You could spend literally all day every day detailing left-wing political correctness and its war on history, knowledge, common sense and empirical reality (see, for instance, a Washington Post column blaming Amy Schumer for the Charleston shootings for an especially zany example). But it becomes especially noteworthy when one of our two major political parties rends its garments over the social-justice-warrior Left’s ever-expanding list of anathemas. Last week, for example, we had the spectacle of former Maryland Governor and current Democratic presidential contender Martin O’Malley apologizing for having offered the following response to hecklers who tried – ultimately successfully – to run him off the stage at “Netroots Nation”:
When they shouted, “Black lives matter!” a rallying cry of protests that broke out after several black Americans were killed at the hands of police in recent months, O’Malley responded: “Black lives matter. White lives matter. All lives matter.”
The demonstrators, who were mostly black, responded by booing him and shouting him down.
One would not wish our political leaders to offer any opinion so insensitive as the suggestion that all human lives matter equally, or even at all.
This week, comes the news that the Democrats are finally starting to purge from memory the two men responsible for founding their party:
Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson are history in Connecticut. Under pressure from the NAACP, the state Democratic Party will scrub the names of the two presidents from its annual fundraising dinner because of their ties to slavery…The decision is believed to be unprecedented and could prompt Democrats in other states with similarly named events to follow suit.
Now, on the one hand, given the Democratic Party’s mythology these days on matters of race, even extending to the recent history of the Confederate flag, it is perhaps refreshing to see that the party is coming to grips with the fact that its original founder was a slaveowner who carried on a sexual affair with one of his slaves, and that its “modern” founder (when the second two-party system developed in the 1820s) was a slaveowner, at times perhaps a slave trader, and perpetrator of some fairly brutal “ethnic cleansing” policies against the Cherokee and other Native American tribes. They might also get to work on Woodrow Wilson, the man who reshaped the Democrats into a progressive, “intellectual,” pro-administrative-state “expert” party and who was also a raging anti-Semite who – among other things – segregated the federal government and signed a forcible-sterililization law as Governor of New Jersey. Or Franklin D. Roosevelt, the face of the dime and the man around whom Hillary Clinton built her Roosevelt Island announcement of her presidential campaign, who signed off on World War II-era Japanese internment, promoted race discrimination in housing through the New Deal’s Federal Housing Administration, and who forged a political coalition with the Jim Crow South that protected and promoted segregation and racial oppression for the next two decades.
They might even take another look at Hillary herself, and her supporters who originated the “birther” story about Barack Obama during the 2008 primaries. Over at The Week today, left-wing writer Ryan Cooper delves in some detail into why, in his view, “Hillary Clinton needs to address the racist undertones of her 2008 campaign”. At the time, Oliver Willis accused her of “spouting Klan-style talking points”. And not just on matters of domestic race relations: just today, Hillary failed to condemn or even disagree with a questioner who asked why we were sending aid to Israel to “fund apartheid”.
On the other hand, people not in the thrall of the Left’s stifling orthodoxies might find the campaign to blot out the memory of major figures in American history rather off-putting. Jefferson deserves the criticism he gets for owning slaves, and that criticism is part of understanding our history. But he also not only wrote the Declaration of Independence, whose ode to the universality of human rights inspired generations of crusaders for civil rights and the abolition of slavery; he also wrote the first draft in 1784 of what became the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, banning slavery in the federal territories that would become Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin:
The Northwest Ordinance was the first major federal restriction on slavery in the United States, and would create the states that gave us Lincoln, Grant, Sherman and much of the moral and material leadership that would go on to defeat the Confederacy. Jefferson’s language, more or less unchanged, would end up being enshrined in the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865, which banned slavery for good. Jackson, too, is a complex figure who remains deservedly controversial, but it was Jackson who sent federal warships to South Carolina during the nullification crisis and threatened to hang John C. Calhoun (who only shortly before had been Jackson’s own Vice President).
The purging of Jefferson and Jackson from the Democratic Party’s history is reminiscent of the madness of damnatio memoriae that has of late seized the Left over the memory and symbols of the Confederacy. Taking the Confederate flag down from the South Carolina State Capitol grounds and other active government buildings is right and proper, and justly a thing to be celebrated as a turning of the page on chapters of the past best left in the past. But of course, it hasn’t stopped there, or anywhere that a normal person would describe as sane. No, we get the National Park Service removing the Confederate flag from the Gettysburg gift shop, and the National Cathedral removing stained glass windows with images of Generals Lee and Jackson, and Apple removing Civil War games from its app site, Democrats essentially shutting down the federal appropriations process in a fight to ban the Confederate flag from the gravesites of Confederate war dead, and, most ridiculously of all, TV Land pulling Dukes of Hazzard reruns from the airwaves over the Confederate flag on the roof of the Duke boys’ “General Lee” car.
None of this is a healthy way to deal with American history, let alone a useful improvement of the lives of anyone living in this country today. But maybe Ben Domenech is right, and what we really need to do is just to ban the past: