Henry Mencken, every good journalist’s journalist, was a prolific writer. Asked if he ever got tired cranking out newspaper stories and commentary, he said -- never. During his whole journalistic output, Mr. Mencken said, he felt like a little boy with two stomachs in a candy store. Many of his writings were devoted to Republican and Democratic nominating conventions, which he hugely enjoyed as a buffoonish spectacle.
“It is characteristic of Mencken that one of the things he enjoyed the most was a Presidential convention, which he almost never failed to attend. Here he plunged into the midst of the teeming, raucous, and absurd throng: into all the hilarity and inanity and excitement of the great American political process itself, his jacket off, swigging beer, partaking of all the fun while missing none of the folly. And then he would write up what he saw, slashing at the cant, hypocrisy, and concentrated nonsense of our governors in action. No one truly immersed in Mencken could emerge quite the same again; no one could retain the same faith in our ‘statesmen’ or in the democratic political process itself; no one could ever be quite the same sucker for all manner of ideological, social, and political quackery, the same worshipper of solemn nonsense.”
Most of what we now call “political spin” would not have survived Mr. Mencken’s acidic commentary. Knowing a good deal about the Democratic Party’s historic link to slavery and Jim Crow, he would not have let pass unchallenged the fiction based historical view trumpeted on the Democratic National Committee website that “for more than 200 years, the Democratic Party has led the fight for civil rights…”
Nor would Mark Twain, who advised wordsmiths and politicians: “Get your facts straight; then you can distort them as you please.”
The actual historic record of the Democratic Party on the maddeningly slow liberation of African Americans from slavery and Jim Crow is bleak.
The Democratic Party supported slavery in 6 of its platforms from 1840 to 1860.
The Democratic Party vigorously opposed the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments to the Constitution, which abolished slavery and extended legal rights and voting rights to black Americans.
Through omission in its platforms from 1868-1948, the Democratic Party condoned segregation. Silence in the face of a great evil signifies consent.
Mr. Mencken was very energetic in support of anti-lynching laws; not so the Democratic Party, which opposed the GOP supported laws in four platforms from 1912 to 1928.
The Democratic Party opposed the GOP sponsored Civil Rights Act of 1866, a bill that sought legal equality for blacks.
The GOP favored extending the voting franchise to blacks in the District of Columbia in 1867, legislation that was passed over the Democrats’ strenuous objections. The 1868 Democratic presidential ticket of New York Governor Horatio Seymour and ex-Missouri Congressman Francis Blair vowed to declare “null and void” the above bill and pledged to refuse to enforce it. The Democratic ticket lost that year to Ulysses Grant.
The Democratic Party opposed the Republican Party inspired Enforcement Acts, a series of three laws passed between 1870 and 1871 that targeted the rise of the Ku Klux Klan and made it a federal crime to block the right of blacks to vote, hold office, serve on juries and have equal protection of the laws with whites.
According to Columbia University historian Eric Foner, the Democratic Party employed the Ku Klux Klan as “a military force” serving party interests. North Carolina historian Allen Trelease's describes the Klan as the "terrorist arm of the Democratic Party." The 1924 Democratic Convention came down to history as the "Klanbake," because hundreds of delegates were KluKluzers. Under the influence of the Klan, the Democratic Convention fused together the traditional Democratic message of progressivism and the racism of the Klan written platform.
The Democratic Party repealed the Civil Rights laws enacted by GOP Congresses and presidents, already weakened by Supreme Court decisions. In 1892, after gaining control of both Congress and the White House, Democratic President Grover Cleveland signed the repeal on February 8, 1894.
The Civil Rights Act of 1957 that sought to secure voting rights for blacks was opposed by South Carolina Democrat Strom Thurman, who initiated the longest filibuster ever conducted by a single Senator in an unsuccessful attempt to kill the bill. Democratic Majority Leader, Lyndon Johnson of Texas sent the bill to the judiciary committee, led at the time by oppositionist Senator James Eastland of Mississippi, who gutted the bill. It was the last gasp of Democratic Party opposition to Republican Party attempts to liberate blacks from their social chains.
Manipulate them as you will, these are the hard historical facts, and they ought to be recalled whenever the party of slavery and Jim Crow seeks to claim from the party of Abraham Lincoln, The Great Emancipator, and Dwight Eisenhower, who sent the 101st Airborne Division to escort “The Little Rock Nine” through the doors of Little Rock Central High School in 1957, a heroic guerdon for the unflinching support of civil rights.