Did Steven Spielberg Say the GOP is Just Like the Slave Holding South?

As he unveiled his epic new movie based on Abraham Lincoln’s civil war era presidency, Steven Spielberg said he doesn’t want his film to become a “political football” in today’s presidential election. But as he talked about it further, it seemed as if he went on to say that today’s Republican party is somehow just like the slave-holding Democrats of the antebellum south.

That’s right, Spielberg implied that today’s Republicans are just like the old south’s racist Confederates.

These comments were delivered during a Q & A at the New York Film Festival on Monday, October 8, after he debuted his new film starring Daniel Day Lewis as Lincoln, Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln, and Tommy Lee Jones as Pennsylvania Congressman Thaddeus Stevens, a zealous anti-slavery activist.

Mike Fleming reports that Spielberg delayed the release of his film until just after the election in order to keep his work out of the current presidential election.

“I just said, please don’t release this until the election is over. I didn’t want it to be this political football going back and forth,” Fleming reports Spielberg as saying.

Of course, it is admirable that director Spielberg wants to make sure that a film based on history is not abused as a “political football” in today’s political contest. Unfortunately, Spielberg, a big Obama supporter, went on himself to use history to make modern political points.

After pronouncing his disdain for abusing history for political points, he did just that, saying:

“Because it’s kind of confusing. The parties traded political places over the last 150 years. That in itself is a great story, how the Republican Party went from a progressive party in 1865, and how the Democrats were represented in the picture, to the way it’s just the opposite today. But that’s a whole other story.”

Wait, what? Is Spielberg saying that today’s GOP is somehow just like the evil slave-holding south?

Of course, Spielberg’s total lack of a grasp of this history is a modern trope of the far left. Leftists today are fond of making the blinkered claim that today’s GOP and the Democrats just “switched roles” and the GOP has now taken the role of the old, racist south, especially because the south is now a Republican stronghold.

Today’s leftists love to say that the old, racist, hard-line southern Democrat segregationists simply switched to the Republican Party in the 60s and 70s and that makes today’s GOP “just like” the racist, slave-holding south.

But as Ann Coulter found in her new book Mugged, this is simply a left-wing lie. Today’s GOP is not in any way “just like” the old, slave-holding south. The old racist wing of the Democrat Party did not simply switch parties during the civil rights era.

Coulter points out that only one famously segregationist politician from the south, Strom Thurmond, changed parties from Democrat to Republican. No other outspoken opponent of civil rights jumped the Democrat boat. She also notes that the south has continued to vote heavily for Democrat presidents off and on well into the 1990s.

I’ll add that it has only been the last 10 years or so that the south has seen the rise of a strong southern wing of the Republican Party, too. Only recently have many southern legislatures been taken over and controlled by their state Republicans.

And yet, since 1960 left-wingers have been claiming that all racist Democrats just switched parties from the Democrats to the Republicans. If this were true, why did it take Republicans another forty long years to finally start gaining an upper hand politically in the south?

The truth is, you can trace the GOP’s growth in the south far more to the culture wars of the 80s and later as the traditionally religious and conservative south began to realize that the Democrat Party long ago left American ideals behind and became a far, far left Euro-like party that works against the traditional American values of freedom, personal responsibility, hard work, and a fealty to the U.S. Constitution.

There is another reason that Spielberg and his buddies make this untrue assumption about the south. They prefer their left-wing tropes to real history.

2012 Vice Presidential Debate Liveblog And Open Thread
Wizbang Weekend Caption Contest™
  • GarandFan

    Spielberg obviously believes he can re-write the history of the 1960’s.

  • 914

    The liberal projection is strong with Spielberg!

  • ackwired

    If that was Spielberg’s only comment, I would point out that he did not mention race or slavery, and that what he said is basically true. At the time of the civil war the Republican party was the party that believed in government activism, the party that believed that believed in goverenment programs and projects to improve the country. The Democrats of that era believed in limited government and often cited constitutional restrictions on the activities of government. Obviously, the parties have switched roles in the last 150 years, as he said.

    • herddog505

      To my knowlege, the only “government activism” that the Republican Party at the time of the Late Unpleasantness believed in was abolition. democrat opposition to “government activism” tended to be concerned principally with defending slavery or opposing tariffs (for example, leading to the Nullification Crisis in 1832).

      The major projects to “improve the country” during that period were the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad (act passed in 1862, with amendments in following years) and the Homestead Act (1862), both passed by yankee Republicans. What we know as (federal) government activism is a creation initially of the Progressive Era, but mostly of the 1930s… and the democrat party.

      As for the South, I believe that WTH is right about why it has become increasingly Republican over the past forty years or so:

      [Y]ou can trace the GOP’s growth in the south far more to the culture wars of the 80s and later as the traditionally religious and conservative south began to realize that the Democrat Party long ago left American ideals behind and became a far, far left Euro-like party that works against the traditional American values of freedom, personal responsibility, hard work, and a fealty to the U.S. Constitution.

      • ackwired

        You are correct that the type of government activism we think of today originated with the new deal. However, government activism of the mid 1800’s (Whigery) was central to party politics. Consider the visions of the Whigs (who became Republicans) and the Democrats of that era:

        The Whigs celebrated Clay’s vision of the “American System” that promoted rapid economic and industrial growth in the United States. Whigs demanded government support for a more modern, market-oriented economy, in which skill, expertise and bank credit would count for more than physical strength or land ownership. Whigs sought to promote faster industrialization through high tariffs, a business-oriented money supply based on a national bank and a vigorous program of government funded “internal improvements,” especially expansion of the road and canal systems. To modernize the inner America, the Whigs helped create public schools, private colleges, charities, and cultural institutions. Many were pietistic Protestant reformers who called for public schools to teach moral values and proposed prohibition to end the liquor problem.
        The Democrats harkened to the Jeffersonian ideal of an egalitarian agricultural society, advising that traditional farm life bred republican simplicity, while modernization threatened to create a politically powerful caste of rich aristocrats who threatened to subvert democracy. In general the Democrats enacted their policies at the national level, while the Whigs succeeded in passing modernization projects in most states.”

  • Par4Course

    Didn’t Lincoln institute both an unpopular draft and an income tax to support the War? I’d say both of those would be government activism that goes against the limited government thoughts of today’s GOP. Reagan essentially did away with the draft and most conservatives favor at least a cut back on the income tax, if not replacing it with a consumption tax (Fair Tax).