In recent weeks we have increasingly been hearing again from “Joe The Plumber” Wurzelbacher. You might remember him from the 2008 presidential campaign when he attempted to make the then candidate, Obama look like a socialist who was out to redistribute the wealth from those who work to the “lazy bums” who suck at the government teat.
This time he is rewriting history and painting the Democratic party as the party of racists, saying that for its entire 200 year history it has been a blatantly racist party whose bigoted members have lynched African Americans. Of course, this is a total fabrication, but he has garnered support from black conservatives like Kevin Jackson who, like Joe, makes the spurious claim that the Democratic party founded the KKK.
Why don’t we begin there. This seems to have become a popular lie among TEApublicans as of late. One can hardly have a conversation with one of them without the assertion being made that the Democrats founded the Klan following the Civil War for the specific purpose of lynching black men. Nothing could be further from the truth, but one will have no problem finding a plethora of right wing blogs promoting this as historical truth.
The Klan was founded by no political party and in fact had no political basis at all originally. It was founded by a small group of Confederate veterans as a social club with no political goals whatsoever. It was merely an opportunity for them to get together and share common interests, such as card playing and drinking, like so many social clubs for men today.
Even their reprehensible behavior didn’t have its roots so much in politics as it did in a bottle of Jim Beam. The first lynching was the culmination of a night of drinking and cards. These were men harboring a great anger toward the blacks who they saw as the cause of the loss of their way of life was fanned by the loss of inhibitions due to drunkenness, got themselves a rope climbed onto their horses and went out to find a former slave to take their frustrations out on.
Were there members of the Klan who were also Democrats? Well, of course there were, but just as there were and are Democrats who are Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Atheist, the party was no more the founder of the Klan than it was the founder of those groups.
The fact is that neither the Democratic nor the Republican party is the party that it was at the time it was originally founded. The Democratic party was, in the beginning, very much Jeffersonian, advocating for the smallest possible government. It was also the predominant party in the south and therefore very much pro-slavery.
At the same time, the Whig party from which the Republican party evolved was the party which advocated for a strong centralized government and for the redistribution of wealth to care for the least of the citizenry. They believed in social engineering and were active in the abolitionist movement.
As recently as 1908 Republican presidential candidate, and later President, William Howard Taft said, “the Republican party has always been in favor of a liberal construction of the Constitution to maintain the national power.” That is a statement that you will never hear from a modern Republican, the party which insists that the Constitution is not open to interpretation but must always be read in an absolute literal sense.
From 1896-1948 the Democrats were the populist party, advocating for the people and that has really continued to the present with the big tent concept being predominant. In that same time period, the far right groups such as the Klan migrated in their political loyalties to the Republicans.
In a sense Joe is right about the racism which was strong in the Democratic party of the 19th century, but we no longer live in the 19th century. So, just as we no longer travel by horse and buggy in the 21st century, Democrats in the 21st century no longer are the party of exclusion — just as the Republican party is no longer the party of inclusion. The ideologies have switched.
The Republican party of today is very much the party of big business and the super wealthy — the party which screams ‘class warfare’ at every turn. They are actually right on that count, there is indeed class warfare being waged in the country today, they are just being disingenuous, like Joe, as to who it is that is waging that war and who it is that it is being waged against.
When one looks at political ideology as it pertains to the two-party system in this country, one cannot look at is as a stagnant system. Just as we humans as a race have evolved over time, so too has political ideology — it just evolves faster than a species evolves. In other words, we can’t compare either of today’s parties to their counterparts of one hundred years ago.
Here is a screenshot of Joe’s Tweet with the image which he “”borrowed from his co-conspirator, Kevin Jackson.