Fact Entitlement And Petitions For Redress

Wednesday night Bill O’Reilly complained to his guest James Carville that “no Republicans and no conservatives were invited” to the commemoration of the March on Washington. Carville, as Erik Wemple of the Washington Post wrote, “stumbles, even bumbles–restrained by his concern with the particulars….it’s so much easier to run over your cable-news guest if you ignore the facts.”

Fact: Bill O’Reilly apologized the next night: “I said there were no Republican speakers invited. Wrong. It was wrong. Some Republicans were asked to speak. They declined. And that was a mistake. They should have spoken. Now, the mistake, entirely on me. I simply assumed that since all the speakers were liberal Democrats, Republicans were excluded.” OK then. He was born in 1949 and grew up on Long Island, in Levittown no less. Obviously the self-indulgent and entitled baby boomer product of permissive parenting. If only he had some solid moral foundation. But I digress.

Fact: Even if O’Reilly did actually apologize pretty straightforwardly, his in-the-moment bad-faith make-believe and designed-to-bully-the-guest spiel on his show Wednesday reflect a refusal, either willful or ostrich-like, to see how unwilling today’s Republican Party has become to even acknowledge that there was ever any racial subjugation in this country worth mentioning. The “Dunning thesis,” which was the pervasive view of the first Reconstruction era for the first half of the last century, depicted Southern slave plantation owners as decent, honorable men on the whole, and Reconstruction as an extreme uprooting of Southern ways by dishonorable Radicals. That thesis was contested by W.E.B. DuBois and John Hope Franklin, among other historians, but John Roberts and many Republican primary voters are simpatico in their readiness to revive Dunning by applying his thesis to the second Reconstruction of the 1950s and 1960s. Republican officeholders, remarkably, do not seem to want to risk seeming friendly even to the memory of the 1963 march, an utterly peaceful petition for redress of just grievances if ever there was one. I kinda thought they liked the Constitution, especially the guarantees of freedom, especially the freedom to protest and petition for redress.

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