Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Celebrating Black (Republican) History Month

Congressman John Hyman
R-NC2  1875-1877
An interested reader in North Carolina can scour social and print media all month long and not come across a single reference tying the Grand Old Party, the Republican Party, to citizenship for former slaves after the Civil War.

Until now, that is.

There is not much black history in the South other than slavery until the intervention of Republicans in the early-to-mid 19th century. Anti-slavery activists were National Republicans before 1832 when Henry Clay formed the Whig Party in opposition to President Andrew Jackson’s “imperial presidency.” 

The Whigs carried the abolition banner until 1854 when Abraham Lincoln helped regenerate the Republican Party as an anti-slavery party. Abolitionists in the North were Radical Republicans. A large majority of the 2 million Union soldiers who saw action in the war voted Republican in 1864 as they fought and died to finish the war, which they knew would result in freedom and citizenship for 3 million slaves.

After the South’s surrender in April of 1865, newly freed slaves registered to vote as Republicans in a tidal wave that shifted political power in Congress and the electoral college to the South. Every one of the 391,650 black citizens of North Carolina as of 1870 who voted was a Republican. Blacks voted overwhelmingly for Republican candidates until World War I. It wasn’t until the economic devastation of the Great Depression that black citizens started voting for Democrats in large majorities, which mirrored the change in white voting patterns as well.

Every black elected official in North Carolina was a Republican between 1868 and 1901. Four black Republican US Congressmen were sent to Washington from the “Black Second” Congressional District: John Hyman (1875), James O’Hara (1883), Henry Cheatham (1889) and George White (1897). One-hundred-twenty-seven black Republicans served in the N.C. General Assembly — 101 in the House and 26 in the Senate — during the latter part of the 19th century.

If the genealogy of any living black resident of North Carolina can be traced back to a former slave, that former slave was a Republican, not a Democrat.

I ran for Congress in 1984 in the aforementioned Second Congressional District. One newspaper editor in a rural county said he agreed with most everything I said but he wouldn’t endorse my candidacy for Congress. When asked why, he said, “Because of what the Republicans did to North Carolina!”

I thought he meant Hoover and the Depression. After thinking about it awhile, it occurred to me that he was talking about Lincoln and the carpetbaggers during Reconstruction.

He was 93 years old at the time. He had grown up listening to his dad and grandpa curse Republicans for ruining North Carolina. As a result, he was a “mossy-back Democrat,” because he “was so old he had moss growing on his back.”

Despite ferocious opposition and personal physical attack from white Southern Democrats, brave black and white Republicans banded together to control North Carolina politics, education, business and industry for most of the last 30 years of the 19th century. Wilmington was North Carolina’s largest and most prosperous city at the time and was home to the largest amount of wealth creation by black businessmen in the state.

It wasn’t until the heinous murders of scores of blacks in Wilmington and a subsequent coup of state government by Southern Democrats in 1898 that Republicans, both black and white, were disenfranchised and relegated to an insignificant role in state politics until almost a century later when Reagan won the White House in 1980.

There is a historical umbilical cord joining free black citizens in the South and Republicans. Revisionists may try to cut it from history books, but erasing history doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. 

Celebrating the bravery of black elected leaders and businessmen who prospered in North Carolina after the Civil War has to include the crucial role of Republican ideals, policies and politicians, or else it is untrue and incomplete.

Republicans today believe in the same core values as the GOP did in 1854: freedom of speech, thought and faith; equality of opportunity; limited government; and the rule of law regardless of skin color, background or socio-economic situation. When black Republican candidates embrace those core Republican values and principles, they get elected by Republicans — Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson of North Carolina and U.S. Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina are two prominent examples.

The bravery of black Republicans in North Carolina after the Civil War is almost beyond comprehension. It needs to be remembered and saluted as such during Black History Month.

(first published North State Journal 2/24/21)

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Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Witch Hunts and Conspiracy Theories

Setting The Tone for
American Politics for
Centuries to Come
 Americans love two things: witch hunts and conspiracy theories.

