How Our Parties Switched: Part VII (Conclusion)

Against all odds, you’re back. Despite the last six parts of this series, you’re here for the seventh. I’m humbled. As your reward, today I really will tell you How Our Parties Switched.

For those that arrived here as a result of a googling accident, let’s recap my last two posts. Parts I through III focused on the words “liberal” and “conservative,” including how parties congeal around each of these ideologies, a pattern in our country that goes back to the 13 American colonies. Parts IV through VI then walked you through the evolution of our two-party system, from the federalists and antifederalists arguing about the Constitution, to the Federalists and Democratic-Republicans splitting on their interpretations of that Constitution, to the Federalist collapse, to the Democratic-Republican fracture, to the quick rise and fall of the Whigs, and finally to the founding of the Democratic and Republican parties, our two major parties since the 1850s.

I also noted how historians organize this party evolution. We’ve covered a few “party systems,” which so far have reflected the different stages of American partisanship:

  1. The First Party System (1792-1824) reflected the fight between our first two official parties, the Federalists and Democratic-Republicans, culminating in the former’s collapse and the latter’s hegemony over American politics.
  2. The Second Party System (1828-1852) is organized around the next battle, triggered by Andrew Jackson’s divisive leadership fragmenting the Democratic-Republicans. His followers became the successors of the Democratic-Republicans and called themselves the Democratic Party, which exists to this day. Their anti-Jackson opponents formed the short-lived Whig Party.
  3. Next, the Third Party System (1856-1892) is the first stage during which we have our modern two parties. The Democrats continued, but the Whigs, as a result of their softness on slavery, were replaced by the abolitionist Republicans.

An important element of these evolutions was that the regions of the country, despite the partisan transformations outlined above, retained remarkably consistent ideologies. Although I determined it was in appropriate to call any of our major parties purely “liberal” or “conservative,” I did try to isolate a pattern that we could use:

The last few paragraphs of Part VI arrived at the early twentieth century, when Democrat William Jennings Bryan, in the presidential election of 1908, lost to Republican William Howard Taft. In that election, the Democrats still swept the “Solid South,” while Republican popularity remained up north.

However, despite the parties’ continuity from the late nineteenth to twentieth century, I noted that the “winds of change” had already begun blowing across the American political landscape.

So, dear and dedicated readers, we are finally read for…

Part VII: How Our Parties Switched

William Jennings Bryan is an often overlooked character in the story of America. He’s one of only a few Americans who were three times nominated by a major party for the presidency, and he’s the only one to lose all three. (Other thrice-nominated candidates are Grover Cleveland with a record of 2-1, Franklin Roosevelt with a record of 4-0, Richard Nixon with a record of 2-1, and soon Donald Trump with a final record of wouldn’t you like me to tell you.) Bryan was the Democratic nominee in 1896 and 1900, losing to Republican William McKinley both times, and then again in the aforementioned election of 1908, losing to Taft.

Bryan’s losing effort(s)(s) had long-term implications for his Democratic Party, which was experiencing a lengthy lockout from the levers of power. One of the primary characteristics of the Third Party System was Republicans’ dominance:

It’s not the first time I’ve used this incredible graph. Across the bottom are two-year blocks dating back to 1855. The top half of the chart reflects which party has control of the Senate, the bottom half reflects which party has control of the House, and the middle stripe reflects which party has control of the presidency. The line graph, meanwhile, conveys the extent to which a party controls a chamber; the higher the peak, the higher the percentage of seats controlled by the party in that chamber. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: what a chart!

From 1861 through the turn of the century, Republicans dominated the House, Senate, and presidency. In the 15 presidential elections from 1860 through 1908, only one Democrat won — Grover Cleveland in 1884 and 1892 for his two nonconcurrent terms. (Note to the chart-readers: that blue presidential term from 1865 to 1869 was actually Lincoln’s, but Democratic Vice President Andrew Johnson took over about one month after Lincoln’s second inaugural.)

