The usual “go-to” rhetoric from many conservatives and Republicans regarding racism harkens back to the fact that during the days of the Civil War, the creation and rise of the Ku Klux Klan and the decades of segregation, the Democratic party was mostly behind all of that.
Well, that much is true; there’s no denying that Democrats were once a party driven by white supremacy and overrun with racists.
The problem, of course, is that there’s a distinction which is often overlooked by these modern day Republicans who often use this rhetoric: When the Democratic party was the party of racism, they were considered conservatives while Republicans were considered the liberals. It’s why Republicans mostly flourished in the North while Democrats ruled the South.
That all began to change around the mid-40’s during President Truman’s time in office. He was the first Democratic president who really began to push civil rights into the Democratic platform. It was a move which was so controversial among Southern Democrats that it briefly spawned the “Dixiecrats” in 1948, which was a segregationist party that picked renowned racist Strom Thurmond as its presidential candidate, winning the states of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Georgia.
I would like to point out that those are all former Confederate states and are currently states considered “strongly Republican.”
By the way, the staunch racist and segregationist Thurmond, who was furious that Democrats were embracing equality, denounced his allegiance to the party in 1964 and joined the Republicans. You know, the same year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed, officially ending segregation. This was also around the same time that the GOP was implementing what’s known as the “Southern Strategy” – a strategic ploy to pander to white racism to lure in voters as more African-Americans began aligning with Democrats.
Interesting fact: Between the Senate and the House, only 9 of the 124 politicians from “Confederate states” (all Democrats) voted for the Civil Rights Act. It didn’t get a single Southern Republican vote – not one.
There’s a reason why when we look at our nation’s history, practically every state that fought for the Confederacy, and in turn supported slavery (and are today “red”/Republican states), are also the same ones that:
- Opposed women’s suffrage.
- Supported segregation.
- Banned interracial marriage.
- Opposed the Civil Rights Act.
As The Guardian points out concerning the vote on the Civil Rights Act:
You can see that geography was far more predictive of voting coalitions on the Civil Rights than party affiliation.
And why is that? Because this was right in the middle of the transition where Republicans began to embrace racism and Democrats were pushing for civil rights and equality. And once again, the “constant” in determining which states were on the “right side of history” on these issues came down to who fought for the North and who fought for the South – regardless of party affiliation.
While some Democrats remained in the South through the 70’s and 80’s, most of them were leftovers from the past as Republicans continued to gain a stronghold over most of these former Confederate states. And as we all know, Republicans are now the unheralded political force in most of the former Confederate South.
So, it’s not exactly difficult to follow the historical pattern that began during the 40’s to see where the dynamics of the parties switched, as Democrats embraced equality and civil rights while the Republican party was quick to embrace the racism and hate Democrats were leaving behind.
That’s why when I encounter one of these Republicans who ignores this clear historic shift between the parties (which is almost always) I ask these three questions:
- What party do white supremacists and the KKK vote for today?
- Which party elected former Grand Wizard of the KKK, David Duke, in 1989?
- Which party had one of its highest ranking member speak in front of a white supremacist group in 2001?
Typically you won’t get many of these folks to give you a straight answer to any of those, if they’ll even answer them at all. They usually just deflect back to 50+ years ago because they know the answers to those questions are all the same: The Republican party.
Oh, and let me debunk a quick myth that’s been going around about Bill Clinton and a campaign button from his 1992 election depicting the Confederate flag. While the button apparently did exist, it was never sanctioned by the Clinton campaign and was basically just something someone made on their own. It “proves” nothing because it has no ties or affiliation with the former president’s campaign in any way.
Like I’ve said plenty of times before, denial is a powerful thing. Conservatives will continue to cling to their myths, folklores and delusions because that’s what they’ve been told their whole lives and no amount of factual evidence will ever matter to the overwhelming majority of these people.
But the indisputable facts remain that practically every state that fought for the Confederacy, and supported some of the most horrific policies in our nation’s history, today are all “strongly Republican,” and the modern day GOP is supported by white supremacist groups and the KKK.
And while conservatives can twist all of this however they like (and I’m sure they will) that doesn’t change the reality they seem determined to pretend doesn’t exist.
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