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The Beginning of the Trump Coup and Insurgency: It is Not Going Away

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I have longed warned that President Trump and his supporters would not go quietly. I have lost count of the number of warnings I have given since Trump announced his candidacy in 2015 and how he described the loyalty of his supporters when he said “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters, okay? It’s, like, incredible…” 

At the time many thought that he was joking. I knew he wasn’t  joking because I had run ins with those supporters long before he ever announced his candidacy. They were a ready made constituency. Since the late 1980s frustrated conservatives led by pundits like Rush Limbaugh and dozens of others, Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, hundreds of right wing radical pastors, and an increasingly radicalized Republican Party with the Tea Party Movement, and the Congressional Freedom Council.

Over the past three decades the Republican Party, once a mainline Conservative party was transformed into an anti-democratic, theocratic, racist and authoritarian party completely devoted to overthrowing the Constitution and Republic all because Trump lost the election and incited them to violence. That violence culminated today after Trump and Rudy Giuliani encouraged them to violence at a rally. Trump told them to continue to fight, Giuliani told them to prepare for combat, further inflaming the mob which charged down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol Building.

Following that rally the crowds marched on the Capitol Building, where they were met by Senator Josh Hawley who encouraged them from the beginning and then threw up a clenched fist as if he was leading a revolution. The insurgents overwhelmed the few Capitol Police who were manning the barricades giving little resistance to the insurgents. Some actually appeared to be friendly and supportive of the insurgents. After breaking through the lines broke into the building and took over both chambers of Congress, occupied Senate and Congressional offices, and vandalized the building, causing a great deal of damage. During their rampage those outside the buildings they attacked reporters and bystanders. Inside the building they planted Improvised Explosive Devices, and and someone shot and killed a woman, while the insurgents trampled her body as they advanced.

They flew many flags with the name of their leader on them, Donald Trump. They flew numerous variations of the Confederate Battle Flag, the Gadsen Flag, White Nationalist flags, Christian Flags including one that had a Jesus Fish with the name Jesus in black, in a white oval surrounded by a red banner. I have never imagined that the most ancient symbol of the Christian faith would be turned into a Nazi symbol. By the way, Wal-Mart sells it and it is out of stock.

Vice President Pence and the members of the Senate and House had to be evacuated to safe areas where they holed up for hours as the building was cleared.

Trump and his Fascist thugs are trying to overthrow the election and the Constitution. Don’t call them “conservatives” because they are radical, anti-democratic, insurrectionists bent on sedition and treason. How they were so easily breach security at the Capitol is beyond me. This attack was telegraphed by Trump, Giuliani, Cruz, Hawley, and others. Trump is still even this moment inciting them on Twitter justifying their actions. One woman was shot and killed, circumstances still unknown, numerous others injured, IEDs inside the Capitol disarmed, much of the Capitol damaged, further threats of violence and worse is to come.

In June the crushing police and military assault on the peaceful protesters of the George Floyd Murder, begs me to ask how come peaceful protestors, mostly Black were the subject of an unprovoked violent assault while mostly White Trump supporters who violently attacked the US Capitol were treated with kid gloves. There are two systems of justice. One for the violent Trump Cult and one for others, especially Blacks.

In the wake of this very few of the insurgents were arrested or charged. Can you imagine if Black Lives Matter protesters had done the same how law enforcement would have reacted. They would have opened fire, beaten, arrested, and maybe killed the protestors. The protestors would not gotten past the plaza in front of the Capitol before their protest would have been crushed. You and I know it. The evidence from Charlottesville, Lafayette Park, and so many other cities  is irrefutable. The racist tenor of how Whites and Blacks are treated under the law has not changed since Dred Scott, or Plessy v. Ferguson.

President Trump and his allies and enablers have ensured that the stain of racism, nationalism, and Trump’s cult will remain free to infect our country for the foreseeable future. In the next few weeks I believe that these insurgents will attack various state houses. After President Elect Biden and Vice President Elect Harris I expect the insurgents to take a lower profile but engage in targeted assassinations of Trump’s opponents regardless of their party. They are domestic terrorists and should be treated as such. They need to be hunted down arrested and brought to justice. While we want them to be arrested and brought to justice, if they decide to resort to violence in that they deserve whatever happens to them. Though I am against the death penalty I believe that those who assault our Constitution and Republic are deserving of death, and I hope that these people are brought to justice, and if these choose to resort to violence then they deserve whatever happens to them. If we cannot depend on Trump’s Department of Justice to do the job then we will have to depend on Attorney General nominee Merrick Gerland to prosecute them To the full extent of the law.

