The Kkk Was Founded By Democrats But Not The Party
The Ku Klux Klan was founded in 1866 by ex-Confederate soldiers Frank McCord, Richard Reed, John Lester, John Kennedy, J. Calvin Jones and James Crowe in Pulaski, Tennessee. The group was originally a social club but quickly became a violent white supremacist group.
Its first grand wizard was Nathan Bedford Forrest, an ex-Confederate general and prominent slave trader.
Experts agree the KKK attracted many ex-Confederate soldiers and Southerners who opposed Reconstruction, most of whom were Democrats. Forrest even spoke at the 1868 Democratic National Convention.
The KKK is almost a paramilitary organization thats trying to benefit one party. It syncs up with the Democratic Party, which really was a;racist party openly at the time, Grinspan said. But the KKK isnt the Democratic Party, and the Democratic Party isnt the KKK.
Although the KKK did serve the Democratic Partys interests, Grinspan stressed that not all Democrats supported the KKK.
The Anti-Defamation Leagues Center on Extremism senior fellow Mark Pitcavage told the Associated Press that many KKK members were Democrats because the Whig Party had died off and Southerners disliked Republicans after the Civil War. Despite KKK members’ primary political affiliation, Pitcavage said it is wrong to say the Democratic Party started the KKK.
The Conservative Coalition Vs The New Deal Coalition
The Conservative Coalition was a coalition between the anti-Communist Republicans like Nixon and Reagan and conservative Southern Democrats. It arose to oppose FDRs New Deal progressivism, and it blocked a lot of the progressive legislation the New Deal Coalition tried to pass from the 1930s to the 1960s. The socially conservative solid south;was still its own entity. It sometimes voted;with other Democrats, and sometimes broke off into its own factions. See the 1960 election Kennedy v. Nixon v. Harry F. Byrd. The Coalition tellingly dwindled post 64 Civil Rights and ended in the Clinton era as conservative southerners became Republicans and formed;the modern construct of the Red States and the Blue States.
Meanwhile,;the New Deal coalition explains the progressive coalition of Democrats and Republicans the Conservative coalition opposed. Today the two parties largely resemble these coalitions.
A Summary Of The Solid South Switch
To summarize the above claims before we get to the details:
In 1860 the Democratic Party Platforms were about Small Government and States Rights, and the more aristocratic Republican Platform about Federal Power and Collective;Rights, but by;2016, the opposite is;true .
This is because the conservative south and old Republican Progressives can be said to have switched parties in reaction;to events that occurred from the Gilded Age to the Bush and Clinton years. These changes that are well symbolized by the 1968 election, but not explained by that alone.
To understand what changed, we must become familiar with;people like W. J. Bryan, Teddy, Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover, Henry A. Wallace, Strom Thurmond, FDR, MLK, and Hoover. We must look at the Red Scare, the Dixiecrat States Rights Parties, Civil Rights, Voting Rights, Nixons Southern Strategies, the New Deal Coalition and Conservative Coalition, etc. See;Democrats and Republicans Switched Platforms.
The full story aside, in the early days:
- Populist social liberals used to ally with the populist socially conservative solid south .
- The social liberal elite like Gouverneur Morris and Alexander Hamilton were in the Federalist party with classical conservative Tory-like figures and factions.
That pairing;of factions is either hopeful or a blight on history, depending on your perspective.
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In The Wake Of Trump’s David Duke Controversy Many Republicans Have Tried To Tie The Kkk To Progressivism
Its not news that Donald Trump appeals to white supremacists and his slowness in rebuking former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Dukes support hardly qualifies as surprising at this point. Whats instructive is how right-wing figures react. Earlier this week, political troglodyte Jeffrey Lord attempted to deflect criticism by calling the Klan a leftist terrorist organization perpetuating violence to further the progressive agenda.
That, of course, is entirely wrong. A short lesson in the basics of 20th;century American political history explains why.
White supremacist Southern Democrats were a key part of President Franklin D. Roosevelts New Deal Coalition. They used their large numbers, unity and seniority to exclude as many black people from as much of the New Deal benefits and protections as possible and to stop the federal government from doing anything about lynching. Then the black freedom movement and white allies insisted on civil rights. In reactionary response, those white southern Democrats left the Democratic Party en masse, as evidenced by Strom Thurmonds Dixiecrat presidential campaign in 1948 and Richard Nixons opposition to school busing and play for segregationist Alabama Gov. George Wallaces constituency.
White southern Democrats were explicit about their racism, and its no mystery that they left the party when it yielded to civil rights movement pressure, and as blacks began to make up a larger part of its constituency.
Did The American Political Parties Switch Clarifying The Semantics
People often ask,;did the American political parties switch?, but this question is semantically wrong, and thus we should address it before moving on.
- Parties can switch general platforms and ideologies .
- Voters can switch parties .
- However,;the parties themselves only switch when they hang-up their hat to become a new party;.
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Southernization Urbanization And Big Government Vs Small Government
Today the Republican party doesnt have a notable progressive left-wing and the Democratic Party doesnt have a notable socially conservative right-wing.
