Democrats & Republicans – When They Flipped Their Political Stances & Why

One of the most important parts of this story
is to remember that we say the South and what power it’s a different South it’s a South
where the elite after the Civil War may in fact include large numbers of the same individuals
who were part of the elite before the war but they’re not a slave owning class anymore
and so uh I it one can say without any I think contradiction that the slave owning class
which had controlled political life in the United States at the national level for most
of that pre war era has no political power after the Civil War because it doesn’t even
exist anymore so that’s the easiest way to make a distinction but even uh at another
level the distinction between the amount of political power that the southern elite exercises
nationally before the war and say between Lincoln’s election and Woodrow Wilson’s election
so a little earlier than the time that you and I remember uh is very very sharp uh so
we’re saying earlier that in the pre war period South was usually uh uh enjoying a President
uh from its own ranks in the White House same was true of the Supreme Court the same was
true of Speaker of the House that was rarely true between Lincoln’s election and Wilson’s
uh the the proportions are at least reversed uh you don’t have I think there’s well there’s
no southerner in the White House uh after uh Andrew Johnson and Andrew Johnson’s not
elected to the Presidency until Woodrow Wilson the number of Justices from the South is radically
reduced the same is true of the Speakers of the House of Representatives moreover it’s
good to remember that while the South in that era still exercises some power at the national
level it does so through the Democratic party and the Democratic party is a minority party
in that era for most of the time so between uh Lincoln and Wilson once again there’s only
one Democrat elected to the Presidency uh and that’s Grover Cleveland who’s a northerner
right uh so our memories from the sixty nineteen sixties and the nineteen seventies can give
us a false impression right of what the post war decades right were like right right that’s
really interesting wasn’t Cleveland the guy of whom they had a ditty ma ma where’s my
pa gone to the White House ha ha ha I think I remember a political cartoon that looked
like that ’cause he had an illegitimate child political cartoons were pretty rough in those
days yeah I guess here’s something Bruce number one I wish they taught what you have just
said about the flip in eras from you know up to eighteen sixty then up to nineteen twelve
nineteen twelve well actually nineteen twenty it was uh the end of uh Wilson’s uh uh tenure
uh and then again to the Republicans then to Roosevelt I wish they would teach that
more often ’cause most of us have had no concept of how particularly in the late nineteenth
century the last thirty years this uh this flip occurred excuse me for interrupting no
no go ahead but one of my my students always are amazed to learn that at its inception
the Republican party was the radical political party the left wing political party yes in
the United States and the Democrats was the southern based conservative political party
right right and always looked at me aghast and say what happened between then and now
let me ask that question see I put my foot in it right there no it I mean it’s it’s clearly
quite true I I guess one would say that what happened was that the Republicans became the
allies of big business and many of them became were big businessmen and it changed the whole
attitude of the party from what eighteen eighty on well that I think that’s really key businessmen
become much more conservative yeah over the course of the nineteenth and into the twentieth
century yeah yeah uh in the eighteen sixties they feel themselves or at least many feel
themselves to be and are the cutting edge of progress including uh personal liberation
right and they’re contrasting themselves still with feudalism and slavery uh once those wars
are won uh and they don’t feel challenged from the right uh they start to feel menaced
elsewhere and they start to see menace in the ranks of their legally free employees
uh start to resent demands of former slaves for a little bit more than simply political
freedom from slavery yeah and you see a march to the right throughout the rest of the nineteenth
century meanwhile over that subsequent century the democratic party change or at least the
northern democratic party changes its base of support uh so the Democratic party by the
end of Truman’s era while it includes obviously a politically powerful core of southern democrats
now depends for electoral support on northern wage earners and immigrants and Black people
right right and that has a lot to do with its change of political uh stance right This
excerpt is brought to you by the Massachusetts School of Law

Maurice Vega

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