As the 2022 midterms approach, the Democrats face what may well be an insurmountable obstacle blocking their attempt to retain their thin congressional majorities. The support they once enjoyed among nonwhite voters is softening. This phenomenon has been most obvious among Hispanics, but it is also true to a lesser extent among Black voters. It was the source of considerable comment after the 2020 election, when Trump made unexpected gains with minorities, and the trend was again evident in the recent Virginia elections. This unnerved the Democrats and their media allies who have reflexively resorted to scare tactics involving white supremacy.
All too typical of this tactic is a recent column published in the Guardian titled, “White supremacists declare war on democracy and walk away unscathed.” Written by Carol Anderson, a professor of African American studies at Emory University, this screed portrays the Jan. 6 Capitol riot as part of a long tradition of white supremacy that begat the American Revolution and has dominated the nation’s entire history. As is often the case among those who perpetuate this perverse view of our past, Anderson has a very tenuous grasp of basic historical facts. She claims, for example, that the notorious three-fifths compromise was inserted in the Constitution at the behest of the southern states:
In tough negotiations, South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia’s representatives were willing to hold the nation hostage and risk its destruction unless protection of slavery and the empowering of enslavers was embedded in the constitution … the infamous three-fifths clause passed under the southern threat to walk away and, thus, scuttle the constitution and the United States.… The enslavers’ extortionist threats — white supremacy as the price for the nation to come into being — should have created a massive backlash. But it didn’t.
In reality, the three-fifths compromise was proposed by James Wilson of Pennsylvania to mollify northern delegates to the Constitutional Convention who didn’t want slaves counted in the decennial census. The southern delegates wanted each slave to be counted as one individual. This debate was about white supremacy, but not in the way Professor Anderson suggests. Because congressional representation for the states would be based on population, and the northern states were overwhelmingly white, their reluctance to count black slaves in the census was clearly motivated by their desire to create a system of government in which they enjoyed the majority of power in the new Congress.
And there is no mystery as to why the three-fifths compromise failed to cause a backlash. At the time of the Constitutional Convention, slavery was legal in most of the north. According to the 1790 census, for example, New York’s population included 21,193 slaves and New Jersey’s residents included 11,423 slaves. Slavery was also alive and well in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. The implication that the northern states were battling white supremacy in 1787 is nonsense. This isn’t the only inconvenient fact neglected by Anderson. Her discussion of the Civil War and its aftermath, for example, studiously avoids any mention of the Democratic Party’s obvious culpability in that conflict:
To wage its war for white supremacy, the Confederates killed and wounded more than 646,000 American soldiers. In addition to the loss of life, fending off the CSA’s devastating military assault cost the United States billions of dollars. The CSA also tried to badger and entice the British and French to ally with the Confederacy and attack the United States.… For doing so much to destroy this nation, after the CSA’s defeat, the consequences were disproportionately minimal. President Andrew Johnson granted many of the Confederacy’s leaders amnesty.
Strangely, Professor Anderson never tells her readers that Andrew Johnson was a Democrat or that the leaders of the Confederacy — including its president — were also Democrats. Nor does she mention that the “president opposed to slavery” whose election they so violently opposed was Republican Abraham Lincoln. It is not too much to say that the Civil War was a struggle between pro-slavery Democrats and anti-slavery Republicans, but this inconvenient fact is nowhere to be found in Anderson’s jeremiad. Likewise, she vehemently denounces the dilution of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments without noting that this contemptible project was conceived and carried out by the Democratic Party.
At length, Anderson attempts to link her misleading history of white supremacy to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot: “This horrific attack on American democracy should have resulted in a full-throttled response. But, once again, white supremacy is able to walk away virtually unscathed.” Her conclusion that this “coup” was racially motivated is evidently based on Confederate flags carried by a couple of protesters. Anderson seems deeply disappointed that the people charged pursuant to the riot are “getting feather-light sentences.” But trespassing and disorderly conduct are not capital offences. Moreover, even if the Jan. 6 protesters had been white supremacists that would be dumb and despicable but not illegal.
This brings us back to why Professor Anderson wrote this column in the first place. The support the Democrats once enjoyed among nonwhite voters is eroding. After decades of supporting the Party of Jefferson and Jackson, these voters have very little to show for their trouble. Consequently, the Democrats and their allies in the media are falling back on tired scare tactics involving the threat of white supremacy. But the claim that there are hordes of white supremacists attempting to bring down the republic is just a nutty conspiracy theory. To further claim that disgruntled Trump voters are at the bottom of this plot is patently ridiculous. Most voters are smart enough to see that it’s a hoax.
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