A Dishonest Rewriting of Democratic Racist History

Our nation will never move past racial division while the media refuse to acknowledge the Democratic Party's ugly past.

By Steve Berman Published on February 12, 2017

The media is doing a terrible disservice to U.S. history, race relations, and the Democratic Party by dishonestly papering over the Democrats’ racist history. The Washington Post, in particular, engaged in this to make political hay and to criticize Sen. Ted Cruz.

 The article began:

The day after Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) was rebuked while making a speech critical of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Sen. Ted Cruz blasted Democrats, saying their party is the one rooted in racism.

“The Democrats are the party of the Ku Klux Klan,” Cruz (R-Tex.) said in an interview on Fox News on Wednesday. “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.”

Cruz isn’t the first Republican to associate Democrats with the Ku Klux Klan.

I’m going to stop there, and remind us all of some history.

A Dark Moment in Georgia

One of the darkest moments of Georgia history occurred on November 25, 1915. A local granite contractor, Sam Venable, was the owner of Stone Mountain, west of Atlanta. He joined a group of 40 men led by “Colonel” William J. Simmons, that included the speaker of the Georgia House, on a trek to the summit.

What happened there is a matter of historical record

Under Simmons’ direction, the fifteen shivering men gathered stones to build a base for the cross of pine boards he had brought up earlier that day, and a crude altar upon which he laid an American flag, an open Bible, an unsheathed sword, and a canteen of water. They put on the bed-sheet robes and pointed mask caps and then gather around in a semi-circle as Simmons touched a match to the kerosene-soaked cross, the dancing light of the win-blown flames creating an eerie backdrop for the ceremony. With practiced oratory he then called forth the Invisible Empire from its slumber of nearly half a century.1

A week later, the silent film The Birth of a Nation opened in Atlanta. The film portrayed the Ku Klux Klan in a rather heroic light, and portrayed black men “as unintelligent and sexually aggressive towards white women.” Atlanta newspapers ran an announcement of “The World’s Greatest Secret, Social, Patriotic, Fraternal, Beneficiary Order” next to advertisements for the movie.

The Old South and the Democratic Party

In those days, the South was ruled by a single party: the Democratic Party. The first Republican governor of Georgia since 1872 was Sonny Perdue (now nominated as Secretary of Agriculture). The first GOP senator since 1873 was Mack Mattingly in 1981, and he served just one term.

There is no doubt that Democrats led the South during the height of the KKK’s popularity. Yet Kristine Guerra of The Washington Post treated it like a political football and punted. “Cruz isn’t the first Republican to associate Democrats with the Ku Klux Klan,” she wrote.

Guerra’s entire piece was crafted to refute what Cruz said to Fox News, which is irrefutable. So she dug to find something she could refute, and tied it to Cruz.

She then spent eight paragraphs responding to a 2013 remark by Virginia state Sen. Stephen Martin, who said the Democratic Party created the KKK, for which he later apologized and retracted. The entire piece was crafted to refute what Cruz said to Fox News, which is irrefutable. So Guerra dug to find something she could refute, and tied it to Cruz. If that’s not dishonest reporting, then dishonest reporting isn’t a “thing” anymore.

In her specious argument, she quoted Carole Emberton, “an associate professor of history at the University of Buffalo,” attributing the quote to PolitiFact. Possibly she was too lazy to get her own quote, so she just Googled it from another left-leaning media source. Guerra wrote that Emberton said party lines of the 1860s and 1870s “are not the party lines of today.”

Guerra added, “By the 1960s, the Democratic Party was becoming the party of the civil rights movement.” That line was not a quote from Emberton or anyone. It was the reporter misstating the facts, badly.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964, although supported by President Lyndon Johnson, was filibustered for 54 days, with South Carolina Democrat Strom Thurmond leading the opposition. That forced a bipartisan group of senators to introduce a substitute bill to gain enough votes for cloture. The filibuster continued, ultimately taking up 60 legislative days to overcome. Only eight southern Democrats voted for the bill in the House, and one in the Senate.

(To be fair, southern legislators of both parties voted against the legislation. But southern Democrats voted 107 against — in both houses — to Republicans’ 11.)

It is obvious that Democrats did not “become the party of the civil rights movement” by the 1960s.

The Press Must Acknowledge Democrats’ Ugly Racist History

After her major detour through rewritten history, Guerra finally returned to Cruz and the context of his remarks, which is Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s citing of 30-year-old accusations of racism against newly-confirmed Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Guerra opposed the Senate’s decision to bar Warren from speaking after she violated Rule 19 by impugning another senator from the floor. Apparently, Democrats get a pass for 100 years of blatant and open racism, with some of those senators serving into the 2010s. But remarks made by the late Ted Kennedy and Coretta Scott King in the 1980s are to be held against Sessions. 

How can our nation ever be expected to move past racial division when the press won’t acknowledge the Democrats’ ugly history, yet dishonestly smear Ted Cruz, and prop up Liz Warren?

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