Who are the Red-Shirts?

NJ 101.5 talk radio host Bill Spadea began using the term "Red-Shirt" in association with his campaigns for public office.  Later, he labeled members of his "Building a New Majority" movement as "Red Shirt volunteers."

It will be remembered that Spadea's ideology was on full display when -- in the 1990's, he ran the College Republican National Committee.  In 1995, numerous media outlets reported that the Republican National Committee cut off all funding to Spadea's group after it paid for advertisements that attacked Republican presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush and urged the formation of a far-right alternative to the Republican Party.

Republican National Committee Chairman Haley Barbour has written a letter to College Republican National Committee Chairman Bill Spadea, stating that "because of the recent and continuing irresponsible conduct" of the CRNC, "under your leadership, the RNC will cease contributing to your efforts."

"The conduct referred to has been the subject of repeated discussions between our organizations," said Mr. Barbour, ". . . yet you have chosen to continue your irresponsible activities."  (The Washington Times, January 31, 1995) 

RNC Chairman Haley Barbour recently informed the college group that he was cutting off funds, including rent and salaries, and rerouting phone calls to the national party's office because an article in the magazine urged formation of a third party.  

Tense relations between the two groups stem from Spadea's extreme conservative views. RNC members feel he represents only a small, extreme faction, but Spadea says he has national support.  

''What I'm doing is publishing ideas that are raging throughout the party already,'' Spadea said in an interview from his new office in Vienna, Va.  The December issue of the magazine - in addition to advocating creation of a third party with political views to the right of the Republican Party - also contained an advertisement attacking Republican presidents Reagan and Bush.  

The RNC provided 60 percent of the group's $120,000 budget for 1994, but Spadea said he no longer wants that money. (Memphis Commercial Appeal, February 5, 1995)

So from where in American history does the term "Red Shirt" come?  Wikipedia provides this information:

The Red Shirts or Redshirts of the Southern United States were white supremacist[1][2] paramilitary groups that were active in the late 19th century after the end of the Reconstruction era of the United States. They first appeared in Mississippi in 1875, when Democratic Party private terror units adopted red shirts to make themselves more visible and threatening to Southern Republicans, both white and freedmen. Similar groups in the Carolinas also adopted red shirts.

Among the most prominent Red Shirts were the supporters of Democratic Party candidate Wade Hampton during the campaigns for the South Carolina gubernatorial elections of 1876 and 1878.[3] The Red Shirts were one of several paramilitary organizations, such as the White League in Louisiana, arising in the continuing efforts of white Democrats to regain political power in the South in the 1870s. These groups acted as "the military arm of the Democratic Party."[4]

While sometimes engaging in violence, the Red Shirts, the White League and similar groups in the late nineteenth century worked openly and were better organized than the secret vigilante groups such as the Ku Klux Klan. They had one goal: the restoration of the Democrats to power by getting rid of Republicans, which usually meant repressing civil rights and voting by freedmen.[5] During the 1876, 1898 and 1900 campaigns in North Carolina, the Red Shirts played prominent roles in intimidating non-Democratic voters.

According to E. Merton Coulter in The South During Reconstruction, the red shirt was adopted in Mississippi in 1875 by "southern brigadiers" opposed to black Republicans. The Red Shirts disrupted Republican rallies, intimidated or assassinated black leaders, and discouraged black voting at the polls.

The red shirt in South Carolina appeared in Charleston on August 25, 1876, during a Democratic torchlight parade. It was to mock the waving of the bloody shirt speech by Senator Oliver Morton in the Senate that was meant to bolster support for the Republicans' Reconstruction policies in South Carolina. The red shirt symbolism quickly spread. The accused in the Hamburg Massacre wore red shirts as they marched on September 5 to their arraignment in Aiken, South Carolina. Martin Gary, the organizer of the Democratic campaign in 1876, mandated that his supporters were to wear red shirts at all party rallies and functions.

Wearing a red shirt became a source of pride and resistance to Republican rule for white Democrats in South Carolina. Women sewed red flannel shirts and made other garments of red. It also became fashionable for women to wear red ribbons in their hair or about their waists. For young men, a red shirt was viewed as compensation for their inability to have contributed to the Southern cause because of their age.[6]

So now you know the rest of the story.

The Way of the Baboon (or why Spadea pissed on Reagan)

Baboons don't hunt other species.  Instead, they employ their ferocious looking teeth to attack and injure other baboons.  Some Republicans are like this too.

Unlike so many conservative websites in the past, this website has made a point to refrain from focusing on the sins of those in the nominally right-of-center party.  We figured they have problems enough, and there is so much ready trade amongst the Democrats, so much to criticize, that... why bother the GOP?  And so we have generally given Republicans a free ride, made them exempt from the focus of our criticism -- even as some of them have adopted social policies that would have made "the gimp" from Pulp Fiction wince.

If anything, we preferred the softly, softly approach with Republicans.  We tried to talk with them, even when our meetings were cancelled and our points of view dismissed. Once we even had to suffer a chief of staff whose demeanor towards us was akin to that of Miss Beulah Ballbreaker from the movie Porky's.

But even when showered with such rude affections from the leaders of our own party, we refrained from finger-pointing. 

Others have taken a different path.  Fox News and NJ 101.5's news host Bill Spadea -- a former candidate for Congress and the Legislature who collected tens of thousands in political contributions from his fellow Republicans , and who very recently fronted for a political action committee devoted to electing local members of the GOP, blithely accused a Republican legislator of criminal misconduct the other day.  And he did so with all the gravity one uses to direct someone to a toilet. 

To be fair with Spadea, he's been dumping on Republicans for some time.  Back when he ran the national College Republicans, then RNC National Chairman (and future Governor) Haley Barbour felt obliged to unfund Spadea's organization after it attacked both Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush for not being Republican enough.  It takes some kind of balls for a college kid to call out the father of the modern conservative movement for not being "pure" enough.

Some of the people Spadea had on his show are even worse.  They're members of a 16-person caucus.  Just 16.  It's like a big family.  16 is small enough that you should -- after 8 or 9 years -- get to know each other and be able to talk to each other.  But instead of talking, one of these 16 legislators put another one up to call out a third.  So this involved about a fifth of the caucus.  And what did the one put up to call the other one out accuse him of -- gross criminal misconduct and political corruption.  And the joke of it is, the one called out is probably the biggest boy scout in Trenton.

So this was just egregious, nasty, damaging behavior for its own sake:  Hurt and injure your own rather than going after the other side.  It's the way of the baboon.