Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Rokita's Civic Lesson An Embarrassment To Our State

While all the focus to date on Secretary of State Todd Rokita's speech before a group of Daviess County Republicans last Thursday has been on his controversial assertion that African-Americans are in a slave-like relationship with the Democratic Party, there is an equally disturbing aspect of his speech which has been ignored. Following the eruption of controversy surrounding Rokita's offensive comments, the Washington Times-Herald posted an audio clip of Rokita's speech online. What we hear is a high-ranking member of our state government providing an embarrassingly inaccurate account of historical events in the country's civil rights movement, beginning in the mid-1800s with the creation of the Republican Party.

During his speech, Rokita engages in historical revision to claim the mantle of civil rights as belonging solely to the Republican Party. While correctly observing the party's proud support for ending slavery and for passage of the 13th (abolished slavery) and 15th Amendments (suffrage for black males) to the Constitution, Rokita would have his audience believe only Republicans of the time supported these civil rights initiatives. Sadly, he used a 14-year-old girl as a foil to make his point that our school history books no longer teach children about the Republican Party's role in the civil rights movement. The problem is Rokita only gets it half right.

From the Civil War era through the last 1900s, there were serious divisions between northern and southern Democrats. To be sure the Democratic Party, as represented by the dominating faction in the South, steadfastly opposed civil rights for the slaves. Some northern Democrats, however, differed and split away to join the Republican Party. The 13th Amendment was, in fact, co-authored by Sen. John B. Henderson, a Democrat from Missouri, while the 15th Amendment enjoyed little or no support from Democrats.

Rokita then jumped ahead to the passage of the 19th Amendment granting the right to vote to women. Rokita, describing it as a "Republican Amendment", said, "We did that." Well, yes, many Republicans supported the 19th Amendment, but there were also Democrats who supported it. It just happens that the Republican Party was the dominant party in the early 1900s when the Amendment's passage was being debated.

It was when Rokita arrived at the mid 1960s and his discussion of civil rights legislation that he got it really wrong. On the Civil Rights Act of 1964 Rokita said, "Republicans did that to the loud and vehement outcry of the Democratic Party." Not quite, Todd. Remember, Democrats controlled both houses of Congress. President Lyndon Johnson, unlike President Kennedy, actively pushed for the passage of civil rights legislation despite the near monolithic opposition he faced among Southern Democrats within his own party. Johnson, however, had the strong support of northern Democrats, who were able to form a coalition with northern Republicans led by the late-Sen. Everett Dirksen, the Senate GOP leader from Illinois, to pass the landmark measure. They repeated in 1965 with a similar coalition of northern Republicans and Democrats to pass the Voting Rights Act.

What Rokita doesn't share with his audience is how many modern-day Republicans opposed efforts to extend those important civil rights laws, taking the place of the Southern Democrats they succeeded to power. And that too many Republicans fought to the bloody end to defeat the Equal Rights Amendment, and most within the party now support efforts to enshrine discrimination against gays and lesbians into our federal and state constitutions. He seems to miss the point of why the Republican Party now has such a difficult task in attracting the support of minority voters, including the very group of voters he proclaimed to be reaching out to in his speech.

After this series of historical missteps, Rokita then incredibly declared the Republican Party had "more true leaders than any other party on the face of the earth." As a Republican, I can think of many Republican leaders I admire, but I can also think of more than a few Democrats I consider "true leaders" as well. When it comes to leadership, neither party can claim ownership. And I seriously doubt Rokita would make any Republican's list of "true leaders." In fact, the question on the minds of any educated person in that Washington, Indiana audience last Thursday night had to be: How did this man become a leader within the Republican Party?

It is indeed unfortunate that someone in Rokita's high-ranking position could have such a poor grasp of such important facts in our country's history. By all indications, Rokita grew up in an affluent family in Munster, Indiana. He earned a bachelor's degree from Wabash College where he earned distinction as an Eli Lilly Fellow, and he earned a law degree from Indiana University School of Law--Indianapolis. His biography on the Secretary of State's website boasts that he's been chosen to lead the National Association of Secretaries of State. And there's much more with which I choose not to bore you.

A privileged upbringing may have brought political success to Todd Rokita. But Rokita's political success is a failure of our Republican Party and our state. We can and must do better.


Anonymous said...

Excellent post, Gary. Advance Indiana has become must reading for any serious observer of the Indiana political scene.

Anonymous said...

Bill is right.

A candidate for SOS in 1982, Stephen Beardsley, made the error of making fun of the office he sought, but in his jest, he hit on something: the office is largely ceremonial and clerical, not policy-making.

Someone asked Steve what the SOS did. He replied:

"The only statutory duty, really, is protection of the seal of the state. And they give you several million and a large staff, so I'm going to protect the hell out of it."

Of course the SOS does more than that, but, in the public's eye, they see little of his duties. The one duty he does have is oversight of some election functions. And he's used that bully pulpit to drum up fabricated assumptions of massive voter fraud.