Americans periodically get mesmerized by witch hunts such as the charges of Russian Collusion brought by Democrats against then-President-elect Donald Trump before he was even sworn into office in 2016. The fantastical scope of conspiracy theories postulated for the past four years which culminated in not one but two impeachment proceedings made even the craziest conspiracy theories surrounding the Kennedy Assassination look sane by comparison.

British historian Paul Johnson observed, "America seems particularly prone to these spasms of self-righteous political emotion in which all sense of perspective and the national interest is lost."

No one has said it better. America has had such paroxysms before: the Salem Witch Trials, 1692. The Alien and Sedition Acts of the 1790s under John Adams. The Sedition Acts in 1917-1918 under Woodrow Wilson. The Red Scare of the 1950s under Senator Joe McCarthy. Watergate, Irangate, Whitewatergate, Travelgate…the list never ends.

Most of the time, political witch hunts are a colossal waste of time, effort and energy. They usually end in no convictions, no proof revealed and no conspiracies uncovered. It is hard enough to get political people to agree on a date for a lunch meeting and to then show up on time without blabbing to the press, much less plot to overthrow our government and cooperate with Putin and his hackers.

Conspiratorial theories are one thing. Flawless execution of a legal and political strategy, such as what has been pulled off by the Soros Open Society Foundation and the Arabella Advisors network in states such as Colorado and Georgia for the past decade, is entirely another topic.

While Congress played the conspiracy fiddle for the past four years, the national debt exploded from $22 trillion to $28 trillion; the COVID virus invaded America; and China continued to gain economically and politically around the world at the expense of American influence and prestige. The nation’s work has been ignored for the sake of political expediency.

Periods of political hysteria in America are usually measured in months, perhaps a few years. They usually end when a brave person steps up, such as when Army counsel Joseph Welch popped the witch hunt balloon of Joe McCarthy in 1954 by saying during a hearing, “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"

When the American people start demanding a sense of maturity and decency from their elected officials in Washington and the media, this current state of hysteria will end. When conservatives stop subscribing to the New York Times or buying stuff from Amazon, they will go out of business. When conservatives who have been viciously attacked online or in-person or censored by people on the left file lawsuits based on existing hate crime statutes — because that is what is really going on when the left “hates” someone for what they believe or say — the left will be forced to retreat.

Former Congressman McMillan, with whom I worked on Capitol Hill for a decade, often would remark as he watched a liberal Democrat on the floor of Congress figuratively foam at the mouth attacking Republicans on some issue or the other, “I hope they keep the cameras on him. The more he talks, the more he makes the case for our side, because he simply does not know what he is talking about.”

Proverbs tells us that “Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.” In a quote often misattributed to Mark Twain, the same sentiment holds: “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt”.

The American people may be fooled some of the time by political theatre and machinations. But they cannot be fooled all of the time. And when they get tired of being fooled, they will wreak havoc on the offending party come election time.

(first published in North State Journal 2/17/21)

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Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Build Real Equity, Mr. President!

PRESIDENT BIDEN’S domestic policy advisor Susan Rice went to great lengths to explain how the Biden Administration was not only going to somehow wave a magic wand and proclaim “equality” in every federal agency but guarantee everyone achieves “equity” as well.

Equality connotes the sense of fairness and freedom of opportunity, the very essence of American values. Equity by fiat demands everyone’s outcome will be the same even though their individual input in terms of work, education and plain God-given abilities are not ever going to be equal — the very definition of socialism.

Equity cannot be mandated through President Biden’s executive pen or a law passed by Congress. Real equity, however, can be built for everyone through the miracle of investing and tax-free cash value buildup if done correctly over a long period of time. Instead of paying lip-service to the socialist dream of equity, the Biden Administration could take the bold first step that will provide a truly amazing amount of “real equity” for every American citizen for the rest of our history:
  • Make Social Security a defined contribution 401k plan for everyone.
It would be the singular most important step towards financial security for every average American citizen since passage of the Homestead Acts in the mid-to-late 19th century. It would exceed the benefits of any massive tax cut favored by Republicans — 50%+ of citizens pay no income tax to begin with — or gargantuan increases in entitlements and domestic welfare programs favored by liberal Democrats, which are weighing down our children and grandchildren with debt they cannot pay.

