“The Democrat Party, of course, is the party of the KKK, of Jim Crow laws, and, perhaps just as bad right now, of servitude,” Dr. Ben Carson recently proclaimed on the campaign trail.
The best way to avoid saying something controversial remains to avoid saying something factual. Carson is too much the political neophyte to grasp this principle.
Neurosurgeons have a way of cutting through to the meat of the gray matter. Carson’s comment provoked thoughts. It certainly did not prick conscience.
Democrats, fearless fighters against hooded night riders now that they provoke laughter instead of terror, do not acknowledge their party’s history as the political home of the Ku Klux Klan. In a gross case of projection, they cast their political enemies instead of their political ancestors as the purveyors of state-sponsored racism.
Woodrow Wilson, who re-segregated the federal bureaucracy as president, had written gushingly as an academic about the postbellum Confederacy that “at last there had sprung into existence a great Ku Klux Klan, a veritable empire of the South, to protect the Southern country.” After the 1924 Democratic National Convention rejected a resolution condemning the Ku Klux Klan, party delegates donned sheets, burned crosses, and paraded around like fools at an evil outdoor costume party. Party icon Franklin Roosevelt nominated a klansman, Hugo Black, to the Supreme Court. From 1977 to 1989, Democrats in the United States Senate chose Robert Byrd, a former Exalted Cyclops in the vile secret society as their leader in that august public body.
“Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever”? A Democrat governor said that. Blasting firehoses and siccing German shepherds on African Americans in Birmingham? A Democratic National Committeeman did that.
The Dred Scott decision? Assassination of Martin Luther King? Diabetic cooking-show host using the N-word? Democrat, Democrat, Democrat.
The shift in allegiance from Republicans to Democrats is a relatively recent phenomenon. By Pearl Harbor, the Democrats boasted exactly one African American elected to Congress in the entire history of their party. Democrats constituted most “no” votes, and 18 of 19 filibusterers, for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The first African-American Democrats in the U.S. Senate and a governorship did not come until the 1990s. But clearly the party enjoys the support of roughly nine in ten African Americans in recent presidential contests.
Perhaps Carson represents an atavism or an anomaly. His fellow Republicans hope he signifies a trend.
Democrats surely don’t monopolize racial hatred. But their insistence that Republicans do is simply outrageous. It makes any discussion of the Democratic Party’s past as much an education in the obtuse self-righteousness of liberals today as a history lesson on the political outfit that attracted Jefferson Davis, Theodore Bilbo, and John Rankin.
Certainly such figures horrify Democrats now. But the common denominator between these ghosts that haunt the party and many of its present-day stalwarts is an obsession with race. From affirmative action to immigration-amnesty demagoguery, dividing Americans to carve out a winning coalition remains the electoral strategy of the party of Barack Obama.
Such uncouth tactics probably played a role in Ben Carson’s decision to run as a Republican. The attacks on him for daring to reject the default party assignation for people of his race surely affirms that choice. The reaction to Carson spurning his expected political home buttresses his characterization of the Democrats as the party of “servitude.”
David Ragland, professor of peace and justice at Juniata College, calls Carson a “handkerchief head,” a literal reference to the fashion accessory donned by house slaves that more figuratively refers to blacks who identify as whites. On the social media, where Twittericans lack the academic pedigree to mine obscure racial insults, more familiar slurs such as “Oreo” and “token” preface Carson’s name. Hell hath no fury like a party scorned.
They are not Ku Klux Klan. But they vote “the party of the KKK”—and occasionally plagiarize their playbook. And they do so oblivious to history.