If President Trump is really a “racist,” as Joe Biden claims, he is one of the strangest racists who ever lived: before the coronavirus hit, black and Hispanic unemployment was at record low levels, the president has repeatedly hailed the achievements of black Americans, and Trump himself, before he entered politics as an unapologetic, non-establishment Republican, was widely respected even by the likes of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton for his work for the black community. But none of that matters to Joe Biden or whomever is putting words in his mouth: they want us to believe that Trump is a racist, indeed, the first racist president, because for years they’ve been destroying Republicans with this charge, however false it may be. Why stop now? But Biden has missed a few Democrats.
Rating America’s Presidents: An America-First Look at Who Is Best, Who Is Overrated, and Who Was An Absolute Disaster recounts that progressive hero Woodrow Wilson, for example, was born in Virginia a bit more than four years before the Civil War broke out. Throughout his life, he retained the racist attitudes he learned in his youth, and when he became president, he made them U.S. government policy. In 1915, the notorious film The Birth of a Nation became the first motion picture to get a screening in the White House; the film portrayed the Ku Klux Klan as heroes, denigrated blacks in numerous ways, and quoted Wilson as a respected authority.
Wilson was also quoted decrying the supposed “policy of congressional leaders” to “put the white South under the heel of the black South.” In response, Wilson went on, as quoted in the film: “The white men were roused by a mere instinct of self-preservation… until at last there had sprung into existence a great Ku Klux Klan, a veritable empire of the South, to protect the Southern country.”
The showing of The Birth of a Nation was indicative of Wilson’s attitudes: during his administration, government departments in Washington were segregated.
Rating America’s Presidents also shows how another Democrat, James Buchanan, presided over the dissolution of the Union in the years leading up to the Civil War, appealing to the South not to secede by adopting a full-hearted, enthusiastic endorsement of slavery and all it represented. On March 6, 1857, two days after Buchanan took office, the Supreme Court, under the leadership of Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, published its infamous ruling in Dred Scott v. Sandford, a case that had been brought by Dred Scott, a slave who had been taken into free territory and argued that, as a result, he was now free. The court voted 7–2 against Scott. In his opinion, Taney wrote that blacks were a “subordinate and inferior class of beings” who “are not included, and were not intended to be included, under the word ‘citizens’ in the Constitution, and can therefore claim none of the rights and privileges which that instrument provides for and secures to citizens of the United States.”
Buchanan strongly endorsed the decision. However, the Dred Scott decision was fundamentally incoherent. As Justice Benjamin Robbins Curtis noted in his dissent, blacks at the beginning of the republic had the right to vote in five states; how, then, could Taney declare that they were not and had never been intended to be citizens? (This was long before the idea became fashionable that non-citizens should vote in American elections and receive the fruit of American taxpayers’ labor.) But Buchanan had neither the wit nor the imagination to think through the implications of that fact, even if he had been inclined to do so.
At that time, the Kansas Territory had two governments: one in Topeka that outlawed slavery and enjoyed the support of a majority of Kansans and another in Lecompton that was pro-slavery. When the Lecompton government sent a proposed pro-slavery state constitution to Washington, Buchanan accepted it, despite the fact that he was committed to the principle of popular sovereignty and that slavery would almost certainly have been voted down in a free and fair election in Kansas. The president tried to win support for the Lecompton Constitution in Congress with a variety of favors and perks, but the House voted it down anyway. Buchanan kept pushing for Kansans to accept it, offering them all manner of inducements also, but they, too, voted it down. They didn’t want slavery, no matter how determined President Buchanan was that they have it.
Joe Biden doesn’t know and almost certainly doesn’t care about any of this, and probably didn’t even when he was of sound mind. American history, the record of our successes and our missteps, and of our struggles and sacrifices to create the freest society the world has ever known, is of no importance whatsoever — indeed, it is actively offensive — to the leftists who are determined to “fundamentally transform” this free society into one that is decidedly unfree. That is why it is all the more important for patriots to arm themselves about our nation’s history so that we can defend it more effectively and beat back the opportunistic and corrosive lies of Biden and his handlers. What we do not know, we do not value. What we do not value, we will lose.
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of 21 books, including the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is Rating America’s Presidents: An America-First Look at Who Is Best, Who Is Overrated, and Who Was An Absolute Disaster. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.