Social Security (SS) should have been established as a 401k program at inception in 1935 — except there were no 401k plans until 1978. Or in 1983 when the Greenspan Commission hiked payroll taxes but didn’t change the structure of Social Security. Or during any session of any Congress for the past 38 years.

We have reached the inflection point where younger workers today will not receive a positive net real return on their lifetime payroll tax “contributions” (sic) to SS during retirement. According to former Social Security Trustee Charles Blahous, every younger worker today will lose 3% of their net income during their lifetimes paying SS payroll taxes to the federal government as he explains in his worthwhile report, “An Analytical Framework for Strengthening Social Security,” published by the Mercatus Center.

Boomers retiring today can expect perhaps a 1% real rate of return on all the money paid into SS on their behalf from their paychecks matched by their employers. None of their money went into a true individual investment account where those funds were allowed to grow with tax-free dividends, interest and capital-gains over time. $100 paid in SS taxes one pay period went to Washington, D.C., where it was paid out in SS benefits to Grandpa Jones in Ames, Iowa, the next month.

Minimum wage earners for an entire work career could amass a fortune of hundreds of thousands of dollars in their personal retirement account if every payroll tax dollar they had withheld from their paychecks went into a private 401k plan. Social Security taxes are not tax-deductible at the personal level, which is another impediment to significant wealth accumulation by average working folks.

Minimum wage earners of the past can expect to receive around $1,000/month in Social Security checks after retirement. That is Social Insecurity (SI), not Social Security (SS).

The most unfair and “inequitable” aspect of SS has been the lack of ability to build wealth to pass on to a spouse or children, for people of all races. It is especially acute for black men; the average lifespan of a black male did not pass 67 years until 1997. Many black men died before receiving $1 in SS benefits after a lifetime of work. Had they been able to put their SS money in a true 401k plan, even if they died early at age 60, they could pass along a portfolio of many hundreds of thousands of dollars to a surviving spouse and children instead of relatively meager survivor benefits.

Want to achieve “true” equity, Mr. President and Domestic Policy Advisor Rice? Lead the charge to amend the Social Security system and make it a private plan for every individual for their 21st century
retirement needs.

Younger voters and black men should demand it and march in the streets to make it happen.

(first published in North State Journal 2/10/.21)

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Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Succisa Virescit

When Cut Down,
Grow Back Stronger

Democrats in Washington are riding high after winning the White House, keeping a very slim margin in Congress and having the tie-breaking vote in the Senate, courtesy of Vice-President Kamala Harris. 

President Joe Biden is furiously signing executive order after executive order like a king of days long ago. 

He didn’t win any “mandate” per se; 30 million people voted for Joe Biden because they hated Donald Trump’s personality and his tweets even though they liked and benefitted from most of his policies. 

As liberal Democrats over-reach and conduct a second impeachment “trial” in the Senate against President Trump, they risk giving strength to the former president and his core supporters, not taking it away from them. 

On March 20, 2006, the Duke men’s lacrosse team was suspended after false rape allegations were filed against three team members. They adopted the slogan “Succisa Virescit” and printed it on their t-shirts for the next season. 

Translated it means, “When Cut Down, Grow Back Stronger”. 

In 2007, under new head coach John Danowski, Duke went to the national championship game and embarked on a decade-plus period of success even Coach K has to admire. 

They were indeed cut down but came back much stronger. 

With every insult, legal challenge and impeachment, this time in absentia, liberal Democrats and #NeverTrumpers are only challenging Trump to “grow back stronger” and run again for the White House in 2024. 

Donald Trump is not a Republican and never has been. That is one reason why old-line Republicans couldn’t stand him; they didn’t understand the difference. He is a bonafide populist in the grand tradition of cantankerous “Old Hickory” himself, President Andrew Jackson, who dominated American electoral politics for almost two decades around his two terms in office from 1829-1837. 

If Trump looks to history, he may decide the easiest course back to the White House would be to run as a third-party candidate. No nasty and expensive Republican primaries to fund or endure. Save all that money for the general election and get organized in targeted states following the same game plan Democrats used to win in 2020. 