It doesn't occur, he knows it, and national studies he's now involved with, have proven it.

Now he's rewriting history.

Tick tock, Todd, your fifteen minutes are almost up. You're not funny, you can't pass a simple history test, and you shame your office.

Go protect the Seal and shut up for three years.

Anonymous said...

I read your blog every day, but I've had enough. Your history lesson is beside the point and is simply mean spirited at this point. You should actually meet the guy before you make any more assumptions. The things you have written about him over the last year are not deserved and are off base. You see what you want, and sadly you are wrong.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Anon, 7:42, I've met Todd Rokita. I know who he is. When he first went to work in the Secretary of State's office under Gilroy, he knew nothing about the legislative process. At the request of Gilroy, I gave Rokita pointers on the legislative process as someone who had lobbied a legislature for several years and worked as a legislative staffer for even more years. I speak with more knowledge of Rokita than either you or him would care to know.

Gary R. Welsh said...

And by the way anon 7:42, I support the voter ID law and applauded his support for it. It's not like I've been sitting here taking shots at him for the sake of doing so.

Anonymous said...

Democrats in the '60s not only supported civil rights, but they willingly allowed the entrenched Dems in the South to be disaffected in order to do the right thing. Republicans dominate the south now precisely because Dems has the courage and principles to support civil rights, in spite of the negative consequences for the party.

The claim that Republicans have "more true leaders than any other party on the face of the earth" misses the central weakness of the party today - there are too many Republicans who are "true followers." No matter how corrupt, incompetent, or mean-spirited, the base of the party will tenaciaously defend their own.

Anonymous said...


How about the parts of the speech where he talked about Rome lasting for only 200 years and the "Constantine" empire? Memory serves, he was an Emperor of Rome and founder of the City which bore his name. What other empires did Todd mean?
And what about the part where he said the USA might not be saved? Huh?

Wilson46201 said...

Rome lasted from around 753BC to 476AD - lets assume "Constantine" (meaning Constantinople) started around 330AD and lasted til 1453AD. Todd was grossly falsifying history to make a partisan political point. Kinda shoddy for a Wabash graduate with an I.U. law degree...

Anonymous said...

You are spot on, AI, in your analysis of Rokita's speech. I listened to the audio clip. It was like Archie Bunker was delivering the speech. How could a man of his generation and education be so ignorant? Unbelievable.

Anonymous said...


Race-baiting is the only way Democrats continue to control the minds of African American voters post 60's civil rights movement. It was the Republican Party who authored and passed legislation to improve the quality of life for people of color not the Democrats.

Examples of current treatment of black leaders they do not control.

Democrats Demean Barack Obama as a "Magic Negro"

Outrageous is the word for the Democrats' blatant racism toward black Democrat Barack Obama, calling him a "Magic Negro" for daring to step off of the Democrat Party's plantation and run for president himself, rather than blindly supporting the white woman Democrat, Hilllary Clinton, as most black Democrats are doing on command of their Democrat Party masters

"Simple Sambo" and "Ignorant Mammy": That's how Democrats view Blacks

Democrats, who claim that they care about diversity, use despicable racial stereotypes, just as Democrats did during the days of slavery and Jim Crow, to slur black professionals, such as Dr. Condoleezza Rice and Maryland Lt. Governor Michael Steele.

On the left-wing Internet website called "The News Blog," Democrats posted a doctored photograph of Maryland Lt. Governor Michael Steele, depicting him as a "Simple Sambo." This contemptible racist stereotype is the same one that Democrats used to demean blacks during the era of slavery and segregation.

In addition to other outrageous racist images produced by several Democrats, cartoonist Jeff Danziger depicted Dr. Condoleezza Rice as an ignorant, barefoot "mammy," reminiscent of the stereotyped black woman in the movie Gone with the Wind who remarked:"I don't know nothin''bout birthin' no babies."

The Democrat Party owes an apology for promoting racism and sterotypes over the years in the black community.

In 1995, while the Clinton Administration proudly supported a group of White janitors in their “reverse discrimination” lawsuit against Illinois State University, his Administration refused to support a group of Black, Hispanic and female Longshore Workers in their discrimination lawsuit against 100 shipping companies and their unions. The workers won their lawsuits without the support of the Clinton Administration and collectively walked away with several million dollars.

Democrat President John F. Kennedy is lauded as a proponent of civil rights. However, Kennedy voted against the 1957 Civil rights Act while he was a senator, as did Democrat Senator Al Gore, Sr. And after he became president, John F. Kennedy was opposed to the 1963 March on Washington by Dr. King that was organized by A. Phillip Randolph who was a black Republican. President Kennedy, through his brother Attorney General Robert Kennedy, had Dr. King wiretapped and investigated by the FBI on suspicion of being a Communist in order to undermine Dr. King.

