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Democrats Haven’t Been The Party Of Jim Crow For Decades

Submitted by on September 25, 2013 – 11:42 amOne Comment
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You may have heard that the Democratic Party is the true party of racism. In an Op-Ed in US News & World Report, Peter Roff writes that “the ‘Jim Crow’ laws were a stain on our national character, one put there… by the Democrats.” Former Reagan staffer Jeffrey Lord writes in the Wall Street Journal, lambasting the DNC’s omission of the “active, frequently violent and decidedly official support… for slavery, segregation, lynching, the Ku Klux Klan and all the rest” from it’s official history online. Kevin Williamson wrote a whole cover article for the National Review about the “myth” that Democrats and Republicans have “switched places” on Civil Rights. And Tiffany Gabbay takes to Glenn Beck‘s The Blaze to ask why the black community left the GOP, considering that Democrats “instated Jim Crow laws, poll taxes and even created the KKK in Southern States.”

All these writers make some valid points about the Democratic Party’s terrible institutional history in perpetuating segregation, racism, and even violence in the US. But they ignore the fact that the two major parties bear little resemblance to the parties of the same names that operated during the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the Jim Crow era. Though Democrats may have once stood in the way of integration, the Civil Rights movement of the 1960′s drove out the remaining staunch segregationists from the party- and sent them straight to the GOP.

President Harry Truman (a Democrat) made one of the earliest major steps for civil rights when he desegregated the military in 1948 (over the objection of many Southern Democrats). GOP critics like to accuse Truman of being a one-time Klan member as a local politician in Missouri, but this seems unlikely: Truman was supported by a Catholic political machine. And if his progressive stances on civil rights weren’t enough, he also made the US the first nation to recognize the Jewish state of Israel (which was probably frowned upon by the Klan).

Lyndon Johnson had opposed civil rights legislation as a senator, but seized the opportunity to push it forward as president in 1968. Once again, over the objection of Southern Democrats.

See a pattern here?

After Truman’s desegregation move in 1948, blocks of Southern Democrats split off and formed an entirely new political party: The States’ Rights Democratic Party, or Dixiecrats. The Dixiecrats fielded then-South Carolina Gov. Strom Thurmond for president on a platform of segregation and states’ rights, and won four states in that year’s election.

Thurmond joined the Republican party in 1964.

Sen. Jesse Helms once filibustered for 16 days to block an attempt to make a federal holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr. He left the Dems for the GOP in 1970.

Future Sen. Trent Lott switched to the Republican Party in 1972. He would eventually step down as a Senate leader after making the loaded statement that the nation would have been better had Thurmond been elected president in 1948.

David Duke, a former Grand Wizard of the KKK, unrepentant white supremacist, and Louisiana politician, took longer to change parties. He didn’t become a Republican until 1989, when he successfully ran for Congress.

On the state level, some current Republicans are blatantly defending slavery. Two Arkansas Republican legislators did so recently, one of whom publicly identifies as a Neo-Confederate.

No doubt, there are plenty of black Republicans, and millions more in the party who care deeply about equality. But the Democratic Party is certainly no longer the party of institutional segregation; and whether they like it or not, the GOP has certainly become the de facto home in mainstream politics for outright racists and those less sympathetic to minority causes. To say otherwise is revisionist fantasy.

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