Instead both parties have establishment and populist wings and the parties are divided by stances on social issues.
In other words, regional interests and the basic political identities of liberal and conservative didnt change as much as factions changed parties as party platforms changed along with America.
The modern split is expressed well by;the left-right paradigm Big Government Progressivism vs. Small Government Social Conservatism, where;socially conservative and pro-business conservative factions banded together against socially liberal and pro business liberal factions, to push back against an increasingly progressive Democratic Party and America .
This tension largely created the modern parties of our two-party system, resulting in two Big Tents;who disagree on the purposes of government;and social issues. This tension is then magnified by the;current influence of media and lobbyists, and can be understood by examining;what I call;the Sixth Party Strategy and by a tactic called Dog Whistle Politics).
The result is that today the Democratic Party is dominated by liberal Democrats and Progressives.
Meanwhile, most of those who would have been the old;socially conservative Democrats now have a R next to their name.
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Great Depression Shrinks Klan
The Great Depression in the 1930s depleted the Klans membership ranks, and the organization temporarily disbanded in 1944. The civil rights movement of the 1960s saw a surge of local Klan activity across the South, including the bombings, beatings and shootings of Black and white activists. These actions, carried out in secret but apparently the work of local Klansmen, outraged the nation and helped win support for the civil rights cause.;
In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson delivered a speech publicly condemning the Klan and announcing the arrest of four Klansmen in connection with the murder of a white female civil rights worker in Alabama. The cases of Klan-related violence became more isolated in the decades to come, though fragmented groups became aligned with neo-Nazi or other right-wing extremist organizations from the 1970s onward.;
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Limited Government States Rights And Anti
Had the populist liberals, who agreed with;limited government but did not agree fully on social issues, not aligned, there would have been a Federalist dominance in early America. The;dominant factions would have been northern know-nothing-like nativists, social progressive Roosevelt-like or Hamilton-like elites, and quasi-loyalist Aristocrats like Adams.
The founders were not pro-slavery. However, slavery;was part of the culture and economy of many nations; the South was one such region.
Abolishing slavery meant crippling the Souths votes and industry. This was the;main argument for slavery by the Solid South historically. It;didnt stop the abolitionists like Hamilton from pushing for the abolition of slavery;as;he pushed for a central bank or federal control . However, it did result in many key compromises from the 1770s to mid-1800s.
A Reconstituted Early 20th Century Kkk Attracts Members From Both SidesThe Inconvenient Truth About the Democratic Party
After Reconstruction, and as the Jim Crow period set in during the 1870s, the Klan became obsolete.;Through violence, intimidation and systematic oppression, the KKK had served its purpose to help whites retake Southern governments.
In 1915, Cornell William J. Simmons restarted the KKK. This second KKK was made up of Republicans and Democrats, although Democrats were more widely involved.
The idea that these things overlap in a Venn diagram, the way they did with the first Klan, just isnt as tight with the second Klan, Grinspan said.
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Why It Doesnt Make Sense To Equate Modern Democrats With The Old Southern Democrats
That truism;led to the southern conservatives of the solid south like;John C. Calhoun and small government liberals like Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, and Martin Van Buren allying;in the same party;for most of U.S. history.
Today the solid south, and figures like Jeff Sessions, are in an alliance in the big tent of the Republican Party . This was as much a response to the growing progressiveness of the Democratic Party as anything.
One simple way to confirm this is to look at the factions of;Lincolns time. There were four. They;were:
- The Northern liberal Whig/Republicans,
- The;Nativist Know-Nothing; allies of the Whig/Republicans,
- The Southern Democrats and their Northern allies , and
- The;Free Soil;;allies of the Democrats who;took a libertarian like position.
Todays Democrats are more like socially liberal Whig/Republicans , libertarians are like Free Soilers , Trumpians are like Nativist Know-Nothings , and Southern Democrats are like the modern Southern conservative Republicans.
The current parties are thus:
Social Liberals and Neoliberals vs. Social Conservatives and Neoliberal Conservatives AKA Neocons .
Clearly, the country has never been fully polarized, even at its most polarized.
Military Reconstruction And The Birth Of The Kkk
After the Civil War, during Reconstruction, the northern elite Radical Republican Progressives used the military to force the south to reform. At the time the Deep South used things like apprenticeship laws to extend slavery past the end of the War. The KKK took a;stand in defense of the old Southern way of life in a society divided by murder, military occupation, and;mayhem.
To be clear, Military Reconstruction is a term that;describes;the occupation of the South, and the KKK;formed as a response to it.
From that point on the South becomes Redeemed by Southern BourbonsAKA Northern Oligarchs who help the South;replace slave labor with wage labor.
The above might;be viewed less critically;if it wasnt for a notable speed bump:
Before Reconstruction could end naturally, in 1877, the Republican establishment traded the reformation of a few southern states for the Presidency when Tilden beat the Republican Hayes.
At that point, the Gilded Age began.;Gilded Age Republicans Redeemed the South and liked to be seen as putting aside the issue of race to focus on modernization and becoming a superpower.
