The following is an open letter to Thomas Perez, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, regarding Democratic elected officials calling for the removal of memorials and names from buildings and events.
Dear Chairman Perez,
Peaceful protests over George Floyd’s death have been overshadowed by woke rhetoric. Justice for Floyd and legislative police reform efforts have morphed into identifying offensive statements and personal associations of public and historical figures. Demands are then levied to erase their names, memorials, and if alive, that they remove themselves from public life. This “call to action” disregards the time elapsed since the event, the context or the person’s other notable achievements.
This happened at Louisiana State University, my alma mater. California Democrats wish to erase John Wayne’s name off the Orange County Airport, and Princeton University will remove references to Woodrow Wilson, a past President of Princeton, Governor of New Jersey, and President of the United States. It seems only a matter of time until there are ropes on the Washington and Jefferson Memorials and calls to rename Washington, D.C. But let’s look at the logical conclusion of obliterating or erasing mention of anyone who transgressed.
Given the Democratic Party’s embarrassment that Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson were Democrats (gone is the Jefferson-Jackson Day) shouldn’t the party be embarrassed of its own name? Isn’t the Democratic Party’s role in our country’s worse episodes of racism offensive?
The Democratic Party was founded by slave owners. These slave owners insisted upon a constitution which preserved slavery. The Democratic Party opposed Republican efforts to end slavery. The Democratic Party opposed Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. After the Civil War, Democrats opposed Republican efforts to give newly freed slaves voting rights and civil rights. In more recent times, Democratic members of the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives fought Civil Rights legislation, beginning with Republican President Dwight Eisenhower’s Civil Rights Act of 1957.
Democratic governors fought integration of schools and public services, and the list goes on. It took courageous decisions by Republican judges and the enforcement of these laws by President Eisenhower who at one point called out the military to overcome resistance.
Two Democratic luminaries, Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black and long serving Senator Robert Byrd, were members of the KKK as young men.
Most recently, Democratic mayors have permitted policies such as choke holds and unconstitutional use of force. If the Democratic mayor of Minneapolis had insisted on police reforms, George Floyd would be alive.
Two weeks ago, Senate Democrats refused to even allow debate on the Justice Act, a bill with reforms which would prevent deaths similar to George Floyd’s. Democrats said they would not allow debate on the Justice Act because they did not like the process. People will die because of not liking a process. This further sullies the title Democrat.
Of course, the Democratic Party is responsible for many good things, but the current spirit of the age is not to balance the totality of what someone or some organization has done. If there is any association with the intolerable, even if the person or organization contributed greatly to the freedoms we have today, even providing the intellectual framework which inspired Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr. as did Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, they or it must be erased.
In which case, the Democratic Party should be renamed if not disbanded.
Bill Cassidy, MD
P.S. I actually think the Democratic Party should keep its name. But the measure given will be the measure received. What I write as irony will soon be another’s earnest intent. Why not?
Dr. Bill Cassidy, MD, a Republican, is the senior senator from Louisiana.