When The Great Political Parties Switched

Once upon a time, Republicans (founded in 1854) were mostly found in northern states and were proponents of abolition, and the Democrats (founded in 1828) were mostly found in southern states and supported anything that allowed them to dominate the agriculture arena.

So what happened? It’s a bit of a complex story, but basically Reconstruction Amendments introduced after the Civil War still limited the recently-freed enslaved people. Though technically free, they were at a significant economic disadvantage, and wealthy politicians realized that passing laws that limited African-American advancement made them more popular.

Finally in 1932, Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Democrat, beat incumbent Republican Herbert Hoover for the Presidency. Roosevelt’s focus was on making the government work for all people, not just the wealthy, and using government funds to help those who needed it during the Great Depression. The Great Party Switch was triggered by the popularity of the New Deal, which included more jobs for women and the creation of the Social Security program.

Witnessing how the New Deal helped his own community, Arthur Mitchell became the first African-American Democrat in Congress in 1934. African-American participation in government continued to grow, and activism continued – and so did the Southern Strategy of creating white resentment of African-Americans seeking equal rights. In 1964, after Democrat President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, Republican Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater described the new policy as having “expanded the power of government to a dangerous level.”  

This party division over racism has continued over the last several decades, even as government officials pretend that racism no longer exists and does not demand conversation. In 1981, Republican consultant described the exact strategy used to sow “othering” – and he was recorded. Check out the link to the full recording below.