Tonight the Senate and House are going through what used to be a ceremonial vote to approve the results of the Electoral College vote. The violent coup attempt shook up many Republicans including those who were willing before to to support the objections. It appears that they now lack the fortitude to support Trump’s Coup attempt. It is amazing to see what happens to people when they are threatened by violence, especially by the people of your political party.

“There are only two sides to the question. Every man must be for the United States or against it. There can be no neutrals in this war, only patriots – or traitors”


That being said Senator Hawley, Senator Cruz, and the four others who supported the move to invalidate Arizona’s Electoral vote still did so without censure by their party. Not only that but Senator Pat Toomey who excoriated Trump as a demagogue but said in rejecting further objections said that he wanted Trump to win. I cannot understand how someone can call a man a “violent demagogue” could say they wanted him to win. Really, what kind of morality and ethics allows that?

Their votes are still going on but Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are going to be the President and Vice President of the United States with a House and Senate Majority that would not have occurred without Trump’s hubris. He has destroyed his presidency, he has destroyed the GOP Senate majority, and he has done everything he could to destroy the foundations of our nation. The man is a criminal, a traitor, a seditionist, and a serial liar, except for one tiny thing: he has promised to overthrow the election, he has promised not to give up his fight, and not to leave power peacefully. In those things he was telling the truth, proving that a serial liar can on occasion tell the truth, and many people will fight and die for his illegal actions.

That is why I said that this is the beginning of the Trump Coup and Insurgency. He and his followers will begin a campaign of violence like the KKK, the Red Shirts, the White Leagues, White Liners, and Nazis. They are a doomsday cult led by an unbalanced, unhinged, unstable and unimaginably evil and demented President who still has two weeks to do his worst.

He needs to be removed from office by Vice President Pence and the Cabinet by the 25th Amendment or by an immediate move to impeach him. Military commanders need to be ready to disobey any unconstitutional actions by Trump in the country or attempts to send the nation to war.

In the next few hours the Senate and House will certify the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, but that will enrage these insurgents, elected or not to more violence.

I fully expect the situation to get worse before it ever gets better. Our nation’s reputation and honor is stained with the blood of Trump and his Cult. Over half of the GOP House still supports Trump and his illegal actions. That shows that the GOP is hopelessly corrupt and unable to reverse the decades or rot that it has cultivated and encouraged.

That is not the worst. The fact is, unless Trump is removed through the action of Vice President Pence and the cabinet by removing Trump from by the 25th Amendment, or the House fast tracking impeachment chargers and the Senate trying and convicting him, he retains the control of the Presidency and could even launch us into war or further attempts to overthrow the Constitution and Republic. The next two weeks are going to be incredibly dangerous and violent as Trump and his Cult, including those in elected office or law enforcement work to throw the country into chaos. Such people are domestic terrorists but our laws don’t treat them as such. Laws on terrorism need to be changed to include such people.

Sadly, I fully expect that these people will resort to further violence before Trump leaves office. If they do commit further violence they deserve no mercy. Hopefully they can be arrested and tried, but I do not believe that many will submit to that. I expect them to commit violent acts including murder of law enforcement officers attempting to arrest them, as well as assassinating those they believe are their political enemies. If they do so law enforcement officials should be able to resort to deadly force to put down their insurrection.

Hope for the best and prepare for the worst. Be ready for anything. I know these people, many are decent people but others are lawless, racist, authoritarian, and theocratic and they do believe that their so called “God” is one their side. That is what the Taliban, Al Qaida, the Nazis, and others believed. Should they commit any more violent acts I believe that our only recourse is force, and if the situation requires, the lifting of Posse Comitatus and use of the active duty military to crush them. This is no longer about the election, it is about an insurrection to overthrow our government.

The President is committing criminal acts, inciting insurrection and needs to be removed from office before he can destroy the country and Constitution.

This is not some histrionic prediction, it is based on his words and actions since 2015. The man is certifiably insane and willing to commit violence to keep power. What happened today was an attempted coup and what happens next will be violent insurrection and assassinations, as well as possible war against foreign enemies.

Donald Trump, his enablers and the violent actors who attack Congress today have to be brought to justice. Senators Cruz and Hawley need to be removed from office as well as 130 house members who have completely disregarded their oaths of office to fight for Trump. Senator Mitt Romney offered a devastating critique of Republican objections. My respect for Romney has risen incredibly since 2012. Romney has become a voice of conscience for conservatives but far too many supposedly “conservative” Trump supporters don’t get it.  That is because they are cultists, and one cannot convince cultists, be they religious or political.

So until tomorrow this now retired Navy Chaplain, veteran of nearly 40 years of military service, and historian of both the Weimar, Nazi, and post-war Nuremberg trials, as well as American slavery, the Civil War, and Jim Crow Eras will settle into bed. However, I will never stop exposing these criminals for what they are. How can I not as a Priest sworn to my vows, a military officer sworn to uphold the Constitution, and a historian who is committed to speaking and writing the the truth.

