States' Rights Democratic Party
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|Hail to the Chief?|
|Persons of interest|
“”We oppose the elimination of segregation, the repeal of miscegenation statutes, the control of private employment by Federal bureaucrats called for by the misnamed civil rights program.
|—Platform of the States' Rights Democratic Party|
The States' Rights Democratic Party (SRDP) was a segregationist American political party founded in 1948 to protect states' rights...specifically, their rights to oppress black people. Members of the party were referred to as "Dixiecrats." The party was formed by several Southern Democrats in response to the passage of a platform including civil rights at the 1948 Democratic National Convention and Harry Truman's desegregation of the military and the Civil Service. They ran Strom Thurmond and Fielding L. Wright in that year's election, hoping to deprive Truman and Republican Thomas Dewey of a majority in the Electoral College, thus throwing the election to the House of Representatives, where they hoped to act as a kingmaker and prevent the next president from advancing a pro-civil rights agenda. Thurmond picked up the states of South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana with a total of 2.41% of the popular vote nationwide. Unsurprisingly, those were the states where the state Democratic Party refused to allow Truman on the ballot and gave the nomination to Thurmond instead. The party was also on the ballot as a third party in nine other southern states, plus California and North Dakota for some reason. The party folded after the 1948 election, though the Dixiecrat moniker stuck in reference to pro-segregation Democrats. Thurmond and other Dixiecrats would go on to work within the Democratic Party to block and filibuster later civil rights legislation until many converted to the Republican Party in the 1960s thanks to the southern strategy.
In 1968 the SRDP came back to life in all but the name as the American Independent Party (AIP), which was also an explicitly segregationalist "states rights" party that broke off from the Democratic Party due to conflicts with liberals. This time, they were led by George Wallace instead of Strom Thurmond, but unlike the SRDP, the AIP is still (barely) alive today as a far-right party.
“”I am a conservative. I intend to give the American people a clear choice. I welcome a fight between our philosophy and the liberal left-wing dogma which now threatens to engulf every man, woman, and child in the United States. I am in this race because I believe the American people have been pushed around long enough and that they, like you and I, are fed up with the continuing trend toward a socialist state which now subjects the individual to the dictates of an all-powerful central government.
|—Segregationalist leader George Wallace breaking off from a clearly very liberal wing of the Democratic Party in 1968|
|—Donald Trump in 2016|
“”The Democrats are the party of the Ku Klux Klan. You look at the most racist — you look at the Dixiecrats, they were Democrats who imposed segregation, imposed Jim Crow laws, who founded the Klan. The Klan was founded by a great many Democrats.
The Dixiecrat fallacy is an informal fallacy often invoked by modern Republican and conservative politicians and pundits as a way of framing "GOP good, Democrats bad". It relies on the ignorance of its audience regarding the history of the political parties in the United States.
- Bring up the subject of a significant civil rights topic, such as the Fourteenth Amendment or Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Source historical information or statistics about how the said topic was supported by Republicans and opposed by Democrats.
It makes perfect sense to think that segregationalist Democrats were liberals, so long as you ignore the vast majority of Southern Democrats at the time who were famously conservative.
It correctly asserts that Republicans started out a much progressive, socially liberal party than they are today (well, relative to the context of their respective times), and that the Democrats were the party of states rights and slavery during its initial years.[note 1]
However, it ignores the shift in the party system that occurred between the times of the New Deal and the Southern strategy, where the Democratic Party found itself decidedly more liberal (pro-labor union, pro-equal rights) and staunchly conservative Democrats (known as Dixiecrats) switched to the Republican party.[note 2]
The idea behind this is to equate Democrats with liberals to claim that "liberals are the real racists", implying that the Democratic party is still the same party it always was, just with different rhetoric. Many have even compared government assistance programs that often help African-Americans get out of poverty to modern slavery and called these progressive policies "the Democratic plantation". Of course, this is ignoring the fact that very few Dixiecrats and so-called Yellow Dog Democrats exist today in the south and that the liberal wing of the Republican party (nicknamed "Rockefeller Republicans") is all but extinct as well.
