Democrats and Republicans swithched platforms

The two major U.S. parties (now called Democrats and Republicans) went through many changes in American history as support from geographic locations, party leaders, political factions, stances on key voter issues, and platform planks switched between the two major parties and third parties throughout the different "party systems."

In other words, many things "switched" between the two major parties in American history, including party planks and therefore portions of party platforms (which is what we mean by our abridged title: "the parties switched platforms").

Did the Democrats and Republicans “Switch Parties”?

The US political parties, now called Democrats and Republicans, switched platform planks, ideologies, and members many times in American history. These switches were typically spurred on by major legislative changes and events, such as the Civil War in the 1860s, and Civil Rights in the 1960s. The changes then unfolded over the course of decades to create what historians call the “Party Systems.”[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12]

Bottomline and clarity on the semantics of the term “switch”: The parties changed over time as platform planks, party leaders, factions, and voter bases essentially switched between parties. Third parties aside, the Democratic Party used to be favored in the rural south and had a “small government” platform (which southern social conservatives embraced), and the Republican party used to be favored in the citied north and had a “big government” platform (which northern progressive liberals embraced). Today it is the opposite in many respects. Although what happened is complex, in many cases there was no clean sudden shift, and some voter bases and factions never switched, you can see evidence of the “big switches” by looking at the electoral map over time (where voter bases essentially flipped between 1896 and 2000). Or, you can see it by comparing which congressional seats were controlled by which parties over time (try comparing the 115th United States Congress under Trump to the 71st United States Congress under Hoover for example). Or, you can see the “solid conservative south switch” specifically by looking at the electoral map of the solid south over time. Or, you can dig through the historic party platforms. Any of those links will give you a look at the basics of what did and didn’t change, but the details are as complex as U.S. party history and to some degree the term “switch” can be underwhelming when it comes to really explaining the nuance of what changed in terms of parties over the course of US history. Below we cover the details of what changes occurred and what they mean in context… and explain the history of the Democratic and Republican party in the process. To do that, we’ll start with an overview of the party systems. This overview will help to confirm the truth of the matter, which is, semantics aside, things indeed did change.

An Overview of the Party Systems

The “party systems,” AKA eras of the United States political parties, can be described as follows (where the main things that “switch” in each party system are key factions, party leaders, geographical voter bases, and specific planks of party platforms):[13]

  • The first party system: The Federalists vs. Anti-Federalists, to the Jeffersonian Democratic-Republicans, to the Era of Good Feelings (where both parties “switch” to becoming the “one-party” Democratic Republicans). This ends with Jackson vs. Adams (where the parties switch back to a two-party system). In this system, the anti-Federalists and then Democratic-Republicans (who essentially go on to become Democratic Party in the second party system) are the “small government” party favored in the South. Meanwhile, the Federalists (who will essentially become National Republicans and then Whigs in the next party system before becoming Republicans) are the aristocratic “big government” party favored in the North.
  • The second party system: the Jacksonian Democrats vs. the National Republicans/Whigs, to expansion, to the dissolution of the Whigs. This ends with the tension over “States’ Rights” before the formation of the Republicans, Lincoln’s election, and the Civil War. The tensions break the two parties into a number of factions, some of which take their single-voter issues party planks with them (like Know-Nothings and Free-Soilers), but the general two-party system and the ideologies of those parties is otherwise retained.
  • The third party system: Know-Nothings, Free-Soilers, Southern Democrats, Northern Republicans (radical, moderate, and conservative), the Populist party, and many other factions (who switch from the major parties to “third parties” over the issues surrounding slavery during the second and third party systems); from Bleeding Kansas, to Civil War, to Reconstruction (where the “bourbon liberals” “switch” into the Democratic Party), to the Gilded Age (where both parties become pro-business, and in which there is an influx of immigration which changes the often pro-immigrant Democratic Party). This ends with the rise of Progressivism (where the Democrats begin to become increasingly progressive under figures like Bryan despite their conservative factions). The factions of this era are notable, as they help illustrate the different factions that “switch parties” and cause platform planks and much else to switch over time.
  • The fourth party system: The rise of Progressivism in “the Progressive Era” (where both parties embrace progressivism following the Gilded Age), to Teddy leaving the Republican party (where progressive Republicans begin to “switch” to the Democratic Party), to the First World War, to Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover (where the Republican platform starts to become less progressive and more pro-business). This ends with the rise of the New Deal Coalition vs. Conservative Coalition (two cross-party coalitions that are emblematic of the modern parties). This party system really sets the modern struggle of free-enterprise (gilded age factions) vs. progressive (progressive era factions) in motion (especially with the rise of media, the events of World Wars, the Fed, the income tax, voting rights, and the rise of the modern state). Most of the major switches of the modern era are a result of this tension (this tension also gives new meaning to “big government” and “small government,” as now we have to consider “the welfare state”). Starting in this era the Great Migration begins and this changes both parties by changing the location of a future geographic voter base (once Voting Rights 1965 happens).
  • The fifth party system: from FDR, to the New Deal Coalition vs. Conservative Coalition, to the Second World War (and the global and national tension between Fascism and Communism), to the rise of “States’ Rights” parties. This ends with the battle at home after WWII over Brown v. the Board, Kennedy, Civil Rights 1964 and Voting Rights 1965 under LBJ, and the rise of Goldwater Republicans in 1964 (where the “solid south” begins to “switch” from Democratic Party to the Republican Party in response to not only LBJ’s programs, but in response to the increasingly progressive Democratic Party and all the implications of that progressivism).
  • Some, including me, feel that this is followed by sixth party system: From LBJ and Civil Rights, to the Southern Realignment AKA “big switch” or “solid south switch” (where from 1964 to 2000 when the South “switches” to favoring the Republican Party), to Reagan or Clinton. This ends with the rise of modern fairness doctrine-free media, Reaganomics, and Clinton’s Third Way “Neoliberalism” (which had started with figures like Cleveland, Wilson, and Carter and is a sort of bourbon liberal mashup of classical liberalism, social liberalism, and conservatism focused on business interests and deregulation; its counterpart in the Republican party is called neoconservatism). The socially conservative and/or small government identities we today call paleocon, libertarian, and “the religious right” become more dominant in this era (which helped to increase the popularity of the Republican party in the South with the aide of right-wing media and think tanks). Meanwhile, progressivism and neoliberalism come to dominate the Democratic Party as the southern conservatives either “reform” (like Robert Byrd) or shift to the Republican party (like Strom Thurmond) over time.
  • Some, again including me, then feel this is followed by a seventh party system: from Reagan / Clinton, to the subsequent polarization and rise of modern media, to War in the Middle-East, to bailouts and modern debt, to Citizens United, to today. Does this end with Obama / Trump and figures like Bernie, or are we still in the seventh party? Only time will tell. One thing is clear though, the Democrats are increasingly seen as the aristocratic party and are favored in Urban centers and in the North, while the Republicans are seen as the populist small government party and are favored by Rural areas and the South (a full switch from how it was back in the 1800s!) This isn’t to say everything switched, and this isn’t to say that party planks didn’t evolve with the times, but it is to say the factions, voter-bases, and planks that did switch had a considerable effect (going as far as to turn the rural small government party of yesterday into the urban big government party of today).

In other words, as the Democratic Party became more progressive in the progressive era, it attracted progressives from the Republican party and alienated the Democrats of the small government socially conservative south. Meanwhile, as the Republican party “conserved” toward Gilded Age politics in the 20th century, and embraced socially conservative single-issue voter groups and individualism, it attracted the “solid south” (their leadership and voter base) and alienated progressives. These two factors, and many more explained in detail below, substantially changed the party platforms, seats held in Congress, and the voting maps over the course of the 20th century (AKA the 20th century reversal, or the 20th century political realignment, or “the switch”).

To sum up and connect all of the above, the switches we see that change the parties and define different eras (party systems) include things like Teddy Roosevelt or Strom Thurmond switching parties (party leaders switching), the Democratic Party platform becoming more progressive in the progressive area (party planks and platforms switching), the southern Democrat “southern bloc” tending toward the Republican party after the Civil Rights era (political factions switching), all this impacting which regions of the country tend to support each party (geographic voter bases switching), and all of this affecting which party has a stronghold in which region as new elections occur (which we can see on Congressional voter maps for example).

All those changes together fundamentally change the parties over time and result in parties that look drastically different between party systems. Further, and oddly, it in some respects results in what at times almost seems like a full switch as the modern parties sometimes take the exact opposite stances they did in previous eras!

Further, since all these things happened to change the parties slowly over time, and each change gradually affected the other, there isn’t one simple event or moment in time to point to, but instead a range of evolutions over time that slowly changed the parties.

TIP: Especially given that the U.S. has a two-party system in practice, it forces all of America’s political factions to group together under two tents. A party is really compromised of the sum of the forces under its banner, it isn’t a static thing, it is a container that changes based on what is put in it. When looking at a past party system it can be helpful to look at what factions drove the platform rather than assigning those actions to the party itself. This can also help one understand the tensions within the party, as often factions in the same tent will disagree wildly over the direction of the party.

TIP: If you want to see some quick visual proof of party switching, see the images on our “Summary of How the Major Parties Switched” page. This page leads with explanations (which require reading), that page leads with images and videos (which don’t). Below is an essay that explains American history in depth, so bookmark it for further study.

An Introduction to the History of the Major Parties and the Big Switches

It is not a myth that “the parties switched,” just look at the voting map over time or at the historic party platforms (or check out Lincoln’s 1860 election, Democrat-Populist Bryan’s 1896 election, LBJ’s 1964 election, Nixon’s 1968 election, and the corresponding platforms of all parties in those races and compare them to the 2016 election).

The problem isn’t proving specific changes (for example showing that the southern bloc used to vote Democratic Party and now they vote Republican), the problem is that so much changed that it is difficult to summarize (especially from a centered standpoint that tries to do justice to all of America’s diverse factions; here I’ll apologize for any bias below, feel free to comment with questions or challenge anything).

