Last month Matt Vespa covered the story of Democrats in Virginia who were talking about changing the name of their annual Jefferson Jackson dinner because of the Dylan Roof shooting or the Confederate Battle Flag or racism or something. That may have sounded rather silly at the time, but it’s turned out to be prophetic. Democrats in Connecticut also have an annual dinner named after the same prominent early Americans – as with their fellows across the nation – and have made the decision to change the name. (Because who would want to be associated with those guys, right?)
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.
Party leaders voted unanimously Wednesday night in Hartford to rename the Jefferson Jackson Bailey dinner in the aftermath of last month’s fatal shooting of nine worshipers at the historic black church in Charleston, S.C.
The actions of one party committee in a state which ranks among the most oppressively taxed in the nation really isn’t that surprising, and that’s really not the story here. What makes it interesting is the cheerleading coming from the hard Left in some of the highest echelons of the liberal media. For a case in point, check out the joyful response to this news from Ed Kilgore at Washington Monthly. He’s quick to list the sins of these historic figures and they go way, way, way beyond just owning slaves.
As briefly discussed here in response to an essay from Jonathan Chait suggesting the Party of Jackson had become the Party of Obama, the trouble with identifying the Democratic Party with either of these early presidents goes beyond their status as slaveholders. There’s also Jackson’s championship of virtual genocide against Native Americans, his hard-money policies, and his support for states’ rights, too, though they obviously stopped short of tolerating Nullification. I argued that Jackson’s truest successor was Andrew Johnson, who savagely fought the Confederacy but was a thorough-going racist who opposed not only reconstruction but the Civil Rights Amendments to the Constitution, which pretty much made twentieth century liberalism possible.
As for Jefferson, you could make a decent case that he is the father of “constitutional conservatism” given his strong limited government beliefs yoked to a preoccupation with eternal natural rights—though the claim that he was actually against separation of church and state is absurd.
Let’s get the big ticket item out of the way. Yes, they were slaveholders. But isn’t there just a bit of context required here? I often hear arguments – some of them valid – where people decry the practice of saying, well, things were different back in my day. It’s frequently true, but has clearly been used to excuse some seriously awful things, particularly in the area of workplace safety. But we’re not talking about something that happened twenty years ago simply because there weren’t any regulations in place yet when we should have known better. This was centuries ago, and the general mindset of the entire world, not just the nascent American nation, were entirely different. Enough said on that.
More interesting, though, are what seem to be the real complaints of Kilgore vis-à-vis Jefferson and Jackson. They were big believers in hard money policies and states’ rights. Perish the thought! Something which was essentially embedded in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights is horrifying to the thought leaders on the Left. (9th and 10th amendments, anyone?) And that’s what this really boils down to. Liberals don’t truly disdain Jefferson and Jackson for owning slaves. If you dug back far enough in the family trees of any of these writers who come from colonial era families you’d probably find some slave owners there as well. No, what Kilgore and company really hate is the fact that these historical figures represent the foundations of conservatism.
At least Ed is willing to come out and admit it, which is rather refreshing and unusual. But enough of that… now that we’ve jettisoned the hateful promoters of states’ rights, who should replace them?
Who should replace Jefferson and Jackson as ghostly patrons of these events? Without question, after he leaves office Barack Obama is an obvious choice. For now I’d say FDR-JFK could serve pretty well, or at least better than two nineteenth century southern slaveowners who believed in strictly limited government.
Yes. An obvious choice indeed. Given the disaster that this presidency has turned out to be, Obama would clearly be the leading choice of branding for the Democrats going forward. As to FDR and Kennedy… well, we could get into some of the details of their lives here as well but this would quickly morph from a brief essay into a novel if we were to cover those target rich environments to any thorough level. But you guys go about your business. Don’t let us interrupt you. Spit on Jefferson and Jackson and everyone else who built the republic for you. As the Geico commercials say… it’s just what you do.