A Cautious Man
October 14, 2009
Trying To Learn How To Walk Like Heroes
We Thought We Had To Be

The Republican Party, it its ongoing effort to be "cool" and "happenin' ", has a new website. One of their pages has a list of "Republican Heroes". Of course, they have Reagan, and Eisenhower, and (naturally) Abraham Lincoln. Reagan and Senator Ed Brooke of Massachusetts are the only two from after 1964, which is a significant year for the Republican Party, as the following will attest.

They also include Jackie Robinson, and they describe him as follows:

In 1947, Jackie Robinson became the first African-American to play major league baseball in the United States, as a first baseman for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Not only was he a great athlete, Jackie Robinson was also a great Republican. He campaigned for Richard Nixon's presidential campaign in 1960 and then supported Nelson Rockefeller (R-NY) for the Republican nomination in 1964. Robinson worked as a special assistant in Governor Rockefeller’s administration.
Unfortunately for the GOP, the folks who put Mr. Robinson on the list didn't read his 1972 autobiography, in which he describes the "welcome" that Nelson Rockefeller received at the 1964 convention, and his own impressions of what the party had become.

I was not as sold on the Republican party as I was on the governor. Every chance I got, while I was campaigning, I said plainly what I thought of the right-wing Republicans and the harm they were doing. I felt the GOP was a minority party in term of numbers of registered voters and could not win unless they updated their social philosophy and sponsored candidates and principles to attract the young, the black, and the independent voter. I said this often from public, and frequently Republican, platforms. By and large Republicans had ignored blacks and sometimes handpicked a few servile leaders in the black community to be their token "n*****s". How would I sound trying to go all out to sell Republicans to black people? They're not buying. They know better.

I wasn’t altogether caught of guard by the victory of the reactionary forces in the Republican party, but I was appalled by the tactics they used to stifle their liberal opposition. I was a special delegate to the convention through an arrangement made by the Rockefeller office. That convention was one of the most unforgettable and frightening experiences of my life. The hatred I saw was unique to me because it was hatred directed against a white man. It embodied a revulsion for all he stood for, including his enlightened attitude toward black people.

A new breed of Republicans had taken over the GOP. As I watched this steamroller operation in San Francisco, I had a better understanding of how it must have felt to be a Jew in Hitler’s Germany.

The same high-handed methods had been there.

The same belief in the superiority of one religious or racial group over another was here. Liberals who fought so hard and so vainly were afraid not only of what would happen to the GOP but of what would happen to America. The Goldwaterites were afraid – afraid not to hew strictly to the line they had been spoon-fed, afraid to listen to logic and reason if it was not in their script.

I will never forget the fantastic scene of Governor Rockefeller’s ordeal as he endured what must have been three minutes of hysterical abuse and booing which interrupted his fighting statement which the convention managers had managed to delay until the wee hours of the morning. Since the telecast was coming from the West Coast, that meant that many people in other sections of the country, because of the time differential, would be in their beds. I don’t think he has ever stood taller than that night when he refused to be silenced until he had had his say.

It was a terrible hour for the relatively few black delegates who were present. Distinguished in their communities, identified with the cause of Republicanism, an extremely unpopular cause among blacks, they had been served notice that the party they had fought for considered them just another bunch of “n*****s”. They had no real standing in the convention, no clout. They were unimportant and ignored. One bigot from one of the Deep South states actually threw acid on a black delegate’s suit jacket and burned it. Another one, from the Alabama delegation where I was standing at the time of the Rockefeller speech, turned on me menacingly while I was shouting “C’mon Rocky” as the governor stood his ground. He started up in his seat as if to come after me. His wife grabbed his arm and pulled him back.
Now, we could just chalk this up to ignorance on the part of the GOP, but I don't think we should be that kind. In an era where the GOP is actively encouraging expressions of hatred for the first African-American to be elected President of the United States, their attempt to claim Jackie Robinson as a "great Republican", and a supporter of their efforts is (literally) p*ssing on the man's grave.

I would add that they should be ashamed of themselves, but it's clear that they have no shame.

[Edited to add] And Jon Stewart's also picked up on this!

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