That’s not an answer. Yada, yada, yada…

Well let me digress to the formation of the Republican Party. I won’t even argue with their version of history to what happened in 1854 and in 1856.

A fact left out of the Republican arguments is the Election of 1860.  With childhood we all learned that Abraham Lincoln won that election. What is neglected, however, is that the more telling election actually took place to win the Republican nomination. William Seward of New York was the favorite. Seward was a staunch abolitionist.

On the other hand, Abraham Lincoln would be considered a moderate. Before the Convention, Lincoln meticulously from months of research of Elliot’s Debates and the official proceedings of Congress yet eloquently expressed his views in what is known as the Cooper Union Address.

While Lincoln asserted his belief that the Federal government could exclude slavery from the national territories, he assured the South that the Republican Party would not be a threat to slavery where it already existed. Sensing that his staunch abolitionists’ positions were too extreme, Seward attempted to temper his positions to those of Lincoln during an address before the United States Senate. Printed copies of both speeches reached the public via newspapers at approximately the same time, but Lincoln’s research made his words seem more sincere. (Recommended Sources for information are Allan Nevins, The Emergence of Lincoln (1950), Frederic Bancroft, William H. Seward (1967), and Gyldon Van Deusen, William Henry Seward (1967)).

The nomination of Lincoln along with the Republican platform for the 1860 Presidential Election illustrate the moderate position of maintaining slavery where it existed and only prohibiting it in other areas.

Does this mean that Republicans supported slavery as an ideology? Of course it does not. It means that political factors along with economic factors influenced their thinking. It is interesting how even Seward changed his terminology from “free” and “slave” state to “capitol” and “labor” states. As long as slavery continued in the South, the region would never be able to compete industrially with other regions. In essence another colonial economic system had developed, but this time Mother England did not profit. The South provided the raw materials to the industry in the North.

Likewise, the split of the Democratic Party illustrates divisions as well. The Stephan Douglas Democrats supported that position of popular sovereignty which Douglas expounded upon in his victory over Lincoln for the United States Senate in Illinois. In other words, each territory or state had the power to make their own decision concerning the issue. When considering legal interpretations at the time, both Republican and Northern Democrat platforms went against the Dred Scott decision which “prevented” a threat to the “Peculiar Institution.” Also the Emancipation Proclamation made by Lincoln in 1862 did not free a single slave as it applied only to states which had left the Union.

During the Reconstruction Period, the consistent GOP argument has been the formation of white intimidation groups such as the Ku Klux Klan. It is true that origination of the Klan by Nathan Bedford Forrest did terrorize the freedman (former slave) along with the Republican governments which existed in the South.

Left out of narrative is that those Republican governments in the South were occupation governments. Back in 1860 and 61, Northern legal opinion did not acknowledge a right for a state or region to secede. Actually, the Southern states were not the first area to proclaim the right as the New England states argued the same in the Hartford Convention during the War of 1812.  Under both Abraham Lincoln’s plan for reconstructing the country and Andrew Johnson’s plan the former Confederate States had rejoined the country. Two years after the surrender at Appomattox Court House, passage of the Radical Reconstruction Acts divided the former Confederate States into military districts occupied by Federal troops. These troops backed up the Republican occupation governments. Many Southerners referred to these individuals by derogatory terms such as Carpetbaggers and Scalawags.

In retrospect Carpetbag and Scalawag governments were not necessarily evil or bad. Like any they had positives and negatives. They were, however, occupation. Instead of the state having power, the Federal government usurped and controlled everything. This GOP direction of strong government control did not take place immediately following the bloodshed, but 2 years afterwards.

A Civil Rights counter is that during the Reconstruction period, the first black men held elective office. My own Louisiana had a black governor, P.B.S. Pinchback, for a brief period when he moved from Lieutenant Governor to Governor upon the impeachment of the Carpetbag Governor. Mississippi elected two black United States Senators, Hiram Revels and Blanche K. Bruce. Also a number of black men became Members of the House of Representatives such as South Carolina’s Joseph Rainey and Robert De Large, Georgia’s Jefferson Long, Florida’s Josiah Walls, Alabama’s James Rapier and Jeremiah Haralson, Mississippi’s John Lynch, Louisiana’s Charles Nash, and North Carolina’s John Adams Hyman and James E. O’Hara (there were others in addition to these gentlemen).

It is true that all of these men belonged to the Republican Party, but outside the time of the Carpetbag and Scalawag occupation governments, all came from specific Congressional districts. It would not be until 1929 that a Northern state, Illinois, elected a black man to the House of Representatives. Oscar Stanton De Priest was a Republican, but his successor, another black man, Arthur Mitchell belonged to the Democratic Party. It would be approximately 50 years before a black Republican, Gary Franks of Connecticut, served in the House. A few elections later saw J.C. Watts serving for the state of Oklahoma, but with the exception of Watts and reelections, the next black Republican House Member would be in 2011 with Tim Scott of South Carolina.