This Isn’t Just About the Solid South

The truth is the Solid South switch (the Southern realignment) is one of the easiest to spot (as one can see it on the map), and debunking its related myths detracts from the equally important stories of Progressive Dixies like LBJ and Gore Sr. and their refusal to sign the Strom led Southern ManifestoTeddy and his Progressives, Bryan and how he changed the Democratic Party, the tension between Federalists like Hamilton and Anti-Federalists like Jeffersonthe one-party Democratic-Republicans in the era of Good Feelings (and the tension between Jackson, Clay, Calhoun, Van Buren, Adams that ended the era), and the countless other stories of Expansion and Compromise in the mid-1800’s, Third Parties like the People’s Party, Free Soilers, and Libertarians, the Difference between Southern Democrats and Know-Nothings (and their relation to the modern Tea Party)Reconstruction, the Gilded Age, the World Wars, the Great Migrations, the evolution of the Monroe Doctrine, the strategy that helped create Fox News, and the rise of Progressivism.

This is to say, I want to jump right in and explain that in Lincoln’s day there were four parties (not two), and that Lincoln was no Know-Nothing AND no Southern Democrat

…Still, I get that this is about first and foremost debunking the “Big Switch,” so lets split the difference.

First, we’ll offer a quick summary in the form of an introduction (in order to quickly go over key points as a service to the reader who doesn’t want to read the whole thing; that will be about different factions and their relation to the groups at the heart of the “Big Switch”).

Then we’ll explain the general story, which shows that the main theme here is one of factions switching parties in a “two-party” system as America progresses and modernizes (with voter bases and key members typically switching first, usually over “single voter issues” or specific legislation, and then everything else changing slowly over time as new members are elected).

Then we move on to the details of “the Big Switch” (where the “Southern bloc” “Southern Democrat” “Dixiecrats” switched from favoring the increasingly progressive Democratic party to the increasingly conservative Republican party following 1964, slowly, over time, from 1964 to the 1990ss and beyond, thus causing “the big switch” (flipping the map) as one can see in the congressional voting records of the contemporary era; see the Southern strategy).

Then we’ll tell the full history of both major parties, noting each switch, each President, and major events.

First, a bit more on the Solid South (which is explained by the following image in many ways).

Visual Proof the parties switched (source). Remember, we are discussing majority wins in a two-party system here. On an individual level, America is less red-state vs. blue-state or city vs. rural, and more “purple,” meanwhile on a state and national level it seems polarized due to party politics and majorities being needed to win. Here we can note that America is today and has always been comprised of diverse individuals with different tastes who support single-voter issue factions, who then form coalitions as two “big tents”… still, a city is not a farm, the media can be loud, Citizens United and Gerrymandering are loud too, the two-party system is an epic feedback loop, and majorities do win the day. Very real factors divide us in very real ways in any era, but electoral-based maps and even county-maps can be misleading (as they only show majorities). The Solid South is a force when it acts as a one-party voting bloc in any era, but it isn’t like everyone in the south has the same politics. See the ways in which America is purple, the nitty gritty truth is very telling.

LOOKING FOR PROOF IN 2017:  Keeping in mind we today are new generation. If one is still confused, today we can see some recent and major proof, that is Charlottesville 2017. In Charlottesville, we saw the Dixie battle flag of the Southern Democrats being waved by Republican Trump voters who were standing up to protect the statue of the Southern Democrat (Confederate) rebel army leader General Lee. Meanwhile, the progressive American liberal-ish antifascists marched against these groups with the progressive social justice movement Black Lives Matter in abolitionist spirit. In ye old terms, the socially conservative right-wing populist “America First” Know-Nothing nativists and Solid South radicals marched against the populist Reformers, Progressives, and left-wing anarchists. In the old days all those factions were in the Democratic party except the old Progressives of Republican party who would have marched with MLK, voted for Teddy, or stood with Hamilton or Lincoln, and the Know-Nothings who have always been Republican, Whig, Federalist, or Third Party. Today the socially conservative factions generally vote Republican and the progressive factions generally vote for the Democratic party. That is the main switch spurred on by shifts toward big government welfare state social justice and free-enterprise states’ rights small government. Here we can’t act like decedents of the Confederates are Confederates any more than a descendent of a progressive is progressive, but spiritually some of these factions switched parties and the alliances of the other factions subsequently changed (and regional voter bases and platform planks changed with them as the parties evolved). So yes, Thurmond and Goldwater are fine places to look, but 2017 is as fine as any other place. History is complex enough without twisting the story of the South and the progressive factions into a modern pretzel. Some factions have always been for small government, some for big government, the parties and times changed and the factions changed along with them, all of this is interconnected. Also, party loyalty is a factor.

An Introduction to the Different Types of Democrats and Republicans: This is a Story of Factions Switching and Parties Changing

I can’t stress this enough, a major thing that changes in history is the Southern Social Conservative one-party voting bloc (because in an electoral system, 11 states who often vote lock-step always matter and often paint the map clear as day, for example when they vote for Breckenridge in 1860, Goldwater in 1964, or George C. Wallace in 1968).

This is the easy thing to explain given the conservative South’s historically documented support of figures like CalhounJohn Breckenridge and his Socially Conservative Confederates of the Southern Democratic PartyByrd (the who didn’t switch), the other Byrd who ran for President, Thurmond, C. WallaceGoldwater (the “Libertarian” “States’ Rights” “Republican”), and later conservative figures like Reagan, Bush, and Trump (rather than progressive southerners like Carter and Bill Clinton).

The problem isn’t showing the changes related to this, or showing the progressive southerners like LBJ, the Gores, and Bill Clinton aren’t of “the same exact” breed as the socially conservative south, the problem is that the party loyalty of the conservative south is hardly the only thing that changes, nor is it the only thing going on in American history (to say the least).

Not only that, but here we have to note that the north and south have its own factions, Democrats and Republicans have their own factions, and each region and state has its own factions… and that gives us many different “types” of Democrats and Republicans.

Consider, Lindsey Graham essentially inherited Strom Thurmond’s seat, becoming the next generation of solid south South Carolina conservative, now solidly in the Republican party.

When we note that Graham’s stance on key issues tends to be rather liberal for a right-wing conservative Republican[14] (and is generally different than his northern Republican counterparts like Trump; who is also rather liberal for a Republican) we can see some real evidence of what I am saying. Both Trump and Graham are liberal Republicans, but they are from two different parts of the country and don’t exactly share all the same interests.

A southern conservative from South Carolina used to vote Democrat, supporting figures like Bryan and Wilson, now they generally vote Republican, supporting figures like Trump. However, that doesn’t make them “exactly the same” as their counterparts in other parts of the country, that just makes them part of the same coalition in this era (they support the same platform and oppose the other party together).

In other words, it isn’t just party interests that define a politician, there are state interests, regional interests, monied interests, single voter issue interests, and more to grapple with here. Add to that the fact that some of those interests change, and we have a rather complex situation.

Consider also, Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK). Although MLK was not directly affiliated with a party, he supported Southern Democrats [among other factions], just like Thurmond would have been before he switched… However, he didn’t just support any Southern Democrats, he supported the progressive ones like the Mississippi Freedom Democrats who stood against Goldwater and for Civil Rights. We are talking about different factions duking it out district-by-district, not cartoon characters.

Birmingham was [speaking loosely] all about a Democrat spraying a firehose at a Democrats, while the Democrats sent in the national guard to stop the protestors, while a Democrat told the guard to stand down.

Civil Rights 1964 and Voting Rights 1965 had strong Republican support (remember the change happens over time; this being the point of our story here), but in respect to MLK, Civil Rights wasn’t a story of Republicans (like it had been in Lincoln’s day or prior to 1877). It was a story of different factions of Democrats from anti-war Hippies, to Northern liberals like Kennedy, to Progressive Southern Freedom Democrats, to Socially Conservative ones (who are no longer with the Party today, which again you can see on any voter map and see reflected in the party platforms and “States’ Rights” third party splits).

In other words, the Republican party was still supporting Civil Rights under Eisenhower and Nixon, that is very clear.

However, the struggle in the Democratic Party that happened under Kennedy and then would flip the map under LBJ and Goldwater in 1964 and Humphrey, C. Wallace, and Nixon in 1968 was a main theme of the 1960s.

As the Democrats shifted to the progressive left, with figures like MLK supporting Kennedy and LBJ (to some extent), the Republicans shifted to the socially conservative right supporting figures like Goldwater, and this had a profound effect on the parties over the years from Reagan to Clinton, to Bush, to the Obama era.

A socially liberal progressive Democrat certainly voted for FDR and Kennedy, and they might support LBJ, but they weren’t going for Goldwater or George C. Wallace, they were going for liberals like Humphrey from this point forward.

Still, I don’t want to demonize Northern or Southern conservatives in any party system (it isn’t my stance at all if you read carefully), or discount important figures like Eisenhower, Reagan, Nixon, or Bush, or downplay the role of left-wing or socially progressive Republicans, or the impact of “America First” “Know-Nothings in the North, or the role of third parties (States’ Rights, Free Soil, or Progressive), or the role of other Democratic party figures and factions (like Bourbons and Carpetbaggers and Tammany Hall), or those Republican factions like Civil Service Republicans and Stalwarts, or the countless single-issue voter factions I haven’t noted yet (like “the Religious Right“)… and what about the original single-issue party, the nativist Anti-Masons, or the original crony Spoils system?! How about the Alien and Sedition Acts that show the different types of Federalists? There is truly a lot to cover here!

Thus, not only will we debunk the myths of the Solid South below, we’ll also explore other specifics changes in each Party System from 1789 to 2017 (like the start and end of the one-party era of Good Feelings, the split over States’ Rights in the 1850’s, the changes of Reconstruction and the Gilded AgeBryan’s effect on the Democrats, Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt’s exit from the Republican Party in 1912, the changes under Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover that turned the GOP to a “small government” party in the 1920s, landslide wins by FDR, LBJ, Nixon, and Reagan which changed the nation, and finally the polarizing effects of the eras of mass media and Bush and Clinton) to show the many changes that define the Party Systems.

