NASHVILLE — GOP leaders here at the Republican National Committee’s summer meeting did something the Democratic Party has never done: They repudiated a racist and segregationist legal doctrine that has resulted in two classes of U.S. citizenship.
Friday’s action by the 168-member Republican National Committee, which consists of the chairman, committeewoman and committeeman of the 56 state and territorial parties, affirmed that Americans living in the territories should enjoy the same rights as Americans living in the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
“The Republican National Committee calls upon Congress to ensure that American citizens residing in the territories of Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have unfettered enjoyment of their American citizenship, including the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution,” stated the resolution, which was sponsored by Virgin Islands committeeman Jevon Williams.
While Americans in four of the five territories — Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands — are U.S. citizens through an act of Congress, not all of the Constitution applies. (In American Samoa, residents of the South Pacific territory are U.S. nationals.)
“All Americans must be able to enjoy the full benefits of their citizenship,” said Williams, who serves in the Army National Guard. “For too long, Washington has ignored Americans in the territories, a disproportionate number of whom wear the uniform defending the freedoms and liberties that define us as Americans, including basic constitutional rights that are wrongly denied to them.”
The unequal citizenship of Americans in the territories is rooted in a series of Supreme Court decisions known collectively as the Insular Cases. The rulings denied equality on the basis that they were “savage,” “uncivilized,” and “alien races.”
The principal doctrine of the Insular Cases was laid down by Supreme Court Justice Henry Brown, who also authored the notorious racist and segregationist ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson.
Defending the avowed racism of the Insular Cases doctrine is indefensible, but that’s just what Democrats and the now-former administration of President Barack Obama did most recently in a Supreme Court case involving American Samoa.
That’s particularly hypocritical given the Democrats recent obsession on whitewashing entire chapters of history, to say nothing of Obama’s decision not to defend traditional marriage in the federal courts.
Of course, the Democratic National Committee will never apologize for its long history of racism — its platform in 1900 claimed inhabitants of the Philippines, then a U.S. territory, “cannot be citizens without endangering our civilization” — just like the party will never apologize for defending the indefensible, as Obama’s administration did with the Insular Cases.