How the Democrats built the Confederacy

There is one complication in the journey toward consciousness of Republican white supremacy. The actual Confederacy, as even casual students of history know, was entirely under the control of the Democratic Party. The dominance of Democrats goes beyond familiar tropes about “Dixiecrats” and Abraham Lincoln’s status as the first Republican president. The Confederate Congress did not observe party affiliations, and minor parties were relatively robust in the Civil War period, while the actual politics of the Confederacy have received little attention from historians. Nevertheless, to the extent the party affiliations of Confederate politicians can be ascertained, they are remarkable.

All 27 senators in the second Confederate Senate, and at least 62 of the 106 members of the Second Confederate Congress, were Democrats. So were Confederate president Jefferson Davis and vice president Alexander Stephens. This, by the way, was after the elections of 1863 and 1864, when southern voters reacted to disastrous battlefield results by slightly weakening the Democratic Party’s stranglehold. Nor does the Democrats’ practical, rather than symbolic, support of the Confederacy end at the border. After his lousy generalship nearly lost the war for the Union, George McClellan went on challenge Lincoln in the 1864 presidential election, promising to “defeat NEGRO EQUALITY” and bring about an “Honorable, Permanent and happy PEACE!” And he ran as a Democrat. (McClellan’s successors having finally started to win the war, he lost the election.)

Students of history would say that this is ancient history. Since those days, the Democrats have reinvented themselves as the party of racial progress, while Republicans have become a party dedicated exclusively to the suppression of women and minorities and the denial of global warming. The flag of Dixie, by contrast, has never been purged of its association with slavery and racism.