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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 5/26/10

Not Breaking A League

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As Douglas A. Blackmon pointed out in his book, Slavery by Another Name, emancipation under the law did not mean emancipation in fact. The second chapter of the Civil War, saw the Union reunited, but the lot of the supposed ex-slaves little improved. Sharecropping and tenant farming had succeeded actual slave holding, but for the blacks in the South there was little difference. Judge Lynch walked hand in hand with Jim Crow, especially after the Supreme Court gave Jim Crow formal sanction under Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896. Many black men were thrown into prison for long sentences on minor charges, where they died by the thousands in work details and chain gangs, primarily for the benefit of a resurgent Southern aristocracy. Most of the South was frozen, economically, socially, politically and technologically, in the 1870's.

President Franklin Roosevelt and his New Deal marked the beginning of the last chapter in the Civil War, where the Union finally achieved both of its goals: reunification with the South, and true emancipation for the African-American slaves. It also saw the first chapter of organized reaction against the reforms that arose from it. FDR and his successors using the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Second World War, Desegregation and the battle for Civil Rights, and Lyndon Johnson's Great Society at long last broke the agrarian poverty that had held the South, both black and white, in its iron grip for a century. Sharecropping and tenant farming all but disappeared, electricity appeared throughout the rural South, and large scale industrial development finally made extensive inroads south of the Mason-Dixon Line.

But it was not simply the South that changed when FDR and the New Deal began the writing of the Civil War's final chapter. The application of the Fourteenth Amendment to the individual states, with regards to the Bill of Rights and segregation, should have ended any argument about the extent to which the states still held power under the Constitution, and in particular the limitations of the Tenth Amendment. The Civil War and the enactment of the Fourteenth Amendment curtails the power of the states in favor of the rights of the individual for all time.

Initially the power of this Amendment was used to give rights where they do not belong: with the unnatural person of the corporation, at the expense of the individual. With FDR and the New Deal, the individual human being began to slowly establish precedence over his artificial counterpart, and a true degree of equal protection under the law began to be realized.

By 1969, the Supreme Court had extended most of the protections of the Bill of Rights to the individual when dealing with the states. Two of FDR's appointees as Justices, Hugo Black and William Douglas, were at the forefront of this final application of the Fourteenth Amendment to the individual citizen.

Then came the organized reaction.

Lewis Powell, scion of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and soon to be appointed to the Supreme Court as an Associate Justice, wrote a memorandum in 1971, laying out the conservative counter-revolution to overthrow the gains made by individuals in the New Deal, and re-establish the oligarchy of the Gilded Age. Although Justice Powell did not lay out as severe a system as has evolved in this country over the last thirty years; the ideas and actions of men like Milton Friedman, Jack Welch, and David Stockman--among others--have taken it further than anyone would have thought possible.

Some feel that the revival of the ghost of the Confederacy started when Ronald Reagan opened his Presidential campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, where three civil rights workers had been murdered and buried in an earthen dam by the KKK less than twenty years before. Others think it started when Denver radio host Alan Berg was murdered in his driveway in June, 1984 by white supremacists. Still others think it was when David Duke announced the formation of a more urbane, sophisticated KKK in the early 1980's.

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Richard Girard is a polymath and autodidact whose greatest desire in life is to be his generations' Thomas Paine. He is an FDR Democrat, which probably puts him with U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders in the current political spectrum. His answer to (more...)

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