It is true no third-party candidate has ever won before. However, Abraham Lincoln and Bill Clinton won in multi-candidate races with far below 50% of the popular vote — Lincoln won a four-way race with 39.8% of the vote and Clinton won a three-way contest in 1992 with 42% of the vote, defeating President George H.W. Bush 41 and Ross Perot. 

Grover Cleveland is the only president to have lost re-election (1888) and then come back to win a second term in the White House (1892). It is not “impossible.” 

Former President Teddy Roosevelt tried to come back from retirement to win a third term in 1912 as the Bull Moose candidate but all he did was split the Republican vote with then-President Taft to hand the election to Democrat Woodrow Wilson. 

President Trump could split the Republican vote in 2024 and guarantee a win for the presumptive nominee, Vice-President Kamala Harris, if Biden serves only one term. But Trump could win 40-42% of the popular vote nationwide and sweep the electoral college if he wins every red state by a plurality, not a majority, plus a few other states where he got very close to 50% of the vote, such as Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. 

In a 3-way or even 4-way race, Trump has a chance to win very blue states such as California (54 electoral votes in 2024) and New York (28) with only 36-38% of the vote as he did in November. If Trump wins both, he could win 314 electoral votes in 2024 just by holding onto the red states he won in 2020. 

The last major third-party effort was by Ross Perot who captured almost 20% of the vote in 1992. They tend to happen every 20-30 years or so. America is due for another one soon. 

Donald Trump is still by far and away the most talked about politician in America. If his detractors really want to be rid of him, they should ignore him and let him remain in exile in Florida. 

Otherwise, he may return only stronger when 2024 comes around.

(first published in North State Journal 2/3/21)

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Censorship of Conservatives Is Nothing New

America The Beautiful. Where You
Can't Speak Your Opinion Unless
The Press Lets You Speak
Conservatives gasped with horror when Twitter banned President Trump’s account and Google, Apple and Amazon banned Parler. 

Why is anyone surprised? Media outlets have been censoring conservatives for decades in America. 

Back in the days before iPhones and social media, the only way for politicians to communicate with the public — i.e. “voters” — was through old-fashioned, traditional means: like newspapers, television, radio and the US Postal Service. 

In 1984, former Congressman Alex McMillan of Charlotte (R-NC9) won a squeaker of a race over Democrat D.G. Martin by the slimmest of margins, 321 votes out of over 225,000 votes cast.

To provide historical perspective for Millennials, Apple introduced the MacIntosh personal computer in 1984. A decade later, the internet was developed. Two decades later, along came social media. There were very limited avenues through which conservatives could communicate directly with their constituents without filters from editors and journalists who disagreed with them and essentially suppressed their free speech. 

I was chief of staff to Congressman McMillan when his 1986 re-election race was the #1 targeted campaign in the country. In an attempt to build mutual trust with the Charlotte Observer, we allowed their quite capable political reporter, John Monk, full access to our office for four months to do an in-depth story about congressional life in general. 

When the article came out in the Charlotte Observer, it painted McMillan in an unfavorable light right in the middle of a tight re-election campaign. After blowing out John for writing such a hatchet job, for which I had to apologize later, he sent me the full article as printed in the Augusta, Georgia, paper which was part of the same Knight-Ridder chain that owned the Charlotte Observer. 

No one in Augusta, Georgia, voted for McMillan in Charlotte, North Carolina. 

It was fair and balanced, just as John said it would be. But the Observer editors had selectively edited the story down about 30%, ostensibly for space concerns. It was blatantly obvious they did it to help D.G. Martin in his rematch against McMillan because they agreed with him on every issue, not McMillan. 

We submitted numerous opinion pieces to the Observer over the next decade only to see most of them rejected. The Observer was owned and operated by staunch liberal Democrats who simply did not want to allow conservative Republicans a forum to air their political views and philosophy. 

As a privately owned company, they were entirely within their right to deny access to anyone they did not want to publish. It was just infuriating to conservatives to be constantly told the press is “fair, neutral and impartial,” when in actual practice, they are not. 