The Gilded age gave way to the Progressive era. And in those eras, most of the country again minimized;issues of;race to focus on;other minority rights such as womens rights. Then, after that came the World Wars.
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The Rise Of Modern Social Liberalism And Social Conservatism
Later we get a third way with Bill Clintons New Democrats. This third way is an extension;of the;progressive bourbon liberal wing, but mashed-up with the progressive social liberal wing, and Reagan-era;conservatism. These three social liberal ideologies which Clinton embodied can collectively be referred to as an;American liberalism. These factions, which we can today denote as;progressive, neoliberal, and social liberal, can be used to differentiate types of liberals on the political left from the New Deal Coalition and the modern Democratic party of today.
TIP: As noted above in the introduction, there is no one way to understand Americas political ideologies, but each angle we look at things from helps us to better understand;bits of the historic puzzle.
Outside The United States
Aside from the Ku Klux Klan in Canada, there have been various attempts to organize KKK chapters outside the United States.
In Australia in the late 1990s, former One Nation member Peter Coleman established branches throughout the country, and circa 2012 the KKK has attempted to infiltrate other political parties such as Australia First.
Recruitment activity has also been reported in the United Kingdom.
In Germany, a KKK-related group, Ritter des Feurigen Kreuzes , was established in the 1920s. After the Nazis took over Germany, the group disbanded and its members joined the Nazis. Another German KKK-related group, the European White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, has organized and it gained notoriety in 2012 when the German media reported that two police officers who held membership in the organization would be allowed to keep their jobs.
A Ku Klux Klan group was established in Fiji in the early 1870s by white American settlers, although its operations were quickly put to an end by the British who, although not officially yet established as the major authority of Fiji, had played a leading role in establishing a new constitutional monarchy that was being threatened by the activities of the Fijian Klan.
In São Paulo, Brazil, the website of a group called Imperial Klans of Brazil was shut down in 2003, and the group’s leader was arrested.
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The Rise Of America First Nativism: Anti
During the 1830s to 1850s, as tension builds, third parties spring up like the northern nativist Know-Nothings;. This faction;pushed back against immigration in places like NYC and was more likely to be allied with the Whigs than the Democrats.
The conflict between Catholic immigrants and Know-Nothings is;the subject of the movie Gangs of New York.
These Know-Nothings were like a Northern version of the KKK but were notably;more concerned with immigration than slavery.;The soon-to-be KKK and the earlier;Know-Nothings shared an aversion to Catholics, Jews, non-whites, and non-Protestants in general, but much else was different.
The Know-Nothings were accused of being in bed with;Northern abolitionists,;and;their American party really never;caught on in the south due to them being perceived as more elitist and northern.
Thus, although each region breaks into;different groups, one should note that the slavery south is not;the only faction with socially conservative position, and certainly, they arent the only authoritative group. Remember, they are opposing northern elitists who are perpetuating their brand;of economic and political inequality.
Looking To The Classics And Factions For Proof
One good and not-so-divisive way to explain history is to look at the classics, especially those who focus on state-based political factions over political parties.
Classic works of this sort of political history, like V.O. Keys Southern Politics in State and Nation , make it very clear that the Solid South had historically always voted lock-step for the Democratic Party . Of course, the voting map over time, actual recorded history, and so much else tell this story too, but a well respected book like this is a great secondary source!
Today the Solid South is with the Republican Party and today old Socially Progressive Republicans like Teddy arent in the party .
This isnt to say that some of the more progressive Dixies, Bryan followers, and even economically minded Southern;Bourbons arent in the Democratic Party, they obviously are, just look at Carter, Clinton, Gore, and Bernie .
Likewise, the GOP have their constants. The;conservative Federalist pro-business faction, the neocons be they switched Bourbons, Gilded Age post-Reconstruction Republicans, or traditional Federalists, and the Federalist War Hawks are still in the Republican Party, as are the nativists;of the north Know-Nothings.
However, despite what didnt change, a ton did, including the party platforms, key factions, and a large swath of the voter base.
Modern Democrats know this well, they lost the 2016;election and didnt get one state in the Southern Bloc for Hillary .
A Century Of Jim Crow But Otherwise Lots Of Progress
From 1877 to at least the 1960s, the Solid South KKK-like;Progressively Socially Conservative Democrats remained a formidable faction of the Democratic Party.
This is true even though the party was increasingly dominated by Progressives like William Jennings Bryan. We can see in Wilson that both factions held sway in the party, Wilson was both a progressive liberal and a son of the Confederates.
TIP: During the late 1800s and early 1900s Eugenics was a popular theory. In this era, we might find;Margaret Sanger, liberal economists and social scientists, Teddy Roosevelt, Henry Ford, a young Hitler, and the KKK all agreeing on aspects of eugenics. There are many sides;of the eugenics argument, and one must study its history in earnest before making a judgment call. Very;radical right-wing propaganda equated birth control with;genocide, but there was a wide range of beliefs. An espousal of;negative eugenics is part of the dark history of the Democratic party.