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A Democratic Presidential candidate speaking on civil rights for Black Americans:

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“Not all groups are free to live and work where they please or to improve their conditions of life by their own efforts. Not all groups enjoy the full privileges of citizenship…The Federal government has a clear duty to see that the Constitutional guarantees of individual liberties and of equal protection under the laws are not denied or abridged anywhere in the Union. That duty is shared by all three branches of the Government, but it can be filled only if the Congress enacts modern, comprehensive civil rights laws, adequate to the needs of the day, and demonstrating our continuing faith in the free way of life.”

What sorts of “civil rights laws” did this man envision? In the words of an historian, he “called for a federal law against the crime of lynching…effective statutory protection of the right to vote everywhere in the country, a law against the poll taxes…the establishment of a Commission with authority to stop discrimination by employers…an end to discrimination in interstate travel by rail, bus and airplane…”. And beyond the details of civil rights, because he believed that without additional freedoms America would never realize its full potential, he called for “a national health insurance program, a massive housing program, increased support for education…the conservation of natural resources, and a raise in the minimum wage…”.

Most of these things never came to pass, when the man became President. Why not? “Southern congressmen lashed out” against it. A Texas Senator called the proposals “a lynching of the Constitution.” A South Carolina Senator said he and his wife would never sit next to “a Nigra.” And those two were Democrats.

Who was this Democratic Presidential candidate? Harry S. Truman, who was running for election in his own right in 1948, after having inherited the presidency upon the death of Franklin Roosevelt three years previously. And who was it that denied Truman his victories in the Congress, when Truman was famously elected, against the predictions of all the pundits, in his race against Thomas Dewey? Southern Democrats—“Dixiecrats”—who, not much later, changed parties and became the “Solid South,” the Republican red wall the South largely remains today…the same South that has consistently opposed civil rights, and all the other progressive achievements Truman fought for…the same South that voted for Donald J. Trump.

Some things never change. Truman’s issues are our issues today; the same bloc, or mentality that opposes them, is the stumbling block today to progress. Republicans, or, to put it more accurately, that conservative, reactionary mindset that has always opposed progress in any form, continue on their path of obstructionism, delay, obfuscation, appeals to hatred, and preachings of authoritarianism, resentment and white supremacy—even though the number of Americans who subscribe to that belief system continues to shrink. And that is why Republicans must prevent universal voting, at all costs, no matter what it takes—even if it means shutting down the Post Office. If everybody voted, as Trump himself said, no Republican would ever again be elected to national office in the U.S.A.

We look at Harry Truman’s words, from more than 70 years ago, and shake our heads in wonderment. Civil rights…universal healthcare…housing for all…conservation of the environment…a fair minimum wage…the right to vote…better public education…why are we still having to fight for these things, when by every yardstick of common sense and decency they’re the right things to do?

Because we still have Republicans in power. But we can change that, starting with the November elections. We can make Harry Truman’s dreams…and John F. Kennedy’s, and Lyndon Johnson’s, and Jimmy Carter’s, and Bill Clinton’s, and Barack Obama’s dreams come true. Will that usher in a new Valhalla of Justice, Peace, Prosperity and Fairness for all Americans? No. Nothing ever will. But it will get us closer to it.

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