Let’s take a trip to America’s past … to the time before the Civil War.
The first thing we can say that if it were not for the Democratic Party, slavery would have likely ended by the mid-1800s. By the 1850s, the nation was pretty much divided on the issue of slavery – with the Democrats as the stalwart supporters of the evil institution. The primary opposition came from the Whig Party – although they were divided. Among the more prominent Whigs of those days was an Illinois lawyer named Abraham Lincoln.
This led to a realignment of the abolitionists in the form of the new Republican Party. The catalyst for its creation was opposition to slavery – made clear by its earliest platforms. Every notable abolitionist – like the suffragettes that followed – embraced the Republican Party.
Democrats continued to fight for slavery. The divisive issue was inflamed by the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act by congressional Democrats under the leadership of Illinois Democrat Senator Stephen Douglas – who clings to history largely for his debates with Lincoln. The Act that introduced slavery to the new western territories was what brought Lincoln back into public life.
Without the Democratic Party, it is unlikely that there would have been a Civil War. Absent Democrats’ ferocious opposition to abolition and their power in Congress, it is very arguable that slavery would have been legislated out of existence.
The Civil War was launched by Democrats in response to the election of Lincoln. They began seceding from the Union even before the 16th President was even inaugurated. Slavery and white superiority were so important to Democrats that they were willing to leave the Union and commence a tragically deadly war to preserve those traditions. Their obsession for slavery cost the lives of more than 600,000 Americans – and that was at a time when the population was one-tenth of what it is today.
Well … thankfully the Democrats lost the war.
In the era of Reconstruction, Republicans passed the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution – GUARANTEEING Negro Americans, including former slaves, the full rights of citizenship. That should have ended the issue, but it did not. Democrats fought the amendments, federal laws and court rulings to maintain a culture of white supremacy.
During Reconstruction, Black citizens – even in the south – were able to vote, start businesses and sit anywhere they chose in public and commercial places. Many were elected to public offices – from city councils to both chambers of the United States Congress. Of course, they were all Republicans.
Even during this period, however, Democrats organized vigilante opposition in the form of the Ku Klux Klan, the Knights of the White Camellia, the White Citizens Councils, the Red Shirts and other paramilitary terrorist groups.
In the Compromise of 1877, federal troops were withdrawn from the old Confederacy and Democrats responded like a coiled rattlesnake. With their illegal and unconstitutional terrorist groups they took over the south in a series of bloody coups – literally running Black and Republican officeholders out of town at gunpoint — at least those they did not murder. And those they did not expel or kill, they simply prevented them from voting.
Their success in reclaiming power in what became known as the “solid Democrat south” led to 100 years of institutional racism. Under the Democratic Party’s rule, there was never a legal and constitutional election during that dark century in American history. And there was an ongoing wave of murders of Blacks, Republicans and anyone sympathetic to the plight of Black rights. The entire justice system in the south – including federal judges – was corrupted into the agencies enforcing racial injustice at all levels.
During this period, Democrats in the north perfected their own unique form of institutional racism in the major cities to which many former slaves migrated in the belief that there would be relief from the persecution they suffered under southern Democrats. It was dubbed “de facto racism.”
This was a much more subtle – but equally effective – form of racism. It was even more pernicious because it circumvented the laws by establishing informal and unofficial racist political, commercial, social and cultural discrimination. Because it was more policy and practice than the governmental de jure racism of the old south, it was more difficult to address legislatively. It was able to survive the civil rights era of the 1960s and gave us the segregated and oppressed communities we find in our Democrat-run major cities to this day.
These racist practices in our cities have been allowed to flourish because the national Democratic Party looks the other way – just as it looked the other way when powerful Democrats ran the southern states.
Even in the civil rights era of the mid-Twentieth Century, it was Republicans who enacted the first civil rights legislation since Reconstruction — delayed for generations by Democrat opposition and filibusters. They were the 1956 and 1960 Civil Rights Acts. And this was over the opposition and the successful watering-down efforts of Democrats, including then-Senate Minority Leader Lyndon Johnson and a young senator named Jack Kennedy.
The 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act were only passed because of the overwhelming support of the Republican Party in opposition to filibusters and the votes of Democrats. The GOP provided enough votes to end the Democrat filibuster – the first time that had ever happened with civil rights legislation.
For sure, this is a theoretical exercise in academic conjecture – maybe a fit subject for a college debate. And maybe all the forces of division would have existed by another name. But it is irrefutable that when you look at the sin of slavery, a century of official discrimination, the plight of segregated and impoverished urban Blacks today and even the failure to eradicate the marginal elements of white supremacy, they are all the sad legacy of the Democratic Party.
One can imagine that had it not been for the Democratic Party, we may well be celebrating more than a hundred and fifty years as a post-racist society in which the Black population was long ago assimilated into the full measure of personal freedom. We may get there someday, but it has been long delayed by … the Democratic Party. And that is a fact.
So, there ‘tis.