Back circa 1865-1875, the Republican party and America’s black population shared a renaissance. The Republican party, having prevailed in the Civil War (and with most of the Democrats in the South out of power while Reconstruction began), passed the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments, along with a score of civil rights laws banning segregation and the like. Had these been properly enforced, America’s Blacks would have had a long battle of fighting entrenched racism, but would have done so from positions of power (in Mississippi, the population was 600K Black to 500K white, and in Florida it was 50-50). Also, racism would have withered away far sooner, since it’s hard to maintain ideas that Blacks are subhuman when you are interacting with them in desegregated classrooms, restaurants, railcars and the like.
For a brief, shining moment, there was real progress. Blacks were elected to local, state and national office. Congress saw the first Black Senator and Congressmen…all Republicans, by the way. The Black vote was 99.999% Republican, not just because Republicans had been founded as an anti-Slavery party, and a Republican President signed the Emancipation Proclamation, and because Republicans had signed the 13th Amendment ending slavery with only 23% of the northern Democrats supporting it, but because the Democrats were quite open about their support for slavery and then later their intent to “…keep their feet on the necks of the black race” as the main purpose of the party. (Lest you think that quote was from some random Klansman: it’s from the Democrats’ presidential candidate, Horace Greeley.) At the 1868 Democratic Convention, one of the honored delegates was Nathan Bedford Forrest, a general who massacred Black soldiers who surrendered during the War (burning them to death, burying them alive, drowning them and more) and then went on to be the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan!
A Black campaign worker for Mississippi testified to Congress that he had wandered the entire state and found ONE out of 600,000 Blacks who was a Democrat. If you were Black, you were Republican, pure and simple. The idea of a Black voting Democrat was an absurd proposition.
Unfortunately, the nation’s 100th birthday also brought the Democrats back into power, and with that all of the progress was squelched. Blacks still officially had the vote, but their ability to vote was suppressed. No, not by the demand for a photo ID that is open to any and all people to easily procure! Goodness, what a bunch of ninnies. No, we’re talking VERY OBVIOUS forms of outright voter suppression. The polling places for Blacks would be moved at the last minute. Or voting would require a multi-step process where Black voters had to visit several polling locations before their vote was considered. Or they’d have to pass a “literacy test” that required very arcane knowledge to pass. They’d be required to pay a poll tax that was out of the reach of the destitute former slaves. New laws would be passed that only children of past voters could vote. Districts were stripped of their power via complex gerrymandering. Oh, and if by some miracle a Black man navigated the many prohibitions and was able to cast a ballot, he would find a white man with a shotgun resting his heels on the ballot box, saying, “Ye’d bes’ be votin’ Democrat, nigger!” Thus identified as a “radical” (i.e. Republican) voter, many black Republicans found themselves visited later by some people wanting to introduce him to a piece of rope.
The Democrats would also run around the gravesites gathering names for false votes. Okay, not all forms of Democratic voter disenfranchisement ended in the 1960s.
The Black vote being suitably suppressed, the Democratic Party thus began their dominance in the south for a century. The Democrats weren’t “dominant” because they were popular! It was because the Black Republicans couldn’t vote at all and the white Republicans could do very little. White Republicans in office couldn’t push for the rights of Blacks because of the K.K.K., which identified them as troublemakers as well. Of the 4,743 people lynched, 1,297 were white.
The Democrats thus began the Jim Crow laws and the strict policy of segregation, holding back all African-American progress until the 1950s and 1960s. At the turn of the Century, it was Republican Teddy Roosevelt who invited Booker T. Washington to dinner at the White House, while Democrat Woodrow Wilson showed the film “Birth of a Nation” about the rise of the Klan.
Today’s leftists love to claim that, since the Republicans were “progressives” and “radicals” back when they formed, they’d all be left-wing Democrats today. They claim that Lincoln would be a Democrat, and all of those racist Democrats would be Republicans now, since conservative means “don’t change” and they didn’t want the racist South to change. That’s why Republicans are strong in the south now, you see. It’s all the racists flipping to Republican.
A couple problems with that. First, when did this change happen? In the 1950s, it was Democrats standing in schoolhouse doors and siccing dogs on the protestors, while Republican Eisenhower (the supposed epitome of the boring Republican white 50s guy) called out the National Guard. The Democrats were the ones with Klansman politicians like Robert Byrd. Sure, there’s Democrat David Duke who flipped to Republican, was heavily repudiated by the Republican party, and who later supported Democrats and Cindy Sheehan…but if you insist, I’ll give you that one.
Yet late into the 20th Century, the Republicans were still supporting civil rights more than Democrats did. When the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Act of 1968 came up for a vote, the Democrats had the numbers to pass it themselves without a single Republican vote…but couldn’t come close. Only 2/3rds of Democrats voted for it, while 83% of Republicans supported it. Of Democrats who supported it, like the openly-racist L.B.J., many did for reasons of political expediency. Blacks were voting Democrat in the north, and the writing was on the wall for the ability to exclude Blacks from voting in the South.
But more to the point, parties stand for principals. They issue platforms of their beliefs. Want to claim Lincoln’s yours? Isn’t there far more evidence that the rich, tax-cutting, commie-hating J.F.K. who believed “a rising tide lifts all boats” would be a Republican by today’s standards? Shouldn’t you take the Title IX-passing Nixon? We can do this all day long. But all of those candidates were in synch with the general direction of their party at the time, as stated by their party platforms. Want to grab the candidate as yours based on how a certain issue has moved to a different party today?
The racist Democrats of old have a lot in common with the Democrats of today. The dead voting, for one. But let’s look at Jim Crow laws. A meddling government law that requires a business owner to put in twice as many bathrooms, with twice as much plumbing, and the owner has to bear the expense? That sure sounds like Democrats. How about laws that say one paying customer has to be told where to sit, no matter how the business owner feels about it? Meddling Democrats again. Twice as many civic water fountains, taking up twice as much space and more plumbing, even though such doubling is a tax burden? Sounds like Democrats.
Okay, enough teasing. Here’s the point.
The reason Republicans suddenly grew strong in the South is not because of race, but because of every other change the Democrats have engaged in. It used to be that you could be a Democrat and be a gun-loving, crime-hating, anti-abortion Christian who loves the military. Since the 1960s, the Democrats have become openly hostile to all of those things (while still denying it come election time, when suddenly the effete city liberal is transformed into a big shotgun-wielding turkey hunter).
Someday, I’d like the Republican Party to get the Black vote back. I’m so certain it’s a possibility, that I’m pretty sure that’s why the Democrats go so overboard on the racist charge when there’s not a shred of evidence for it. It’s a big house of cards with only one joker card as the base.