Friday, November 5, 2010

It's Not Your Grandfather's Republican Party

Yes, we know the image of the GOP – a party of whites, with three population centers: 1) the South with the old segregationists who fled the Democratic Party after LBJ enacted the Civil Rights Act of 1964; 2) farmers and rural, small town America, and 3) Orange County, California.

The Democrats are, of course, the party of Big Labor (public employee unions), minorities, immigrants, and the big cities.

The suburbs, originally a source of Republican power, have become swing districts.

If so, how do we explain that in last Tuesday’s election, the Republicans elected Nikki Haley, an Indian American as Governor of South Carolina, Susana Martinez, a Latina as Governor of New Mexico, Brian Sandoval, a Latino as Governor of Nevada, Marco Rubio, a Latino as a Senator from Florida, Allen West, an African American as a Congressman from Florida, and Tim Scott, an African American to Congress from South Carolina? Bobby Jindal, an Indian American, serves as the Republican Governor of Louisiana.

These election results send an incredible statement about America, the Deep South, and the Republican Party. Congressmen Scott and West are the first Republican Congressmen from the Deep South since Reconstruction. Congressman Scott’s district ironically contains Fort Sumter, where the Civil War began.

The Republican Party has never been a party of white supremacists. It was founded in 1854 by anti-slavery northerners. Abraham Lincoln was elected President six years later. His primary goal was to save the Union, but in the process he emancipated the slaves, backed by the Republican Congress.

FDR during the New Deal brought the blacks into his new Democratic coalition. Yet the Republicans continued to be open to civil rights. President Eisenhower sent in the 101st Airborne to enforce integration of Little Rock’s Central High School in 1957.

LBJ’s Civil Rights Acts were enacted over the opposition of the Southern Democrats by enlisting substantial support of the Republican members of Congress.

The first modern era African American Senator was Edward Brooke, a Republican from Massachusetts. He served in the Senate from 1966 to 1979, being defeated for reelection by Paul Tsongas because of scandals. Mel Martinez served as a Senator from Florida until he resigned last year.

Gary Franks, another Republican, served in Congress from Connecticut from 1991 to 1997, and J.C. watts represented Oklahoma in Congress from 1995-1003.

President Bush appointed Condoleezza Rice as his Secretary of State and Alberto Gonzalez as Attorney general.

No, this is a much different Republican Party than its reputation.

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