Guest post by Chris Malagisi. Chris will be resuming a normal posting schedule here on Red NoVA next year.

Senator Harry Reid’s ignorant and partisan comments last week likening Republican opposition of socialized health care to that of slavery is egregiously and historically incorrect. The Democrat Senate Majority Leader should brush up on his American history as it was the Republicans – not the Democrats – who led the fight and ultimately ended slavery in America.

The Republican Party was formed in 1854 as a coalition of three groups – the remnants of the Whig Party that believed in a limited federal government, Free Soil Democrats who were at odds with their political party having passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act – the act which repealed the Missouri Compromise, and slavery abolitionists who believed slavery was morally wrong and violated the rights of man.

In 1860 the Republican Party nominated Abraham Lincoln as their nominee for President – the man eventually responsible for the Emancipation Proclamation, the Gettysburg Address, winning the Civil War, and ending slavery. It was the Republicans – not the Democrats – who enacted the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments which abolished slavery, required equal protection under the law, and the right to vote for freedmen.

Republicans also led Reconstruction efforts in the South to provide political and legal rights to former slaves only to be hindered by Democrat Vice President Andrew Johnson, ascending to the presidency upon Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. Johnson ran with Lincoln in 1864 on a national unity party ticket – Lincoln a Republican and Johnson a Democrat.

Though Johnson was initially from Tennessee – a slave state – and a supporter against Southern secession, Johnson was a Southern sympathizer who ended up pardoning numerous Confederate leaders, appointed Southern state governments which imposed Black Codes placing former slaves in a second tier status, and vetoed various civil rights bills that greatly disrupted Reconstruction efforts. This ultimately led to his impeachment in 1868 in the House of Representatives only to be spared removal from office by a single vote in the Senate.

If anyone had any doubts of Johnson’s sympathies, he articulated them quite succinctly in a letter to then Governor Thomas C. Fletcher of Missouri, “This is a country for white men, and by God, as long as I am President, it shall be a government for white men.” Johnson ultimately became a martyr of sorts for Southerners and they quickly attached the Democrat label to themselves in opposition to the Republican Reconstruction efforts.

The legacy of Johnson’s “stonewalling” (no pun intended) greatly disrupted the early stages of Reconstruction efforts in a time when national unity and healing was necessary, as the sensitivities of the war still lingered between the North and South. These disruptions, led by Johnson and the Democrats, would eventually lead to the “Solid South” – a term associated with Democrat control of Southern state governments for the next century that would eventually impose racial segregation and Jim Crow laws.

Furthermore, Reid also insinuated that Republicans were against the Civil Rights Acts of 1964. This is also historically incorrect as the majority of Republicans voted proportionately more than the Democrats.

In 1964, the Democrats were in control of the House of Representatives. Of the 420 members who voted, 290 supported it while 130 opposed it. Republicans favored the bill by 138-34; Democrats supported it 152-96. Republicans voted for it by a larger proportion (80%) than the Democrats (61%). The Senate voted for the bill in the same fashion with proportionately more Republicans voting for it than the Democrats.

When our political leaders engage in policy debates, especially ones that are as serious and consequential as the proposed health care legislation, it would be wise that they use prudence and rhetorical honesty when debating. These “race-baiting” falsities are insulting and ignorant and perpetuate stereotypes that are historically inaccurate. We should demand more from our political leaders and Senator Reid should apologize for his egregious and historically inaccurate comments.