Not the Party of Racists

After G pointed out a mistake I made in a previous post, I followed his blog and was surprised to see a pretty strong argument against the commonly accepted fact that Dixiecrats became Republicans in response to the Democratic party’s support of civil rights. In his post he discusses the long history of the Democratic party’s obstruction of civil rights progress and makes the case that the Republican party should not be branded as the party of racists. I agree with the second point, but I still take issue with linking the Democratic party of today with the Dixiecrats of the past.

G points out, correctly, that only one of the Democrats who voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Stom Thurmand, ever became a Republican and states, “One man switching parties can not undo over 150 years of historical fact that Republicans have always been the party of freedom.”

But I think the voters are more telling. Most of the regions which historically kept racist Democrats in congress started electing Republics in the mid and late sixties. I find it easier to accept that a core of Dixiecrats in congress stayed loyal to their party even as they disapproved of the new direction in which the party was going, than to accept that voters who always elected racists switched parties because they embraced the civil rights movement.

Another flaw in equating present Democrats with old Dixiecrats is ignoring the stark contrast between Dixiecrats and the rest of the party. While it’s correct that Republicans supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964 while many Democrats tried to block it, it’s also true that Northern Democrats supported the act more strongly than Republicans did as a whole. Dixiecrats and Northern Democrats may have been in the same party, but they were not the same people. Today, the Dixiecrats are gone and the Democratic party reflects the history of those Northern Democrats who supported civil rights in a far greater percentage than either Northern or Southern Republicans did.

I find it offensive that some right wing websites equate modern Democrats with old Dixiecrats by rehashing the sins of the Democratic party in the past. It’s especially bizarre since other right wing websites equate Democrats with black racists, as if a single political party could appeal to old Dixiecrats as well as the Nation of Islam. But to give G and his peers their due, the Republican party has a long history of supporting civil rights, and it’s to that history that most Republicans are attracted.

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