On June 29 the Central Maine Papers published a column in which I suggested the Democratic Party should officially apologize for its leading role in supporting slavery and later segregation. I was inspired to write this by the “Burn the Stars and Bars” frenzy prompted by the Charleston slaughter.
I remembered that when the Democrats last held a majority in the Senate they passed a resolution apologizing for the United State Senate’s record on race policies. Since it was the Democratic senators from the “Solid South” who took the lead in defending slavery and later the segregation policies imposed by Democratic state parties, it made more sense for the Democratic Party itself to take the lead in apologizing.
Since Hillary Clinton was addressing the Virginia Democratic Party’s Jefferson-Jackson Dinner that same week I went on to point out that Thomas Jefferson owned 600 slaves over his lifetime and may have personally added to the total with the help of Sally Hemmings. Andrew Jackson started with nine slaves on his plantation and expanded his servile workforce to 150 by the time he died. Nevertheless the Democrats have long honored Presidents Jackson and Jefferson as the de facto founders of their party. The Jefferson–Jackson Day Dinner is a long-standing annual celebration held by Democratic Party organizations throughout the United States, a prime occasion for raising money and introducing candidates. The Republican equivalent is the Lincoln Day Dinner, when we celebrate the memory of the man who led the way to the abolition of slavery.
I suggested that the Democratic Party might want to reconsider the name of their annual Party party The very next month word reached me that the Connecticut Democratic Party had dropped Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson from their traditional Jefferson-Jackson-Bailey annual fund-raising dinner. Chairman Nick Balletto said he was not aiming to pioneer a trend but expressed the hope that all the Democratic state parties would follow the Connecticut example. Well, we know who the real pioneer was. We know who first exposed the embarrasment the Nutmeg State’s Democrats aimed to correct and we know when it was brought to light (June 29, 2015).
But was my name mentioned by Mr. Balletto? Not a chance.
On August 5, Christopher Cousins reported “The Maine Democratic Party is in the process of choosing a new name for its annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner.” Like his Nutmeg counterpart, the Maine Democratic executive director, Jeremy Kennedy, refuses to admit that he got the idea from my June column. Instead he pretends that the change had been “discussed informally since last year.” Sure. Has anyone heard a word about those discussions? Were they held down a well out in the woods?
I’m too humble a man to demand personal credit for inspiring the Democratic Party, but I place a high value on fidelity to historical facts. It’s clear that an apology is in order for this deliberate obfuscation of my role in bringing about an overdue alteration in the Maine, Georgia, Missouri, Connecticut and New Hampshire Democratic Party annual banquet names. The chronological sequences is on the record. It cannot be denied.