The nation was shocked, shocked to
learn that the Rev. Jesse Jackson,
speaking at Michigan State University last week,
doesn`t like the Founding Fathers of the American
Republic, thinks they were racists and sexists, and
believes that democracy in America dates only from the
enactment of the
Voting Rights Act of 1965.
So what else is new?
The rhetorical stones Mr. Jackson
pitched into the pond have stirred a few ripples among
conservative sages and
pundits, but there`s little reason for them to be
surprised. Not only has Mr. Jackson himself a long
history of spouting such remarks but also this is
precisely what we should by now have come to expect from
American black leadership. What we are seeing is the
genesis and elaboration of a
racial consciousness in place of a
As for Mr. Jackson, back in the
1980s he was leading demonstrations at
Stanford University demanding that "Western Civ has
got to go," meaning that the university should drop its
required course on the history of
Western civilization and teach instead the kind of
multiculturalist racial and political dogmatism that
Mr. Jackson favors. What he said at Michigan State last
week is merely the corollary to what he was telling us
What he said at Michigan State, to
be specific, is that
"…democracy as we know it did not begin in Philadelphia,
where a bunch of white men wrote the laws….These men`s
wives were not allowed [to
vote], these laws were made at a time when only
white men had the right to vote…"
"True democracy," in Mr. Jackson`s
opinion, began only with the passage of the Voting
Rights Act in 1965.
Mr. Jackson also had some
generally illiterate things to say about recent U.S.
foreign policy as well, but ignore that for the nonce
and attend to the good reverend`s vast display of his
own historical ignorance.
In the first place, the Founders
did not claim to be founding "democracy"; they were
quite explicit that they were "republicans"
(with a small "R") and that the Constitution they
drafted and adopted contained a democratic along with
monarchic and aristocratic elements.
If you had accused them of setting
up a "true democracy," most would have recoiled in
horror at the thought of it.
In the second place, it`s quite
true for the most part that "only white men had the
right to vote." In fact, for the most part, only white,
fairly affluent, Christian men had the right to
vote, but note that Mr. Jackson doesn`t seem to care so
much about the property and religious qualifications.
He`s really obsessed with racial qualifications, though
he tossed a bone to
feminists for good measure.
Are we supposed to be ashamed of
or feel guilty about the fact that the white, male
Founding Fathers didn`t let blacks and women vote? You
knee breeches we are, and with a good many white
males today, Mr. Jackson`s guilt trip works well. Many
do feel guilty about it.
But it`s very arguable that the
"true democracy" favored by that Mr. Jackson and most of
guilt-ridden white men who swallow what he tells
them is not all it`s cracked up to be. The country was
far better governed in the days when the franchise was
seriously restricted. For all Mr. Jackson`s contempt for
the generation of
George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison,
and a dozen other immortals of political thought and
practice, "true democracy" has produced nothing whatever
like them in its entire history.
But Mr. Jackson`s real message, of
course, was to tell us, as he and his fellow pioneers in
racial consciousness have told us before, that the
Old Republic created by the
Founding Fathers is finished, and it`s finished for
essentially racial reasons.
the United States] represent 6
percent of the world,"
"Most people on this globe are
yellow, black, or brown, non-Christian, female, young,
poor and don`t speak English."
Because the white-male-dominated
republic of the Founders is a small minority of "this
globe," Mr. Jackson seems to infer that it`s about to
vanish down history`s drainpipes.
It may well disappear, and the
rising racial consciousness among the "yellow, black, or
brown" peoples of which Mr. Jackson boasted will be one
major reason for it. But the truth is that the white,
male republic of the Founders was an even smaller part
of this globe when it was
established 200 years ago, and that didn`t stop it
from getting started and prevailing against all sorts of
Back then, you see, white males
believed in what they were doing and had the wit and
will to do it.
Today they don`t, which is why
they pay any attention at all to gentlemen like the Rev.
September 23, 2002