With all the above points in mind, we can say: the Democrats used to be the party of the Rural South, but that changed from FDR in 1932, to LBJ in 1964, to Clinton and Obama with their “second rights” “safety net” legislation.

The effect has been a Southernization of the Republican Party and an Urbanization of the Democratic Party.

TIP: With all of that said, for the reader who doesn’t want to read a long essay (that explains things like the difference between a progressive Dixiecrat liberal ally like LBJ who didn’t switch and a staunch southern Conservative Democrat like Strom who did), consider watching the following videos.

The Election of 1860 Explained. That time the Northern Liberals, Free Soil Classical Liberals, Know-Nothing Nativists, and Southern Democrats went to war. Lincoln was not a Know-Nothing or Southern Democrats… obviously.

What was the Southern Strategy? This part of the story is only one part, but it is vital to get. This is from Keith Hughes who explains much of our American history accurately. All videos on this page are secondary resources not created by us.

TIP: Today only one party displays the Confederate Battle Flag. The flag of the Southern Democrats is now flown by the southern Republican. That is a big hint when all else fails to sway someone. From there one only needs to understand that the old conservative Southern Democrat and the old “Know-Nothing” “America First” Northern Tea-Party-like Republican are not the same thing. Both are right-wing populists, but one is a southern populist and used to be Democrat, the other is a northern anti-immigrant populist who allies with elitist pro-business conservatives and was always of the Republican line. One is more like a “Bill the Butcher” nativist, and the other is more like a Deep South agrarian. They are very different types of Americans, only united on some social issues, and they actually used to be on different teams, even though today we may think of both as Republican Tea Party voters. The progressive direction of America really changed things.

Southernization, Urbanization, and Big Government vs. Small Government

Today the Republican party doesn’t have a notable progressive left-wing and the Democratic Party doesn’t have a notable socially conservative right-wing.

Instead both parties have establishment and populist wings and the parties are divided by stances on social issues.

In other words, regional interests and the basic political identities of liberal and conservative didn’t change as much as factions changed parties as party platforms changed along with America.

The modern split is expressed well by the left-right paradigm “Big Government Progressivism” vs. “Small Government Social Conservatism,” where socially conservative and pro-business conservative factions banded together against socially liberal and pro business liberal factions, to push back against an increasingly progressive Democratic Party and America (and programs like the New Deal).

This tension largely created the modern parties of our “two-party system,” resulting in two “Big Tents” who disagree on the purposes of government and social issues. This tension is then magnified by the current influence of media and lobbyists, and can be understood by examining what I call “the Sixth Party Strategy” and by a tactic called “Dog Whistle Politics“).

The result is that today the Democratic Party is dominated by “liberal Democrats and Progressives”.

Meanwhile, most of those who would have been the old “socially conservative Democrats” (Dixiecrats) now have a “R” next to their name.

Just look at the 115th United States Congress under Trump (without naming names, look at Trump’s administration and the current House and Senate, pick out modern conservatives from the south, then compare those seats to say, the 71st United States Congress under Hoover).

Don’t try to oversimplify this to “what Strom did,” most of the changes happened over time, and the proof is in the platforms and voting records.

Today things are still changing, Berniecrats are new, and so are Trumpians, even the Tea Party has been changing. The two parties are constantly changing “Big Tents” of factions, they aren’t static things.

The Tension Between Rural Regions and City Regions is as Old as the Federalists and Anti-Federalists

With the above covered, there is a reason the Northern Coasts and Cities are in one party and the Rural South and Mid-West are in the other party in almost any era (taking into account “winner-take-all” at least), with this being true even when the parties switch.

This is because a major divide is between the political, economic, and social interests of rural regions and citied regions (and between their related inequalities and cultural differences, and between the interests of the Bosses, Cronies, and Corporations who sway the vote in given regions).

Learn more about How the Tension Between City Interests and Rural Interests Affects Politics, not just on a national level, but on a state and regional level too (and make sure to read up on VO Key).

The better you understand this tension, the better you’ll understand that age-old Federalists / Anti-Federalist, Republican / Democrat, or North / South split in any era (which is really a North and Coast vs. South and Mid-west split where notably the North and Coasts have more cities).

We are all Democrats, we are all Republicans, we are all Federalists, and we all love liberty.

We are all Americans.

We simply disagree on specifics (sometimes only split regionally by a slim gerrymandered margin or a single debate over a single voter issue), and thus we form factions and voting blocs around those differences (in Democratic spirit).

The changing factions responding to newly arising voter issues is the main thing that “changed” the parties.

Still, not everything changed (for example the Republican stance on trade and the Democratic Party stance on immigration). That is explained in excessive detail below.

Now that you know about the rural vs. city split, and the big changes like those of Lincoln’s time, those of Teddy’s time, and the shifting Solid South (and how that is different from a Bryan or FDR or Kennedy), take a look at the time-lapse video below which shows the U.S. Presidential election results map, both by state and by county, from 1789 to 2016.

Here you can see the solid voting blocs that switch, oddities like the Black Belt, and proof that the country is more diverse and complicated than party politics or the electoral map elude.

U.S. Presidential Election Results (1789-2016). Consider starting with Lincoln’s 1860 election forward to really see the different factions (including the Solid South Southern Democrats who seceded over “States’ Rights” and other things.)

TIP: See a Summary of How the Major Parties Switched, the New Deal Coalition and Conservative Coalition (the two factions that help tell the story of the big switch), and our other works on the subject of “party switching” (which include the story of Lincolnthe history the Democratic party and slavery, a Fact-Check of Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Partythe anti-Federalists and Federalists, and the Republicans of Reconstruction) for additional perspectives.

NOTE: This page is more like a long essay and less like a blog post, you can get away with just reading the first part, but consider skipping around to different parts or book-marking it and coming back. Each section tells a different part of the story. We will answer any and all questions posted below. Feel free to comment (even if you didn’t read the whole thing).

FACT: If the above didn’t make it clear, the tension between the “States’ Rights” Conservatives of the Southern Bloc and the Rest of the Democratic party essentially starts 1789 with tension in the anti-Federalist party, continues to Jackson, splits the party in Civil War, doesn’t exactly help Bryan, results in Wilson, and is part of the story of FDR, but it really picked up steam after WWII over Brown v. the Board. From there we start getting the “States’ Rights” third parties. Then Civil Rights 1964 and Voting Rights 1965 is the tipping point. Yes, many Republicans voted for Civil Rights and Voting Rights. Indeed. The parties really did change from 1964 to the 1990’s to today, that is kind of the point of this whole thing. Explaining that slow transition and what it means is one of many reasons this page is long and not short. Still, if you get that we are talking about “factions” first, and “Big Tents” second, you get the gist of what the specific details below will explain.

“If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.” – LBJ had a mouth on him, but all his faults aside, the Progressive Southern Democrat ended up on the right side of history in terms of his Great Society programs. Today many planks of the Republican Party seek to undo LBJ’s work (and Lincoln’s, and Wilson’s, and FDR’s, and Obama’s etc).

A Response to the Claim Welfare is Equatable to Slavery

In the 1850’s, inequality in the Northern “big government” cities, northern immigration in the big cities (and the related racism and classism), and African slavery in the “small government” south (and the related racism and classism) all existed side-by-side…. and in ways, so it is today (minus the slavery). Northern cities still favor bigger government, and they still have problems of racism and inequality, Rural South still favors small government (and they still have issues of racism and inequality). This does not make the North of today equatable to the slave economy of the South of yesterday however.

There is this idea that welfare is equatable to slavery in this respect, as in both cases a societal structure is providing basic essentials for a class of people (who some would claim are oppressed by the situation to the benefit of some elite). This argument, often presented in tandem with the claim “the parties didn’t switch/change” is essentially a red herring that misses the nuances we describe on this page (I hear it enough that I want to address it here before moving on).

The southern conservatives who held slaves and fought for the Confederacy essentially switched out of the Democratic party starting in the 1960s, and even continuing to the modern day (although the changes had most occurred by 2000), in response to LBJ’s welfare programs (after forming a coalition with Republicans in response to Wilson and FDR’s welfare programs prior). In other words, if the southern conservative had wanted to oppress a class of people with welfare, one would logically assume they wouldn’t have switched out of the Democratic party over time in response to welfare programs.

What we see in the cities of the north is instead more like what we have seen since before the Civil War, it is the inequality capitalism breeds, and the related state-based solutions generally favored by cities (like welfare). When African Americans migrated to northern cities in the Great migrations, they (much like the European and other immigrants) were subject not only to the inequalities of a capitalist melting pot, but to the general racism and classism that exists outside of party lines. Thus, it should be little surprise that the modern Democratic party is a coalition of those who immigrated in those times, urbanites, and party leaders who remained after the switch.

It is important to understand that bourbon liberals (pro-business factions who came to the South after the Civil War to become Democrats), neoliberals, neocons, progressives, conservative pro-business Republicans, liberal Democrats (like Kennedy), classical liberals (like the Free-Soilers or Jeffersonians), social conservative Know-Nothings, social conservative southerners (like the old Confederates), etc are all different ideological factions that have existed in history and have been in one of the two major parties or a third party at different times. The social conservative south were the ones who dragged slavery with them up to the Civil War and then combated Civil Rights from the Democratic party up until they were pushed out of the party by the progressive movement which had gained traction since the Gilded Age.

Thus, although it is complex to explain (and vastly under-explained right here), equating chattel slavery and wage slavery, and then tying it back to the 1850s-1860s, really misses the nuances of history (again it is red herring as it sounds like it applies to the argument, but doesn’t). Think of all the nations on earth with welfare states, in all cases are they not generally spurred on by the progressive factions to strive for social equality? Are the small government and conservative factions not the ones who oppose this?

