Hammerin’ Hank Strikes Out With KKK Reference
Hank Aaron Knows Baseball, but Not Politics or the KKK
Earlier this week, baseball legend Hank Aaron was honored on the 40th anniversary of home run #715, breaking the record long held by Babe Ruth. Aaron earned that record the old fashioned way, through hard work, dedication to his craft, and most of all, endurance. Aaron’s achievement was marked by perseverance rather than the stain of steroid use. He hit thirteen home runs his first year in Major League Baseball, as few as ten home runs his final season, with a high of 47 home runs in 1971.
“Hammerin’ Hank” was the consummate professional, enduring the hatred and racism of past generations who hurled vitriol and racial epithets at him. He went about his work with a quiet dignity and grace that was laudable considering the mistreatment he endured. I was but a boy of four when he completed his MLB career, but as a lifelong Braves fan who grew up watching them play every night from spring to fall on TBS, I was immersed in the legend that was Hank Aaron. Yes, this includes the dark days of the mid-to-late 1980’s when the Braves were so bad you could buy nose-bleed seats for $5 and walk down and sit behind the dugout by the third inning because the stadium was so empty. If they were getting beat badly enough, they may grab you out of the stands and throw a jersey on you and send you into the game.
These were the days when the Braves were losing a hundred games a year, which I could not fathom because they had such great players as my idol Dale Murphy, and Bob Horner, Chris Chambliss, Mark Lemke, and Bruce Benedict. These were the early days of future Hall of Famers Tom Glavine and John Smoltz, and they were my team, which meant that they were awesome, which made their losing impossible to comprehend. Yet win or lose, they were, and always would be, my team, which meant that I would always hold up the most famous Brave of all, Hammerin’ Hank Aaron, to be the epitome of great ballplayers.
That is why Aaron’s comments earlier this week to USA Today were so deeply disappointing. Aaron, straying from baseball history and into politics, claimed that Republicans are the modern-day KKK, and he blamed Obama’s poor job performance on Republicans hindering his efforts. Said Aaron, “Sure, this country has a black president, but when you look at a black president, President Obama is left with his foot stuck in the mud from all of the Republicans with the way he’s treated…The bigger difference is that back then they had hoods. Now they have neckties and starched shirts.”
This is not only disappointing to hear from my childhood hero, but despicable slander from a man who is clearly ignorant of political history. The Republican Party, far from being the party of racism, was founded in 1854 with the specific goal of ending slavery. Just six years later the GOP would nominate Abraham Lincoln as president, and the United States was soon plunged into the bloodiest war in American history. It was the Republican Party that fought to free the black slaves, and it was the Republican Party which elected the first blacks to Congress. It was also the Republican Party which passed the first Civil Rights law in 1866, although Democrat President Andrew Johnson refused to enforce the law, and the Democrat-controlled Supreme Court would later overturn it. It was the Republican Party which expanded freedom for black Americans with the passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, which Democrats opposed with rabid ferocity.
By contrast, the Democrat Party was the party that clung tightly to slavery and was willing to go to war to preserve it. In his book “A Short History of Reconstruction,” renowned historian Eric Foner, Professor of History at Columbia University, said the following of the Klan: “Founded in 1866 as a Tennessee social club, the Ku Klux Klan spread into nearly every Southern state, launching a ‘reign of terror’ against Republican leaders black and white…In effect, the Klan was a military force serving the interests of the Democratic party, the planter class, and all those who desired the restoration of white supremacy. It aimed to destroy the Republican Party’s infrastructure, undermine the Reconstruction state, reestablish control of the black labor force, and restore racial subordination in every aspect of Southern life.” Foner would also quote Democrat Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan (and descendant of the man of the same name who served as the first Grand Wizard of the KKK) from the September 1928 edition of the KLKK’s “The Kourier Magazine,” “I have never voted for any man who was not a regular Democrat. My father…never voted for any man who was not a Democrat. My grandfather was…the head of the Ku Klux Klan in reconstruction days… My great-grandfather was a life-long Democrat…My great-great-grandfather was…one of the founders of the Democratic Party.”
Democrats, great fans of rewriting history to “white out” their embarrassing and racist past, claim racists fled the Democrat Party in the 1960’s and migrated to the Republican Party. That is utter, unadulterated nonsense. Democrats talk of Nixon’s “Southern Strategy”, claiming racist southern Democrats switched to the Republican Party after the Dixiecrat Party fell apart, yet of all the Democrats who fought to prevent the passage of the Civil Rights Act, only one, Strom Thurmond, ever switched to the Republican Party. The rest would go to their graves as Democrats. Likewise, it was Nixon who worked hardest to desegregate southern schools, and it was Nixon who passed affirmative action programs to help blacks.
Even Democrats still considered near-deities by their party have shown their own racist underbellies, though for some reason they get a pass from blacks and fellow Democrats. Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV), serving from 1959 until his death in 2010, was a former member of the KKK, rising to the ranks of Kleagle and Exalted Cyclops. Byrd famously wrote, “I shall never fight in the armed forces with a negro by my side … Rather I should die a thousand times, and see Old Glory trampled in the dirt never to rise again, than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds.” Byrd was the same man who spoke for more than fourteen hours in a filibuster of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. It was Republican Senator Everett Dirksen who broke the filibuster, having worked tirelessly to invoke cloture and force a vote on the bill. Democrats often referred to Byrd as “The Conscience of the Senate”.
Democrat President Lyndon Baines Johnson, widely credited with pushing through the civil rights law, only did so at the very end after fighting it tooth and nail. His decision seems to be more politically pragmatic than principled, as evidenced by his quote to two fellow Democrat governors aboard Air Force One, saying “I’ll have them n-gg-rs voting Democratic for two hundred years!” Likewise, it was President Bill Clinton, Democrat hero, who said to liberal icon Ted Kennedy of Obama, “You know, Ted, a few years ago this guy would have been carrying our bags.”
Today, Democrats funnel hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider which slaughters 100,000 unborn black children each year (for which Obama said “God bless you!”). It is Democrats that oppose school choice that leaves millions of poor black children mired in generation poverty, without the tools to become successful.
It is Republicans that are fighting against the genocide of the black race through abortion, and who fight for educational choice. It is Republicans that are fighting to end the programs that are undermining and destroying the black family.
So yes, Hank, Republicans oppose Obama’s policies, but it has nothing to do with him being black. It has to do with the fact that his policies are destroying our families, racking up astronomical levels of debt, violating our constitutional rights, and betraying his oath of office. We oppose Obama because we don’t see children as a “punish[ment]” but a blessing. We oppose his policies because we don’t think that America, for all her past flaws, needed to be “fundamentally transformed”. In other words, we oppose him because we love America, not because we hate blacks. Quite the contrary; we want blacks (and Hispanics, Asians, men, women, young, old, and everyone in between) to enjoy the liberty and prosperity that comes with allegiance to our Constitution.
On the baseball diamond, there were few, if any, greater than you. But when it comes to understanding politics and history, you struck out, Hank.