It’s in Bryan’s platform where, in an effort to win over new voters, particularly in the west, we see the stirrings of the populist, progressive ideas with which the Democratic Party would soon be associated — and it is these ideas that mark the beginning of the Democratic comeback into national viability.

Back in 1896, he distanced his policies from the incumbent Democratic president, Grover Cleveland, whose conservative “Bourbon Democrats” ran the party for decades but could not rally around an anti-Bryan in the nomination process. The antithesis of the business-favored northern Republicans, Bryan favored the working class, a position that earned him the nickname “the Great Commoner.” His ideas — and his willingness to crusade around the country attacking the moneyed elites in one of the first modern campaign strategies — made him popular with some urban laborers, even in the north, who before had almost monolithically voted Republican. As the nominee, Bryan pushed to move the U.S. off the gold standard and flood the market with silver, an inflationary tactic to help the average American coming out of the Panic of 1893, which had triggered one of our country’s worst recessions.

Although Bryan and the Democrats were doomed in 1896 and again in 1900, Bryan kept playing the role of gadfly until he was nominated again in 1908. The Great Commoner again barnstormed across the country and won over working class voters in the cities. This newfound support culminated in a surprising endorsement from the young American Federation of Labor.

Although Bryan again lost in 1908, he had won 1.4 million more votes than Democrat Alton Parker had four years earlier, and he eroded the Republican lead in most of the nation’s regions. The country was finally starting to warm up to the party again, and Bryan was a big reason why. He laid a foundation for later Democrats to build a progressive, populist, and working class coalition. These slowly scrambling coalitions characterize the Fourth Party System (1896-1932), which not coincidentally began with Bryan’s first presidential run.

Although Bryan never again ran for president, he was far from retired. Four years after his third and final loss, candidates sought his support in a tight fight for the 1912 Democratic nomination. At the Democratic National Convention, where 46 ballots were needed before New Jersey Governor Woodrow Wilson emerged as the nominee, Bryan’s endorsement of Wilson was critical. To cement the political alliance, Wilson placed Bryan in his cabinet as Secretary of State.

President Wilson and Bryan worked together on key initiatives that started the Democratic Party on its slow, counterclockwise pivot. Both had pushed for the Sixteenth Amendment, which authorized the federal income tax. Abraham Lincoln and his Republican Congress instituted the first US income tax during the Civil War. However, Lincoln’s income tax, and a later attempted one, were struck down by the courts who understandably saw the government taking people’s income as unconstitutional. Wilson, Bryan, and others responded by successfully promoting a constitutional amendment to make the income tax possible.

Later came the Seventeenth Amendment, which mandated the direct election of senators rather than appointment by state legislatures, a win for populists like Bryan.

Notice what’s happening? It’s now the Democratic Party — which to this point had stood for small government and keeping Washington out of the people’s business — that is using the federal government to force Americans to do something, in this case giving the government money out of their income. The income tax had the most support in the south and Midwest — Democratic areas — and was least popular in the northeast — still Republican, and still where high earners lived. When it came time for ratification through the states, the southern, Democratic-leaning states were the quickest to sign on.

Change was afoot.

So far, that change has only been ideological — and only in some political and economic ways. Southerners were fully on board with these changes and applauded Democratic leadership for securing them. (Later changes will not be met so eagerly.) Electorally, by the end of Wilson’s presidency, when Republican Warren G. Harding defeated Democrat James M. Cox, the electoral map has scarcely changed.

Even if some Democratic ideology was changing, its geographic base was not.

Further and deeper change came during the long tenure of the next Democratic president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In between Wilson and Roosevelt were three Republicans — Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover — each of whom did a good job keeping Republicans the favorite of big business and other affluent Americans while still retaining some earlier-earned loyalties from African Americans and northern commercial centers.