Today it is a Southern Republican who flies to Confederate flag, today it is a Republican who champions small government in America. Yesterday, it was a Southern Democrat.

TIP: Remember, this does not speak to the many other factions and why they did or didn’t ally with this faction in any era. Nor does this truism or the claim we are addressing speak directly to people alive today (as we are tracing parties and ideologies over time, no person alive today was alive in 1850, and very few were adults in 1950… plus, people like parties “change”).

TIP: There is more on this subject below, I don’t want to offer too much space to any one aspect of this long discussion at any point, so keep reading for more proofs.

Understanding the Basics: How the Parties Changed, General U.S. Party History, and Why the “Big Switch” isn’t a Myth

Above we did an introduction, this next section takes a very general look at how the major parties changed and how factions changed parties.

To sum things up before we get started discussing specific switches, both major U.S. parties used to have notable progressive socially liberal left-wing and socially conservative right-wing factions, and now they don’t.

Originally, like today, one party was for “big government” (originally the Federalists, Whigs, and Republicans) and one party was for “small government” (Anti-Federalists, Democratic-Republicans, and then Democrats).

However, unlike today, party lines were originally [very roughly speaking] drawn over elitism and populism (by class / by rural vs. citied interests) and preferred government type more than by the left-right social issues that define the parties today, as the namesake of the parties themselves imply (where Democrats favored a more liberal democracy, and the Republicans favored a more aristocratic liberal republic).

In those days both parties had progressive and conservative wings, but the Southern Anti-Federalist, Democratic-Republican, and then Democratic Party was populist and favored “small government”, and the Northern Federalist, Whig, and then Republican Party was elite and favored bigger central government.

However, from the lines drawn during the Civil War, to Bryan in the Gilded Age, to Teddy Roosevelt leaving the Republican Party to form the Progressive Party in 1912, to FDR’s New Deal, to LBJ’s Civil Rights, to the Clinton and Bush era, the above became less and less true.

Today, the Republican Party doesn’t have a notable Progressive Socially Liberal “Federalist” Elitist Hamilton, Lincoln, Roosevelt wing, and the Democratic Party doesn’t have a notable Socially Conservative “Anti-Federalist” Populist Jackson, Calhoun, George C. Wallace wing. TIP: Each party still has a “left” and “right”, and certainly both have classically liberal and classically conservative values, but the Democrats lack a prominent socially conservative wing and the Republicans lack a prominent socially liberal wing (and this is a thing that has notably changed).

Instead, today the parties are polarized by left-right social issues, and each party (each “Big tent” Coalition of single voter issue factions) has a notable populist and elitist wing.

  • Modern Republicans are a “Big Tent” of conservative right-wing populist and elitist “single voter issue” factions. They have their Socially Conservative Tea Party right-wing Nativist Populists (both States’ Rights Right-Wing Dixie Populism like Sessions, and Know-Nothing America First Nationalism like Bannon, plus other right-wing populist factions like the Religious Right) and their Classically Conservative Neocons (their “establishment” liberal-conservative business faction like McCain or Romney), all of whom favor “Small Government” (rhetorically at least).
  • Likewise, the modern Democratic party is a [mostly] equal and opposite “Big Tent” of populist and elitist socially left factions. They have their Progressive Left Populists (like Bernie) and their Neoliberals (which is a mash-up of the southern and northern “establishment” conservative-liberals with their “big city machines”, both of which can be seen in the Clintons; or Al Gore and Obama if you like), both of whom favor “Big Government” (especially for social issues).

TIP: There are more factors to consider, such as the fact that party members and factions generally come in conservative, moderate, liberal, progressive, and radical forms and stances can change per issue. For example, a “progressive left-wing social liberal populist” will generally be “to the left” of even a “moderately liberal right-wing pro-business conservative” on most social issues, and thus they will likely be in the Big Tent Democrat.

Although nothing that happened is simple or singular, generally, what happened is the aforementioned “elite northern socially liberal progressive” and “southern socially conservative populist” factions effectively “switched parties” (along with their voter base and fellow politicians) over party stances on “key voter issues” (like Civil Rights and Globalization; the history of switches is all about single-voter-issue factions), as can be seen in the New Deal Coalition and Conservative Coalition, and that was enough to flip the party platforms and the voter map geographically (as can be seen by comparing 1896 to 2000, and generally here).

Essentially, one can explain this by saying “the progressivism and modernization of the 20th century under figures like FDR, LBJ, Clinton, and Obama resulted in conservative factions in both parties banding together and pushing back under Hoover, Nixon, Regan, Bush, and Trump.”

Today, with the effects symbolized by the New Deal and Conservative Coalition having already taken place, we can say the Republican Party is generally a coalition of socially conservative and pro-business right-wing movements previously found in both parties, and the Democratic party is generally a coalition of socially liberal and pro-business left-wing movements previously found in both parties. In reality, their stance on the state changes voter issue to voter issue, but generally it is this left-right split over social issues that results in the parties being “Big Government” and “Small Government” respectively.

What didn’t change is the left-wing Democratic Party Anti-Federalist populists (like Jefferson, Bryan, or Bernie) and conservative right-wing Republican Federalists (both know-nothing and pro-business) never changed parties (they just got new allies and new platforms). Likewise Bourbon liberals have essentially been with the Democrats since Reconstruction (although one can argue some went to the Republicans over time). Also, the “big city” Democratic Party machines  have long been a part of the Democratic Party’s story. Also, the parties have been in their current big-government / small-government (rhetorically at least) forms since the 1920’s with Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover. Furthermore, Republicans have always been strict on immigration and protectionist, and the Democrats always pro-immigrant (and had historically been for free-trade before becoming “neoliberal“; which adds complexity). FACT: Lincoln disliked Free-Trade, implemented the first income tax, created the first free colleges in the U.S., and used the Federal Power of the State to restore the Southern rebels to the Union; Lincoln is a good place to look for what did and didn’t change (as is Hamilton who inspired both Lincoln and Clay and Theodore Roosevelt). On the other side Jackson, Van Buren, Jefferson, and Calhoun are good Democrats to look at for similar reasons (each representing a different type of Democrat).

Thus, although many things change over time, in modern times one of the main things that switches is the socially conservative Democrats (notably including many Dixiecrats) switched from the 1960s to the Bush era (very slowly; Thurmond aside, not in a clear all-at-once switch; partly due to the Sixth Party Strategy, partly due to changing times and self interest).

One last note before moving on, it is important to understand that we are discussing intergenerational switches, so there is a complexity to consider which is: general ideological factions switch over the course of generations more than all-at-once (in most cases, not in the 1850s and 1860s as much, that happened quickly). When we pair this with the fact that the times and parties have generally themselves changed, we can understand how oversimplifying this to “all the racists became Republicans” is an underwhelming simplification given the fact that so many different things changed (we have barely scratched the surface here yet).

Thus, to summarize the basics: some [not all] things change, but regardless, entire party platforms and much else changed as the key voter issues the factions were rallied around ebbed and flowed in importance in state and national politics (consider not only does the nation as a whole have political factions which form the basis of the national two-party system and third parties, but each state has its own internal political factions that form around key voter issues, identity, and general ideology).

If you got this far, do yourself a favor and watch the two next videos from VOX. VOX explains large parts of the story, including the connection between “progressivism”, “conservatism”, “the minority vote”, and the historic major parties and their policies.

NOTE: While I have your attention third parties like Know-Nothings, States’ Rights, Populist, Progressive, American Independent, Southern Democrat, and Constitutional Union tell the story of “switching platforms” well. Each denotes a major faction who is emblematic of “a single voter issue” (or two) and otherwise major changes. You can see major third party platforms here. It is no mistake that we see third parties in years like 1856186018921912, 1948, and 1968, they are symbolic of major changes.

From white supremacy to Barack Obama: The history of the Democratic Party. In a sentence: The KKK used to be Democrats, and now they aren’t, not after the effects of the Solid South switch and Southern Strategy (part of the overarching Sixth Party Strategy). The post-War 1960’s really changed the Democratic Party, their liberal wing essentially took over (much to the dismay of the “free enterprise” Republicans).

How the Republican Party went from Lincoln to Trump. In a sentence: The Republican party used to be the party of Lincoln, but Teddy’s exit, Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover, and the conservative coalition and Sixth Party Republican strategy changed that. The pre-Teddy republican Party and post-Teddy party are very different things.

Now that we have the basics down, let’s restate this all before moving on to notable specific switches.

Originally, the Populist Anti-Federalists, Democratic-Republicans, and then Democratic Party Platforms were about “Small Government” (as their names imply), Free Trade, and States’ Rights and were favored in the rural-South, and the more elite aristocratic Federalists, Whigs, and then Republican Party Platforms were about “Big Government” (as their names imply), protectionism, taxes, and Collective Rights and were favored in the citied-North. However, today this has mostly “switched” (NOTE: some key stances on some key issues haven’t changed, for example the Republican party has almost always been stricter on immigration and have generally favored trade protectionism; we cover nuances like this below).

In simple terms, what happened was both parties became pro-business in the Gilded Age after Reconstruction following the divisive Civil War which forced all factions to take sides, and then both parties became progressive in the Progressive era, and this and a series of events led to the Republican party becoming the party of small government over time (despite the party’s aristocratic roots) and the Democrats becoming the party of big government (despite their populist roots).

Today business-minded NeoConservatives (establishment conservatives) ally with Tea Party Social Conservatives (populist conservatives) in the “Right-Wing” Republican Party, both agreeing that less Government is best, and business-minded NeoLiberals (establishment liberals) and Progressive Social Liberals (populist liberals) ally in the “Left-Wing” Democratic Party, both agreeing on the use of the State.

Each party essentially still has the Gilded Age business factions they have had since Reconstruction, but since the States’ rights faction joined the Republican party, and since the modern Right political machine pushed conservative Populism, they have gained a more prominent populist wing.

