Man, oh Manischevitz. Paul Dame has outdone himself.
Last time it was implying that the schools are the root cause of school shootings because of whatever they’re doing to alienate young white men. Now? He’s spun a twisted tale of slavery’s end that puts white Republicans at the center of Juneteenth and elides the unrelenting grimness of post-slavery life for black Americans.
And, of course, omits the GOP’s own complicity in abandoning the newly-freed Black folk for the sake of short-term political advantage.
For those just joining us, VTGOP chair Dame puts out a brief weekly email blast that makes you yearn for the clear thinking and deathless prose of Ben Shapiro. The latest edition is entitled “Juneteenth: A Promise Kept,” which gives you a foretaste of what’s to come.
It’s deeply, offensively stupid.
Dame begins by noting that June 19th was an important day in the birth of the Republican Party. On that date in 1855, a small number of abolitionists gathered under the name “Republican Association of Washington, District of Columbia,” to condemn slavery. This means, in Dame’s imagination, that “In essence the Republican Party was born on June 19th.”
Kinda-sorta maybe if you squint real hard. But the real origin of Juneteenth had just a bit more to do with the fate of Black America. On June 19, 1865, federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to take control of the state and ensure that all slaves were freed. It was the last southern state to be forcibly restored to the Union. But that narrative, while having the advantage of being true, is nowhere near Republican-centric enough for Mr. Dame.
He goes on to retell a version the real Juneteenth story, but only after appropriating the holiday on behalf of the Republican Party.
In passing, he blames the Democrats for defending slavery and causing the Civil War, which was accurate at the time. And then comes the Big Omission.
In the immediate aftermath of the Emancipation Proclamation going in to [sic] effect there was an [sic] rise of more black Americans not only becoming truly, personally, financially independent, but furthermore many of them became [sic] the first black congressmen or senators from Southern States. It was an incredible reversal of fortunes.
And ever since, it’s been rainbows and unicorns for Black America! They entered an unceasing age of peace and prosperity in partnership with their Republican emancipators.
Dame conveniently ends the story in the brief postwar false dawn, before Reconstruction was abandoned by white Americans of all parties and southern whites retook power with a literal vengeance.
The Republicans abandoned Black Americans to their fate in 1868. Those history-making Black lawmakers were hounded from office at best, murdered at worst. For a century thereafter, the GOP and the Democratic Party were equally complicit in enforcing the ungodly, unAmerican power structure in the south.
And then the worm turned. As the Democratic Party abandoned southern segregationists and fostered civil rights legislation, RIchard Nixon adopted the Southern Strategy. Since then, the GOP has been the party of white folk and Making America Great Again by returning to some idealized version of our past in which racism simply doesn’t exist and Black people are responsible for their own misfortunes.
[Slavery] was still turned upside-down in just one decade thanks in large part to our first Republican President Abraham Lincoln, and those early Republicans who laid the groundwork and fought to the end to ensure that the freedom they enjoyed could be enjoyed by all.
That’s right, you heard it here. Poof, slavery and all its evils were gone. Since 1865, Black Americans have “enjoyed” a full measure of freedom. No Jim Crow, no lynchings, no denying Blacks the right to vote, no indentured servitude, no separate water fountains, no redlining.
(If you want to know the truth about post-Emancipation life for Black America, I recommend “Slavery by Another Name” by Douglas Blackmon, a comprehensive and disturbing account of how southern whites established a system of indentured servitude that ensnared Black people. And how northern whites chose to ignore all of that because, well, it would have been too much trouble to do otherwise.)
This is the kind of triumphalist whitewashing that we find in conservative accounts of American history. You know, the pleasing myths that Republicans are trying to impose in our schools instead of all the “wokeness” about our troubled past and what we can do to finally live up to our ideals.
According to Dame, that Golden Age began in 1865 and continues to this day. That, friends and neighbors, is the leader of Phil Scott’s Vermont Republican Party.