We went around such editorial roadblocks by mailing out eight million newsletters, town hall meeting notices and congressional updates to 250,000 households at taxpayer expense via the congressional franking privilege. Not proud to have to admit such a wasteful government expense, but the franking privilege and about $1.5 million in campaign ads, an enormous amount in 1986, were the only two ways we could get past media censorship and biased reporting in North Carolina. 

It worked; Alex McMillan won re-election by 4,221 votes, a virtual landslide compared to his 1984 win. 

Not much has changed in the media world politically since then except for the rise of Fox News, which used to be the news outlet of choice for conservatives for 30 years. Subscriptions and circulation have plummeted at large newspapers, but they still are echo chambers for such partisan political narratives as “Russian Collusion” and “Moderate Joe Biden.” 

The most troubling thing is how elite liberal media editors use the freedom of the press guarantee in the First Amendment to pound out the free speech clause of the same amendment for others. 

Be completely fair to all points of view or be honest enough to admit a specific bias so readers can make up their own minds about whether they agree with you or not. 

Conservatives have to stop whining about the liberal bias of the media and start owning their own news outlets. Conservatives should figure out what is going to replace social media and get ahead of the curve, not be smashed by it. 

There were thousands of newspapers and pamphlets, all of them partisan to the federalist or anti-federalist point of view at the beginning of the republic, many virulently so. America is going to be far better off as a country going forward with a cacophony of opposing views instead of the silence that follows dictatorial censorship of views that media chairmen, publishers or editors don’t like.

(first published in North State Journal 1/27/21)

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Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Knives, Guns, Politics and Arabella

A Washington operative called me last week and said: “Ever heard of Arabella? They turned Colorado blue. They turned Virginia blue. They turned Georgia blue. North Carolina is next. You better tell everyone to get ready and get prepared to fight fire with fire.”

Arabella Advisors is a for-profit organization that liberals have used over the past decade to help advance every cause imaginable. Every legislative success, every public relations coup, every successful legal challenge to our election process by liberals most likely was funded by some entity in the Arabella network.

There were over 4,000 election law challenges this past year brought by lawyers on the left. They did not do all of them pro bono. They basically overwhelmed the legal system and out-maneuvered Republicans at almost every level in targeted swing states.

“Money is the mother’s milk of politics,” goes the old adage. Arabella Advisors is, by definition then, the largest nursing blue whale in American political history.

“Dark money,” or independent expenditure committees, used to be despised in the liberal community. They decried the amount of money spent on campaigns, especially money donated to conservative causes by the Koch Brothers (but not massive sums of money donated to liberal causes by George Soros).

Liberals apparently paid close attention to the success of the Koch brothers after the Citizens United ruling in 2010 that opened up massive, undisclosed contributions to independent non-coordinating political committees. Some estimate Arabella has distributed in excess of $1 billion for the past several years.

Hardly any of Arabella contributions become public. Arabella acts like a pass-through organization for large contributions to be funneled to left-wing groups such as the Sixteen Thirty Fund, which funded the vicious opposition against Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court; New Venture Fund, the Hopewell Fund; and the Windward Fund.

Much of the money is then forwarded to state organizations, such as Arizonans United for Health Care, Michigan Families for Economic Prosperity and North Carolinians for a Fair Economy, again with no fingerprints or disclosures by donors.

Republicans should analyze — and then copy — everything liberal Democrats did at the state level from the day President Trump was inaugurated four years ago today. Republicans are not great at “inventing” new electoral tactics or fundraising methods, but they are great at figuring what Democrats did to win in last election and then doing it better in the next election.

Put Democrats on defense in every contested state or district for the next two years with thousands of legal election challenges, massive voter registration drives and targeted communications against every far-left initiative they support. Once Joe Biden opens our borders and offers immediate citizenship to 11 million undocumented people in the US, introduces the Green New Deal and Medicare For All, and rejoins the Iran Nuclear Deal and the Paris Climate Accords, the 39% of the people who voted for him without knowing anything about him except that he was “Not Donald Trump!” will start to turn on him and his policies fast.

