If today’s Democrats had a shred of integrity and intellectual honesty, they would have some humility about their own history, rather than offering up the egregiously false claim that they have been on the side of the angels continuously for 200 years. 200 years ago, in 1814, our president was James Madison – a Democrat, a great man in other ways, but a slaveowner. At least four other Democratic presidents between then and the Civil War owned slaves, and the Democrats were the locus of national political support for slavery throughout that period. The Civil War was launched by Democrats who refused to accept the election in 1860 of an anti-slavery Republican president, for a variety of reasons but mainly due to slavery. Democrats reasserted control of Southern politics at the end of Reconstruction through a heavy application of terrorism by the Klu Klux Klan (in Mississippi in the 1870s, they basically murdered anyone suspected of voting Republican). For nearly a century after that, the supporters of Jim Crow were uniformly lockstep Democrats, many of them progressives – Woodrow Wilson, the only former citizen of the Confederacy to serve as President and the first progressive Democrat, introduced segregation throughout the federal government, and Franklin Roosevelt regularly received as high as 95% of the vote in Southern states. The 1924 Democratic Convention, in the race against the arch-conservative, pro-civil-rights reform Calvin Coolidge, was popularly known as the “Klanbake” for the heavy and vocal KKK presence; their nominee that year would go on to argue the losing, pro-segregation side in Brown v. Board of Education. And that’s before we discuss the federal role in housing discrimination, instituted by a New Deal agency in the 1930s and finally undone by Republican Richard Nixon and his HUD secretary George Romney in the late 60s. Or the Davis-Bacon Act… The politicians who fought for segregation in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s were uniformly Democrats like George Wallace (who won his last election in 1982, as a Democrat), Orval Faubus and Strom Thurmond (who left the Democrats when he gave up supporting segregation). Former KKK members in national life included Democratic Senator and Supreme Court Justice (appointed by FDR) Hugo Black, who sat on the Court until the 1970s, and Senator Robert Byrd, who was still in the Senate until his death in Barack Obama’s second year in office.
Is the Democratic Party proud of its history of slavery and segregation?