Interestingly, many Republicans are the first ones to defend the Confederate flag. If you really want to watch their heads explode, ask them why they're defending the flag of socialism, and turn their beloved Dixiecrat fallacy against them.
Rightly attributed to Republicans, wrongly attributed to conservatives
Republicans like to proudly claim ownership of the following subjects, even though current Republican views and policies often contradict those subjects:
- Abraham Lincoln
- Civil Rights Act - proposed and signed by a Democrat from the South but passed with significant and crucial GOP support
- Equal Rights Amendment
- Hawaii—the annexation of which was part of the GOP's platform during the Reconstruction era, and which was added as a state by Eisenhower
- Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Certain Rockefeller Republicans, such as Dwight Eisenhower and Earl Warren
- Theodore Roosevelt
- The 13th, 14th, 15th, and 19th Amendments to the United States Constitution
Rightly attributed to Democrats, wrongly attributed to liberals
Additionally, callers of the fallacy will point to certain conservative subjects or historical figures and say, "[X] was started by Democrats!" or "[X] was a Democrat, and they were terrible!":
- American Civil War
- Andrew Jackson (until recently, they universally considered him an American hero akin to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson)
- Most Dixiecrats
- James Buchanan
- Jim Crow laws
- John C. Calhoun
- Jefferson Davis
- Kansas-Nebraska Act
- Ku Klux Klan
- The Mexican-American War (Polk was a Democrat, and Lincoln opposed the war)
- Secession of southern states to form the Confederacy
- Stephen A. Douglas
- The Wilmington coup of 1898
In some cases, they've started to forego the equivocation and just outright claim that the KKK are akin to modern liberals. Because as we all know, the KKK have such a good track record with LGBT rights, environmental protection, women's rights, separation of Church and State, and acceptance of immigrants.
Freedom Democratic Party
In the 1964 Democratic National Convention, pro-civil rights Mississippians formed their own branch called the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. Note they did not align with the state's Republican Party, then seized control of by white supremacists including Prentiss Walker amidst the Southern strategy.
- To be fair, the Republican Party wasn't actually very liberal when founded in the 1850s. To oversimplify a little, the Democratic Party was very conservative and tended to favor wealthy plantation owners in the South; the Republicans, on the other hand, were a bit more moderate (although they were strongly anti-slavery, which in the context of the time could be seen as "leftist") and tended to favor industrial interests in the North and Mid-West. Socialism and labor movements were still pretty new to the world; they weren't really on the menu until after the Civil War, and it took some time for them to really filter into the political sphere. It wasn't until the 1890s that a strong left-leaning faction arose within the Republican Party-a faction largely dominated by Teddy Roosevelt. But Teddy and his faction fled the party in 1912, leaving Taft's conservative, pro-business faction in charge; Roosevelt's new "Progressive Party" fizzled out shortly after that (with some help from World War I era hysteria/censorship). The pro-business side of the GOP would remain in control of the party.
- Now, here's where an adherent to the "Southern Strategy didn't happen" myth would say, "but they didn't actually switch to the Republican party". This is technically true-Strom Thurmond was the only major national politician to literally switch parties. In short, as the older generation started leaving politics in the 1960s and 1970s, the younger conservative politicians replacing them began flocking more to the Republicans than the Democrats. Still, some older politicians held to their party loyalty. This is why some older conservatives like Zell Miller, Jesse Helms, and George Wallace remained in the Democratic party long after the 1960s, even though the party itself generally became more liberal. Individuals didn't switch parties, the demographics did.
- American Independent Party
- Jim Crow laws
- White nationalism
- Southern strategy
- Democrat In Name Only
Dixiecrats we have articles on
- Party platform
- Dixiecrats, New Georgia Encyclopedia
- US Election Atlas: 1948 election results
- Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia
- Bonus points for ranting against the "liberal media" later on as well
- Trump makes a familiar mistake about American political history by Steve Benen (08/31/16 11:00 AM) MSNBC, The Rachel Maddow Show.
- Ted Cruz: 'The Democrats are the party of the Ku Klux Klan' by Kristine Guerra (February 8 at 4:26 PM) The Washington Post.
- The Transformation of the Southern Democratic Party, Merle Black, Emory University, Jstor
- Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP), University of Southern Mississippi