The basic types of people still exist, they just exist with modern stances on key voter issues and in different coalitions.

The real story here, to distill it to one line, is that of a tug of war between big-state social justice liberals progressing toward a modern future and conservatives pushing to returning to a past age when things were “great” (that age is 1900 for modern conservatives, roughly 1775 for the Confederate era, and the 1820’s for the old Young America movement).

The underlying basic ideology of people didn’t change, it is just that the factions, tactics, and party stances have changed, and which party and factions wanted the above have changed.

This is to say, some things are consistent in our history, but the platforms (collections of official and unofficial stances on key voter issues AKA planks) and the party’s socially minded factions have essentially “switched” to create the modern populist and neo-business wings of the parties (the major, but not only national wings… we haven’t even got to the importance of state factions, other factions, and third parties yet).

Of course, reality is more complex than “the Conservative south and old Republican Progressive factions switched parties due to the events that occurred from the Gilded Age to the Bush and Clinton years which caused a southernization of the Republican Party” or “the party of small government became the party of big government as social issue took on new importance and this caused factions who favored small government or big government to switch parties” or “the States’ Rights Socially Conservative Populists reshaped one party with their exit and one with their entrance while the Elite and Populist Progressives took hold of the other party”.

That is the gist, but describing specific causes and effects is more difficult, as these changes didn’t happen in isolation (does the faction follow the platform, or the platform the faction, or the faction a single key voter issue? The answer is, “all this, and more!”). History is too complex to just say everything in one consumable bite, and America is to diverse for this all to be just about one faction or one ideology.

This is to say, although a figure like Strom ThurmondLester MaddoxBo Callaway, Robert ByrdHenry A. Wallace, or Teddy can symbolize what did and didn’t change, in the same way Civil Rights 1964 and Voting Rights 1965 can symbolize a motive, or the Progressive Bull Moose Partythe States’ Rights “Dixiecrat” PartyFreedom DemocratsSouthern Bourbons, the American “Independent” Party, and Goldwater Republicans can symbolize factions, or the “Southern Strategy” (both Hoover’s and Nixon’s) and what Hillary Clinton lovingly calls “the Vast Right-wing Conspiracy” (the other part of the Republican’s “Sixth Party Strategy” AKA the semi-coordinated pushback against progressivism in the 20th century which spurred on the 20th century reversal) can symbolize a telling tactic, those looking for a clear all-at-once switch, a complete switch, or smoking gun won’t find it.

With all of the above said, without further ado, there is notably one switch that is clearer than the others, and that is “the Solid South Switch” (the one most people think of as “the big switch”; and the one I imagine draws the average reader here… so let’s discuss it directly).

The Solid South Switch and Southern Strategy

Although it is hardly the only switch that happens in American political history, “the Solid South Switch” (which has thus far only been eluded to), is both one of the easiest to spot, easiest to prove, and one of the most impactful switches.

The Deep South, unlike most of the country, has often had a one-party system at the state level (comprised of competing factions in the same party, not competing parties, banded together in a single party over key issues of “race politics and a legacy of war” more than national issues in any era; although government size and rural vs. urban policy were always key secondary issues[15]), and that makes them an easy place to look for changes (as when they change, they change lock-step en masse and re-color the map).

To prove the switch, we can first confirm southern political history up to the 1950’s via works like V.O. Key’s Southern Politics in State and Nation (see an overview).

In his classic work of political realism, Key documents the history of the South to explain that what we might describe as Progressive Reformist Populists, Southern Socially Conservative Populists, “Small Government Libertarians”, agrarian Southern Conservative business people, and [since Reconstruction] Bourbon Liberal Pro-Business Redeemers were all Solidly in the Democratic Party in the South from the Gilded Age to the start of the 1950’s.[16][17]

This isn’t to say there weren’t progressive Republican factions, Gilded Age small business pro-Gold Libertarian-like Republicans, or America-First Know-Nothing Republicans in the North and South, this is to say, we are talking about the dominate solid south factions who vote in lock-step here (we’ll discuss these other factions below).

From the start of the 1950’s (where Key leaves us) on, we can then confirm the consequent changes via the Republican southern strategies (both Hoover’s starting in the 1930s which affects the later years, and Nixon’s in the 1960’s following Civil Rights and Voting Rights which had consequences that we still feel today; here we must also note both the Conservative Coalition and New Deal Coalition, Both Bushs’ Southern appeal, Byrd, Carter, Gore, the Reagan Democrat Clinton’s New Democrats, and things like that in general).

Then we can show how, even though not everything changes, this led to “a switch” over party stances on key voter issues.

Thus, we can point to the well documented history of the factions of the Solid South to show they were all historically solidly Democrat, then look at a voter map to see enough are Republican today to flip the map, and thus say “the parties switched”, but the full-story of all the changes is even more complex, fascinating, telling, and humanizing than a talking point size factoid about Byrd factions, Bryan factions, Wilson factions, Henry A. Wallace factions, Thurmond factions that arise from differing factions within the one-party solid south states.

Still, if we do want our smoking gun, we can say the “1968 Presidential Election where the liberal Democrat Humphrey, one of the last of the old gaurd Liberal-Conservatives Nixon, and the Solid South Conservative George C. Wallace go head-to-head following the progressive Dixiecrat LBJ’s Civil Rights legislation and his 1964 Presidential election” is a good place to look.

How the South Went Republican: Can Democrats Ever Win There Again? (1992). If you have an hour and an earnest interest in our history, this video will confirm and explain all our points about the “Solid South Switch” (one of many switches, but certainly one of the most impactful and notable). By the way, Nixon was a liberal-conservative, he knew how to reach across the aisle and talk to a liberal like Humphrey… and how to reach out and woo a conservative Dixiecrat with his “Southern Strategy“. Since “the Switch” there has been less “reaching across the aisle”.

The Republican Sixth Party Strategy – Where the Tea Party and Alt-Right Come From

Everything noted so far leads up to one other thing that needs to be discussed on its own (you’ll see it below in the story, but it is important to note).

After Voting Rights 1965 it wasn’t just a matter of switching the South, it was a matter of taking that 1930’s conservative coalition to the next level and the Republicans switching themselves (again, in response to the increasing social liberalism of America and the Democratic party).

No social conservative faction was strong enough on its own to win an election, not after Voting Rights, but together, under a strategically planned big tent, the social conservatives and establishment conservatives could create a siren-like Frankenstein’s monster to push for free-enterprise (classically liberal and Gilded Age business interest) and socially conservative values against the progressive state an increasingly progressive Democratic Party (the reference to Frankenstein is a political metaphor made, not an insult).

This story involves:

The Powell memo, the southern strategy, the John Birch Society, the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine, Goldwater, Nixon, Reagan, Norquist, Roger Aisle, Lee Atwater, Karl Rove, Fox News, Reagan, Right-Wing Radio, Alex Jones, Rush Limbaugh, and “a vast right-wing conspiracy” aimed at getting the many different social conservative and establishment conservative factions to adopt each other’s ideology (each not popular enough to win elections on their own, but in a “Big Tent” a force).

Essentially, the Conservative Coalition (both its business factions and socially conservative factions) in their fight against Communism and liberal democrats since WWI, but especially when their hand was forced post 1965, have created the modern right-wing populist political machine to counter the left’s own political machine (“machine” is a term that describes both literal coordination and the uncoordinated or loosely coordinated self interest of groups; AKA the “conspiracy” isn’t fully “a conspiracy” as much as it is a coordinated and uncoordinated natural response to changing politics; Powell acknowledges this in his memo, let us not lose sight of that).

With the above said, this Sixth Party Strategy didn’t just go after Southern Socially Conservative Democrats, but working class Democrats and moderate Republicans (as we can see in-action in the working class voter tug-of-war between Reagan, Clinton, Bush, Obama, Trump).

In other words, the strategy “switched” some to the Republican Party, but also further switched the party from Federalist-leaning to Anti-Federalist (so to speak).

This part of the story doesn’t speak of neoliberalism and its rise directly, or progressivism or its rise directly, it speaks to the movement that responded to it all and resulted in Fox News, Right Wing Radio, the Tea Party, entities like Freedom works, and modern “Big Tent” Conservatism.

TIP: You can read the full story of the Republican Sixth Party Strategy and the Big Switch here. The full story includes comments on the rise of New Deal progressivism to which the Conservative Coalition responds.

The Brainwashing of My Dad Trailer. If you can stomach the liberal bias (sort of built into the title on this one), and can keep in your mind that social conservatism is real and natural just like social liberalism, I strongly suggest watching this documentary as it explains the non-southern part of the strategy that caused the switch and resulted in our modern situation.

TIP: In any era we can find our anti-Federalists and Federalists, obviously the faction that wants to abolish government and the IRS is “anti-Federalist” in their wanting to conserve back to 1900 before the income tax. Learn more about the different forms of conservatism.

With That Said, It is More Complex than We Can Just Say.

With everything thus far said, we have only skimmed the surface.

The truth is, be we talking about the South or not, not every faction changes, and we have to account for more history than can fit in any essay. We have to account for changing platforms, changing voter bases, congressional changes over decades, battles between factions within states and parties, the changing [and unchanging] ideologies of factions and parties, technological changes of automation and modernization, business interested elites in both parties who tend to organize better and dominate, populists in both parties who can’t always agree on divisive social issues, the general rift between key voter issues and social issues vs. economic issues, arguments over the size of state within parties, voter issues taking on new importances, single issue third parties, global politics, and so much else to fully tell this story.

This is to say, the history of the major U.S. political parties if of course more complex than can just be said… which is why we use terms like “parties switched” and “party systems” to preface this long in depth essay.

A Summary of Party Systems, Realigning Elections, and Switching Factions in the Major U.S. Political Parties

Now that we have the essential basics down, let’s do an overview of all the changes (not just the general points or the Solid South Switch).

