Elbert Guillory’s Confused History

Elbert Guillory, a formerly Democratic state legislator from Louisiana, released this confusing explanation for why he is now a Republican. The video includes these gems:

Frederick Douglass called Republicans the ‘Party of freedom and progress,’ and the first Republican president was Abraham Lincoln, the author of the Emancipation Proclamation. It was the Republicans in Congress who authored the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments giving former slaves citizenship, voting rights, and due process of law.

The Democrats on the other hand were the Party of Jim Crow. It was Democrats who defended the rights of slave owners. It was the Republican President Dwight Eisenhower who championed the Civil Rights Act of 1957, but it was Democrats in the Senate who filibustered the bill.

Odd that the history stops there, though. After all it was Democrats that pushed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965 through Congress, and it was Republicans that are currently trying to get rid of the latter. It was Republicans who engaged in widespread voter suppression last election. It was Republicans that said these racist things on the campaign trail. The idea that today’s Republican Party bears any resemblance to the party of Lincoln is absurd. In fact, Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, the Democrat who opposed the Civil Rights Act in the early 1960s, later switched to the Republican Party because it’s where he felt more at home.

Remember that Ronald Reagan began his 1980 campaign with a stump speech in Philadelphia, Mississippi, where three civil rights workers were murdered, proclaiming his support for “states’ rights.” Thurgood Marshall was so infuriated that he took the unprecedented step of criticizing a sitting president from the bench, saying that Reagan was one of the worst presidents when it came to the rights of African-Americans.

Guillory also makes note of all the African-Americans in prison, but it’s worth remembering that many of them are in prison because of the Republicans’ “tough on crime” strategy that has extended from Nixon through Reagan to the present day. The War on Drugs was begun under Nixon and escalated under Reagan. The War on Poverty was initiated under Lyndon Johnson.

Guillory complains about education as well. He’s right — schools are more race-segregated today than in the 1970s. Why? Gary Orfield points to former Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who struck down busing laws and was “the most consistent opponent of desegregation on the Supreme Court.” And Rehnquist was appointed by who? Nixon.

Guillory condescends to people on welfare as “dependant on government” and argues that liberals want to keep African-Americans down through their policies. But in fact, such policies lead to upward mobility in other countries. Most people who receive food stamps work, all people who take advantage of the Earned Income Tax Credit work, and all people benefiting from the minimum wage work. Welfare doesn’t breed dependency, it’s a temporary aid to people who are in need. The Republican strategy of demonizing welfare has largely been a race-baiting tactic. White southerners “know” that only black people benefit from government largess. In reality, the middle class are the real “takers.”

The real reason for Guillory’s switch is political, not sincere. Don’t be fooled.

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Author: SEAN MCELWEE