The President and his violent supporters attempted a coup, the began an insurrection and they are not done. They will kill many more people before they are done. Any American regardless of their party needs to stand against them. As Stephen Douglas said after he lost the election of 1860 and his former friends attacked Fort Sumter in 1861:

“There are only two sides to the question. Every man must be for the United States or against it. There can be no neutrals in this war, only patriots – or traitors”

That my friends is the the crux of the question. Trump encouraged yesterday’s violence and failed. That doesn’t mean that this amoral narcissistic sociopath is done and neither are his supporters.

If Americans of all political types do not resist the damage will take decades to repair if ever. All over the world allies are weeping and enemies rejoicing over what happened yesterday. Some things cannot be unseen or undone, and those events will forever redound against the United States. Honestly, with so many Trump supporters now fighting an insurgency against our legally elected government what nation or people could ever trust us regardless of how hard President Biden tries to repair the damage to our Republic?

If you can answer that with any positive response you are much more optimistic than me. However, we are now facing a long term violent insurgency with right wing death squads similar those we have condemned in other nations or the insurgencies in Iraq or Afghanistan.

This is all on us, our President and his cult. The threat is real because you can bet that Russia, China, Iran, and many other adversaries are now wondering and planning how they well take advantage of the unpatriotic chaos unleashed by Trump and his goddamned cult are done. This is far more than a domestic political crisis, it has ramifications for our national security and peace around the world.

This was an attempted Coup no different that the Kapp Putsch or Bier Hall Putsch in Weimar Germany. We need to be vigilant and very concerned. In an hour or so Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be the undisputed President and Vice President elect and nothing apart from a violent revolution and insurgency can stop it. If that happens all bets are off.

So until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Chose Reconciliation over Rage: the Opportunity of 2020

President Trump Seeing the Celebrations as he Returns to the White House

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Today the 2020 election was called based on irrefutable evidence of voters and the statistics compiled by State Attorneys General and Election Commissioners, of both parties, and rulings of state Supreme Courts either completely composed of or highly majority Republican majorities. Yes the certified results will not be complete until each state certifies them, but the fact is that this election was more highly scrutinized and transparent than any in modern history.

After the Supreme Court’s intervention to stop a recount authorized by the Florida Supreme Court in 2000, and the controversy of Russian (Read Soviet) interference and manipulation in the 2016 election, no state (Red or Blue) or reputable media organization (Conservative or Liberal) wanted to be put in the crosshairs of any electoral controversy because there was no good outcome of being partisan. Truth, law, and how they would be remembered appeared to matter more than ideology or power. Thus Fox News much to the chagrin of Trump and many of his followers (Even their prime time pundits: Hannity, Ingraham, and Carlson) and their viewers called Arizona long before anyone else. Regardless of ideology, truth and facts seemed to matter to the media more than ever this year.

I have many friends who voted for President Trump, but none of them are on the streets and only one has challenged me on social media. They are Republicans who like I used to, take the word of allegedly conservative or Christian preachers, politicians or pundits at face value. But then I don’t tend to attract extremist of any kind as friends, and I understand what years of listening to “conservative Christian or Republican” ideologues does to the soul of someone, because that was me for at least a decade between 1997-2008. But change and redemption are possible. For me it took seeing the effects of an unjust and illegal war against Iraq, and coming home to listen to the abject racism of Rush Limbaugh towards Barack Obama before I collapsed in tears behind the wheel of my car driving between my office and our unit’s headquarters.

I say this because for Trump followers who are not racist anti-semites, but actually retain a sense of decency and hold to the values of their faith or philosophy yet for whatever reason still believed that Democrats were like Communists, or even for than matter Socialists (the most hated enemy of Communists since 1917): I understand. I used to be you. Party loyalty and the teachings of churches and Christian leaders convinced me that I had to follow that path regardless of the cost, until I returned from Iraq in 2008.

I had my doubts long before that, but from 1997 until 2008 with the exception of when I was deployed I tried to listen to Limbaugh, and later Hannity every time they were on the air. I knew better, but they played on my emotions and I fell for them, until I came home from Iraq. When I heard them defending the war and calling people who did not agree with them “unpatriotic” after what I had seen provoked a surge of anger and the realization that all of us who served there had been betrayed, by the very people who helped convince us to go to war, and demonized its opponents, politicians, preachers and pundits alike.

I think that the hardest thing for decent people who follow ideologues to experience is to realize that they were betrayed trust by people, organizations and Parties they trusted the most. I think that is happening with some now, but for the real extremists only motivated by hate of people different than them and a sense of grievance too deep to fathom that defeat will make them more extreme.