Historians refer to the eras the changes resulted in as “party systems.

Each party system is defined by realigning elections or otherwise important elections like the elections of 18001828, 18601876, 189218961912, 19281932, 194819641968, 19801992, and 2000, key voter issues of the day like states’ rights, workers’ rights, social welfare, equal rights, central banking, and currency debates, and which factions were in which parties at the time like the New Deal Coalition and Conservative Coalition (the major parties are best thought of as coalitions of political factions who agree on key voter issues in any era; In the same way Bernie and Hillary are different types of Democrats, or Bush and Trump are different types of Republicans, so it is true for any era).

To make things simple (putting pre-Civil war factions like the Federalists and Anti-Federalists, Whigs and Second Party Democrats, and third parties like the Know-Nothings and Free Soilers aside for a second), we can say the “red and blue states” “flipped” between the Third and Sixth Party Systems (between Lincoln in 1860 and LBJ in 1964 to today) as the battle between the Union and Confederacy during the Civil War gave way to Reconstruction, Redeemers (elite pro-business Democrats), and the Gilded Age, which gave way to the Democratic Party progressive populist William Jennings Bryan and the Fourth Party Progressive Era, which led to Theodore Roosevelt’s split from the Conservative Taft and exit from the Republicans along with his progressives, which led to the Republicans becoming increasingly classically liberal and conservative starting in the 1920’s under figures like Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover, which led to the the Democrats becoming increasingly socially progressive under FDR in the 1930’s at the start of the Fifth Party System, which led to the solid south conservative states’ rights faction of the Democratic party favoring the Republicans in the post-’64 Sixth Party system by the 2000 election (despite those members who didn’t “switch”, enough did to flip the map).

Or, in a very general sentence, Solid South States’ Rights and Tea party-esque Populist Conservatives in the Democratic Party and elite Social Liberal Progressives in the Republican Party essentially switched parties from roughly 1900 to 2000, which resulted in red and blue states flipping from north to south (as can be seen in the voting map video below).

Or, to frame this another way, this time speaking to both the changing factions and changing ideology of the major parties, and noting that generally speaking the Anti-Federalists became the Democrats and Federalists became the Whigs and then Republicans, we can say, in the late 1700 and 1800’s Solid South Democrats like Calhoun (who himself switched from Federalist to Anti-Federalist early on), progressive Democrats like Jefferson, and inbetweeners like Jackson, and their populist factions formed the bulk of the Democratic party (they were anti-tax, anti-bank, small government, populist liberals favored in the south). Meanwhile elites, be they socially liberal or just business minded (like Hamilton, Adams, and Clay), dominated the Republican party and its predecessors (they were pro-tax, pro-central-bank, pro-federal power, elite liberals favored in the north).

That said, to complicate things, the Federalist line was historically anti-immigrant and nationalist and gave birth to (anti-Federalists and states’ rights Democrats aside) the first Tea Party-like entities the Know-Nothings in the North and Anti-Masons in the North.

Despite this truism however, the Civil War forced factions to choose sides over slavery and expansion. Consequently, the Whig-allied nativist populist factions disbanded, the New Republican Party formed, and ultimately the first Republican President Lincoln was “no Know-Nothing“.

Here we can note that 1. the Tea party and Progressive spirit was born in both parties, not one (this is also true for other factions like “Libertarian”). 2. the fact that the anti-Federalist / Democrat line is pro-immigrant in the North, despite its states’ rights stance in the South, is part of what results in a progressive party over time. 3. both parties’ stance on immigration, and by extension that aristocratic federalist-like nationalism, is one thing that never really changes. 4. and that ultimately, even up to the Civil War, one must concede complexities over states’ rights and slavery aside, the Democrats are to the left of the Republican line on most issues of liberty and authority (as in they wanted less government, they were ANTI FEDERALIST be they Jeffersonian Progressively Classically Liberal or Solid South Progressively Socially Conservative).

Then, adding complexity from here on, after the Civil War, elite business-minded Redeemers like Cleveland joined the Democrats, making both parties business-minded and elite in the Gilded Age (so pre-Gilded Age, Republicans were the “big business” “elite” party, but after Reconstruction and the Gilded age, both have elite factions; each just as likely to be found in NYC).

Then, adding even more complexity, the pushback against the Gilded Age led to both parties becoming very progressive by the early 1900’s (the Democrats still more populist under figures like Bryan and Wilson, the Republicans still more elitist under figures like McKinley, Teddy, and Taft).

Then, as the big-government social liberal nationalist Theodore Roosevelt left the Republican party in 1912, and figures like the small-government anti-Communists Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover took over in the 1920’s, and as figures like FDR, Kennedy, Johnson, and Clinton took over the Democratic party from 1932 -1996, things changed. Many progressives left the Republicans for the Democratic party, and the Solid South faction left the increasingly socially liberal Democrats to join the increasingly socially conservative Republicans (slowly, over time, as we can see by looking at Congressional Seats over time and the voter base over time).

This Teddy to Hoover switch, oddly [historically speaking], led to the Democrats becoming a more elite party and the Republicans becoming the party of small government and states’ rights (despite the elitism of the neocons, their message of deregulation is on paper one of classically liberal “states’ rights” small government and nativist “Tea Party” populism; it is clearly a mashup of the states’ rights south, nativist north, religious right, and neocons, where even though only the States’ Rights Solid South is really out of place historically speaking, it on paper flips the map, flips some platform planks, and over time re-colors some ideology).

This general tension described above can be seen in the states’ rights and progressive parties in American history, or seen in figures like Henry A. Wallace and Strom Thurmond, and is, as noted above, [for me] best illustrated by the New Deal Coalition and Conservative Coalition.

To frame this yet another way, the nearly unified Democratic-Republicans of the First Party System aside, it used to be that part of what today call the Tea Party, Populist Progressives (like Bernie Sanders), and the States’ Rights Solid South were in one party (anti-Federalists and then Democrats) and the elite pro-business, northern-like populist nativists (later the Know-Nothing third party), and elitist progressives were in the other (Federalists, Whigs, Republicans), but as just eluded to, this is complicated by the third parties that formed around key voter issues and policy stances.

These third parties which took unique stances and add complexity to America’s political story include, as noted above: Know Nothings (pre-Civil war northern nativists who were like a precursor to the Tea Party and were sometimes allied with the Whigs; like Bryan like Progressives, these are a faction who “didn’t switch”), Free Soilers (a pre-Civil War party, who once nominated former Democratic President Martin Van Buren for president, who wanted to end slavery at its own pace by looking to a states’ rights solution), War Democrats and Southern Unionists (Democrats allied with the North during the Civil War), and the People’s Party (a progressive populist party of the northern and southern worker, popular in the mid-west, which had its roots to the reform movement, these type of Progressives were always Democrats). These Third Parties represent the key voter issues of nativist nationalism, states’ rights, and progressivism and reformism which impact all the major parties.

Voter issues and Third Parties before the 1850’s aside, the events leading up to the Civil War forced everyone into parties based on positions on slavery and expansion. Then, as noted, confusingly we have the Gilded Age where both parties become elite and pro big business (we can here-forth call these elite factions neoliberal/bourbon liberals and neocons… which at times can be impossible to tell apart). Then, again, there is the progressive era where both parties return to being progressive, again showing us the different types of progressives (just compare Wilson, Teddy, Taft… and you know, the Socialist Debs too while you are at it).

Then, it is after this that the major switching happens, which just so happens to leave us with Populist Progressives, elitist Progressives, and Bourbon Neoliberals on one side, and Tea Party populists, the States’ Rights South, and Neocons on the other side (a side that is today more statist than its Libertarian cousin and, eventually, in the modern cycle, long after Bryan’s Scopes Monkey Trial and the rise of the Reformists, includes the faction “religious right”).

In words, social progressives like William Jennings Bryan and states’ rights supporters like Strom Thurmond might both share a populist anti-elite liberal ideology and a long party history (with both having more in common with a Jefferson than an Adams), but this is not the era of Jefferson or even Jackson, and today those factions are not in the same party (in modern terms, the Tea Party of the South and liberal Progressives of the South aren’t in the same party, nor do they agree on the use of the state).

Likewise, Hamilton, Lincoln, Cleveland, the Roosevelts, Hoover, and Reagan may all share history and aspects of elitist classically conservative ideology, but just like the parties were different in the Gilded Age and Progressive era, they are again different today (in any era the elite factions are as diverse as the populist factions, Reagan is elite in favoring deregulation and business like Hoover or Cleveland, but Lincoln and the Rooselvets were elite in their use of the state to ensure social justice at home and abroad; remember it’s more about factions and voter issues than just being elite or progressive alone… sometimes).

To add one more note before we move on, figures like Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton can all be described as conservative-liberals. Some are more like Wilson and Cleveland, some are more like Taft and Hoover, but in all cases the differences are less pronounced than the differences between the Tea Party, States’ Rights, and the Progressive Left factions on a given social issue. This is to say, when looking for clear signs of changes in the parties, it always helps to look at a President, Party, Faction, or Voter’s views on divisive social issues first, and then to move on to positions on trade, banking, taxation, subsidization, etc.

Moving On, and Notes for Skeptics

With the above said, any shorthand way to describe how “changing factions” led to what we can call “changing parties” it is bound to leave out key details, as the full story is as complex as American history.

Below we tell the long and complicated history of the American parties and party systems in order to illustrate the changing platforms, parties, members, and factions and to find out what did or didn’t change. The idea is to prove a point (like the Democrats are now “the good guys”), it is to accurately portray our history.

I would say to the skeptics: we can have a real conversation here about what did or didn’t change in each party, but the history presented here, the changing Congressional seats over time, the changing voter base of the parties over time, and more show that there are many very real and important changes to discuss.

