Republican candidates grapple with Civil War history as party currently grapples with race issues


WASHINGTON (AP) — As Republicans make their case for the future, they get stuck on the past.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis spent most of the summer surrounded by controversies Above new educational standards It called for teaching that slaves developed skills that could be “applied for their personal benefit.” Former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley Last month failed to mention slavery As the root cause of civil war. And former President Donald Trump last weekend called the Civil War “so fascinating” and said it could be “negotiated” while bypassing the fundamental dilemma of slavery.

Such moments reflect tensions inside the GOP — the party of Lincoln that ended slavery, won the Civil War and started Reconstruction — as the first primaries of the 2024 election approach. Some in the party’s conservative base, which has deep roots in the Deep South, are more willing to ignore unpleasant historical facts about the Civil War at a time when they support the movement to remove names from Confederate monuments and institutions. During this time we feel surrounded by leftism. , Others fear the controversy will harm the party’s ambitions to make inroads among non-white voters, who may be swayed by downplaying the historical atrocities of slavery.

on monday eve iowa In caucus, Republicans are increasingly frustrated with this dynamic and have tried to pivot the issue back to Democrats.

“Frankly, I’m very tired of the reinterpretation of history that I hear from Democrats,” Iowa Republican Party Chairman Jeff Coffman said Tuesday at the state party’s annual legislative breakfast. “The Republican Party arose because the Democrats would not stand for slavery.”

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The prominent role that slavery and the Civil War played in the GOP primary is notable at a time when the next president faces immediate challenges, including two major wars and domestic economic recovery, that many voters say they feel Are not doing. Some fear the party risks losing a chance to make a dent in President Joe Biden’s support, especially when Arab American, Black And Latino Leaders are becoming increasingly vocal that the President is vulnerable among voters of color.

Biden and his fellow Democrats are eager to highlight GOP missteps. Speaking Monday at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South CarolinaWhere nine black parishioners were murdered by a white supremacist in 2015, Biden said it was a “lie” that the Civil War was about states’ rights.

He said, “For those who don’t know, let me be clear: The cause of the Civil War was slavery.” “There is no conversation about it.”

Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to florida Shortly after DeSantis implemented the new history standards criticize policies And accused Florida Republicans of being “extremists” who “want to replace history with lies.”

Republican leaders are mindful of the criticisms and eager to push back against any characterizations of the party that deviate from its abolitionist roots.

The Republican establishment “because someone needed to take a bold, uncompromising stand on human rights and civil liberties. He’s not woke. That’s a fact,” said Kauffman, the Iowa GOP chairman. party. We have always been the party of Abraham Lincoln.”

While the controversies focus on the past, conservative opposition to broader narratives of American history is rooted in concerns over the social impacts they may have, experts say.

“The Republican Party stands for an understanding of American history that we are an extraordinary country, that we have brought freedom to the world, that we have overcome the challenges of the past and that we need to be proud of our past,” said Paul Peterson, director of the program on education policy and governance at Harvard University.

Democrats are “more likely to say there’s a lot in our past that we need to reflect on and, and perhaps apologize for,” Peterson said.

Republican candidates have traded barbs over historic issues for months. Both DeSantis and Trump have criticized Haley for her Civil War-related comments. Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only black Republican in the Senate, DeSantis criticized over Florida history standardsSaying that slavery was “devastating” and that he “would hope that every person in our country – and certainly anyone running for president – ​​would appreciate it.”

East new Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who suspended his campaign on Wednesday, referenced the Civil War in a warning to Republican voters. Benjamin Franklin, Christie recalled, gave Americans, “a republic, if you can keep it.”

“The words of Benjamin Franklin have never been more relevant in America than they are now. The last time they were this relevant was the Civil War – which we know was caused by slavery,” Christie said.

Today, a broader debate over the legacy of the Civil War for policy making is echoed in inner-party circles.

“The Civil War happened more than 150 years ago, and we still haven’t fully come to terms with its consequences as a society,” said Eric Foner, professor emeritus at Columbia University and author of a history of the Republican Party and the Civil War.

“I think there is a feeling generally on the part of all Republicans and conservatives that people who are trying to take down statues and rename streets are against American history and about America. Everything that we thought was good in the past is now being presented as evil,” said Geoff Kabasservis, vice president of political studies at the center-right think tank Niskanen Center.

Such sentiments are widely shared among Republican voters, who may respond “with polarization and partisanship on these historical issues” in response to broader cultural shifts in understanding of America’s central story, Kabasservis said.

The Civil War debate also highlights other realities about the GOP’s coalition, which is now based in the American South, not the North where the party was founded. Democrats and Republicans “essentially stole the other party’s mantle from the 19th century,” Foner said.

“I think, in fact, it is very possible to accept the sins of the country, even the atrocities that have been committed in this country, and its great ideals and promises,” Kabasaservis said.

“But this is not really a time that is open to complexity and nuance so that kind of thing gets lost in politics these days.”

Matt Brown is a member of the AP’s Race and Ethnicity team. follow him social media,

The Associated Press’s coverage of race and democracy is supported by the Lilly Endowment. See more about AP’s Democracy Initiative Here, AP is solely responsible for all content.

Copyright 2024 The associated Press, All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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