As a historian who knows far too much about America and Germany I know how this plays out. Defeated people, especially true believers look for scapegoats and fall back on myths to defend their leader’s failures and mistakes. It happened after our Civil War, after World War One, and even after Vietnam. For Americans the ghosts of the Civil War, Vietnam, and maybe even our misguided adventures in the Middle East over the past three decades loom large. For some they are something to rage against, for others something to defend and find scapegoats.

The same is true of elections. President Trump masterfully used the politics of grievance to bring people he had no respect for to follow him. Since his policies only benefitted the richest of the rich he had to use diversionary tactics to get people how did not benefit from them to follow him. These policies where historically proven to be successful; racism, religious prejudice and hatred and anti-immigrant sentiment. President Trump played on these grievances never expecting to be President. For him it was another opportunity to promote himself, and since proving himself to be an unqualified and incompetent leader in real life crises he had to hold on using the same primal passions that got him elected.

But he lost. I will never forget the picture I saw of him returning to the White House with his mouth agape after golfing at Trump National today. He was stunned, and the real shock of his defeat was in evidence before his very eyes. I imagine that is the look on so many people who bet their lives, reputations and honor to defend. For those dealing with that reality the psychological trauma has to be considered. I am not talking the people who knew better and tried to use Trump to keep power, but those who honestly thought, despite all the evidence that he actually gave a damn about them. They might have been misguided but I do understand how that can have fallen for the con of Don. It is one of the oldest psychological, religious and political games ever played, especially in the democratic era unleashed by our own revolution in 1776.

Do I think that President Trump and those who collaborated with him to gain power and destroy the lives and futures of so many people in the United States and around the world need to be held accountable? Damn right. Does that include people with no power who were manipulated into following and believing all he said because he played to their grievances, not at all. Without talk radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh I would have probably left the GOP in 1998 or at least 2000. But 9-11-2001 delayed that until the truth hit me between the eyes when I went to Iraq in 2007 and returned home in 2008.

When people who know better follow ideologues and other leaders into the abyss and subsequently realize that they were used and betrayed by those they trusted, there are results. One of the most common is Moral Injury. I think that Moral Injury is even more difficult to deal with than PTSD because the victim goes into the situation believing that those they followed cared for them. The realization that they were used often comes as a hammer blow that shatters all faith and trust and either leads them in an opposite direction or to recommit to the cause that harmed them and become more strident opponents of those who abandoned them. I have seen it and I know to many people to which this has happened to ignore it and seek vengeance on all who voted for President Trump.

However, for Trump, his low class crime family who have lived high on taxpayer money, and his enablers in the GOP hierarchy, in the Senate, House of Representatives, the Courts, and in state and local government I have little such concern. Those who know more are accountable for more, and these leaders helped destroy Constitutional liberties, protections, guardrails, and norms are far more guilty than anyone who simply voted for Trump because they had been led to believe over the course of decades that Democrats were their mortal enemies.

But that is all for now. I need to sleep as today the pain in my jaw returned and after I took my medicines I was too wiped out to notice much other that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won the 2020 election.  I am happy that they won and I hope that we as Americans are able to be reconciled to each other even as Trump and his enablers are held accountable by law for what they have done. I could go into detail about the latter but for now I have to get some sleep.

Until next time.

Peace,

Padre Steve+ 2016

 

 

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The Passage of the Nineteenth Amendment: Suffrage Delayed for Political Expediency and Justice Still Denied

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

For the last few days I have going back to a part of my book manuscript “A Great Civil War in an Age of Revolutionary Change” in a chapter dealing with women’s rights. This is the conclusion of that series of articles. I found it interesting and ironic that President Trump issued a pardon to Susan B. Anthony this week for the act of trying to vote, something that he is fighting desperately against in the midst of a pandemic. Likewise because she was proud of her “crime” and she didn’t want a pardon.

Until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

The struggle for Women’s rights continued after the war, which neither advanced nor reduced the rights of women, but the end of the war marked a change in the relationship with women’s rights advocates and their former allies in Congress. Likewise, the same evangelical churches which many of the women’s rights leaders had begun their crusades “which had been in the forefront of ante-bellum reform upheld the status quo.” [1] This was true of their support for women’s rights, as well as civil rights for blacks, and supported the use of force against strikers.

After laboring alongside abolitionists to abolish slavery and pass the Thirteenth Amendment, women’s rights leaders lobbied to have women’s suffrage linked to that of black suffrage.  Women’s rights leaders asked Congress to include universal suffrage as parts of the Fourteenth, and then the Fifteenth Amendments. However, the Radical Republicans were fearful that including women’s rights in either measure could lead to the rejection of Black citizenship and suffrage for Black males.  The decision was a bitter disappointment to Stanton, Anthony and other Women’s rights leaders, and it would adversely effect the rights of Black Women in the hell of the Jim Crow era, and even today where Black Men are frequently the victims of discrimination and violence, and Black Women still find themselves at the back of the bus when it comes to education, employment opportunities, healthcare, and yes at the ballot box. I do hope that the nomination of Kamala Harris as the Vice Presidential Running mate of Democratic Presidential Nominee Joe Biden will tip the scales toward their victory and hopefully a change for the better in the rights of Blacks, Women, and all minorities. 