Under the last of those Republican presidents, Hoover, the Great Depression violently scrambled American government and politics. The Depression began with the stock market crash of 1929, which occurred in Hoover’s first year, but the President was seen as doing little to help over his next three. This apparent apathy alienated many Americans, and when Hoover ran for re-election in 1932, both he and his Republican Party got swept out of power. Roosevelt won 42 states to Hoover’s six (all six were in the still Democrat-skeptical northeast), including earning 57.4% of the popular vote, the highest ever percentage for a Democratic presidential candidate to that point. In Congress, the Democrats won 12 new seats in the Senate and 97 in the House. It remains one of the great routs in election history, and it would take a generation for the Republican Party to recover.

FDR’s presidency did much to crystallize the party’s newfound support. Although historians debate the merits and effects of Roosevelt’s “New Deal,” the country perceived the New Deal positively. By creating government-paying jobs, regulating businesses, combatting poverty, and creating Social Security, the President was seen as rolling up his sleeves to try solving the problem. In time, World War II helped the country reach full employment and a strong economy. The victory over Germany and Japan led to further popularity for Democratic commanders-in-chief Roosevelt and his successor, Harry Truman. As a result, many Americans became lifelong Democrats.

This New Deal coalition made the Democrats even more dominant than the Republicans had been beforehand. The period from 1932 to 1968 saw Democrats win 7 out of 9 presidential elections while almost always controlling Congress as well, a total reversal from the prior era (see the above graph). The Democrats’ unprecedented success during this stretch gave us the Fifth Party System.

This political ascendency doesn’t mean FDR’s approach to government was without its detractors. Classical liberalism was dying, and it was getting replaced by a New Deal liberalism. The old liberals thought liberty came from the government staying out of the decisions made by states, businesses, and above all individuals. The new liberals, in contrast, thought that liberty came from government actively helping. Without a fairer distribution of capital, they believe, no freedom can be had by most of the population. In other words, what good is the government staying out of the economy if few people benefit from the result of that non-intervention? The New Deal is perhaps the most important development in the history of American government, save only the many foundational stones placed by Hamilton and Jefferson.

There were, and still are, many who disagree with the philosophy of New Deal liberalism. Indeed, in the wake of FDR transforming the government’s relationship with the people, we should take a beat on the plight of what we now call the economic conservative.

They were beside themselves at the development of federal policy in the twentieth century. Income taxes had twice been deemed as unconstitutional, and so Wilson and the Democrats changed the Constitution so that they could take people’s money. And if taxes weren’t enough, FDR turned Keynesian, spending unprecedented amounts of federal money to create government jobs out of thin air. He also began a policy of fiscal federalism, offering states federal money, often in the form of grants, in exchange for state implementation of federal initiatives. States quickly grew addicted to annual sums of such money, crafting state budgets around them, which chained them to federal policy.

Small government conservatives took note, and if they had been Democrats, they weren’t for much longer. Corporations, big business, and affluent Americans heavily tilted toward the GOP. This pattern helps explain the infamous 1936 Literary Digest survey in its effort to predict the results of the next election. The Digest used telephone directories and club memberships to contact 2.5 million voters — an extraordinary sample size — with results suggesting Republican Kansas Governor Alf Landon would win 57% of the vote to President Roosevelt’s 43%. In the actual election, Roosevelt won 60.8% on his way to winning all but two states (Maine and Vermont), an electoral vote trouncing of 523 to 8. The reason for the error? It was not a representative sample. Only well-off Americans had phones and were members of clubs, and these well-off Americans were disproportionately Republican.

Although affluent Americans backed the GOP, Democrats more than made up for it in sheer numbers. Relevant to our topic is what kind of voters Democrats won over — and why. The New Deal won over urban laborers, who had begun to warm up to the party with Bryan and Wilson. Among those urban laborers, importantly, were African Americans who, after years of instinctively voting against Democrats, finally saw a prominent Democratic leader helping them out. Hoover remains the last Republican candidate to have majority support from black voters.