In March of 1968, while referring to Dr. King's leaving Memphis, Tennessee after riots broke out where a teenager was killed, Democrat Senator Robert Byrd, a former member of the Ku Klux Klan, called Dr. King a "trouble-maker" who starts trouble, but runs like a coward after trouble is ignited. A few weeks later, Dr. King returned to Memphis and was assassinated on April 4, 1968.

Lest we remember American History.

It is time to energize the Democrat Party's base for this year's election to get out the black vote.

Anonymous said...

Sooooooooo tired of the Jocelyn stuff, Gary.

It's always a gasbag venture into an altered-state past.

If she ever had a point, she's lost it.

A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

Anonymous said...

There's enough historic disgrace and glory to share between the parties. It seems to me that the important thing is what did Rokita say?

And he obviously knew or thought he knew his audience.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Rokita's comments were accurate but the words he chose we're not tasteful, especially with the Imus situation still looming. Black Republicans have been saying it for years and they are saying it now. The Black vote has been taking for granted by the current Indiana Democratic Party. Democrats automatically expect that vote and that is why nothing promised ever gets done. They have not been forced to put in the work and in such the African American voters/non voters have assisted to the continued destruction of the African American Community. Simply put!

Anonymous said...

Respnse to Anonymous 5:32 AM

You are allowed to express your comments on this blog and I have expressed mine. The real truth hurts the Democrats. If we are going to have an open debate about the subject, let put all of the facts on the table. Not just the ones that allow you to point the finger in the other direction.

Democrats always attempt to silence independent African Americans who do not agree with their agendas.

Anonymous said...

I agree, the attempt to silence African Americans has been a successful ones especially those aligned with the Republican Party as well. As a free thinker I would love to believe there are more African Americans who will speak out against these acts. Ever so important, we as African Americans must stand up and demand what we want or take it. Revolution are fought for not begged for!

Anonymous said...


read the facts.

Anonymous said...

and these facts.... who are the racemongers in this country


Anonymous said...

3:45, if that website is supposed to support the notion that Republicans of today are the champions of racial inclusion, it's pretty weak.

We all know in the past the Southern Democrats were the racists, and from a historical perspective the Republicans indeed look better.

But unless we're going to be stepping into a time machine, does any of that really make any difference?

I looked at what that particular blogger noted as Republican accomplishments for the last 10 years, and it's nothing but a bunch of ceremonoial stuff.

"Legislation authored by U.S. Senator Spencer Abraham (R-MI) awarding Congressional Gold Medal to civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks" is supposed to be an example of Republican leadership on race issues?

Not the Specter is such a bad guy, but if this is the best ya'll can come up with...

Anonymous said...

Oops, I thought I had read Arlen Specter somewhere in that blog. Or maybe it was just some sort of dyslexia.

Wilson46201 said...

fwiw, the Rosa Parks Gold Medal was one of Democrat Julia Carson's achievements - the white Michigan Senator was added as a courtesy co-sponsor since Ms. Parks lived in Detroit.

The Parks Medal was unanimous except for one Southern Congressman - a conservative Republican, of course!

Karen Speaks said...

Jocelyn seems to have some inside Democratic source to be claiming to know so much. Typical windbag politics at its worst. Love to know your sources there darlin. Magic Negro, indeed. I'd laugh if your logic wasn't so unsound and sad.

Rokita should be ashamed of himself... but then an uninformed politician spouting bad, misconstrued fact is certainly nothing new, especially from that side of the fence.

Anonymous said...

In ten years, Julia's crowning accomplilshment is a non-binding resolution? Nice topic, and Ms. Parks deserved the honor.

But geeeesh.

Anonymous said...

Did you know?
Young Hillary Rodham answered that challenge the next year as the 17-year-old class president at Maine East High School in the Chicago suburbs. She described herself in her memoirs as "an active Young Republican" and "a Goldwater girl, right down to my cowgirl outfit." As a politically attuned honor student, she must have known that Goldwater was one of only six Republican senators who joined Southern Democratic segregationists opposing the historic Voting Rights Act, which King inspired.

Hillary headed the Young Republicans at Wellesley College as a freshman before defecting to the Democrats. But in 1969, when at 22 she was the first Wellesley student to deliver the school's commencement address, she did not place civil rights first. She talked about a demonstration in a college parking lot that "protested against the rigid academic distribution requirement" and supported "a pass-fail system" and "a say" in "academic decision making." That was not quite King's agenda.

Anonymous said...

U.S. Senate candidates Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele AND Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin. Daniel Rosenbaum (THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Black business owners and religious leaders say there is an undercurrent of discontent with the Maryland Democratic Party's lack of black statewide candidates and think it will encourage support for Republicans -- especially Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele's run for the U.S. Senate.

Wilson46201 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wilson46201 said...

Steele lost.

The GOP still has NO Black Members of Congress. All African-Americans in Congress are Democrats. Why doesnt the GOP elect Blacks?