The idea of an apology and formal repudiation of slavery is not a bad one. I assume this part is a nonstarter:
And instead of raising all those millions for the next election? How about raising some millions from all your rich donors to pay black Americans for the damage you have done to them since the inception of your slavery/segregation and race-based party in 1800? Damage that has now, yet again, brought violence and tragedy from someone inspired by your ugly history. It would seem, at a minimum, that now is the time to apologize for — instead of ignore or hide — that history.It's a new idea for reparations that I haven't heard before, associated with the party most responsible and most interested in them. I'd be willing to chip in.
All of my early American political heroes have a slavery problem, especially the big three: Washington, Jefferson, and James Jackson of Georgia. Washington and James Jackson were both heroic men of noble ideas and personal courage, men who believed in and lived the principles of limited republican government. Jefferson and James Jackson were men who believed in a society that still makes sense to me today, a society that supports a greater degree of liberty for people economically as well as politically by supporting small farmers and businesses in which people own their own means of production. Jackson in particular ran personal risks and paid a personal price to bring about such a society in Georgia. Two of these men, Jefferson and Jackson, were founding figures in the Democratic Party.
And yet all three of these men, and many others for whom a great deal that is good can be said, were not just owners of slaves but supporters of the practice. Jefferson was certainly alarmed by slavery as an institution -- he called it 'having a wolf by the ears' -- but just because he was afraid of the consequences of ending it he made no steps to do so. Rather to the shame of the American Revolution, several of Washington's hundreds of slaves effected their escape and gained their freedom by fleeing to a nearby British warship. Like the American Revolution itself, we want to endorse it and these men wholeheartedly -- but we have to say, somehow, "except for slavery." We have to sever that tie, at least conceptually, in order to see the good in them and in what they did.
One cannot apologize for them, but the institution might formally make apology for itself. Perhaps it ought to do so.
UPDATE: In a related story, the Pope apologized this week for the Church's persecution of a Christian sect called the Waldensians during the 15th century.
The Waldensians, who now live mostly in Italy and Latin America, were founded by Peter Waldo in France in the late 12th century. He gave up his wealth and preached poverty but as the movement grew it came into increasing theological conflict with the papacy. The movement, an early precursor of the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, was branded as heretical and in 1487 Pope Innocent VIII ordered its extermination. Some 1,700 Waldensians were killed in 1655 by Catholic forces commanded by the Duke of Savoy....There isn't any very good reason the Democratic Party couldn't do the same.
During a visit to Jerusalem in 2000, Francis' predecessor Pope John Paul II asked forgiveness from Jews for their persecution by Catholics over the centuries.