Let us not rewrite the history of the South (or any other faction) for modern political expediency (the way Ted Cruz tried to with the KKK), American history is already well-documented (V. O. Key’s classic Southern Politics in State and Nation comes to mind; as does Calhoun’s 40 years in Government; as do the well-documented justifications for the Civil War.)

Sure today we all want to identify with Lincoln the First Republican President, but does this not do a disservice to the half of the nation that succeeded in the name of States’ Rights and small government in response to that Republican won election?

We might be tempted to look at the Union and Confederates as “bad guys” and “good guys”, but that view is overly simple. This isn’t about “good” vs. “bad”, this about different American factions, with different opinions on liberty and equality (with different “states” of mind), dealing with the reality of a liberal and Democratic Republic, ideally trying to find Unity and “Good Feelings” despite their differences… who sometimes “change parties”, including changing to third parties, often over single key voter issues, like Civil Rights and States’ Rights.

Of course, if there is one bonus in everyone trying to appropriate Lincoln, it is that perhaps we will all heed his advice that “a house divided against itself cannot stand” (or in modern terms, we live in a Democratically minded Republic in which the nature of our government requires compromise between the powersthe two major parties, and their many factions in any era).

So, in the interest of not dividing the house due to a forgotten history, let’s examine our 240 years of American history carefully. In doing so we will better be able to spot the populist and elite, left and right, city and rural interests that differ by regions of north-east, south-east, mid-Atlantic, mid-west, south-west, north-west, and west which we in any era call “the North” and “the South”, or after the 1860’s, Democrats and Republicans (see 2012 election maps by county for a true feel of where the actual blue/red divides are).

To fully understand our complex history we will need to consider how each party’s stance on the issues (including their official and unofficial “platforms” and the “planks” of those platforms; see Historic Political Party Platforms for examples) evolve though the “Party Systems” as the parties change (for example how positions on trade, banking, religion, currency, military policy, and social welfare and general ideologies change from the Gilded Age to Modern Age), how specific changes in Congress and the voter-base denotes changes, and how third parties like the “states’ rights” and “progressive” parties change things as well.

To see a visual of how this all results in the “red and blue states” switching, simply watch the video below. For an alternative viewpoint, check out the story of William Jennings Bryan, the father of modern American left-wing and right-wing populism (as his story explains Jackson, the Redeemers, and the populists and elites of the Gilded Age and Progressive era; this thus makes him one of the most telling figures in history next to Jackson, Lincoln, and the Roosevelts).

U.S. Presidential Elections 1789-2012. This video shows each U.S. election result from 1789-2012 with party names and voting maps. Given it shows each election, it illustrates some of the major switches clearly.

NOTEThe colors that have represented the parties have also changed over time. Despite this fact, the video above (like most modern sources) represents Democrats as Blue and Republicans as Red, as has been a tradition since the 2000 election.

TIP: Speaking of learning about our history in video form, see Keith Hughes’ series on American ElectionsCrashCourse American History, and Tom Richey’s American history videos…. and don’t hate me but see also: Growth, Cities, and Immigration: Crash Course US History #25 (slavery is an issue in the south, but in the North it is more about immigration of Irish, Germans, Italians, Catholics, etc), Nativism History (in the North it is nativism as a response to immigration, from this comes groups like the Know-Nothings), John C. Calhoun (an old Southern Conservative Democrat, he begins the states’ rights argument), Calhoun’s Prophecy, The Compromise of 1877 Explained: US History Review (Reconstruction ends before the Deep south is “redeemed”), The Gilded Age (Redeemers, Party Bosses, Carnegie, and Setting Civil Rights back 100 years), APUSH Review: Tammany Hall and “Boss” Tweed (Party Bosses speak to these gang-like entities who run the DNC, constantly giving the progressive wing a hard time from Bryan, to FDR, and Sanders, and help explain why the major cities have inequality issues, some southern party bosses were Solid South Confederates; the rest were northerners allied with the North in the War), MOOC | The Redeemers | The Civil War and Reconstruction, 1865-1890 | 3.9.2 (the Neoliberal Bourbon liberals “Redeem” the south AKA show them how to replace slavery with “northern business practices”; they aren’t the Solid South, they are more like Carpetbaggers and Scalawags),  The Election of 1896 Explained (enter Bryan and the Populists), Woodrow Wilson Distinguishes Between His Democrats and the Progressive Party of 1912 (Wilson the Southern Conservative Progressive is different than the Nationalist Teddy), The 1920 Election Explained (Harding begins the Republican small government party as the progressive wing leaves), Untold History: The Rise and Fall of a Progressive Vice-President of the USA (Henry A. Wallace, what a real progressive looks like), America First Explained: US History Review (Red Scare, Anti-Communism, and America first; of course the Nationalist Nativist South is going to ally with the growingly right-wing Republicans… after the States’ rights parties fail from the 40’s to 70’s), The 1968 Election Explained (if we have to name one cycle that ends the union between the South and Bryan-like or Kennedy-like Progressives, it is 1968), Lester Maddox -George Wallace – Ross Barnett- part 1Exclusive: Lee Atwater’s Infamous 1981 Interview on the Southern Strategy. Really, really, history backs up our point of view, the Walrus wasn’t Paul and the idea that the parties didn’t switch is an alternative fact… comments welcome below, happy to debate what history means or help clarify a question that hasn’t been answered.

CONSIDER: Andrew Jackson (the first Democratic Party President – 1829) was a southern states’ rights populist and “Jacksonian” Democrat, which (in terms of individual rights, small government, and economic ideology) is similar to today’s socially conservative libertarian. Said plainly, Jackson had a little bit of Bernie Sanders in him, but essentially he was a Tea Party guy that can be contrasted his contemporaries Clay and Calhoun. Lincoln (the first Republican President – 1861) was an anti-slavery Republican in his day. In terms of pushing for social justice, using federal power, and taxation his position was similar to today’s progressive social liberal. In modern terms, Lincoln was a bit of an “income tax supporting” “elitist” “social justice warrior” who can be contrasted with his contemporary War Democrats and Southern Unionists like Andrew Johnson and more Conservative or more Radical Republicans (Lincoln was a moderate). Add in figures like Bryan, Calhoun, Cleveland, and Coolidge, or Byrd, Gore, and Thurmond, look at the Great Triumvirate, and consider Teddy Roosevelt is a Republican and FDR and Democrat, and we know that something changed. This page and our related ancillary pages are about “what exactly changed” and “what the changes mean” from a modern perspective in a way that respects all of America’s diverse factions.

TIP: Both the Tea Party and modern left-wing progressivism have roots in both parties, they don’t share ideology on how the state should be used any more than Andrew Johnson or Lincoln did, but they both generally favor liberty. Differences between key figures like Jefferson, Hamilton, Lincoln, Bryan, and the Roosevelts add complexity to conversations of individual and collective liberty, equality, and rights… but such can be expected in a country founded on the principles of liberalism in which the founders still managed to disagree then as much as we do today. See an essay on the types of American populism, an essay on the types of American Progressivism, and an essay on the American left and right for a better understanding on the different types of American ideologies which form the factions that comprise the political parties. For more reading, see also: How the 19th-Century Know Nothing Party Reshaped American Politics From xenophobia to conspiracy theories, the Know Nothing party launched a nativist movement whose effects are still felt today.

NOTE: From Hoover to Bush, the “southernization” of the Republican party speaks to a melding of solid south states’ rights conservatives and Tea-party-like northern conservatives, both of who are allied with “elite neocons” (why it is pro-Dixie, anti-immigrant, and pro-big business… it is states’ rights south, nativist north, and gilded age conservative mixed with the old Federalist roots). The charge used to be that it was easier to divide the nation by prejudice than it was by class. Perhaps this explains why neoliberals and progressives find themselves on the same side despite the class divide, and of course the same is perhaps true for their conservative counterparts. Or, maybe some voter issues simply divide us at our core more than class, and no visible hand is needed to stoke the fire? Perhaps this relates to Plato’s ideal city-state where the division is by “type of citizen”, and not by “economic class”? Maybe the South is still just waiting for the North to show them respect? I don’t fully get the implications, but history seems clear enough.

TIP: Hitler was a despotic right-wing fascist, despite being in the National Socialist party on paper. On the other hand, Teddy Roosevelt was (in many ways) actually a Nationalist Socialist despite being of the more aristocratic Federalist, Whig, and Republican party line. He had the nationalism so often found in that line in any era down to a “T”, but was literally (not rhetorically like Hitler) also a progressive socialist, pushing hard for positive social policies at home, while using the Monroe doctrine abroad. Here we should note he wasn’t purely nativist, as he was fiercely pro-immigrant, but he had that Federalist spirit, demanding immigrants embrace Americanism completely (see his “assimilation” quote). In all cases, he held a “mixed” progressive-conservative ideology that really speaks to the changing parties and different kinds of progressivism (especially that old Federalist-line Progressivism found in figures like Morris and Hamilton). Specifically, Teddy’s “mixed” ideology speaks to a mash-up of left and right that is not as common in these days (and really it hasn’t been too common in America since Teddy left to form the Progressive party back in the 1910s followed by figures like Henry A. Wallace, although Eisenhower perhaps speaks to this as well and perhaps Bush and McCain are spiritual ancestors of it too). FDR continued Teddy’s ideology in spirit, but at that point it was in the Democratic party and part-Wilson Neoliberal (which is notably different than Teddy’s “New Nationalism Progressivism”).

CONSIDER: The KKK are and were a confederate faction, and they still sport the confederate “battle” flag as one emblem of their ideology. That was a flag of the old Democrats when they were called the Confederacy in the Civil War. The KKK became prominent in the Deep South during reconstruction as they pushed back against the forced “military ” reconstruction policies of the northern Republicans. We know parties change, that is what the page is about. However, we also know that factions change parties, and this is the case for the KKK and some other states’ rights factions once found in the Democratic party (as it is the case for other past factions described on this page). See: The Democrats were the Party of the Ku Klux Klan and Slavery.