Over in the Senate, it takes until 1967 to see a black man elected. Edward W. Brooke III was a Republican who served until 1979, but until the appointment of Tim Scott to the Senate in 2013, no other black Republican has served in that Chamber.

Left out of the KKK narrative is that with the end of military occupation, the Klan of Nathan Bedford Forrest ceased to exist. The KKK reformed in 1915 with William Simmons. This new Klan, however, targeted people of color and immigrants. It was not isolated to the South or to one political party. Actually for a brief period in the 1920s, the state of Indiana elected a Republican, who was an open Klan member as governor and many members of the state government who were also Republicans were unabashed members of the KKK. The Indiana State Library houses source material.

In Louisiana it took switching affiliation from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party for former KKK leader David Duke to win elected office in the state during the late 1980s. While not the “official” Republican choice, he ran under the Republican banner for Governor (in LA at the time all candidates, regardless of Party affiliation appeared on the ballot; if no candidate received a majority a runoff election took place between the leading two vote getters) losing to Edwin Edwards. In 1992, Duke even participated in Republican Presidential primaries and according to Duke was sought by many Tea Party activists because of his feelings on immigration. One can visit David Duke’s websites for further information. I will note that a Duke candidacy for Federal office would face legal challenges resulting from provisions within a 2002 guilty plea for tax evasion.

Today there are many factions of the KKK and similar styled organizations. Some establish a linkage to Simmons and others do not. None, however, to my knowledge are political party specific. While more recent scholarship exists, I still recommend Hooded Americanism: The History of the Ku Klux Klan by David Chalmers as one of the better cited sources.

Another source preferred by some of my peers is The Fiery Cross: The Ku Klux Klan in America by Wyn Wade.

In 20th century United States politics, the fact that the South remained a “Solid South” for the Democratic Party complicates many of today’s simplistic partisan politics. The legacy of Federal occupation by the GOP assured that the Republicans would not factor into Southern politics for much of the century. If the Peoples Party or Populists of the late 19th century had not formed from the various agrarian movements and Farmers’ Alliances and started expanding into the South, the disenfranchisement state constitutions of the 1890s may not have been written. Regardless of the “what if” those state constitutions also took the franchise right away from many poor whites as it is not feasible to dismiss the power struggle. The difference obviously is that in the 1900s those disenfranchised poor whites regained their right to vote faster than the ancestor of the freedman.

Even with a Solid South, each Southern state had its own two party system or in some cases multiple political parties within the single Democratic umbrella. Every state had a de facto two party system in its electoral process. The primary difference with the remainder of the country is that whoever won the Democratic primary faced on token competition if any in the general election.

Here is where messenger becomes more important than message and the oversimplifications become ridiculous.

One website sent to me had this feature with an excerpt from talk radio personality Mark Levin.

Mr. Levin cites a few of the works by another media personality Ann Coulter.

Ms. Coulter and Mr. Levin bring up events such as the Brown decision, Little Rock, Arkansas, the Southern Manifesto, and the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960. For each event blame is cast upon Democrats for the opposition. True, Members of Congress from the South, all Democrats, signed the Manifesto disagreeing with Brown. True, Orville Faubus, Governor of Arkansas was a Democrat. True, President Dwight Eisenhower was a Republican.

By arguing from a Party perspective and not from one of sectionalism, they fail to acknowledge or justify the racial issues in other regions of the country and not just the South. Following the First World War and the Great Migration, consider some of the areas outside the South where racial riots and upheaval took place. The races were not integrated during the Republican dominated 1920s just as they were not during the 1930s, 40s, 50s, 60s…. It is correct that Ike “fully” desegregated the military during his presidency, but Truman did begin the process. As leader of the Allied Forces, Ike had not advanced the cause. In 1948, the Democratic Party split three-fold as Truman insisted on having a Civil Rights plank in the Party Platform. Hubert Humphrey, then mayor of Minneapolis authored that plank. (in addition to Dixiecrats, the other faction involved differences in foreign affairs). Neither Party, Democrat or Republican,  can be made to appear 100 percent perfect for any position for or against Civil Rights when looked at in its entirety.

Like I wrote previously, only taking selected events can “prove” or “disprove” most positions.

Would the Republican Party today approve of the President sending Federal troops into a state to enforce the law?  Let’s say the USMC came to your state to make sure that every individual had health insurance.

Can’t happen you say.  That’s what Eisenhower did to enforce the Brown decision.  Why is that acceptable but Obama using troops to support a Supreme Court decision not?

Would the GOP today support a Federal program such as the Interstate Highway System? Here you had a government program designed for military mobility by the Federal government. Toll roads and roads built by the free market system had not proven adequate. So here we have a major public works program where the Federal government foots 90 percent of the bill. Sure Eisenhower insisted that the project be “self liquidating” or in other words paying for itself, but as history has illustrated the cost estimates were not in the same ballpark.

