Setting The Record Straight – Did Republicans And Democrats Switch Platforms? – Some allege that those who left the Democrat Party to form the Dixiecrats then became Republicans and that the Republicans of today are nothing more than the old racist Dixiecrats. However, this charge is demonstrably false. The records show, with only a very few exceptions, prominent Dixiecrats returned to and remained in the Democratic Party. Civil Rights for African-Americans were gained by the Republican Party. In this episode, you will learn why Civil Rights Bills were so hard to pass, how poll taxes were ended, and why the Democratic official website skips over their own history from 1848 to 1900.
Air Date: 08/11/2020
On-air Personalities: David Barton, Rick Green, and Tim Barton
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Transcription note: As a courtesy for our listeners’ enjoyment, we are providing a transcription of this podcast. Transcription will be released shortly. However, as this is transcribed from a live talk show, words and sentence structure were not altered to fit grammatical, written norms in order to preserve the integrity of the actual dialogue between the speakers. Additionally, names may be misspelled or we might use an asterisk to indicate a missing word because of the difficulty in understanding the speaker at times. We apologize in advance.
Welcome to the intersection of faith and politics. This is WallBuilders Live with David Barton and Rick Green. Today is part seven of our seven-part series. Yes, part seven! It”s the longest series we”ve ever done. But it”s worth it, an incredible program on Setting the Record Straight, American History in Black and White.
And today is the conclusion. If you are just tuning in today for the first time, don’t worry they’re all available right now WallBuildersLive.com. Let’s pick up right where we left off last time on WallBuilders Live!
Republicans And Democrats Switch Platforms?
Thurmond’s bid was unsuccessful. Today, however, pointing to the example of Thurmond, some allege that those who left the Democrat Party to form the Dixiecrats then became Republicans and that the Republicans of today are nothing more than the old racist Dixiecrats.
However, this charge is demonstrably false. The records show, with only a very few exceptions, prominent Dixiecrats returned to and remained in the Democratic Party.
This long list includes governors such as Benjamin Laney of Arkansas, Frank Dixon of Alabama, Hough White of Mississippi, William Murray of Oklahoma, Sam Jones of Louisiana, and Fielding Wright the Mississippi governor who had been the Dixiecrats vice presidential candidate. They all returned to the Democratic Party.
The same was true with Democratic U.S. Senators James Eastland and John Stennis. As well as with members of the U.S. House of Representatives. These Dixiecrats returned as Democrats and remained Democrats their entire political career.
Several state leaders did as well including Mississippi Speaker of the House Walter Sillers, Alabama Public Safety Commissioner Eugene Conner, and Louisiana Political Boss Leander Perez.
Returning To The Democratic Party
Since so many Dixiecrats remain Democrats, does this mean that no prominent Dixiecrat became a Republican? Or that no Republicans were sympathetic to Dixiecrats? No, there were a few, but not many. For example, in 2002 Republican Senator Trent Lott made a statement favorable toward Dixiecrats, the Republican reaction was telling. Other Republican senators found Lott statement offensive and promptly removed him from his position as Senate majority leader.
And there’s more to the story of Strom Thurmond. Even though this Dixiecrat presidential candidate initially returned to the Democratic Party, he eventually became a Republican. Why? He had a dramatic change of heart of civil rights issues and in 1964 he left the Democratic Party. In 1971, as a Republican U.S. Senator, Thurmond became the first Southern senator to hire a black in his senatorial office, something no Southern Democrat in the U.S. Senate had ever done.
Democrats Began To Bring Down The Barriers
Truman’s civil rights efforts were significant. The website for the Democratic National Party properly acknowledges Truman’s important contributions. In fact, in their section called, “A Brief History of the Democratic Party” Democrats declare, “With the election of Harry Truman Democrats began the fight to bring down the barriers of race and gender.
Notice the word, “began,” that is an accurate description. Starting with Harry Truman, Democrats began, that is, they made their first serious efforts to fight against the barriers of race. Yet, as already noted, Truman’s efforts were largely unsuccessful because of his own party.
Look a little more closely at the Democrats history of their party. On their official website, after noting that Thomas Jefferson founded the Democratic Party in 1792, they list a number of years in which they highlighted significant Democratic achievements. 1798, 1800, 1808, 1812, 1816, 1824, 1828, 1832, 1844, and 1848, a long flurry of Democratic activity. Yet, after 1848 what is the next date mentioned? It skips from 1848 to the beginning of the twentieth century.