Stanton responded to one of the Congressmen who refused to support it by noting that failing to include women in these measures actually hurt the cause of African Americans and would doom Reconstruction because it would exclude black women from suffrage,, “our former champions forsook principle for policy, and in giving women the cold shoulder raised a more deadly opposition to the negro than we had yet encountered, creating an antagonism between him and the element most needed to be propitiate do on his behalf…. But Mr. Smith abandons the principle clearly involved and I trenches himself on policy. He would undoubtedly please the necessity of the ballot for the negro at the south for his protection, and to point to innumerable acts of cruelty he suffers to-day. But all of these things fall as heavily on the women of the black race, yea, far more so, for no man can ever know the damning degradation to which woman is subject in her youth, in helplessness and poverty…. Women everywhere are waking up to their God-given rights, to their true dignity as citizens of a republic, as mothers of the race…” [2] 

Susan B. Anthony was arrested with a number of other women and convicted of trying to vote in the 1872 elections. After her conviction she condemned the resistance of white male politicians to universal suffrage, and of attempts throughout the country to limit and even role back suffrage rights which had been granted to African Americans after the war. After her trial and conviction she proclaimed, “This government is no democracy…. It is an odious aristocracy; a hateful oligarchy of sex” that placed “father, brothers, husbands, sons… over the mother and sisters, of every household.” [3]

Despite the setbacks suffered by women, the cause of women’s rights continued to grow as women asserted themselves in the workplace, in the press, in lobbying for workplace safety, and taking up leadership roles in the labor movement. Likewise the opportunities for women working in Federal Government agencies which had opened during the war continued to grow. “By 1875 the number in Washington had doubled. Federal, State, and local agencies were employing women clerks, bookkeepers, stenographers, and receptionists…. Competition for jobs was keen because wages were higher and workdays shorter than most other lines of work, and it was exciting to live in the nation’s capital.” [4] even so there was a certain amount of insecurity in such work as many Civil Service jobs were dependent on the patronage of elected officials. It was not until the first civil service acts in the 1880s that the danger of job loss from political change was minimized.

In the 1890s educational opportunities for women advanced as women’s colleges and land grant colleges open their doors to women as students, and later professors. Likewise, the establishment of teacher’s colleges and vocational training institutions expanded opportunities for women as the need for teachers and other specialists grew as the nation expanded. The women nurses of the war continued to find employment, and some went to Europe where they let their service to the French and Prussians during the Franco-Prussian War. After the war new nursing schools were opened, and medical colleges that allowed women to attend were established. By the 1890s “more than a dozen medical colleges were co-educational, including those of Syracuse, California, Iowa, and Harvard University.” [5] Medical societies began opening their doors to women as well, but in many cases the walls fell slowly as prejudice against women remained as strong as it ever was.

Even so, none of these efforts went without opposition, and in the face of it the movement itself split into a radical faction headed by Susan B. Anthony “which continued to press for a national constitutional amendment and a moderated wing led by Mary Livermore and Henry Ward Beecher which wanted to limit the campaign to what could be accomplished in state legislatures.” [6]

Sadly, none of the pioneers of women’s rights would live to see the passage and ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment which gave women the right to vote in 1920. The Equal Pay Act, which mandated the equal pay for Federal employees did not pass until 1963, and the ill-fated Equal Rights Amendment which simply stated “That equality of rights under the law shall not be abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex” was introduced in 1923, but not passed by Congress in 1972,  but was never ratified falling three states short of ratification, mainly due to the opposition of religious conservatives who propagandize diet as a threat to traditional gender roles, citing in particular that the amendment might result in women being subject to the draft.

Even so, in the years following the failure of the amendment, women have continued to advance in the private sector, government, and the military, with women rising to be Chief Executive Officers of Fortune 500 companies, in elected office, as Cabinet Secretaries and on the Supreme Court, and even as four-star Generals and Admirals in the U.S. Military. Today women make up over half of college graduates and nearly half of the work force. To further increase opportunity the Department of Defense decided to open military occupational combat arms specialties previously restricted to men to women in 2015. Even so women can still be legally paid less, and discriminated against based on their gender in many states. Thus the Nineteenth, like the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments, the Voting Rights Act of 1964, and the Civil Rights Act of 1965 are yet to be completely fulfilled.