The first congressional mid-term for any new president is usually poison for his party. LBJ lost 47 Democrats in ’66; Reagan lost 26 GOP members in 1982; Clinton lost 54 Ds in ’92; Obama lost 63 Democrats in 2010, and Trump lost 40 Republicans in 2018. Other mid-term losses included FDR losing 72 Democrats in Congress in 1938 and Eisenhower losing 48 Republicans in ’58.

The average mid-term loss of any president has been 30 representatives in Congress. Biden may lose 50 Democrats in post-redistricting congressional mid-terms in 2022 after he introduces his onslaught of leftist legislation. In addition, a net eight congressional seats will flip from blue to red states, giving Republicans eight more opportunities right there to win back control of Congress and send Speaker Nancy Pelosi into retirement.

Former President Barack Obama was not kidding when he said, “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun,” and somehow got away with it in the eyes of a fawning media.

Conservatives have to “out-Arabella” Arabella Advisors. When Silicon Valley oligarchs and George Soros write checks for $10 million, $50 million, $100 million or more to the Arabella network, conservatives have to be willing to match them dollar-for-dollar but be smarter about spending it on better things than thousands of trite television ads.

Today is a good day to start — the first day of President Joe Biden’s term in the White House.

(first published in North State Journal 1/20/21)

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Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Violence Is Our Common Domestic Enemy

Shays' Rebellion Was The First
It Won't Be The Last
Over 330 million peace-loving, law-abiding Americans, regardless of political affiliation, have a common enemy we can, and should unite against: violence in the public square.

Over 330 million Americans have not participated in any protest ever. They go about their daily lives trying to make a living every year. They watch the news and see tens of thousands of concerned citizens participating in various protests — which is great, as long as they were peaceful protests. Our First Amendment freedoms prevent the government from denying “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”. 

The right to peaceably assemble to protest the death of George Floyd at the hands of a policeman in Minneapolis was entirely appropriate and legal. The right to peacefully assemble to protest the outcome of the election was also entirely appropriate and legal. 

Several hundred people nationwide, however, perhaps a thousand total, decided to take it upon themselves to use violence instead of peacefully protesting. BLM leaders say their protests were “mostly peaceful,” but fringe members, possibly antifa, caused the violence. Trump supporters say their Capitol Hill protest was “mostly peaceful,” but fringe members caused the violence.

Regardless of who started it, any type of physical violence against an innocent person or their property is wrong. No one participating in any sort of peaceful assembly to petition the government for a redress of their grievances has any personal right or privilege to pick up a brick to break windows, torch businesses or storm the US Capitol. They certainly have no right to harm or kill other human beings. 

When any damage or physical harm is caused, the perpetrators should be arrested and prosecuted under equal application of the law. Our hope is that the guilty parties who stormed the Capitol will be swiftly arrested, prosecuted and sentenced to prison. Such a strict standard would set the bar for any prosecution of guilty parties in any future protest. The law has to be equally and equitably applied or else we will continue to see the violence of the past continue unabated.

People on both sides try to calibrate acts of violence by degrees of severity and acceptability depending on their point of view. Such arguments violate any sensibility of logic. An innocent bystander shot dead during a violent protest does not have the luxury of telling the rest of us they died for a “just” cause or not. Innocent bystanders who have their businesses and personal property destroyed by violent protestors did not get to vote on whether their property should be sacrificed for the cause, whatever it may be.

Violence is the problem, not our different political positions.

We, as Americans who love freedom and peace, have to come together across the ideological divide and collectively condemn violence as a whole, or else America will degenerate into an unwitting acceptance of violence forever on situational-ethics grounds.

The next time someone takes to the streets to protest any perceived grievance with which you agree, ask yourself if you would put a sign in your front yard and invite them to come destroy your property, break out your windows, torch your personal belongings and put your family at risk of physical bodily harm or even death. Better yet, cancel all insurance so you can’t hide behind the “Oh well. It is just property. My insurance company will pay for it” argument.

If you are willing to put your life and your property at risk for a cause, God bless you. But don’t act like it is an academic exercise to debate in a dorm room or salon parlor when innocent people you do not know are put at risk. That is not fair to them.