Why would Democrats skip over their own history from 1848 to 1900? Perhaps, because it’s not the kind of civil rights history they want to talk about. Perhaps, because it’s not the kind of civil rights history they want to have on their website.
The Democrat website is accurate when it says that the Democrat efforts for civil rights began with Truman in 1946. For there is certainly as much about civil rights that they would rather not talk about before that time.
Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Presidency
The president following Democrat Harry Truman was World War II hero Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower elected in 1952. Eisenhower was well aware of the Southern Democratic Congressional commitment to racial segregation.
Understanding that it would be difficult to make substantial changes in law and that the progress would be slow at best, Eisenhower determined to eliminate racial discrimination in all areas under his authority. He, therefore, issued executive orders halting segregation in the District of Columbia, the military, and federal agencies. Furthermore, he was the first president to appoint a black American, Frederick Moral, to an executive position on the White House staff.
Although he also proposed a vigorous civil rights legislative protection plan for blacks in the Southern Democratic states, Democrats in Congress were able to prevent any legislative progress.
Given his pro-civil rights record, it is not surprising that in his 1956 re-election Eisenhower, like Republican presidents before him, received significant support from black voters. After his re-election Eisenhower continued his civil rights efforts.
In 1957 he proposed a bold civil rights bill to increase black voting rights and protections, proposals promptly blocked by Democratic Senator James Eastland of Mississippi, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
In fact, Eastland, who had been a prominent Dixiecrat, is credited with killing every civil rights bill that came before his committee in the 1950s. His committee was literally known as the burial ground for civil rights legislation in the U.S. Senate.
The stiff Democratic opposition in the Senate resulted in a very watered down version of Eisenhower’s original bill. Yet, despite the fact that the bill was much weaker than introduced, Eisenhower did succeed in creating a civil rights division within the U.S. Justice Department, as had earlier been proposed by his predecessor, President Truman.
This division subsequently played a prominent role in helping to secure civil rights in the South during the 1960s and 1970s. That law also started the Civil Rights Commission that became instrumental in publicizing the effects of Southern segregation and racial oppression.
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Will This Civil Rights Bill Pass
In 1959 Eisenhower presented a second civil rights bill to Congress. That bill was met with unyielding opposition in the House by Democratic Representative Howard Smith of Virginia chairman of the House Rules Committee.
In fact, Smith would actually disappear from Congress for weeks on end simply to keep his committee from acting on the civil rights bill. Democratic House member Emanuel Celler of New York, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, exerted extraordinary effort to move the bill forward even though he was strongly opposed by other members within his own party.
When the bill finally passed the House and arrived in the Senate, it was gutted by Democrats before being passed into law, once again preventing the federal government from intervening on behalf of black Americans whose civil rights were being violated in the south.
Democrat John F. Kennedy was elected president in 1960. Following the violent racial discord in Birmingham 1963, Kennedy did send a major civil rights bill to Congress. A bill based on the findings of Eisenhower’s 1957 Civil Rights Commission.
Kennedy worked aggressively for the passage of that civil rights bill but was tragically assassinated before he could see it”s success. Democratic successor Lyndon Johnson picked up the civil rights measure but like his predecessors, he faced stiff opposition from his own party.
In fact, Democratic senators Robert Byrd of West Virginia and Richard Russell of Georgia led the opposition against the 1964 Civil Rights Act, including a lengthy and extended filibuster speeches.
Republican Senator Everett Dirksen resurrected language proposed by Eisenhower’s attorney general in 1960, thus breaking the filibuster of the civil rights bill and allowing Johnson to sign into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964, followed by the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Perhaps the most recognizable civil rights leader of that era was the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Like Frederick Douglass, the great civil rights leader of the previous century, Dr. King was also a Christian minister of the gospel.
He was with President Johnson when the famous civil rights bill was signed into law. These two important civil rights acts were signed into law under a Democratic president. But it was the Republicans in Congress who made possible the passage of both acts, for Johnson had been unable to garner sufficient Democratic support to pass either bill.
At that time, Democrats had 315 members in Congress, almost two-thirds of the House and two-thirds of the Senate. President Johnson needed only a simple majority, only 269 votes to get those bills passed. But out of the three hundred and fifteen Democrats, only 198 voted for the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts.
