Friday, March 4, 2016

What We Should Take Away From the Van Jones v. Jeffrey Lord Debate

A few things happened on Super Tuesday.  Hillary and Trump had big nights politically, each taking home most of the delegates in their respective primaries.  But as the pundits on the various cable news shows chimed in with their two cents about how to interpret the election results, a different debate entirely was happening on CNN.  In response to a critique on Donald Trump's failure to initially disavow an endorsement from former Ku Klux Klan ("KKK") member David Duke (Trump subsequently disavowed the endorsement publicly), pundits Jeffrey Lord and Van Jones actually engaged in a debate about the KKK.  The primary thrust of the debate was supposed to be about how presidential candidates should immediately and unequivocally denounce any support whatsoever from hate groups like the KKK. But then the debate took a turn into the Twilight Zone when Jeffrey Lord suggested that the KKK is a "Leftist" and "Progressive" organization that should be associated with today's Democratic Party.  Watch for yourself:

Jones: The Klan is a terrorist organization.
Lord: A leftist terrorist organization.
Jones: You can put whatever label you want on it, that's your game to play.
Lord: That's history.
Jones: No, we're not going to play that game.
Lord: It is wrong to understand that these [KKK members] are not leftists.
Jones: What difference does it make if you call them leftists?  Call them chipmunks - they still killed people.  And don't play games with that!
Lord: You're right, and you don't hide and say that's not part of the base of the Democratic Party.  They were the military arm, the terrorist arm of the Democratic Party according to historians.  For God's sake, read your history!
Let's break down this myth after the jump.

The argument that Jeffrey Lord is trying to make here is rooted in a common yet factually inaccurate distortion of history that attempts to link the Democratic Party of today with the Democratic Party from 100 years ago.

While it is an historical fact that southern Democrats (aka the "DixieCrats"), from the time of Abraham Lincoln in the 1860's all up until about the time of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, were known bigots and racists, and while it is also an historical fact that the Republican Party, during that same time period, was the "progressive" party who freed the slaves and fought for civil rights for Black Americans, those roles ceased to exist in that form once the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed.  In other words, Jeffrey Lord is attempted to conflate the Democratic Party of 2016 with the Democratic Party pre-1964.

Not only is the Democratic Party of today not the Democratic Party of the 1800's or early 1900's, in fact the members who used to be in the Democratic Party back in the day, such as South Carolina Senator and notorious racist Strom Thurmond, actually switched their political affiliation from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party in the 1960's in direct response to the Democratic Party's support of the Civil Rights Movement.

That is history, Mr. Lord.  

We did a series of pieces on this a few years back chronicling the transition of both parties from where they began when the Republican Party was created in the 1860's all the way through to today.  In pertinent part, we wrote:

Even after the assassination of JFK on Nov. 22, 1963, Democratic Vice President, Lyndon B. Johnson, was sworn in as President and continued to keep the pressure on Congress to pass the bill.  Finally, after much heated debate and a 57-day filibuster by the Dixiecrats in the Senate, on July 2, 1964, the bill was signed into law.  It passed the House by a vote of 290 to 130 (of the 290 Yea votes - 152 were Democrats, 138 were Republicans). It passed in the Senate by a vote of 73 to 27 (of the 73 Yea votes -  46 were Democrats, 27 were Republicans).  In the House there were 94 Dixiecrats - 87 of them voted against the Civil Rights Act.  In the Senate there were 21 Dixiecrats - 20 of them voted against it.
The Dixiecrats were so pissed off about the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that many political scientists and historians all agree that its passage undeniably marked THE defining moment when the Democratic Party lost the South forever and gained its monopoly over the Black Community.  Indeed, after President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the act, he told one of his aides: "We [the Democrats] have lost the South for a generation."  And true enough, after that time, many of the Dixiecrats abandoned ship and became Southern Republicans which caused the remaining Black Republicans to do exactly the opposite: leave the Republican Party for the Democratic Party.
So when people like Jeffrey Lord tell others to know their history, they need to take a look in the mirror and direct that advise to themselves because, clearly, history does not support Mr. Lord's argument.  The KKK certainly was strongly affiliated with the Democratic Party of the early 1900's.  There's no disputing that fact.  But what Mr. Lord conveniently glosses over is that the Democratic Party during the early 1900's is literally not the same party that it became post-1964 when it married itself to the Civil Rights Act.  It's membership, especially in the South, switched parties publicly from Democrat to Republican and it has remained that way since the 1960's.  That is why the South, still to this day, primarily votes Republican, not Democrat.

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