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The Cowardice of Politicians

Shortly after Carol Moseley Braun took a seat in the Senate, in 1993, she jumped at the chance of creating a dramatic scene in the Senate in which she cast herself as the champion of the black race standing alone against a roomful of white men on the verge of stamping a racist symbol with their approval.

The “racist symbol” she was ranting about was, in fact, the insignia of an organization called the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Beginning in about 1870 and continuing into the 1930s, the UDC was responsible for erecting a series of monuments to the Confederate dead which stand in public places all across the South and which are now being torn down by the maneuvering of black politicians, great and small.

UDC Insignia

As early as 1926, the Congress had granted the UDC what is called a “design patent.” The purpose of a “design patent” is purely political. It is given as an honor to organizations which do good work in the community, such as funding hospitals, launching Buy US Bonds campaigns, supporting servicemen oversees in various ways etc. The “design patent” law requires the Congress to reaffirm the grant every 14 years which was done in the case of the UDC, up to the point Illinois Senator Braun appeared on the scene.

Senator Braun arrived in Congress at a time when the Democrats had taken control of the Senate as the result of the 1992 presidential election cycle. The junior senator from Illinois was given a seat on the Judiciary Committee. In the spring of 1993, a bill was produced by the committee, its purpose being to fund a community education program. During the committee debate on its terms, South Carolina Senator Strom Turmond, the ranking Republican member of the committee, proposed to attach to the bill an amendment the purpose of which was to renew the UDC’s design patent for its insignia. Apparently, Braun objected in committee to the amendment, an internal debate ensued, and the amendment was rejected by a majority vote.

In July 1993, the Community Education Bill came to the floor of the Senate for consideration, in the course of which South Carolina Senator Jesse Helms moved to amend the bill with the UDC design patent amendment earlier proposed by Senator Thurmond. Senator Braun promptly appeared on the Senate floor and, in the ordinary course of proceedings, was heard, and she moved that Helm’s motion to amend the bill be tabled. A vote was taken by roll call and Braun’s motion was defeated by a large vote margin, eleven Democrats joining the Republicans who voted against her motion in bloc.

Plainly the Democrats as a party were prepared for this outcome. The chair, held at the moment by California Senator Boxer, immediately recognized Braun when the vote was announced, and Braun launched into a filibuster; whipping out a blow up of a letter written before the Civil War, she began to rail against those who voted against her motion on the ground they were racists, voting for a “symbol of racism.”

The Republicans quickly realized the political trap that the Democrats had sprung on them: here they were on C-span facing a lone black woman, who was clearly being intentionally emotional as trial lawyers in court can be, wailing about the indignity, the insult, the callousness of the white Republicans giving the Senate’s “stamp of approval” to the “symbol of racism.”

Here now comes a most pathetic display of the cowardice of white politicians to stand up to a black politician’s irrational characterization of a flag as a “symbol of racism.” The UDC’s insignia incorporates as a design feature the image of the National Flag of the Confederacy. According to Braun’s logic, because the Confederacy was “fighting to preserve ownership in man” the Confederacy’s flag must necessarily be deemed a racist symbol which must not be “approved” by the Senate.

The Senators who voted against Braun’s motion to table Helm’s proposed amendment might have stood up like men standing on principle and debated the assumption lying at the bottom of Braun’s logic─that as a matter of objective reasonableness the reason the Confederacy existed was “to preserve ownership in man.” It would have been a great debate, the senators having the chance to recreate the atmosphere that filled the chamber during the days of Clay and Webster. But instead, like little wimps, each senator in turn turned tail and ran from the encounter Braun’s stupid position offered them. For, it is a plain fact of objective history that the Federal Government, framed by the Constitution as it was, was a government designed by its framers to preserve ownership in man; and that, therefore, the Confederate Government’s reason for existence was based necessarily upon another ground. And that ground was its people’s insistence that their States separate themselves from the Union. It’s called “Independence” Senator.

At the bottom of things, as this site explains, was the fact that almost all white men of the times, in the Union of 1860, held racist views of the Africans among them, right down to Lincoln. The simple plain truth of the matter is that, realizing the North meant to box them in with the Africans─who every intelligent person knew would eventually gain freedom by the natural evolution of time, as Lincoln put it “God’s own good time”─the South decided to go forward as a separate nation, to deal with the problem of living with the Africans alone. (See¸ What Caused the American Civil War ).

The point being, for Senator Braun’s logic, that, if the Confederate Flag must be deemed a “symbol of racism” by the same logic so, too, must the Union Flag be deemed a “symbol of racism.” The people of the Confederacy and the people of the Union were all equally racist in their prejudice toward Africans. By 1860, Africans were still slaves because the white people on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line did not want to live with them in a social system of political equality─plain and simple if you have your eyes open to the reality of the matter.

Of course this means that Washington and everything Washington stands for, is seeped in racism, and his name, his history, his status as the great one must be erased from American history as thoroughly as the black politicans─Senator Braun having been their stalking horse─can whip up their courage to do it: face the issue head on instead of slugging away at the minor historical figures who fill the background of the canvas. But they are politicians and we know what that means. The senate of July 1993 showed us what that means. (See, The Slavery Blame Game )

For those of you who want to understand what can be expected to unfold in the future as the black politicians, locally and nationally, operate to tear down Confederate symbols and monuments, I offer you the series of videos that appear below.

Shelby Foote on Senator Braun

New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg's View

West Virginia Senator Robert Bryd’s View

Alabama Senator Howell Heflin’s View

New York Senator Patrick Moynihan’s View

Missouri Senator John Danforth’s View

Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson’s View

Nebraska Senator James Exon’s view

For an understanding of the political maneuvering that went on in the Senate Chamber, see Politics and Racism: Senator Braun’s Performance.


Joe Ryan