Notes

[1] Ibid. Goldfield America Aflame: How the Civil War Created a Nation p.468

[2] Stanton, Elizabeth Cady, Letter to Congressman Gerrit Smith, from The Revolution 14 January 1869 in The Civil War and Reconstruction: A Documentary Collection edited by William E. Gienapp, W.W. Norton and Company, New York and London. 2001 p.361

[3] Ibid. Goldfield America Aflame: How the Civil War Created a Nation p.468

[4] Ibid. Massey Women in the Civil War pp.340-341

[5] Ibid. Massey Women in the Civil War p.352

[6] Ibid. Guelzo Fateful Lightning p.403

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The Road to Trump Began Here: Jackie Robinson and the 1964 GOP Convention

Jackie Robinson Speaking with the Press

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Pardon the interruption, but I started a new article last night but was too tired to complete. I guess I will mull it over more and get around to posting it when I am ready. So instead of that I am going to repost an article from a few years back. 

Sometimes people wonder how the Republican Party devolved to the point that it became a proto-Fascist Party completely unrelated to the Party of Lincoln. Now it is true that after Ulysses Grant’s Presidency the GOP became less civil rights and more a party of the Robber Barons. Of course Teddy Roosevelt repudiated the Robber Barons, and was quite progressive except in terms of race and civil rights, and Dwight Eisenhower who took action to enforce Supreme Court Rulings after Brown v. Board of Education, and was as progressive in many ways as were Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman. Richard Nixon took advantage of the Southern Strategy to continue the transformation of the GOP into the party of Trump, which continued, under slightly less obvious means under Ronald Reagan, and both George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush. But even more pivotal was the speakership of Newt Gingrich, and the  the Tea Party.

But think that the 1964 GOP National Convention was more important because it was a watershed moment in American politics, a moment that started the Republican Party down the path that has culminated today. The convention was a direct response to the Civil Rights Movement and the Freedom Summer of 1964.

But most of all it is how the GOP rank and file treated baseball icon and civil rights pioneer Jackie Robinson’s trip to the 1964 Republican National Convention. Though the events happened some fifty-six years ago, they are not ancient history, and the spirit and ideology that characterized them is all to present today, especially in the modern Republican Party. 

So have a great day. 

Peace

Padre Steve+

republican-national-convention-delegates_1964

Jackie Robinson was an American hero and icon. He was an amazing athlete who served as an Army Officer in the Second World War, but whose military career was cut short by a bus driver who ordered him to the back of the bus, for which he was tried by what amounted to a drumhead Court Martial, but was acquitted. So he missed seeing action in the war. Robinson remembered his defense attorney’s closing argument.

My lawyer summed up the case beautifully by telling the board that this was not a case involving any violation of the Articles of War, or even of military tradition, but simply a situation in which a few individuals sought to vent their bigotry on a Negro they considered ‘uppity’ because he had the audacity to exercise rights that belonged to him as an American and a soldier.

Twenty years later, Robinson, a Republican because of the then racist attitudes of the Democrats was a supporter of the progressive Republican Governor or New York, Nelson Rockefeller. When he arrived as Rockefeller’s guest he was confronted with the most vile behavior by GOP delegates as could be imagined.

“A new breed of Republicans had taken over the GOP. As I watched this steamroller operation in San Francisco, I had a better understanding of how it must have felt to be a Jew in Hitler’s Germany.” Jackie Robinson on his observations of the 1964 Republican National Convention

Jackie Robinson was a Republican. So was I for 32 years and for much of that time I considered myself a “conservative” whatever that means, though I thought it meant freedom, limited government and opportunity for all regardless of race, color, religion or any other trait or belief. I also believed and still do in a strong defense, but I can no longer consider myself a man that blesses American intervention in other people’s wars unless there is a clear and present danger to the United States, not simply our so called “interests” which may not be those of the nation at all but of multi-national corporations which were originally American businesses but not only need our military, diplomatic and intelligence resources to increase their profits.

My parents were Kennedy type Democrats, but in the 1970s, torn by the extremism of the 1972 Democratic Convention in Chicago and feeling the hatred of people for those in the military, including a Sunday School teacher who told me that my dad, then serving in Vietnam was “baby killer” I at the age of 12 decided that I would be a Republican. I was a Republican until I returned from Iraq in 2008, fully aware of the lies that took us into that war and seeing the cost both to American servicemen and the people of Iraq.

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I have been doing a lot of reading lately on a period of history that as a historian I had pretty much skipped over. That is the period of the Civil Rights movement of the early to mid-1960s. I guess I skipped over it because I was more interested in the glory of war and patriotism wrapped in historic myth than in the experiences of fellow citizens who had been killed, abused, tormented and persecuted by people like me simply because of the color of their skin. I had not yet begun to appreciate the concept of justice at home being interconnected to our deepest held principles and how we embody them in our foreign policy.