FDR’s successor, Harry Truman, continued the Democrats on this new trajectory. His attempted New Deal sequel, the “Fair Deal,” was a remarkably progressive push for the federal government to fund education, create a national health care system, support unions, and advance civil rights. Although Truman failed to advance his domestic agenda thanks to resistance from small-government Republicans and segregationist Democrats, he did become the first president to address the NAACP, the first Democratic president to convey to Congress the importance of civil rights, and he named African Americans to federal positions, including the first black federal judge. His most powerful step forward was in 1948, when he issued an executive order to desegregate the military.

These were departures from traditional Democratic politics. We don’t need to go back to the antebellum period, the Civil War, or Reconstruction to see the Democrats’ racist roots. The twentieth century gave us Woodrow Wilson. Whereas Truman desegregated the military, the openly racist Wilson kept segregated the White House and federal bureaucracy. Even by Truman’s mid-twentieth century presidency, the Democrats were still the southern party, and the south still advocated for segregation.

It’s during the Truman Administration, however, that the southern base of the Democratic Party began to take notice of their changing party, and they didn’t like it. In the same year Truman desegregated the armed forces, the base of his party sent a message. Led by South Carolina Democratic Governor Strom Thurmond, the “Dixiecrats” tried to split the Democratic vote in Truman’s re-election campaign against Thomas Dewey. If Truman lost, Dixiecrats hoped Democrats would realize they can’t win without southern support, and future nominees would re-embrace segregationist politics. Thurmond and others re-emphasized the kind of language that festered before the Civil War; the official name of the Dixiecrats was the “States’ Rights Democratic Party.” (Although Thurmond won four southern states, Truman managed to prevail, much to the surprise of the Chicago Tribune.)

In the next decade, 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education dealt another blow to segregationists. In Part VI, I mentioned how southern Democrats applauded 1896’s Plessy v. Ferguson decision that allowed states to write segregation into state laws. It took nearly 60 years, but with Brown, the Supreme Court, citing the Fourteenth Amendment’s “Equal Protection” Clause, finally reversed the precedent. The Court abolished de jure segregation in schools, and the precedent soon outlawed segregation across public facilities.

Small-government and states’ rights advocates were appalled, as they would be again in 20 years time after Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in every state. Cries of Supreme Court “activism” echoed across the south. This new brand of liberalism was interfering too much with the states, and a new conservative ideology coalesced around resisting it.

After Truman’s second term came eight years from Republican Dwight Eisenhower. Democrats were not surprised the Republican Eisenhower supported Brown v. Board when he federalized the Arkansas National Guard to usher the Little Rock Nine past Democratic Governor Orval Faubus into their new school. Southerners had grown used to Republicans sticking their noses into southern business. The hope of the Democratic base was that the path down which Truman had taken the party would be a dead end. If the next Democratic president could recapture the old spirit of the party, they could resume their political battle with the north and defend segregation.

That is not what happened. John F. Kennedy’s win in 1960 showed Truman’s path was a long one. Kennedy was a friend to the civil rights community, and southern Democrats unsuccessfully tried to block his nomination at that summer’s convention. His victory reaffirmed the party as more progressive than the southern base wanted it to be.

Kennedy’s assassination led to an outpouring of support for his agenda, including civil rights, and his successor, Lyndon Johnson, had an easier time advancing it. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965 empowered the federal government to enforce the Reconstruction amendments that had attempted to grant blacks equality and full suffrage before it was met with things like literacy tests, poll taxes, and grandfather clauses. Johnson championed a new “Great Society,” which legislated sweeping reforms not seen since the New Deal, including welfare measures, Medicaid, affirmative action, and other attempts to proactively tackle poverty and discrimination. As a result, African American support of the Democratic Party, which mirrored urban support of the Democratic Party, continued to climb.

Remember Strom Thurmond of the Dixiecrats? It was right around here that he and other prominent southern Democrats left the party for good. Enough was enough.

Thurmond, I believe, is particularly instructive when talking about How Our Parties Switched, and I could have saved you twelve thousand words just by looking at his career. He had been a segregationist Democrat for the first part of his political career, which began in 1933 as a state senator before he became Governor in 1947 and then Senator starting in 1951.

