Back before the 1960’s, the Democrats were the party of White Supremacy in the South. They called themselves the Dixiecrats, to be distinguishable from the northern sort who were definitely more liberal and somewhat less racist. Lester Maddox, George Wallace, Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms were all Democrats until the mid-1960s.
With a Democratic administration in the White House (JFK, then LBJ) and with support for the Civil Rights movement gaining traction, the Republicans crafted the Southern Strategy. Taking the opportunity offered by Johnson signing the Voting Rights and Civil Rights Acts, they painted the Democrats as a party of “n***er-lovers.” Unsurprisingly, they reaped huge electoral rewards among scared and hateful whites. That’s when the rogues’ gallery mentioned above and hundreds more Southern politicians switched party affiliation from D to R.
Some argue the Southern Strategy should be called the Suburban Strategy. Either way, the GOP flipped the script and picked up support across the old Confederacy, and in lily-white suburbs everywhere, by taking over the mantle of that most reliable vote getter in those areas: fear- and hatred-driven racism.
So shall we expect any better of Republicans than to foment racism with both hands while denying it to the public when caught at it? I think not. A masterwork of denial is documented in this Charlotte News & Observer article last week about someone with the breathtakingly beautiful name of Dallas Woodhouse. Dallas is, by the destiny assured when his parents named him, a North Carolina Republican party official. He tweeted on August 6 blaming “@NCDemParty” for a Wilmington race riot, a massacre of blacks, and for publishing the “White Declaration of Independence.” These events took place in 1898, when the party called Democrat was indeed the unified voice of Southern racism. They also, apparently, had the first Twitter handle, decades before @Jack was even born. Who knew?
OK, I don’t think the NC Democratic party in 1898 really had a Twitter handle. Still, it’s not hard to figure out which political party in 2017 would endorse a “White Declaration of Independence.” But the Democrats of 1898 were the same lineage that gave rise to Democrats Maddox, Wallace, Thurmond and Helms… all of whom in the 1960s magically switched to Republican. Their philosophical brethren and descendants have now put a Pumpkin in the White House, and Nazis on the streets of Charlottesville, VA.
So I will say this without fear of contradiction: in 1898, Dallas Woodhouse would have been a Democrat.