With my head swathed in ice and restraints, trying to stem the explosion (I have vacated the house of all other living things), I note this, which I happily was unaware of until a few hours ago, from a history of the Democratic Party, on a new Democratic National Committee web site .
“For more than 200 years, our party has led the fight for civil rights, health care, Social Security, workers’ rights, and women’s rights.”
Health care? Okay. Social Security? Obviously. Workers’ rights? A closer call, but sure. Women’s rights? Sold, though literally none of these can be traced back to 1812. Nobody was thinking about health care until the 20th Century. Worker’s rights became an issue in the late 19th. Social Security wasn’t a twinkle in any Democrat’s eye until the 1930’s, and the Democratic Party wasn’t very concerned about women’s rights until the 20th century either.
But can the Democrats claim 200 years’ support of civil rights? Absolutely not. To claim this is beyond mere lying, and reaches Orwellian proportions as an effort to re-write history. It is also blatant misinformation, clearly designed for the uneducated, the historically ignorant, the gullible or the stupid—you know, most people—or it was written and approved by members of this group who built the DNC site. Let’s be unequivocal: The Democratic Party did NOT lead the fight for civil rights for “more than 200 years.” No historian believes this or has written this. It is a complete, nonsensical, made-up, silly piece of dishonest puffery:
- The modern Democratic party didn’t exist 200 years ago. It came into existence with the election of Andrew Jackson, who defeated the candidate of Thomas Jefferson’s soon to be absorbed party, President John Quincy Adams, in 1832.
- Jackson’s civil rights record included the brutal persecution of Native Americans, while the most prominent Democrat in the Senate, John C. Calhoun, was fighting tooth and nail to defend slavery against growing opposition. Andy was the undisputed leader of the Democrats, and to call him, of all people, a civil rights advocate is a bad and tasteless joke.
- The party that built itself on civil rights issues was the Republican Party, begun by abolitionists, and opposed by most Democrats. Abraham Lincoln, was, after all, a Republican.
- It was the Democratic Party in the South that built and maintained the Jim Crow laws. The so-called “stolen election” of 1876 resolved itself when the Democrats agreed to let the Republican Rutherford B. Hayes become President in exchange for troops being removed from the South, giving the green light for the discrimination against blacks at the ballot box and elsewhere to be institutionalized throughout the former Confederacy.
- President Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican, was the first President to invite a black man, Booker T. Washington, to the White House. His cautious initiatives toward civil rights were sharply reversed by Democratic icon Woodrow Wilson, who was an open, enthusiastic supporter of the Klu Klux Klan, and a virulent racist.
- Under President Franklin Roosevelt’s leadership, Japanese-Americans were imprisoned during World War II in so-called “internment centers” in grotesque violation of their civil rights.
- Racial segregation was built and supported by Southern Democratic governors and legislators until President Lyndon Johnson’s Civil Rights Act in 1964, which was passed with overwhelming support from Republicans.
Gradually, after that, the roles of the parties reversed, to the undying shame of the Republican Party. It would be fair and accurate to credit Democrats with leading the way on civil rights for half a century, and that’s an impressive record itself. The 200 year claim, however, is inexcusable, politically, educationally, historically, and ethically.*
* Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler is getting accolades for criticizing the DNC about this. His critique is far too mild.
Pointer: Chris Plante
Graphic: The Persian Horse
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