In 1957, a lesser known Civil Rights Act made its way through Congress, but not before it had been defanged by Democrats Thurmond and — wait for it — Senator Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas! Weak as it was, Thurmond still set the existing record for a filibuster; in his opposition to civil rights, Thurmond managed to hold the floor for over 24 hours.

He had already been frustrated by party-leaders Truman and JFK, but after losing former ally Lyndon Johnson to the civil rights crowd, Thurmond had enough of this changing Democratic Party. Whereas Johnson modernized with the party, Thurmond left and switched to the Republicans, and there he stayed until 2003 when he finally retired after his eighth term in the Senate at 100 years of age. (That’s right, South Carolinians re-elected Strom Thurmond when he was 94. Compared to that, Biden and Trump are spring chickens! Bring on 2024!)

It’s worth noting that not every Democratic lawmaker jumped ship with Thurmond. The parties had only begun switching their geographic bases. Republicans were still the northern party in the early Sixties, with Democrats still the more popular party down south. Therefore, Republicans’ pro-civil rights ties remained, and the partisan split of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 reflects that; Republicans voted for the legislation at a higher rate than Democrats. And yet, regionally speaking, northern Congresspersons of both parties voted for it at a higher rate than southern Congresspersons of both parties. Whereas 90% of non-southern Congresspersons voted in favor of the Civil Rights Act, only eight of the 102 southern House members and one of the 22 southern senators voted in favor. Isolating the 12 southern Republicans in Congress, zero voted in favor. In other words, the indicator of how Congresspersons voted wasn’t their party, but their region.

Southern Democrats who did defect, like Thurmond, were welcomed by the Republicans’ new standard bearer: their 1964 presidential nominee, Barry Goldwater, for whom Thurmond campaigned.

Goldwater, a Senator from Arizona, can be seen as analogous to the Democrats’ William Jennings Bryan, the main character at the top of Part VII. Like Bryan, Goldwater is synonymous with loser. His loss to Johnson in 1964 is one of the greatest wipeouts in presidential election history.

Also like Bryan, however, he helped lay the foundation for his party’s future. His 1960 book, The Conscience of a Conservative, redefined conservatism for the modern era. A love letter to small government, the work skewered federal overreach into the states and Americans’ lives. True to his convictions, Senator Goldwater voted against Johnson’s big federal initiatives like social security, civil rights legislation, and the Great Society.

He is the first recognizable, high-profile conservative of modern American politics, arguing that the federal government should stay out of just about everything except national defense. This ideology is yet another throwback to the Articles of Confederation days, where states ran themselves but acknowledged that in cases of war the 13 states would stand together. Goldwater’s vote against the Civil Rights Act in 1964 was a testament to that ideology — but it also helped doom his campaign across most of the country. Goldwater won only six states.

But here’s the thing about those six states:

Alongside his home state, he had won the south! A Republican! Won the south! It was almost without precedent. Louisiana and South Carolina hadn’t voted Republican since 1876. Alabama and Mississippi hadn’t voted Republican since 1872. Georgia hadn’t voted for a Republican… ever! The party switch was starting to be writ large across the electoral map.

Switches don’t happen overnight, of course. Many voters maintain party loyalty — and instinctive animosity for the other party — well after parties’ ideologies drift. We’ve seen several key markers along the road, and there are still milestones ahead.

Democrats’ dominance from FDR to LBJ — the Fifth Party System — had taken its toll on the GOP. Democrats had been winning for over three decades, and Johnson’s 1964 win remains the largest popular vote share (61%) of any Democrat in history, besting even Roosevelt. With Thurmond and Goldwater as the canaries in the coal mine, the Republican Party became desperate enough to come at politics from a new direction. Looking to siphon from the growing pool of disaffected Democrats, the Republicans tried a new strategy. This new strategy inaugurated the Sixth Party System.