For many years I echoed the point made by some conservatives that it was the GOP that helped make the Voter’s Rights Act of 1964 and Civil Rights Act of 1965 passed into law. That is true. Most Republicans voted for them, with a notable exception, Barry Goldwater. However, what is also true is that the Republicans that voted for the 1964 act were considered “liberals” and treated shamefully at the 1964 convention, whose delegates voted down a part of the platform that would have supported that act. Of the Democrats that voted against those bills almost all came from the Deep South, a region which within a decade become a Republican stronghold and a key part of the Southern Strategy of every GOP Presidential Candidate since Richard Nixon. A Republican aide at the 1964 convention told a reporter that “the nigger issue was sure to put Goldwater in the White House.” (See Freedom Summer by Bruce Watson p.163)

However as a life long baseball fan there is one thing that I know, that if there had been no Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson we might not have gotten Rosa Parks or the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.

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Robinson was appointed as a special delegate to New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller who was running against Goldwater and attended the convention. He had given up his job as a spokesman for and Vice President of the Chock Full O’Nuts Coffee Company to assist Rockefeller’s campaign in 1964.

Robinson knew what it was like to be the “point man” in the integration of baseball and in his career was threatened with physical violence and death on many occasions. Some teammates circulated petitions that they would not play for a team that had a “black” on it. Robinson, encouraged by Rickey persevered and became an icon in baseball, the Civil Rights movement and the history of the United States. However, not even 10 years after his retirement from baseball and 2 years after he was elected to the Hall of Fame he once again discovered just how deep racism still ran in this country. As he attended the convention FBI agents and other Federal authorities attempted to find the bodies of three young Voting Rights staff who were part of the 1964 Freedom Summer campaign in Mississippi. Eventually, later in the summer the bodies of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner would be discovered buried in the base of a dam near Philadelphia Mississippi. Their killers were local law enforcement officers and members of the Ku Klux Klan.

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Maybe I lived in my own fantasy world. My experience growing up was on the West Coast living in a military family in small towns and big cities. I am proud to be part of the first class that attended high school in my home town when the courts ordered desegregation in our schools. That experience at Edison High School of Stockton California from 1975-78 changed me, as did having a black roommate in college.

However, that being said it took me a long time to realize that things really haven’t changed that much from 1964 in many parts of the country, especially since I have lived most of my adult live in the historic States that comprised the Confederacy. I can say from practical observation and knowledge that racism and other forms of more acceptable prejudice live on in this country. There is not a day that goes by that I do not run into the vestiges of the hate that lived during the Freedom Summer of 1964. It is more subtle in some cases, but other times is so blatant that is sickening. I never expected that I would ever be called a “nigger lover” or “wigger” until I had people made those comments on this website in response to articles that had nothing to do with race relations or civil rights, nor did I expect physical threats from people who call themselves “Christian.” Those were learning experiences that I have never forgotten.

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Robinson wrote of his experience at the 1964 Convention:

“I wasn’t altogether caught of guard by the victory of the reactionary forces in the Republican party, but I was appalled by the tactics they used to stifle their liberal opposition. I was a special delegate to the convention through an arrangement made by the Rockefeller office. That convention was one of the most unforgettable and frightening experiences of my life. The hatred I saw was unique to me because it was hatred directed against a white man. It embodied a revulsion for all he stood for, including his enlightened attitude toward black people.

A new breed of Republicans had taken over the GOP. As I watched this steamroller operation in San Francisco, I had a better understanding of how it must have felt to be a Jew in Hitler’s Germany.

The same high-handed methods had been there.

The same belief in the superiority of one religious or racial group over another was here. Liberals who fought so hard and so vainly were afraid not only of what would happen to the GOP but of what would happen to America. The Goldwaterites were afraid – afraid not to hew strictly to the line they had been spoon-fed, afraid to listen to logic and reason if it was not in their script.

I will never forget the fantastic scene of Governor Rockefeller’s ordeal as he endured what must have been three minutes of hysterical abuse and booing which interrupted his fighting statement which the convention managers had managed to delay until the wee hours of the morning. Since the telecast was coming from the West Coast, that meant that many people in other sections of the country, because of the time differential, would be in their beds. I don’t think he has ever stood taller than that night when he refused to be silenced until he had had his say.

It was a terrible hour for the relatively few black delegates who were present. Distinguished in their communities, identified with the cause of Republicanism, an extremely unpopular cause among blacks, they had been served notice that the party they had fought for considered them just another bunch of “niggers”. They had no real standing in the convention, no clout. They were unimportant and ignored. One bigot from one of the Deep South states actually threw acid on a black delegate’s suit jacket and burned it. Another one, from the Alabama delegation where I was standing at the time of the Rockefeller speech, turned on me menacingly while I was shouting “C’mon Rocky” as the governor stood his ground. He started up in his seat as if to come after me. His wife grabbed his arm and pulled him back.