Democrats had it completely within their power to pass those bills, but they did not. Republicans overwhelmingly came to the aid of Democrat President Johnson. In fact, 83 percent of Republicans voted for those bills. A percentage of support almost 20 points higher than that of the Democrats. If not for the strong support of Republicans, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 would never have become law. Not to mention the fact that the heart of both bills came from the work of Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Other significant progress in civil rights had also been made in 1964. For in addition to the Civil Rights Act it was that same year that the passage of the 24th Amendment to the Constitution abolishing the Poll Tax that occurred.
Ending Poll Tax
Significantly a repeal of the Poll Tax had been proposed on at least 14 previous occasions and on five of those occasions the House had actually passed a ban. But each time the Senate Democrats had kept the Poll Tax alive.
It was nearly 85 years after the first Poll Tax was instituted by Democrats before the ban on the Poll Tax was finally approved by the Senate. Significantly, 91% of the Republicans in Congress voted to end the Poll Tax, a level of support once again, much higher than that of Democrats. And of the 16 senators who wanted to keep the Poll Tax alive, fifteen of them were Democrats.
The positive impact of these changes was both obvious and immediate. Within a year 450,000 new Southern blacks were successfully registered to vote. In Mississippi, voter registration of black Americans rose from only 5 percent in 1960 to 60 percent by 1968. The number of blacks serving in federal and state legislatures rose from only to 2 in 1965, to 160 by 1990.
As many today have lost their knowledge of black political history, history by the way, that our grandparents probably still remember. Nevertheless, as younger generations have lost a knowledge of this black history and have in recent decades become solidly aligned with the Democratic Party many black Americans today have picked up the Democrat’s long standing hatred for Republicans without understanding its origins.
Yet the racial issues behind this generation’s long Democratic hatred for Republicans is well-documented. Also well documented is the fact that African-Americans made their earliest and some of their most significant political and civil rights gains while affiliated with the Republican Party. That progress is still continuing inÂ this generation.
African-American Being Elected
Consider the Texas election in which African-American Ron Kirk former mayor of Dallas was running for a U.S. Senate seat. When Kirk lost that election voices across the nation asserted that the South was still too racist to elect a minority on a statewide ballot. What they fail to mention was that in that same election three African-Americans were elected to statewide office on the very same statewide ballot as Kirk.
But those three were elected as Republicans rather than Democrats. Apparently, Texas became the first state in American history to elect three black Americans to statewide office. But since they were all Republicans, their story simply was not reported. And in that same election cycle, black Americans were elected to statewide office and other states as well, including a black lieutenant governor in Ohio and another in Maryland, both as Republicans.
An important point is illustrated but these recent elections and by scores before them. In Democratically controlled states, rarely are African-Americans elected statewide with the exception of us senators in Illinois and a governor in Virginia.
And most African-American Democratic members of Congress usually are elected only from minority districts. That is Democratic districts where minority voters make the majority rather than where there’s a Democratic majority of white voters.
On the other hand, African-American Republicans are usually elected statewide in Republican states or in congressional districts with large white majorities. Such as when J.C. Watts was elected to Congress as a Republican in a district with only nine percent African-American voters. Perhaps, this explains why Frederick Douglass a century ago, reminded black Americans, “For colored voters, the Republican Party of the ship, all else is the sea.”
Neither Party Is Completely Blameless
The political history of African-Americans is often proved Douglas right. Yet, no one from any background whether a political, religious, or racial background should ever love any political party above principle. Although, history is clear that there have been major differences in how political parties treated black Americans. Neither party is completely blameless in all of its actions, nor have all the leaders in a party always been good or always been bad.
Understanding this truth, Representative Robert Brown Elliot, even though he was a strong Republican leader in his day, wisely advised, “I am a slave to principles. I call no political party master. I have ever most sincerely embraced the democratic and representative ideal. Not indeed, as represented or professed by any political party but by its true significance, as transfigured in the Declaration of Independence and in the injunctions of Christianity.”
Elliot’s admonition is wise. A line with political candidates that conform to what he called, The Injunctions of Christianity.”
Republican Frederick Douglas, who served as a minister of the Gospel, had agreed declaring, “I had one great political idea. That idea is an old one. It’s widely and generally assented to. Nevertheless, it is very generally trampled upon and disregarded. The best expression of it I found in the Bible. ‘It is in substance righteousness exalteth a nation. Sin is a reproach to any people,’ Proverbs 14:34. Now this constitutes my politics, the negative and positive of my politics, and the whole of my politics. I feel it my duty to do all in my power to infuse this idea into the public mind that it may be practiced.”