Recognizing the millions of southern and rural voters who felt alienated by the increasingly urban and progressive Democratic Party, Richard Nixon’s 1968 campaign team adopted what’s been perhaps mistakenly called the “southern strategy” to win over all those dissatisfied, up-for-grabs voters.

I say it’s a mistaken label because Republicans did not compete for the south in the next presidential election. In that election, Democrat-turned-third-party candidate George Wallace pulled his best Dixiecrat impression and bolted from the party to run on a segregationist platform, and it is he who wins the Deep South. In truth, Nixon ceded the Deep South to Wallace, but he did adopt a “border state strategy.” In a year rocked by political assassinations, race riots, and a chaotic Democratic National Convention, Nixon, as a law-and-order candidate, triumphed in the Electoral College. That included splitting with Wallace every state south of West Virginia except for the home state of outgoing President Johnson.

The electoral geography continued its scramble. The Democratic nominee, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, won mostly in the northeast, the old Republican stronghold. It wasn’t nearly enough.

The Republican Party was back.

This strategy continued the inertia that had developed across the century: the parties slowly switched their ideologies, and gradually their geographical bases caught up to them.

Two key pieces of data can help us understand the reality of this party switch. One is African American party ID and voting trends. During FDR’s presidency, black party ID, in the midst of its transition away from intense loyalty to Lincoln’s Republican Party, was relatively split, about 40% to each party. The shift continued into 1960, but even then 22% of African Americans still identified as Republican. By 1968, however, the number was down to just 3%. Meanwhile, 92%(!) identified as Democrats.

Another telling transition occurs on the electoral map. Take a look at this chart of how southern states have voted in presidential elections since the end of Reconstruction, and watch how a blue ocean gradually ebbs into a red sea:

Of course, no one can win the presidency with just the south. Republicans have had success in other states as well. Those successes stemmed from winning over rural voters in all states. The southern strategy goes hand-in-glove was a rural one, as voters from these areas have historically been weary of corrupt governments and other elites telling them what to do, a position that goes all the way back to the antifederalists. From Reagan’s deregulation to Trump’s call to drain the swamp, the modern Republican Party has excelled at convincing non-urban voters that the party will work to keep the federal government out of their economic decisions by lowering taxes and standing up to the coastal elites, while also, like the Democrats of old, promising to use government to help resist a changing culture pushed by those same elites.

These are the opposite positions of the old Republican Party, and they’ve been used to great effectiveness. Republicans have earned much more success in the Sixth Party System — so much success that, in times of desperation, Democrats nominated southern governors Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton to help win back some southern voters, and therefore the presidency, in 1976 and 1992. However, even that strategy has faded as the Democrats’ new coalition has solidified. Every Democratic nominee since 2004 has been from the north.

Republicans now run up the score in white and rural areas to cancel out Democratic popularity in urban centers, especially among African Americans and other minorities. Our last handful of election maps convey this pattern — not by state, but by county. Here’s 2020:

This century, remarkably few states look like “blue states.” Donald Trump won about five times more counties than Joe Biden did, which makes the county map look overwhelmingly red in most states, and yet Biden bested Trump by millions of votes and a majority of the Electoral College.

That’s because it became the Democratic Party winning cities overwhelmingly with the Republican Party winning outside of them — the reverse of earlier trends. This century, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Joe Biden relied on minority and other voters along the coast and in urban areas. They promised to use the tools at their disposal to fight for things like higher minimum wages, affirmative action, equality, and allowing people to make their own choices on social issues. As you now know, these voter demographics and platforms are polar opposites to the old Democrats.

And that is how our parties switched.

Today’s images of the 1920 and 2020 elections come from Wikipedia.

An earlier version called Truman the first president to address Congress on the importance of civil rights, when I meant to say that he was the first Democratic president to do so. This series had noted the efforts of earlier Republican leaders to advance civil rights. I thank a reader for catching the writing error.


