Republicans and Civil Rights? Arredondo Finds Connections
“When I began learning more about Oberlin and its history I found that there were striking parallels between Oberlin and the Republican Party,” said Lorain Area Republican Party chairman David Arredondo at a meeting hosted by the College Republicans. “They share a common interest in freedom for all men.”
Arredondo’s April 12 lecture was entitled “The Republican Party: A History of Freedom and Civil Rights.” The talk examined the ideals of the Republican Party and aimed to demonstrate a legacy of civil rights advocacy within the Grand Ol’ Party dating back to its conception.
Arredondo began with a discussion of the way time has changed the perception of the Republican Party’s stance on civil rights. He started by discussing the role the party played in the Civil War and its aftermath.
“The fact of the matter is that the Republican Party was founded by men who were fanatical about ending slavery,” said Arredondo.
He noted that in the period immediately following the Civil War, Republicans in Congress pushed for the passage of the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments granting legal equality to African Americans. In a society that universally recognizes these laudable actions, Arredondo finds the current criticism by Democrats that Republicans are racist and bigoted hard to understand.
He then explored the historical reasons behind why African Americans typically vote Democrat. According to Arredondo, in the period between the Great Depression and 1932, Democrats began to identify African Americans as a potential voting base and to campaign accordingly.
“Blacks were seen by Democrats as another ethnic voting group,” says Arredondo.
In the eyes of Arredondo, another transformation —pertaining to freedom if not specifically to civil rights — occurred around this time regarding the role of the federal government.
“The government transformed from being an agency of the people to an end all be all, said Arredondo. “The Republican Party believes that the more that a government provides for you, the less freedom you have.”
Arredondo saw the 1960 Presidential election as the turning point in the Democratic targeting of the African American vote. The election was between Republican nominee Vice President Richard Nixon and Democratic nominee John F. Kennedy. He postulated that Kennedy’s strategic use of the media in publicly contacting Coretta Scott King after Martin Luther King Jr.’s arrest — as opposed to Nixon’s private contacting of the justice department — caused many African American supporters to embrace Kennedy’s platform.
“We could say black Americans decided the election of 1960 but there was no payoff for the black community,” said Arredondo. “The black civil rights movement stood still during that time.”
Arredondo argued that Republicans strongly embraced the cause of equality in the 1960’s. In support of this claim, he cited the fact that nearly 80 percent of Republican Senators supported the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
His discussion finally addressed the current state of the Republican Party under the leadership of President George W. Bush. Arredondo notes that since the beginning of his administration, President Bush has relied on the counsel of many high-ranking minorities such as former Secretary of State Colin Powell, current Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez. Arredondo has dubbed this system “affirmative access.” According to Arredondo, such a system signals an active seeking out of capable and well-qualified minority figures on the part of the administration.
“It is a tremendous message to the world when the chief representative of the United States to other nations is a black woman,” said Arredondo, referring to Rice.
Arredondo finished his talk by defining the fundamental principles and philosophy of the Republican Party.
“The party has a message of freedom and individual responsibility,” said Arredondo. “With freedom comes responsibility.”
Arredondo concluded with a call to arms for the Republican Party to stand up for their traditional ideals of civil rights and freedom.
“We must support our principles and not cave to political correctness.
We must promote conservative ideas,” he said. “If we do that, others