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OpinionColumnistsWilliam F. B. O'Reilly

Democrats tiptoe into dangerous territory

Thomas Jefferson painting by Charles Wilson Peale in

Thomas Jefferson painting by Charles Wilson Peale in 1791. This portrait depicts Jefferson as he looked around the time of his travels to Long Island. Credit: INDEPENDENCE NATIONAL HISTORICAL

And so it begins.

The Democrat Party in Connecticut said this week that it has scrubbed the names Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson from its annual fundraising dinner. The reasons? Jackson and Jefferson were slaveholders, and Jackson fought Native Americans.

Connecticut Democratic Party chairman Nick Balletto says he's hoping his state committee's move will start a national trend.

But why stop at Jefferson and Jackson? George Washington was a slaveholder, too. So was James Madison and John Jay, our nation's first chief justice. Almost half the delegates of the first Constitutional Convention owned slaves, and Francis Scott Keyes, author of the national anthem, defended the institution in court. They should be shunned by today's Democratic Party as well, according to Balletto's logic.

Fifteen presidents implicitly condoned slavery, from George Washington to James Buchanan, by not forcing states, militarily if necessary, to abandon the practice. Only Abraham Lincoln and his White House successors have clean hands there.

But besides being a Republican, Lincoln was commander in chief during the brutal Plains Indians Wars. All presidents from Ulysses S. Grant (18th) to Benjamin Harrison (23rd) were, too. So maybe dinners only should be named after presidents starting with our 22nd president, Grover Cleveland, who didn't do much Indian fighting.

Except that women couldn't vote under Cleveland -- or any U.S. president up until Woodrow Wilson (28th), who held the Oval Office when the 19th Amendment finally enfranchised American women.

But, drats! Wilson had a notoriously bad relationship with the nation's black leadership and he re-segregated the army, a practice that continued until Harry S. Truman (33rd), who dropped atomic bombs on innocent Japanese civilians, which some now consider a genocidal act.

President John Kennedy (35th) was shockingly offensive to women, if accounts by people like Mimi Beardsley are to be believed. Beardsley was a 19-year-old White House intern when Kennedy began sleeping with her, including in his and Jackie Kennedy's own bed. At one point the president instructed the teen to perform a sex act on a colleague in his presence, which she did, according to her bestselling memoir, "Once Upon a Secret: My Affair with President John F. Kennedy and Its Aftermath," in 2012. Under today's "affirmative consent" laws, Kennedy might be jailed.

Then there is the same-sex marriage issue. Supporting same-sex marriage is, all at once, a moral axiom in today's Democratic Party. It is a basic civil right. As such, how could all the presidents leading up until the White House's current occupant have missed it? How can anything be named after anyone who so clearly discriminated against gays and lesbians all these years?

The only president innocent of that offense is President Barack Obama. Perhaps all Democratic Party dinners will herewith be named for him. Exclusively.

But then there's that pesky question of the Democratic Party name itself. Wasn't it once the pro-slavery party? Sure, the Democratic Party has evolved, but why continue carrying the burden of its historic shame? It's as bad as a Jefferson or Jackson dinner.

Perhaps Balletto has a suggestion for a new and progressive party name.

William F. B. O'Reilly is a Republican consultant.

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