Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., is took a gamble when he took to the Senate floor on Monday to chide Republicans during the health care debate.
Sometimes, strong language is necessary to frame the debate, but with his GOP blasting rhetoric Reid went one step too far. He put all of his chips on the table in betting that the American people have a painfully short memory for history. He won’t win his bet if I have anything to say about it. The Senate Majority Leader barked that Republicans’ stalling tactics on the healthcare debate amounted to pre-Civil War filibustering.
“Instead of joining us on the right side of history, all the Republicans can come up with is, ‘slow down, stop everything, let’s start over,’” Reid said. “If you think you’ve heard these same excuses before, you’re right. When this country belatedly recognized the wrongs of slavery, there were those who dug in their heels and said ‘slow down, it’s too early, things aren’t bad enough.'”
Those are funny comments coming from the leader of the party that boasts Sen. Robert Byrd, former grand kleagle of the Ku Klux Klan as one of its ranking members. Byrd famously once wrote that he would never fight with a “Negro by my side. Rather I should die a thousand times and see Old Glory trampled in the dirt never to rise again than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds.”
Despite claims to the contrary, Democrat Byrd remains just one white-sheet away from burning crosses on the White House lawn. He is the only Senator to vote against both black U.S. Supreme Court nominees – liberal Thurgood Marshall and conservative Clarence Thomas. And Byrd used the term, “white niggers” in 2001 on national television. Still, according to Reid, the Republicans are harkening back to pre-Civil War days.
Reid doubled down on his ill-fated comments attempting to link the fight against women’s suffrage to the right side of the aisle.
“When women spoke up for the right to speak up, they wanted to vote, some insisted they simply, slow down, there will be a better day to do that, today isn’t quite right,” he continued.
I’m no history teacher, but all the history text books I’ve read suggest Republicans led the charge in black and women’s suffrage – although somewhat reluctantly in both instances.
By 1870, the Massachusetts Republican State Convention seated two suffragettes as delegates. The national Republican Convention of 1872 approved a resolution favoring putting women in “wider fields of usefulness,” and added that “the honest demand of this class of citizens for additional rights…should be considered.”
An Equal Rights Amendment was first introduced by a Republican in 1878. It was defeated four times by a Democrat-controlled Senate. When the Republicans gained control in 1919, the amendment passed the House and the Senate.
When it was submitted to states for ratification, 26 of the 36 states that ratified it were dominated by Republican legislatures. Eight of nine that voted against ratification were Democratic.
Reid continued laying chips on the table brandishing Republicans as the party of racists.
“When this body was on the verge of guaranteeing equal civil rights to everyone regardless of the color of their skin, some senators resorted to the same filibuster threats that we hear today.”
Sen. Reid should remember take a cue from his most-populous city’s ad campaign, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas and think: What happens in my head should stay there. The American people don’t need his misrepresentations and lies coloring the healthcare debate. It’s too important of a debate to gamble on historical inaccuracies.
Column: What happens in Vegas should stay there