Amid McCarthy drama, Republicans tried to play the race card | Elwood Watson

Elwood Watson
Posted 1/11/23

The drama surrounding Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s speakership bid remains nothing short of surreal.

It took 15 bids to secure the votes required to become speaker of the House. In his fatalistic …

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Amid McCarthy drama, Republicans tried to play the race card | Elwood Watson


The drama surrounding Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s speakership bid remains nothing short of surreal.

It took 15 bids to secure the votes required to become speaker of the House. In his fatalistic desire to become speaker, McCarthy made numerous concessions to his opponents that have all but promised to nullify any real power or influence he will likely have.

An interesting side story stemming from the drama was the effort by far-right House members to support Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida, one of the few Black Republicans in the chamber.

Following McCarthy’s failure to earn a majority of votes for a third time, Republican Rep. Chip Roy of Texas nominated Donalds for speaker. Fellow far right-wing extremist Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado eventually threw her support behind Donald before eventually voting “present” on Friday evening, allowing McCarthy to finally win the speakership.

Representative Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, who chairs the far-right Freedom Caucus, provided the most condescending and shameful nomination speech for Donalds, who was recently elected to a second term in Congress this past November.

Overcome with a misguided degree of giddiness, Perry informed his house colleagues that Donalds, a fervent Donald Trump and MAGA supporter, would be the first Black speaker, and laughably tried to paint Republicans as the party of diversity.

“Now, as my colleagues probably know, the first Black members of Congress to serve in this body were Republicans,” he said before noting that abolitionist Frederick Douglass was a Republican.

Republicans love stating that many Black people were Republicans through much of the 19th century, and for a sizable portion of the 20th. This largely resulted from the party’s alignment with the Union during the Civil War. Throughout much of the 20th century, Republicans were seen as the more progressive of the two major political parties. It remains quite a spectacle to witness conservative commentators like Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and others note Republicans supported the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

While true, what they fail to mention is it was the same year far-right activists took over the party from their more moderate colleagues. Many Dixiecrat segregationists, such as Sen. Storm Thurmond of South Carolina,  became so enraged at the passage of this monumental piece of legislation they switched from Democrats to Republicans, joining forces with the Birchers and other right-wing political groups. Later years would see the party engage in Southern strategy tactics, racially coded rhetoric and similar sinister shenanigans.

Democratic Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri made it clear she didn’t agree that Donalds was a historic candidate for speaker.

“He is a prop,” Bush wrote on Twitter. “Despite being Black, he supports a policy agenda intent on upholding and perpetuating white supremacy. His name being in the mix is not progress — it’s pathetic.”

For a party that claims discussions about racism are anti-American, Republicans love to promote Black politicians when it is beneficial to their agenda. Thankfully, those of us who have studied history know the truth all too well.

Watching and observing House members during those dramatic proceedings, one could definitely notice the racial and gender diversity that personified the Democratic members of the house. Meanwhile, the Republican side of the House represented the racial demographics of your typical Alabama country club.

Thankfully, it doesn’t seem many people have been falsely persuaded by devious, bigoted, opportunistic  Republicans who have the unmitigated gall to discuss Black history from a disingenuous and distorted perspective. We know the reality, past as well as present.

In the words of the classic civil rights anthem “we shall not be moved.”

(Elwood Watson is a professor of history, Black studies, and gender and sexuality studies at East Tennessee State University. He is also an author and public speaker.)


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  • CodexSeraphinianus

    That’s one perspective. If Republicans aren’t “allowed” to discuss black history because they weren’t there, then who is? Everyone I know alive wasn’t there!

    And how many typical Alabama country clubs did you attend to back up your statements? Statements like these only solidify the past instead of the future. I doubt the past is truly where you want this argument to continue from.

    As far as Republicans voting for black individuals to promote their agenda, how would you classify Mr Bidens and the democrats selection of Katanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court?

    She is unable to define what a woman is! How can she then effectively legislate for womens rights going forward? That’s a somewhat confusing as it contradicts your letter.

    It’d be a shame that someone (not a republican, a lifelong democrat) had the gall to ask these questions instead and have them answered! Do you have any solutions to bring people together despite party lines rather than just stating fancily republicans are the problem?

    Blessings to you.

    Monday, January 30 Report this