On the 150th anniversary of the Thirteenth Amendment, GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee endorsed a return to slavery. Speaking on Mickelson in the Morning, the former Arkansas governor offered that the U.S. criminal justice system could be improved if poor people convicted of crimes are sold into slavery.
As Scott Keyes of ThinkProgress reported, host Jan Mickelson argued that jails are a “pagan invention” inferior to slavery, and the “criminal justice system has been taken over by progressives.” In response, he offered that conservatives should look to the Book of Exodus in the Bible.
“It says, if a person steals, they have to pay it back two-fold, four-fold. If they don’t have anything, we’re supposed to take them down and sell them. Wouldn’t that be a better choice?” the host asked Huckabee of the slavery option.
“Well, it really would be,” Huckabee replied without hesitation. “Sometimes the best way to deal with a nonviolent criminal behavior is what you just suggested.”
Exodus 22:3 reads: “Anyone who steals must certainly make restitution, but if they have nothing, they must be sold to pay for their theft.” Of course, the U.S. has the Thirteenth Amendment which outlawed slavery and involuntary servitude, with the exception of prisons. The amendment, ratified December 6, 1865, reads: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Further, debtors’ prisons were banned by the Supreme Court, though they do still exist. Apparently, this represents the first time a serious presidential candidate in modern times has endorsed a return to slavery.
Huckabee’s statement comes as his opponent Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) told ThinkProgress that #BlackLivesMatter activists — the movement of peaceful protest against the police killing of Black people— are “literally suggesting and embracing and celebrating the murder of police officers.”
“[T]he best way to protect black lives is to keep them safe from murderers and criminals who would prey on them,” Cruz said. “If you look at the Black Lives Matter movement, one of the most disturbing things is more than one of their protests have embraced rabid rhetoric, rabid anti-police language, literally suggesting and embracing and celebrating the murder of police officers. That is disgraceful.”
Sen. Cruz also mentioned the “vilification of law enforcement” under the Obama administration.
“Absolutely, black lives matter, and the consequence of President Obama and the Attorney General’s vilification of law enforcement is many more black lives have been lost,” Cruz said.
DeRay Mckesson, a leader in the Black Lives Matter movement, called Cruz’s accusation “desperate,” and proof he is unfit to be President.
“Cruz aims to perpetuate lies about a movement focused on ending violence in order to garner attention,” the activist told ThinkProgress.
Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza referred to the senator’s comment “one of the most ridiculous quotes I’ve heard,” calling it “disgraceful that Senator Cruz is using this opportunity to politicize tragedy.” Despite the rhetoric coming from Cruz, 2015 is on track to have the second lowest number of murdered police officers in decades, according to the Washington Post.
The comments from Huckabee and Cruz come at a time when Donald Trump and other faces of the Republican Party are making blatantly racist statements in an effort to appeal to white supremacists that form the base of the GOP. In light of the apparent discord and division within the ranks of the Republican Party in Congress, a number of commentators have begun to assess the unraveling of the party’s “Southern Strategy.” That strategy, which came to fruition under Richard Nixon, was a cynical move to attract white Southern racists to the GOP by appealing to a hatred and scapegoating of Black people and a resentment of the legislative gains of the Civil Rights movement—all to win elections. As William Greider wrote on October 12 in The Nation, five decades since the Southern Strategy was born, that coalition, “welcoming the segregationist white South into the Party of Lincoln—is now devouring itself in ugly, spiteful recriminations.”
Greider notes that the establishment, business wing of the Republican Party privately assured the angry and resentful social hardliner wing of their party of a discreet retreat from civil rights. The Republicans employed dog-whistle politics in order to make assurances of white-skin solidarity, such as Reagan opening his 1980 campaign in Mississippi near the murder site of three civil rights workers, and the use of the Willie Horton ad by George H.W. Bush against Michael Dukakis in 1988. In 2008, with the election of Obama, this gave way to the Birther and Tea Party movements and the notion of the president as a dangerous Muslim socialist.
However, the establishment Republicans never really delivered anything to the segregationists on matters such as abortion or gay marriage bans, Greider argued, and now the loyal foot soldiers realize they were “taken for suckers” and left with the “short end of the stick.” Meanwhile, up until now their hate-filled rhetoric has gone unabated, while the country club contingent is aware of the need for change and forward thinking.
At a time when the country is browning and blackening, the cultural conservatives and segregationists of the Republican Party continue to make raw appeals to white supremacy and a dwindling demographic.