There are some people out there who don’t like the recent GOP push to make the presentation of a photo ID a pre-condition of being able to cast a ballot. Count among them Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee and a U.S. representative from Florida.
Speaking with Roland Martin of TV One, a network that, according to its website, provides “real-life and entertainment television for African-American adults,” Wasserman Schultz equated GOP support for the anti voter fraud measure with a desire to “literally drag us all the way back to Jim Crow laws.” [Read RNC Chairman Reince Priebus: Anti Voter Fraud Reforms Are Practical, Not Partisan.]
It’s an interesting analogy, one that Wasserman Schultz herself is walking away from now that her comments have leaked out into the broader media. But, as they say, the damage is done.
Dropping the “Jim Crow” bomb on a network with a largely African-American viewership is like waving a red cape at a bull; it’s a deliberate provocation—not an accidental misspeak—intended to get the viewers all riled up and thinking bad thoughts about the Republicans.
It’s also, in the larger context, a dangerous road for Wasserman Schultz to go down.
Leaving aside the idea that she perhaps does not understand what the word “literally” means, the “Jim Crow” laws were a whole series of measures indented to keep blacks and whites apart, living lives that were “separate but equal” in all kinds of ways. They were not, as Wasserman Schultz inferred, simply about keeping blacks from voting. [Check out a roundup of political cartoons on Democrats.]
On the books from the end of reconstruction until the U.S. Supreme Court began to chip away at them in its landmark 1954 decision in Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, the “Jim Crow” laws were a stain on our national character, one put there—and here is why the subject is dangerous for Wasserman Schultz to bring up—by the Democrats.
The fact that the Voting Rights Act was pushed through Congress by a Democrat—Lyndon Johnson—does not erase the party’s history of support for institutionalized de jure racism. LBJ was only able to get the bill through with the support of Republicans, led by Senate GOP leader Everett McKinley Dirksen of Illinois.
The Democratic Party’s longtime love affair with segregation is undeniable. Who stood up for “Jim Crow” when President Eisenhower tried to enforce desegregation at Little Rock, Arkansas’ Central High School? Democrats like Arkansas Gov. Orvall Faubus, who called out the state’s National Guard to prevent black students from entering the school. It was a Democrat, Alabama Gov. George Wallace, who famously proclaimed "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever." And it was a Democratically-controlled Georgia legislature that picked nationally-known segregationist Lester Maddox to be their state’s 75th governor in 1966.
These are all facts that Wasserman Schultz conveniently seems to have forgotten.
Moreover, even though former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman famously apologized for his party’s infamous “southern strategy” in a 2005 speech to the NAACP, neither Wasserman Schultz nor any Democratic National Committee chairman I can remember has ever apologized for their party’s support for “Jim Crow”—support that lasted nearly 75 years.
Democratic National Committee Chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is shameless, but, even more than that, she needs to go back to school.