October 17, 2021

Should Joe Biden Apologize for His Party’s Support of Slavery?


Democrats want to talk about the filibuster as a vestige of Jim Crow instead of talking about their cynical will to power. Turn the tables.

In his eulogy for John Lewis, Barack Obama called the filibuster rule a “Jim Crow relic.” This is a historical impossibility since the filibuster predates the Civil War. That’s no matter. It’s been clear for many years that the left will call any opposition to it’s goals racist no matter the consequences, or absurdity of their propositions.

They’ve pursued this strategy so ruthlessly that almost all Republicans politicians obsequiously obey the left’s marching orders if they think they’ll get called racist. The Democrat’s new position on the filibuster is extreme, and if they’re going to try to tie it to race then Republicans should reply in an equally forceful manner.

Republicans should demand that Joe Biden use his acceptance speech to formally apologize for his party’s support of slavery.

Republicans should respond to Obama’s provocation, and all woke demands, by demanding the Democrats use their convention to apologize for slavery. There is an unbroken institutional connection between the party of Joe Biden and the Democrats who defended slavery. This should not be a focus of the Trump campaign, but it would be an effective attack that could deter rhetoric like Obama’s. Democrats will stop accusing their enemies of racism if they know this will result in a conversation about whether or not they ought to apologize for slavery.

The left wants us to use dubious concepts like “institutional racism” to advance their agenda, but are members of an institution that actually supported slavery. Republican representative Louie Gohmert recently tried to pass a resolution banning the Democrats from Congress because of their historic support for slavery. This is bad framing because it takes it too far and makes it easy to dismiss him as a crackpot. Instead it should just be a consistent question. “Should the Democrats formally apologize for being the party of slavery?” Asking Joe Biden to do this in his acceptance speech could demoralize potential Biden voters, slow the cultural revolution, and deter accusations of racism from the Biden campaign.

Republicans may dismiss this for different reasons. Some may object to such juvenile and partisan tactics. Yet, moderation is not a synonym for weakness. There are many moderate and good faith defenses of the filibuster, but they won’t survive accusations of racism. True moderation is inherently fragile, therefore it needs to be protected with hardball tactics. It is prudent and moderate to ask Democrats to address their history with slavery when they call the filibuster a relic of Jim Crow. Other Republicans may object to one more toxic relitigation of history that is fundamentally unserious. Yet a consistent request for the Democrats to atone for their party’s support of slavery could deter unserious woke rhetoric in the future. Many people don’t actually know about this aspect of history.

The majority of Americans don’t know the Democrat’s connection to slavery. Conservatives have heard it a million times, and so may be frustrated by hacky, and cliche attempts to link all Republican enemies to the Confederacy. Despite our familiarity, this old conservative talking point will have new salience in the current woke environment where Planned Parenthood actually denounced their founder. Similarly, most Americans don’t realize that the Democrats supported slavery. Few people understand that the Democratic Party has continually existed since its role in the Civil War. Conservatives know that Democratic Senator Robert Byrd was a member of the KKK in his early life, and the Trump campaign has halfheartedly brought this up. This is a clear connection between the Democrats who supported slavery and Biden. It’s very easy for voters to understand. People who genuinely believe the woke rhetoric but were never taught about the Democrats’ historical connection to slavery are probably susceptible to sustained efforts.

If the Trump campaign asks Biden to apologize at the convention, it may force Democrats to adopt a nuanced position on race and history. The predictable response will be about how the parties switched, but this is going to be less effective in the era of the 1619 Project. Democrats are told that America was “built on slavery” and therefore its entire founding is irredeemably racist. They’ve given themselves very little wiggle room to defend the Democratic Party. Why shouldn’t they issue an apology at the convention? If they’re the party of antiracism, doesn’t it just make sense? The goal is simply to get Democrats to talk about this. It’s simply to get liberal writers to publish essays making a nuanced argument about history. This could help neutralize the Democrats’ primary electoral strategy.

If the Biden campaign knows they will have to talk about the Democrats and slavery every time they bring up race, they will be less likely to bring it up at all. The Biden campaign wants to make this election about race, and say that the election is a “battle for the soul of this nation.” As part of this project, they paint normal and mainstream views on immigration or trade as somehow racist. Republicans genuinely hate being called racist, and so get goaded into arguing that the Democrats are the real racists. If they want to do this effectively, they should point out that immigration, trade, and slavery are all issues revolving around the need for cheap labor. Is Joe Biden’s defense of cheap immigrant labor an ugly reminder of the Democrats racist past? It is important for our national healing that the Democrats finally address their history.

Some will be tempted to respond to Obama’s provocation about the filibuster by writing long essays about the true history of the rule. Some will try to bring up various ways that the history of the filibuster proves that Democrats are the real racists. Yet this will continue a conversation that helps the Democrats. They want to argue about whether or not the filibuster is a vestige of a racist past instead of talking about their naked and cynical will to power. Turn the tables. Is the Democratic Party a vestige from a racist past? How can anyone who calls himself an antiracist voluntarily join an organization that profited off of black bodies? Should Joe Biden use his acceptance speech to issue a formal apology for the Democratic Party’s support of slavery?

James McElroy is a New York City-based novelist and essayist.

This post originally appeared on and written by:
James McElroy
The American Conservative 2020-08-18 04:01:00