“Turn him loose, lady, turn him loose,” I shouted.

I was ready for him. I wanted him badly, but luckily for him he obeyed his wife…” From Jackie Robinson “I Never Had it Made” Chapter XV On Being Black Among the Republicans

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Belva Davis, then a young journalist wrote of her experiences at that convention:

While the Goldwater organization tried to keep its delegates in check on the floor, snarling Goldwater fans in the galleries around us were off the leash. The mood turned unmistakably menacing…

Suddenly Louis and I heard a voice yell, “Hey, look at those two up there!” The accuser pointed us out, and several spectators swarmed beneath us. “Hey niggers!” they yelled. “What the hell are you niggers doing in here?’”

I could feel the hair rising on the back of my neck as I looked into faces turned scarlet and sweaty by heat and hostility. Louis, in suit and tie and perpetually dignified, turned to me and said with all the nonchalance he could muster, “Well, I think that’s enough for today.” Methodically we began wrapping up our equipment into suitcases.

As we began our descent down the ramps of the Cow Palace, a self-appointed posse dangled over the railings, taunting. “Niggers!” “Get out of here, boy!” “You too, nigger bitch!” “Go on, get out!” “I’m gonna kill your ass!”

I stared straight ahead, putting one foot in front of the other like a soldier who would not be deterred from a mission. The throng began tossing garbage at us: wadded up convention programs, mustard-soaked hot dogs, half-eaten Snickers bars. My goal was to appear deceptively serene, mastering the mask of dispassion I had perfected since childhood to steel myself against any insults the outside world hurled my way.

Then a glass soda bottle whizzed within inches of my skull. I heard it whack against the concrete and shatter. I didn’t look back, but I glanced sideways at Louis and felt my lower lip began to quiver. He was determined we would give our tormentors no satisfaction.

“If you start to cry,” he muttered, “I’ll break your leg.” ( Belva Davis “Never in My Wildest Dreams: A Black Woman’s Life in Journalism)

The sad thing is that in many states the new GOP has taken a page out of the past and has been either passing legislation or attempting to pass legislation that makes it harder for Blacks and other minorities to vote. Groups have shown up armed at heavily black polling sites in recent elections and efforts have been made to ensure that minorities cannot vote. They have also challenged the 1964 Voter’s Rights Act in Court and have a friend in Justice Antonine Scalia who called it a “racial entitlement” and violation of State sovereignty.

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The tactics are quite similar to those used in the Deep South prior to 1964 which made it virtually impossible for a Black man or woman to cast a vote, and if they tried even to register to vote did so at the peril of their lives or families. The opponents of integration, voter’s rights and equal rights used some of the same lines used today against those that support these rights. “Communists sympathizers, Socialists, Atheists, Anti-Christian, Anti-American, Anti-Constitution,” you name it the same labels are being applied to those that simply want to be at the table. The sad thing that many of the most vicious users of such untruths are my fellow Christians.

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These are hard things to look at and it is far easier to believe myth than it is to actually seek truth. A few years back I cannot every in a million years having written this article. However the threats to minorities be they racial, religious or even gender have become part an parcel of the new GOP, the GOP that I could not remain a part of when I returned from Iraq.

I guess that I am becoming a Civil Rights advocate, or then, maybe it’s that I’m actually becoming more of a Christian. Branch Rickey said “I may not be able to do something about racism in every field, but I can sure do something about it in baseball.” Oh well, I amy not be able to do something about racism and other prejudice everywhere but I can do it here and wherever I work or preach.

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Oh well whatever, it really doesn’t matter so long as I can live with myself. Besides, I’ll get labeled anyway so what does it matter? I would rather be in the same camp as someone like Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey than Antonine Scalia or those that seek to keep people down simply because they are different anyway.

Martin Niemoller once said:

First they came for the , communist
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the socialists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.

Friends, it is all too important that we not forget this, even as Donald Trump and many of his supporters who include most of the White Supremacists, Klansmen, and Neo-Nazis in this country offer the same threats against blacks, other minorities, and political moderates and liberals. Make no mistake, what is happening now is nothing more than a resurgence of the hatred and violence that was unleashed against those who fought for civil rights fifty-six years ago.

I have no doubt that Jackie Robinson is rejoicing in heaven with the selection of Kamala Harris as Joe Biden’s Vice Presidential Running mate, and I know how he would respond to a draft dodging, war criminal pardoning, racist President like Donald Trump.

So until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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