It’s nice to see people learn their history, but a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.
Case in point: the Honorable Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party.
Responding to a Democratic Party tweet Sunday on the anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Woodhouse accused Democrats of being responsible for killing black people in Wilmington in 1898.
Well, technically, that’s true. The perpetrators of the 1898 insurrection/coup – who burned down a black-owned newspaper, forced the city’s legally elected Republican leadership to resign, more or less at gunpoint, and killed an unknown number of black residents – were overwhelmingly affiliated with the then-conservative Democratic Party.
Never miss a local story.
But mostly, that’s a cutesy debater’s trick. A reasonable person realizes that the Democratic Party has changed over the past 120 years.
Following Woodhouse’s logic, perhaps Democrats should start tweeting about the GOP’s role in the Great Depression and the number of Republicans who opposed entry into World War II, giving aid and comfort to the Nazis. Should we blame contemporary Republicans for the burning of Atlanta and Charleston during the Civil War?
In 1898, the North Carolina Democratic Party consisted entirely of white men. The state Democratic Party in 2017 includes a large number of African Americans. In fact, more than 80 percent of black registered voters in North Carolina are Democrats.
In the 1960s, with Democrats like John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Terry Sanford supporting civil rights, and the attraction of Barry Goldwater and the GOP’s Southern Strategy, white Southerners began to exit the Democratic Party. Most black voters have long since pledged allegiance to the Democrats.
We’d suggest that if Tar Heel Republicans want to make inroads among black voters, they not only disavow these type of antics, but also stop pursuing voting limitations that disproportionately affect African-Americans, and draw election districts that can at least pass the muster of the courts.
The Republican Party should be able to appeal to black Americans with a positive message, especially on issues like personal empowerment, economic opportunity and school choice.
So will Republicans reach out to black voters on those important issues, or is the state GOP content to let Woodhouse sit back and blast off his usual bromides, hoping to fire up the base and score cheap political points? Is that really the message they have for black voters?
No wonder only 3 percent of the state’s black registered voters are Republicans. Frankly, we’re surprised the number is that high.