(Shutterstock image)
(Shutterstock image)

La Crosse County Party members claims Democrats supported slavery.

The chairman of the La Crosse Republican Party confirmed that a controversial letter sent to high school seniors that included statements that Democrats supported slavery was sent by a member of his organization, but said he had no knowledge of the letter before it went out.

Party Chairman Bill Feehan said the party’s executive committee member Nick Newman sent the letter without going through the normal approval process. The letter does not represent the views of his party, Feehan said. 

“The opinions expressed in Mr. Newman’s letter are not the opinions of the La Crosse County Republican Party,” Feehan told the La Crosse Tribune. “Those opinions are his opinions. His letter was never reviewed by our executive committee, it does not bear my signature, and it was not paid for by our organization. 

Feehan previously said the letter did not originate from his party and was the work of someone attempting to make Republicans look bad. 

The letter, mailed to La Crosse area high school seniors, stated “the Republican Party was founded to free the black slaves, while the Democrats fought to keep” them, and also noted that the Ku Klux Klan was comprised mostly of Democrats. 

The letter went on to state that the Underground Railroad system that helped slaves escape to freedom was operated by Republicans. It also said “Democrats like to divide people into groups” such as African Americans, immigrants and muslims rather than viewing them as Americans.

“Democrats go as far as to create other flags for themselves,” the letter states. “Are you an American who happens to be gay? Forget having pride in your country. Your only option for pride is your sexual orientation and you have to replace your stars and stripes with a rainbow.”

Newman’s version of historic events surrounding the party’s could be charitably described as incomplete. It leaves out the arc of the Democratic Party’s post-war shift on civil rights from foes to champions. 

The letter leaves out the fierce inter-party battle ignited by Sen. Hubert Humphrey’s historic “Sunshine” speech to the 1948 Democratic National Convention which paved the way for the party to move from tepid language opposing segregation to full-throated leadership on landmark legislation. 

The party’s evolution culminated with President Lyndon Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965

While the Democrats’ journey won the party generations of support from progressives and communities of color, Johnson is said to have told Bill Moyers, an aide at the time, “I think we just delivered the South to the Republican party for a long time to come.”

In fact, when 1964 Republican nominee Barry Goldwater said he considered the Civil Rights Act to be unconstitutional, it created an exodus of Black Americans who have never returned to even the 15 percent level that Richard Nixon received in 1960. 

In 1968, Nixon and others adopted what became known as a “Southern Strategy” to appeal to white grievances and exacerbate racial divides in order to win elections, effectively completing the flip-flop of parties that was missing from Newman’s appeal to first-time voters.

Feehan said he has not decided whether Newman will be allowed to remain on the executive committee.