The Party of Hate – A Brief History of American Democrats 1792-1964
I’m quite certain that depending on your political affiliation that the title of this article either had you nodding your head in agreement, or ready to attack, rebut, and argue. It’s politics, so that’s to be expected. However, if you continue to read through this aggregation of information, you are welcome to share your opinions in the commentary section. This is an opinion piece but loaded with factual information to validate those opinions. If you choose to attack my opinion, that is your right. I have thick skin and I will likely return fire, if you know what I mean. So with the pleasantries out of the way, I’d like to share my thoughts on why the modern American Democratic Party is the Party of Hate, even though they have often made the claim of being the Party of Inclusiveness.
The Democratic Party can trace its lineage back to the late 1700’s when Thomas Jefferson, having grown weary of the actions of President Washington, resigned his position as Secretary of State. As Washington tried to mend fences between America and Great Britain, Jefferson instead wanted the nation to pivot more toward strengthening our alliance with France. After he resigned, he formed a group which was at first called Republican or Democratic-Republicans. The platform was focused on rural communities rather than urban ones and the common man instead of the wealthy one. Within a few short years, the Party of Jefferson won the Presidency on the strength of Southern and Mid-Atlantic states. Things were good in the beginning, so good that the opposition Party, the Federalists, disbanded and it appeared that the American political landscape was in complete harmony.
The Democratic Party
What we’ve learned since then was that the so-called harmony period was not even close to harmonious; without a second Party, both potential candidates and voters had nowhere else to turn. Every candidate for President identified with the one Party. Yet problems quickly developed within the Party which eventually led to a fracture. In 1830, Andrew Jackson was the head member of the Party and he officially changed the name to the Democratic Party, while his challengers adopted the name, National Republicans. Within two years, they once again changed names to the Whig Party, which would last for another two decades. The Democrats won nearly every election in the years leading up to 1860; that is until the issue of slavery was elevated to a national level.
For the first time in their history, the Democratic Party was divided; it was so bad that it eventually led to the Party breaking into a Southern and Northern faction. This division is considered one of the reasons why Abraham Lincoln was able to win the Presidency. The Union Army was victorious in the Civil War and Lincoln and the Republicans devoted themselves to rebuilding the political structure of the deep-south to reflect Republican values. After the assassination of President Lincoln in 1865, the Presidency fell upon what was considered an old-fashioned Jacksonian Democrat, Andrew Johnson. Johnson favored a quick reconciliation with the former Confederate States, but failed to provide a plan for the security of the newly free slaves. He was in constant conflict with the Republican controlled Congress and was impeached. He was saved by a single vote in the Senate.
Racism, the 14th Amendment, and Civil War
It was also around this time that the infamous Ku Klux Klan flourished in the south. One of the goals of the Klan was to overthrow Republican governments using violence against black Americans. The white robed and hooded groups would terrorize and murder countless numbers of people during their reign of horror. Eventually the efforts of Federal law enforcement suppressed their activities in the early 1870’s. The Klan however didn’t fade into obscurity. They went dormant for a period before resurfacing in 1915 in the south and growing to have chapters nationwide by the 1920’s. President Johnson was never a member of the Klan but his policies certainly favored them. One of his first acts as President was to require white southerners to swear an oath of loyalty to regain their civil, political, and property rights. Black Americans were not included.
Johnson’s plans for reconstruction were off-target and gave the southern states the power to reform their own governments. Many of the former leaders returned to their old seats of power and immediately started passing legislation that would deprive black Americans of their civil liberties. The Republican held Congress refused to seat the racist legislators and passed Federal legislation to override the actions attempted by the states. President Johnson vetoed the bills and Congress overrode his veto, setting up a continual battle for the remainder of his time in office. He was in staunch opposition to the 14th Amendment which gave American citizenship to freed slaves. He tried, through Executive Action, to destroy Republicans who were working against him which led to Congress passing the Tenure of Office Act of 1867, which limited the President’s ability to fire Cabinet members and other Federal office holders without the consent of the Senate. He vetoed the legislation, but it was overridden. (The Act was repealed in 1887 and many Constitutional scholars today say it was an illegal Act to begin with) This “shackling” of the President eventually led to him trying to use the military to do his bidding, but the Secretary of War, Mr. Edwin Stanton was a Republican and would not allow it. Johnson tried to remove Stanton from his position, which led to him being impeached.