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Choosing Who To Vote For
Douglas was right. As citizens we must vote righteously. And by the way, this first assumes that we are voting. This responsibility to vote and to vote righteously has been made clear from generation to generation.
Once such a voice heralding this responsibility was that of Charles Finney. Finney was a famous American revivalist, a leader in the American revival movement called the Second Great Awakening.
He was also the president of a college that even decades before the Civil War admitted both black and white students as equals. In fact, the students from the college where Reverend Finney was president not only became some of the most active conductors of the underground railroad but also started several of America’s black colleges and universities.
Reverend Finney wisely admonished, “The time has come that Christians must vote for honest men and take consistent ground in politics. Christians have been exceedingly guilty in this manner but the time has come when they must act differently. Christians seem to act as if they think God does not see what they do in politics but I tell you, he does see it. And he will bless or curse this nation according to the course Christians take in politics.”
So when voting, no vote should be cast solely on the basis of any party. The values of each individual candidate must be examined using the standard of Biblical righteousness cited by Frederick Douglass, the principles of Christianity as cited by Robert Brown Elliot, and an awareness that voters will answer to God for their vote, as pointed out by the Reverend Charles Finney.
They Key To Our Political Involvement
An illustration of this important principle seen in the life of Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration, who worked with the Rev. Richard Allen to found the AME church. Dr. Rush served in the presidential administrations of three different presidents each of whom was from a different political party. How could he do this? What was his own party affiliation?
He once explained, “I have been alternately called an aristocrat and a Democrat. I am neither. I am a Christ-ocrat. I believe all power will always fail at producing order and happiness in the hands of man. He alone who created and redeemed man is qualified to govern him.”
Very simply, Benjamin Rush didn’t care what party called itself. When he found someone who stood for God’s principles, he would stand with him, no matter the party. The love of correct principles and not the love of a party must be the key to our political involvement.
What legacy of faith and politics will we leave for the next generation? Obviously, the choice is ours. But having this choice, we should heed the warning delivered to citizens in 1803 delivered by the Reverend Matthias Burnett.
“Considered well the important trust which God has put in your hands. To God and posterity, you are accountable for your rights and your rulers. Let not your children have reason to curse you for giving up those rights and prostrating those institutions which your fathers have delivered to you.”
Hold Firmly To Righteousness
Leaders for generations have wisely recognized that the quality of our government depends more upon the quality and character of our leaders than about any other factor. And they also understood that we were responsible for choosing leaders of character and righteousness. Just as Frederick Douglass reminded voters of this truth based on Proverbs 14:34, so too did the Rev. Francis Grimke.
Francis Grimke was born to a slave mother in 1850 in South Carolina and served as a valet in the Confederate army until Emancipation. After the war he attended Lincoln University, Howard University, and Princeton Theological Seminary, then became minister of the Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., the same church earlier pastored by the Reverend Henry Allen Garnett.
Grimke was also one of the forces behind the formation of the NAACP. And in a sermon delivered on Sunday, March 7, 1909, Reverend Grimke admonished his hearers on their civic responsibilities based on God’s righteousness.
“The stars and stripes, the old flag will flow over all these states. If the time ever comes when we shall go to pieces it will be from inward corruption. From the disregard of right principles, from losing sight of the fact that righteousness is exalteth a nation, but that sin is a reproach to any people. The secession of the Southern States in 1860 was a small matter with the secession of the Union the south from the great principles enunciated in the Declaration of Independence, in the Golden Rule, in the Ten Commandments, and the Sermon on the Mount. Unless we hold and hold firmly from the men of principles of righteousness, our union will only be a covenant with death and an agreement with hell. If it continues to exist it will be a curse and not a blessing.”
Thanks For Listening
Well, that is the conclusion of Setting the Record Straight, American History in Black and White. I know that you have been as amazed as I was the first time I saw that. Well, you get to listen to it here on WallBuilders Live.
First time I had that information I was watching it on the DVD, the re-enactments, and everything. It just absolutely blew away so much that I had been taught and I was so glad that David did this research and that he has these things in his library.
We hope that thatyou have enjoyed it as well! We enjoy bringing this history to life. We encourage you to visit WallBuilders.com and check out the DVD and the book there for more information.
If today you just joined us if you’re just getting in on part 7 and you’re curious about the rest of this program visit WallBuildersLive.com right now and you can get all seven parts to Setting the Record Straight, American History in Black and White. Thank you for listening to WallBuilders Live!