We knew the left would go there, and MSNBC’s Chris “Chicago is racist” Matthews, of course, was among the first, along with his colleague Al Sharpton, who is, of course, an icon of racial reconciliation in his own right. Matthews told Now with Alex Wagner on Friday that South Africa’s apartheid leaders were more patriotic than America’s Republican Party because they were willing to cede power to the late Nelson Mandela.
Matthews, citing Sharpton approvingly, said that former President F. W. de Klerk had been more constructive than Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and that while the Republicans “were willing to destroy the country in order to destroy Obama,” de Klerk so wanted South Africa to succeed that he “was willing to see it transformed to black rule so it could be done successfully so he could have his country have a better future.”
It is an appallingly ignorant statement–one that not only ignores over four decades in which de Klerk’s party tore South Africa apart to cling to power, but one that distorts South Africa’s post-apartheid history as well. It might surprise Matthews and Sharpton to learn that de Klerk led his National Party out of Mandela’s unity government in 1996, barely two years after Mandela took office, to build “a strong and confident opposition.”
Before that, during the negotiations that paved the way for Mandela’s rise to power, de Klerk was accused of supporting a secret “third force” that was encouraging “black-on-black” violence. Though de Klerk himself was never conclusively proven to have been involved, Mandela was outraged that de Klerk had not done more to stop the violence, telling him that “I have blood on my hands and that I’m a murderer,” de Klerk later recalled.
It was also far from clear at the start of negotiations that de Klerk would agree to one person, one vote. And when he did, it was clear that he expected the National Party to return to power. It turned out that South Africans did want a “strong and confident opposition”–but they soon turned elsewhere, to the Democratic Party (now the Democratic Alliance), less tainted by the past and more confrontational in its approach.
De Klerk left power willingly, and peacefully, but only after negotiating a new constitution that would prevent the government from abusing its power. That is a more important lesson of the Mandela legacy, and one that leftists like Matthews, who cheer Obama’s executive power grabs even as they lament his incompetence, would rather forget–assuming, of course, that they had ever learned that lesson in the first place, which is a stretch.
It takes some doing to accuse your political opponents of being worse than a racist, murderous, pariah regime that finally gave up power. A more appropriate analogy would point out the similarity between MSNBC and the state-funded media in apartheid South Africa that fawned over the National Party’s leaders and covered up the reality of life for black South Africans so that the white South African electorate never learned the truth.
That is the sycophantic role that Matthews and his network have embraced vis-a-vis Obama, whom Matthews would not even interview without a Greek chorus of college students in attendance. They are worse than the apartheid-era media in South Africa, which had to operate under the constraint of official censorship and the constant threat of prison for publishing the truth. At least the apartheid South African media had an excuse.