Johnson’s departure was quickly forgotten as Ulysses Grant won the highest office and served the nation for two terms. Grant supported the newly minted laws which gave freedoms and rights to black Americans, while southerners worked tirelessly behind his back to undermine them in every way possible and disenfranchise black Americans. Union troops were slowly being withdrawn from the Southern states during this unsettled period. Many voters in the South associated everything they disliked about the reconstruction period with Republicans and they showed it at the voting booth. The Democratic Party had a lock on those votes for nearly one hundred years. The next twenty years saw neither Party with a clear advantage. In 1896 the Democrats nominated a populist, Williams Jennings Bryan to run against Republican businessman William McKinley. McKinley won the contest twice, but barely into his second term was assassinated by an anarchist who considered the President a symbol of oppression. (As a side note, the assassination of McKinley was the catalyst for the Secret Service to be officially designated with protecting the President)
The Progressive Movement and the Democrat Shift to Big Government
Theodore Roosevelt took over after McKinley’s death and ushered a new era of Progressivism; and he was a Republican. This was short-lived and dwindled after he left office. Roosevelt felt frustrated at the change in doctrine and left the Party, allowing the Democrats to regain power for the first time in decades. During this period, the Democratic platform shifted from that of the common man, to that of large-scale government with the Federal offices being at the epicenter. The Great Depression, World War I, and the New Deal made the Democrats strong and permanent supporters of big government. During this period, America saw the rise of Labor Unions, which were strongly supported by the Democratic Party. This close relationship continues to this day. It was a simple arrangement where the Democrats would protect the rights of the workers against the business owners for support at the ballot box. At the time, the business owners were aligned with the Republican Party.
War, War, and More War
World War II brought about more change in the political landscape of the United States. The Cold War and the Korean War followed and General Dwight D. Eisenhower won two consecutive terms in the Oval Office. It wasn’t until fresh-faced John F. Kennedy threw his hat in the ring that the Democrats would regain power. Kennedy was assassinated during his only term by a Marxist, Lee Harvey Oswald, who himself was also assassinated a few days later by nightclub owner Jack Ruby while Oswald was in a Dallas Police Station. The Kennedy assassination has been the focus of thousands of written works and is considered unsolved by many people to this day, due to the odd circumstances. Lyndon Johnson succeeded Kennedy and attempted to continue his work in several areas including Civil Rights. This action reopened old wounds and caused difficulty within the Party. Legislators from the South were entrenched and kept getting re-elected, amassing power on Congressional and Senate Committees. Yet eventually the Civil Rights Act became bigger than the power of any single or group of legislators and passed in 1964. That was also the year in which Barry Goldwater was nominated to run as the Republican candidate for the office of the President.
Goldwater versus Johnson
Goldwater was extremely conservative, so much that Southern Democrats switched their Party affiliation; an affiliation which still holds tremendous power at the voting booth today. And although he lost the election of 1964 to Lyndon Johnson, Goldwater demonstrated a brand of conservatism which favored small government and the rejection of collectivism. He was for balanced budgets, skeptical of the relationship between unions and political Parties and was against foreign aid. He was unashamed of his convictions and spoke proudly about them, making him a darling of the Republican Party. Johnson literally destroyed Goldwater by branding him as a radical and a demagogue. He went back to state-level politics but continued to speak about his brand of conservatism.
When discussing history, sometimes things become murky or difficult to prove. When discussing the political history of the United States, however, there are multiple sources to validate every point. The American Democratic Party has always been a Party seeking absolute control of the country in every way. They want government to dictate everything from what temperature you set your thermostat at to what you can or cannot post on social media. Democrat leaders tend to be globalist in nature and support corporatism, control of communications, censorship, and silencing free speech. By understanding the history of the Party, it's quite easy to see why today's Democrats act the way they do.
© 2019 Ralph Schwartz