Is America at a time in our nation’s history similar to the early days of our republic, when violent demonstrations against direct taxation, led by Daniel Shays (1786-87), John Fries (1799) and James McFarland (Whiskey Rebellion, 1791-94), had to be vanquished by armed force? 

We certainly hope not. But 99.999% of our nation’s 330 million+ citizens deserve to be protected from the capricious acts of a few hundred violent protestors nationwide who seek to do physical harm to the rest of us.

We can’t function as a free nation without peace enforced by force.

(first published in North State Journal 1/13/21)

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Wednesday, January 6, 2021

The Electoral College Challenge of 1877

"Good Lord. I hope Americans in the
future know what they are doing"
Anytime something “extraordinary” happens in Washington D.C. where one side excoriates the other, you can rest assured they have forgotten, or never read, our history when their side would have benefitted from the same political maneuver in the past.

Liberals who are “aghast” at the prospect of a congressional challenge to the electoral college in 2021 would have been solidly behind the congressional challenge of 1877. The challenge dealt with egregious “voting anomalies” in Louisiana, South Carolina and Florida. Namely, the very dubious handling of election ballots coupled with outright, physically violent suppression of black voters, who were 100% Republican back then.

President U.S. Grant had worked tirelessly during his two terms in the White House from 1868-1876 to enact, establish and ensure civil rights for newly freed slaves after the Civil War. He repeatedly sent federal troops into the South to protect black citizens from attacks by nascent white supremacist groups, such as White Line and the KKK.

When Grant decided not to run for a third term in 1876, Republicans in the North and South were understandably concerned that if the Democrat candidate, Samuel Tilden, won, all of the progress that had been made since 1865 during Reconstruction would go for naught. White male Democrats desperately wanted to regain control of government and commerce in the South.

They intimidated black and white Republican voters in the South in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. White Liners forced black voters to tell them who they worked for before they voted, which opened up the possibility of being fired from their jobs. As a result, only two Republicans voted in Yazoo County in Mississippi in November, and only one Republican voted in Tallahatchie County, certainly one noticeable “voting anomaly” in the 1876 election.

Tilden easily won the popular vote by 250,000 votes but only secured 184 of the 185 electoral votes necessary to win. President Grant was resigned to accept the results without full knowledge of the voting irregularities in the South when he told his fellow Republicans the day after the election: “Gentlemen, it looks to me as if Mr. Tilden was elected.” But he told the press later in the day: “Everything depends on a fair count,” as is always the case.

As he was attending a closing banquet for the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, he was handed an emergency telegram from Interior Secretary Zachariah Chandler that said a train he had sent with election supervisors to the South to verify results had been “Kukluxed,” which meant the KKK had wrecked the train and thrown it off the track.

Certainly another notable “voting anomaly.”

President Grant immediately dispatched federal troops to Florida, South Carolina and Louisiana to protect the vote counts. In a fairly prescient comment, Grant said: “[S]hould there be any grounds of suspicion of fraudulent counting on either side it should be reported and denounced at once… Either Party can afford to be disappointed in the result but the Country cannot afford to have the result tainted by the suspicion of illegal or false returns.”

Republican Rutherford B. Hayes ultimately prevailed with 19 votes from these three states and defeated Tilden 185-184 in the Electoral College, after a 15-member commission of five senators, five congressmen and five Supreme Court justices voted 8-7 in late February to declare Hayes the winner, just before his inauguration on March 4.

The United States survived that constitutional crisis, which occurred in the afterglow of the bloody Civil War. The United States will survive the constitutional crisis of 2021 as well.

Democrats might find a Biden presidency to be a Pyrrhic victory in the end. Once Republicans figure out exactly what happened in the swing states, whether it was all on the up-and-up or not, they will copy and improve every tactic and strategy Democrats, such as Stacey Abrams and election lawyer Marc Elias, did in 2020 and use them in what should be a good Republican election in 2022, and then most certainly in 2024.

After all, once Joe Biden is sworn in as president on Jan. 20, everything that was done to get him elected will carry with it the imprimatur of being legal. What is fair in love and war is certainly fair in politics.

(first published in North State Journal 1/6/21)

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