5 thoughts on “How Our Parties Switched: Part VII (Conclusion)”

  1. You get quite a bit wrong here.

    Truman was not the first president to lobby congress for civil rights bills, he was just the first Democrat to do so.

    Strom Thurmond was the ONLY Southern Democratic senator to leave the party and join the Republicans. It is a mistelling of history to act as though southern democrats flocked to the Republican party.

    Goldwater voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 because he felt some provisions were unconstitutional. He voted in favor of both the Civil Rights Act of 1957 & 1960, and he was a member of the NAACP.

    I will give you credit that you didn’t perpetuate the false narrative that the Republicans adopted the democrats pre-Truman racist policies to win the south.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, yes, correct on the Truman. That was just poor writing. Your correction very much fits and enhances the theme of the post. I’ll make the change, and I thank you.

      On your Thurmond points, there was a bit of straw-manning:
      1) I said the following: “It’s worth noting that not every Democratic lawmaker jumped ship with Thurmond. The parties had only begun switching their geographic bases. Republicans were still the northern party in the early Sixties, with Democrats still the more popular party down south. Therefore, Republicans’ pro-civil rights ties remained, and the partisan split of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 reflects that.” Later, I noted, “Switches don’t happen overnight, of course. Many voters maintain party loyalty — and instinctive animosity for the other party — well after parties’ ideologies drift.”

      2) Correct in that he was the “only southern Democratic senator” to join the Republicans, but that’s cutting it kind of thin. Democratic senators knew they couldn’t switch while maintaining party seniority and status. State-level Dems switched, as did voters. Meanwhile, future Republicans were being created who would have been Democrats a couple decades earlier. However, as I noted, that’s over time, not immediately.

      On Goldwater, I agree with your facts, but I don’t see how any of that contradicts what I said. My post never called Goldwater racist nor did it say that he voted against those other civil rights acts. I even said of Goldwater and his book, “A love letter to small government, the work skewered federal overreach into the states and Americans’ lives. True to his convictions, Senator Goldwater voted against Johnson’s big federal initiatives like social security, civil rights legislation, and the Great Society.” That speaks to Goldwater thinking the federal government was overly stepping on states’ rights–in other words, that it was behaving beyond the scope of the Constitution. That fits the pattern I’ve been trying to lay out: that since the early days of the republic, southerners like antifederalists, Democratic-Republicans, and the old Democrats resisted government overreach, and Goldwater helped shift the Republicans to that position.

      I try to resist assumptions, but I feel like you’re trying to defend modern conservatives and/or Republicans against charges I haven’t made.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No strawman here, Thurmond was the ONLY senator to switch parties. You make it sound like a lot of Democrats went with him, which is false. In 1972 George Wallace was leading the Democratic primaries until he got shot.

        The south still voted Democrat or split until 2000, long after the supposed party switch. Carter won every former confederate state and border state except Virginia in 1976. Clinton split the south. Reagan, Bush Sr in 1988 & Nixon in 1972 won massive landslides.

        If you look at it, the parties didn’t really switch though. Democrats were hostile to business going back to Andrew Jackson. They favored higher internal taxes and lower tariffs. The first peacetime income tax was levied by Grover Cleveland. The permanent income tax was levied by Wilson. Democrats always push for higher income taxes, with the one exception being Kennedy.

        Democrats were for bigger government so long as it didn’t interfere with slavery or Jim Crow laws. They loved the Federal Government forcing the return of fugitive slaves. They loved the Dred Scott decision which forbid the federal government from barring slavery in the territories. Cleveland also started the Interstate commerce commission, the Department of Labor in 1888 and he elevated the Bureau of Agriculture to a cabinet level position in 1889. Wilson followed this up with the FTC and FDR created the new deal.

        The democrats have always been for giving special treatment to certain groups, they have just switched which group they give that special treatment to.

        The Republican party didn’t get more conservative than it was under Harding and Coolidge, it got more liberal, just nowhere near the extent that the Democrats did.

        Liked by 1 person

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