“What do you mean ‘Democrats are the real racists'”?
How often has someone asked you this question? I get it all the time from younger people– 30 and below especially. I used to recite the many instances of institutionalized racism Democrats authored and enforced to keep blacks slaves, then sharecroppers and segregated when it suited whites. I recite all the common talking points of Democrats voting against voting rights during the civil rights movement, rescinding voting rights 2 decades after Republicans gave blacks voting rights following the Civil War, the KKK being created by an elected Democrat as an enforcement vehicle against blacks and Republicans, etc…
The eyes of my audience remain blank and unimpressed. These people have been raised to believe the Democrats are blacks’ best friend in government and Republicans are hostile to blacks. While most know Democrats in the south fought to continue slavery, they believe that the racists in the south became Republicans and those opposed to racism became Democrats. They don’t know how or why such a thing happened, but they know it did. The fact that blacks vote for the Democrats over 90% of the time reinforces this belief.
This level of misunderstanding must be overcome through a rather lengthy explanation:
Democrats use fear as a tool very effectively. Southern whites were convinced that if blacks could own guns they would immediately shoot every white person they saw. If a black man could look at and speak to a white woman without being beaten or hung, they would rape every white woman they saw. If blacks drank from the same water fountain the water would carry disease. If blacks ate from the same food counter, the food would make whites sick. As crazy as this may sound, people believed it. (If your listener(s) have an incredulous look on their face ask them if they would drink water or eat food in close proximity to a rat, they’ll get the idea).
Then Republicans forced desegregation in the south causing the myths about blacks to begin fading.
Suddenly the main tool of control was lost to the Democrats. They could no longer sell them selves as the party of the white man and win elections. The Democrats went to the class warfare that served them well in the north and west. The Democrats sold themselves as the protector of the working man and the poor, fighting to stop the “repression” of the rich.
Blacks, however, knew better. They supported Republicans in large numbers with their newly restored voting rights. The “blue” South started turning purple. The Democrats needed to re-establish their political dominance in the South. Southern whites were learning that their fears of blacks were largely unfounded. With the Democrats main tool of control fading away, Southern whites began to align themselves politically based on moral values and basic economic philosophy. Southerners were and are more rural by nature which causes people to be more self-reliant. They are less likely to be in a union, less likely to be an immigrant or first generation natural born American, more patriotic, and more impressed by history than change. (e.g.- a Southerner will recommend a hundred year old restaurant first wheras a New Yorker will recommend the newest “hot” restaurant first) Over time, whites in the South found the message of the GOP to resonate more than the Democrats. And this is how Southern whites became Republicans.
Simultaneously, blacks were finding them selves realigning toward the Democrats. The racial rhetoric started to die down, and the desire to “dance with the one who brung them” faded. The social programs ushered in by the “Great Society” were attractive to the under educated, low income, black community in the South. Their was heavy immigration of blacks from the south to the north, looking for work and opportunity. When they got factory jobs they became union members and their desires from government changed. They also found “free” housing, welfare payments, food stamps, and racial quotas in hiring attractive.
So a century after the Republicans and Democrats went to war, the decendants of the soldiers and the slaves changed sides. And a half century after that, the current crop of immigrants and first generation natural born Americans are unaware of the change, assuming that current alignments are rooted in racial history rather than evolving moral and economic values.
Conservatives must educate younger and immigrant voters about the truth of why some groups vote as they do. We must no longer cede the racial high ground to the historic party of racism. Most people understand the allure of government money in the black community and why they vote Democrat but they do not understand how racist whites in the South became Republicans without bringing their racist beliefs with them.