Miniature not-gay engaged-to-a-woman North Carolinian, Congressman Patrick McHenry, has proposed replacing Civil War General and hero of the Union Army Ulysses S Grant with the 20th century politician who began his 1980 presidential campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, the site of the 1964 murders of civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, with a "state’s rights" speech.

The national uproar over these lynchings culminated in the passage of the civil rights acts one month later, and Ronald Reagan’s visit to this small backwater sixteen years later was no accident. The speech was his very first after being nominated by the GOP for president, and became known as the ‘state’s rights speech’ for its naked appeal to disaffected Southern whites.

The Washington Post’s William Raspberry wrote of this speech upon Reagan’s death:

It was bitter symbolism for black Americans (though surely not just for black Americans). Countless observers have noted that Reagan took the Republican Party from virtual irrelevance to the ascendancy it now enjoys. The essence of that transformation, we shouldn’t forget, is the party’s successful wooing of the race-exploiting Southern Democrats formerly known as Dixiecrats. And Reagan’s Philadelphia appearance was an important bouquet in that courtship."

Wee McHenry’s bill to adorn a new fifty dollar bill with St Ronnie’s likeness has drawn 17 Congressional co-sponsors, mostly also Southern, as well as the vociferous objections of members of the Ohio GOP: Grant is a home-state hero.

State Representative Danny R. Bubp, a Republican from the district that includes Mr. Grant’s birthplace in Point Pleasant and childhood home in Brown County, is preparing a resolution that would oppose the currency change.

“The Union may not have won the Civil War had President Lincoln not had the wisdom to put Grant in charge,” Mr. Bubp said. “He was just the kind of guy who needed to be there at that time, and we should not diminish his place in history.”

The tiniest Congressman, seeking accord with his Ohio GOPmates, doesn’t want this debate to be about partisanship, which is why he chose the fifty (he says):

Mr. McHenry denied that he had any animosity toward Grant. “Every generation needs its own heroes,” he said. “One decade into the 21st century, it’s time to honor the last great president of the 20th and give President Reagan a place beside Presidents Roosevelt and Kennedy.” Franklin D. Roosevelt’s image is on the dime, and John F. Kennedy’s is on the half-dollar.

Mr. McHenry chose the $50 bill in part to remove partisanship from the debate by replacing one Republican president with another, said his chief of staff, Parker Poling.

It is the metamorphosis of the GOP from the party of hope for freed slaves and all African-Americans into the party of Reagan who hearkened back to Jim Crow, lynching and segregation, that enables McHenry’s disingenuous elision of partisanship. Because, of course, it is mostly ‘liberals’ who object to the replacement of Grant with Reagan, since we object to his policies. But, despite that, isn’t there a place for Reagan on some piece of American currency?

Congressman McHenry, let me be the first liberal to agree with you that America should honor the contributions of Ronald Reagan’s divisive and destructive economic policies, still felt across the land in the 21st century’s Great Recession and Jobless Recovery. Americans should recognize and remember these horrible and longstanding effects of ‘trickle-down’ ‘supply-side’ faith-based Church of Chicago pain-causing fiscal policies. And his naked appeal to race-based discrimination and divisiveness, dressed in California geniality and befuddledness.

America can put Ronald Reagan’s face on food stamps, or (as they are known in our acronym-loving era) USDA SNAP EBT cards. That way, whenever Americans of any color need help from our government to feed themselves and their families, they and the merchants who accept the card will be reminded of the president who would have stripped away that help and all similar benefits.

Put Ronald Reagan on food stamps.

[image by twolf1]