Stephen C. Smith

May 21, 2021

4 min read

GQP Legislator operating in the Tennessee State Legislature on Three-Fifths of a Mind

Reader’s Note: Members of the Republican Party or Grand Old Party will henceforth be referred to as the GQP (Grand QAnon Party).

On Wednesday, when one of the GQP state legislative morons from my home state of Tennessee, Justin Lafferty, suggested the Three-Fifths Compromise of 1787 was an initial step toward ending slavery in the U.S., naturally, it set off a firestorm of public opinion.

However, three questions immediately popped into my mind:

1. Is this guy a blatant racist? (Probably. Who else would attempt that leap of logic?)

2. Was he taught this in school? (Possibly. Not every school follows a state-mandated curriculum, and just like we have bad judges, cops and lawyers; we have bad teachers as well)

3. Was he hoping to gain some white supremacist street cred in the process? (Definitely. In the GQP, being an uninformed racist moron gets you noticed, right Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene?

One of those public opinions stuck with me though. While listening to the Michaelangelo Signorile Show on Sirius XM Progress, one of his callers tried to make the point that the Three-Fifths Compromise was a good thing as it was necessary to keep the Southern, slave-owning states from gaining more political power; a genuine attempt at both-siding history if I’ve ever heard it.

The point the caller tried to make was that counting the approximately 700,000 slaves in the general population at the time would allow for more congressional representation and federal funding for the South. And though he never got a chance to say so because Signorile justifiably ended the call, the caller seemed to be inching toward saying that the issue of counting slaves as Three-Fifths of a human being was a necessary evil. Signorelli accused the caller of being a white supremacist and using their talking points in his argument, which he most certainly did despite claiming to be an African-American man.

Whether the caller was an African-American male or not isn’t all that important, but his blatant lack of empathy certainly is. As I tell my students all the time, it is easy for us to sit in an air-conditioned classroom and look back hundreds of years into history to decide who was right and who was wrong, especially if you end up benefitting from someone else’s suffering as we all have in one manner or another.

So, having benefitted from the labor and suffering of all that came before him, it’s also easy for the caller to say that being branded a slave and counted as three-fifths of a human being in a political system they were never going to participate in any way was necessary because it helped make him what he is today; a man with the freedom to make an ass of himself on satellite radio.

However, a lot of this cynical, self-serving ignorance is curable for future iterations of political debate. You see, GQPers like Lafferty are desperately opposed to critical race theory in our public schools, even though your average history/social studies teacher has been using a version of it for years now. Most history classes, including my own, examine the why of history. Once you discover that in terms of U.S. History, you inevitably confront issues of power, privilege, and wealth hiding behind African slavery, the displacement and genocide of Native Americans, xenophobic attitudes toward immigrants, and misogyny toward women.

Formal recognition of critical race theory is ultimately so despised by the GQP because it forces them to confront the idea of true equality (or as close as we can get to it) as well as their primal fear that what their ancestors did to everyone else might someday be visited upon them. That’s all part of the brand of conservatism the GQP lathers itself in, and this craziness is a learned or rather indoctrinated behavior born of a fearful, paranoid mind.

And forget that nonsense about trying to preserve America “for the children.” Without a healthy shove toward the current state of right-wing ideology, few children would arrive there on their own accord. That’s why I feel sorry for the little kids holding assault weapons fitted with suppressors in their GQP family pictures. They never had a chance of being anything different based purely on who raised them and pumped the paranoid poison into their minds. It’s a perversion of Frederick Douglass’ quote that it is easier to build strong children than fix broken men.

So, rest your guilty consciences, GQPers. There are no plans to take your guns or your jobs, and the only attacks are on disease, poverty, and ignorance at the moment. But, we know the public anxiety attacks will continue the more the nation’s demographics change, so we wish you luck with all that crazy you display to mask your innate fear of equality.