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Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the Aug. 3, 2000
issue of Workers World newspaper
FROM DEATH ROW
Mumia tears away Bush's mantle of Lincoln
By Mumia Abu-Jamal
"Slavery is a blight on our history, and racism is still with us. ... The party of Lincoln has not always worn the mantle of Lincoln." Gov. George W. Bush, Texas. (excerpt from NAACP speech, July 10)
With the pleas of half a dozen brave protestors shouting about the "legal lynching" of the late Texas death row inmate Gary Graham (Shaka Sankofa) ringing in the Baltimore air, the nation's Republican presidential candidate appeared before the NAACP national convention in an attempt to demonstrate the ways of a "compassionate conservative."
In his 20-minute speech that invoked the names of NAACP founder W.E.B. DuBois, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, and other historical figures, Gov. Bush demonstrated, if not great oratorical ability, that indispensable political skill of talking without saying much of anything.
For who but the dimmest among us doesn't know that slavery was a blight on our history," or that "Lincoln's party has not always worn Lincoln's mantle?" Bush, speaking before a predominantly Black group, did not mention "affirmative action," the "confederate flag," "Amadou Diallo," "Gary Graham," nor the "death penalty." He did refer to "school choice," a code for public tax support for vouchers. The national membership gave Bush polite and tepid applause.
Despite an invitation issued in opening remarks by NAACP President Kweisi Mfume, Gov. Bush did not define the often-touted term, "compassionate conservative." One wonders, however, what is it? A "reasonable racist?" A "friendly fascist?" A "doting despot?"It appears a "compassionate conservative" is a conservative who smiles while saying "no."
With regard to the "mantle of Lincoln" and the "party of Lincoln," it appears that neither the mantle nor the party of Lincoln were what we've come to think of as Lincoln. Consider the insights of historian James McPherson who, in his book The Negro's Civil War (1965/1991), notes the idea of the Republican Party as anti-slavery and Lincoln as the supporter of equal rights were seen as nonsense at the time:
"The Republican party, nominally anti-slavery, was officially opposed only to the extension of slavery into the new territories. No major political party proposed to take action against slavery where it already existed. During the campaign, Democrats charged that if the Republicans won the election, they would abolish slavery and grant civil equality to Negroes. 'That is not so,' rejoined Horace Greeley, an influential Republican spokesman. 'Never on earth did the Republican Party propose to abolish slavery.... Its object with respect to slavery is simply, nakedly, avowedly, its restriction to the existing states.' ...Lincoln himself had repeatedly voiced his opposition to equal rights for free Negroes." [pp.3-4]
The "party of Lincoln?" "Compassionate conservative?" The brilliant Frederick Douglass, although a Republican "field hand" (his own words), bitterly attacked President Lincoln during the height of the Civil War:
"I come now to the policy of President Lincoln in reference to slavery. ... I do not hesitate to say, that whatever may have been his intentions, the action of President Lincoln has been calculated in a marked and decided way to shield and protect it from the very blows which its horrible crimes have loudly and persistently invited... He has steadily refused to proclaim...complete emancipation to all the slaves of rebels who should make their way into the lines of our army. He has repeatedly interfered with and arrested the anti-slavery policy of some of his most earnest and reliable generals." (McPherson, p.47)
Frederick Douglass was speaking in 1862, several years before the war ended. While he was a Republican (as were many Blacks of that period) he was not reluctant to strongly criticize a Republican President--in wartime! Can African-Americans today do any less?
Both major American political parties exist to serve corporate interests, above all else, not the interests of workers, or the poor, or the oppressed. Instead of the sickening sycophancy that today passes for Black support of political parties that don't support Black interests, we should learn from the bold, outspoken Douglass. Criticize! Viable, radical and revolutionary parties should also be organized and energized to provide real, meaningful alternatives.
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