If someone really wants to play the Party partisanship card, have them try to name practically any piece of significant legislation that your personal ideology supports between 1930 and 1980. In the past 100 years, the Republican Party has only controlled both Chambers of Congress and occupied the White House for 16 years. For the Democrats, it is 38 years. Statistically, those numbers mean less when you consider the necessity for a super majority in the Senate whether 67 or 60 since the mid 1970s.

Before someone tries to accuse me of skewing with that 50 year period and pulling their Obamacare card to show the evilness of Democrats, I used 1980 because one starts to see a more evident break in the Solid South at the state and local levels during the Reagan administration. With ACA, count the number of riders that are from the GOP.  The final vote may have been along Party lines, but the bill is not. The entire Congressional staff issue developed from a GOP rider. More importantly check out the previous GOP healthcare legislation, and I’m referring to the Federal level and not merely Romneycare. As one can see concepts such as the individual mandate are parts of those GOP proposals. Once again, it’s that messenger thing and Party trumps country when that card is played.

Actually, feel free to blame one Party or the other for all the “bad” legislation, but on the other hand ask yourself shouldn’t that Party then get credit for the “good” legislation?  If one were to use Mr. Levin’s or Ms. Coulter’s arguments across the board, one might give all credit for winning the Second World War to the Democrats. That’s ridiculous, but how are Civil Rights different? Is it that messenger thing?

Reading the comments on sites such as the one linked make me cringe as a Professor of History. The reason is that history is not always pretty. Regardless of who we are or how we might believe, there are both positive and negative events and many more in between those poles. Many of the rights people cite from the Constitution only became available to the majority of American citizens well after the Constitutional and Federalists periods. Still, when it is convenient many people think that what is was always because it says in the Constitution. Well, it might have those words printed but the interpretations of those men in Philadelphia are not always the same as those of people today.

Les we forget:

George Washington personally led troops to enforce Federal law. Thomas Jefferson pushed for an embargo which nearly crippled this country economically and then tried to force Congress to pass an act giving him totalitarian power.

For the GOP was Abraham Lincoln an advocate of state rights or of a powerful Federal government with the Civil War?

Context matters in the understanding of history but not in partisan rhetoric.

Look at the site’s commenting rules.

Number 1:

“Abusive, Ad Hominem, Overly Mean-Spirited. Attack arguments and ideas, not people. And please refrain from wishing bodily harm, death, or illness on others. Ad hominem arguments (in which one attacks a speaker to try and disqualify an argument’s validity) are not appreciated. A clarification on this point. If you want to comment that “Sean Hannity is an idiot” or “Barack Obama is a moron” that will probably be tolerated — though not particularly appreciated. What will not be tolerated is direct ad hominems toward The Right Scoop’s writers, editors, and commenters.”

That rule must apply to those who agree, as it seems anyone who questions is attacked personally.

I have no clue as to what comments were deleted, but 3 separate site moderators (at least different screen names) took the time to personally attack that individual.

One person wrote the following in response to a deleted comment:

“Adios. That move by the moderator is enough for me to leave for fair ground. I cant stand libs arguments but their right to express them are sacrosanct- so this is wrong. Bye.”

One moderator pulled a 1st Amendment argument with that in support of deleting the comment, and it was backed up by other commenters’ sarcastic remarks.

Perusing earlier articles, this same site, however, went overboard against the A&E Network for the suspension of Phil Robertson. If the site moderators have the right to censor what they deem inappropriate, why doesn’t A&E have the same right? I’m not suggesting one or the other is just, but the double standard is certainly not what many consider as “traditional” or “Christian” or “Conservative” values.

Again, it must be this pesky messenger thing.

Another commenter pulled the “try posting on a “liberal” site and see what happens” card. So I guess the belief is that just because someone else does it that justifies another doing the same thing.

Why does messenger matter more than message to people?

Again, what is the difference between a modern day “conservative” and “liberal?”

I admit that I once posted on this site I cited. Actually my post wasn’t intended to be argumentative. I pointed out that while individuals cannot claim deductions on donations to 501(c)(4) organizations certain businesses can within some limitations. As my readers know, my opposition to those organizations is the ability to funnel monies anonymously along with  my feelings that politics ain’t charity. My IP got banned after I responded to one of the regulars by including a link to the tax code. I guess I broke the law of how do you piss off someone (“liberal” or “conservative” [my addition]), simply rely upon and in my case cite the primary source.

Now my reading the tax code means I have a boring life at times, but I still don’t know how it makes me a troll regardless of political ideology. Admittedly, it makes me feel like I’m hitting myself with a hammer, but not much else.

Again, my point is that I hate that political party has become more important than country.

Republicans can blame Democrats and Democrats can blame Republicans. It really doesn’t matter. We are all living in this country, so regardless of who is to blame we all live with the mess. We also all share in the responsibility for cleaning up the mess. Call that socialist or communist, but I call it united we stand, divided we die. I don’t take credit for making up that statement or “We the People.” I recall seeing those concepts back in the past. Today, though, it seems that they are words and not concepts with some.

I guess it’s that messenger thing again that I just don’t get the importance of.  So I’ll end with that thought and preposition.