CONSIDER: Today it may seem like “the American Religious Right” has a monopoly on religion, and that their form is the American value, but that isn’t correct (especially not globally). The Religious Right is, at the best of times, an alliance of Religions that forms over key voter issues like abortion. However, it just as often seems more evangelical and political than simply “religious”. Its evangelical Protestant first tone, especially when paired with American nativist nationalism, can even at times seem to alienate other Christians like Catholics and Christian Democrats as much as it does liberal atheists. This is like how the old anti-Masons publicly shunned the Masons or how others shunned the religious groups of the Great Awakenings like the Mormons. From this lens, the Religious Right is a bit like the Know-Nothing Version of religious politics. Here one should note that the movement doesn’t really arise until the 1970’s and 1980’s, and its rise goes hand-in-hand with the rise of the New Conservative Coalition. Sure, the old anti-Masons were Whig-like and so the term “right” isn’t misplaced, but it doesn’t do the 1st Amendment much justice to equate the right alone with religious correctness. Religion is historically tied to politics, so these points, and others about the Holy Roman Empire, Reformers, Masons and the Revolutions, Catholic immigrants, witch trials, the Spanish inquisition myth, anti-semitism, socialists and atheism, and more are vital to grasp to place this conversation in historical context (although we tread lightly on the subject here).

TIP: If you want to see a shorter alternative version of this article, see: A Summary of How the Major Parties Switched (that page also deals with the whole “ideology” question that some of Dinesh D’souza’s followers have). In simple terms, I’ll say this: don’t confuse Confederate ideology with the ills of social welfare or Northern inequality. Just because a northern ghetto is troublesome, doesn’t mean social liberalism is equatable with slavery. Firstly, one of Calhoun’s arguments for slavery was [paraphrasing]: “The slave system of the South is superior to the ‘wage slavery’ of the North. By slavery intertwining the economic interests of master and slave it eliminates the unavoidable conflict that existed between labor and capital under the wage system. The amount of money a master invested in his slaves made it economically unfeasible to mistreat them or ignore their working and living conditions.”[18] So here we see “Northern inequality” is not a new problem, and it is not a Confederate-caused problem. To be very clear, there were northern Ghettoes in the 1800’s. It is what the movie Gangs of New York is about. Which is, as noted above, the story of the Know-Nothings in NYC, a precursor to the Tea Party. A faction who would have allied with the Whigs before the Civil War. These being just two examples on what did and didn’t change. (This issue is discussed more below, i’m happy to address it in a comment, and we discuss it elsewhere on the site, but unlike D’souza, I don’t want to conflate it with this story… as the answer is “both parties have issues of economic and social inequality in any era”, not “Bernie Sanders Progressives are Confederate Rebel flag waving Nativist nationalist populists”)…. To be clear, in that Gangs of New York era (and we do mean Gangs), Party Bosses in the Democratic Party would have been on one side and Know-Nothings on the other. Why does NYC have ghettoes? Lots of reasons, one is the longstanding inequality of the north, one is the great migrations, another is opposition to desegregation and busing, but few of them are “because of the Solid Socially Conservative South is voting the Democratic ticket in a secret plan to enslave everyone with welfare”. One can argue that some conservatives or Bourbons in the Democratic party have mixed-intentions in terms of welfare, but it is hard to argue that the dominate faction of Bernie or Obama Progressives do given their record on social justice. Pair this with the fact that the Solid South votes lock-step Republican for the most part today (as we can see on a map), and we can work out the rest of the logic from there. See Wage Slavery and Chattel Slavery are Different for more.

TIP: If you love uncomfortable stories, you’ll love hearing about the argument over “slave power and black suffrage“. You see there has always been a thought (as a conspiracy theory) that whomever controlled “the black vote” had a political advantage. Now consider this for immigrants. At first the Federalists / Whigs were annoyed with the South for their embracing of immigrants and controlling the voting of slaves. Then the South thought the northern Radical “Progressive” Republican elites were trying to enslave them by ending slavery and winning over the votes of freedmen. Then, the mass of immigration and migration of non-Protestant and/or non-Whites to the Democratic Party was more about factions within the Democrats (the Solid South faction not wanting to get voted out of its own party by progressives in eras like the FDR era). Then, it was about Republicans struggling against the Irish Catholic Kennedy, then LBJ’s Civil Rights. Then Carter and Clinton try to win back some of the South (’94 Crime Bill, law and order)… but now, in the W. Bush and Obama era and into the Trump era, with the South in the Republican party, it is about accusations from the right-wing of “illegals voting” and “voter ID” and that welfare is akin to “enslavement”. So from the three-fifths to today, this is still a major political issue (for the politically expedient, progressives, and social conservatives). This is largely what the Ciivl War was really about, and Civil Rights (although obviously the progressives reject the argument that their moral cause is about politics). Very uncomfortable issue, but vitally important and at the core of the States’ Rights argument. See the History of the Black Vote.

TIP: Republican is a reference to a Republican form of government, Democrat is a reference to individual focused Democracy. Both are liberal ideologies. Forget about slavery and segregation for a second, and think about “the people, not the state, choosing who gets to do what”. Here you’ll see that the original Democrats were more for individual and states’ rights, and the original republicans more for elite state control and order. Add slavery back into the equation, now it makes the Republicans look like the social liberals… and… they were. They were, in many ways, “Teddy Roosevelt like social liberals” (social liberals who want to use the state to ensure social welfare and justice)… until Teddy left the party to run in the 1912 election and then Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover reshaped the party into a individual focused small government prior to FDR’s era. Remember though, there was a moment where there was only one major party, the Jeffersonian Democratic-Republicans. We are all Democrats, Republicans, Federalists, and liberty loving liberals… we just don’t agree on specifics, you know like “federation vs. confederation”. The United States is a Constitutional Federal Republic (a federation of states with a Representative Democracy). The Constitution ensures the liberal values of Republicanism, Democracy, and Federalism. Hence the names of the American political parties.

TIP: Just so libertarians understand where they fit in. What we today call “libertarian” can be found in both historic parties, it is found in Jefferson’s Democrats in the early years (although both parties were “classically liberal” and thus somewhat libertarian). However, in the Gilded Age, one could find small government and classical liberal sentiment in both parties. Then starting in the 1920’s it was Harding, Coolidge, Hoover who really begin to define modern small government conservatism with their return to classical liberal economics after Teddy’s split. Then, the spirit begins in earnest with Goldwater States’ Rights Party (which is an alliance of Solid South and Libertarians; they ally on the small government part, not over social issues as much to be fair). This is to say, at one point  what we today call progressives, libertarians, and states’ rights confederates were all in the Democratic party “because liberty”. Today states’ rights and libertarians tend toward the neocons “because not social liberal Progressivism and Neoliberalism”. In all cases, libertarians are pro-Gilded Age, anti-State, classical liberals who are different enough to form their own party (as they tend to be socially to the left of their States’ Rights South and Nativist North “small government” allies).

“Liberty is to faction what air is to fire, an aliment without which it instantly expires.” – James Madison

The Founding Federalists and Anti-Federalists of the First Party System

To see how the parties have evolved properly from the founders to 2016, we can start by comparing pre-Civil War factions such as the founding Federalists and Anti-Federalists in the First Party System.

Here we can compare figures like the North Eastern Federalists Alexander Hamilton and John Adams to the Virginian Anti-Federalists Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry to get a sense of the two general types of ideologies that color America’s future parties and factions (as illustrated by the Federalist and Anti-Federalist papers).

Here we can see the roots of progressivism and states’ rights populism in the Democratic party and the roots of traditional pro-business conservatism in the Federalists. Here we can also note that, despite none of the founders supporting slavery, it is the small government mentality to Democrats that allows for slavery, while the Whig-like conservatism of the Federalists is more geared toward global trade and banking and less tolerant of the nefarious institution.

Although we can put the founders in two big tents and understand American history that way, looking at the nuanced views of the founders allows us to better understand the roots of the different types of liberal and conservative / elite and populist positions that we find in each party system.

Notable anti-Federalists and Federalists include: the southern Thomas Jefferson who was a radical liberal progressive who championed democracy, federalism, and republicanism, the northern Alexander Hamilton who was a conservative-liberal who helped establish the first national bank and favored global trade, the northern Gouverneur Morris who was a socially minded elitist progressive who hated slavery but came from a family of loyalists, the southern Patrick Henry who quoted Cato, a Tragedy saying “Give me liberty, or give me death!”, the northern Benjamin Franklin who was a centered polymath and Freemason who favored a tax-based commonwealth model for states, the northern John Adams who was a rather elite conservative Federalist from Massachusetts who was respected by everyone (much like the southern George Washington was), the southern James Madison who was a Federalist and Anti-Federalist who wrote both the Federalist favored Constitution (which replaced the anti-Federalist favored Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union between the States) and the anti-Federalist favored Bill of Rights (which he based on the Anti-Federalist George Mason’s Virginia Bill of Rights), the southern Samuel Adams who was a radical Anti-Federalist from the North who served as Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts under the anti-Federalist John Hancock (showing us that in any era ideology in any era can be found in both the north and the south), and more.

All the founders were classical liberals, as they were certainly not loyal conservatives of the Crown, but they were all very different types of liberals (having little more in common than an Elephant and a Donkey as it were). It was these differences that divided them by North/South, City/Rural, and Federalist/Anti-Federalist, and that divided them over related key issues like slavery, banking, military size, and trade. However, in as many ways in which they disagreed, they were United against King George III and for liberty, federalism, democracy, republicanism, and the principles of the enlightenment, finding compromise over the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and other important matters… until the propaganda war between Adams and Clay vs. Jackson and Van Buren in the 1820’s when mounting tension split the country.

“Men by their constitutions are naturally divided into two parties.” – Thomas Jefferson

“National debt, if it is not excessive, will be to us a national blessing.” – Alexander Hamilton

TIP: All the founders shared a love of reason. Their debates weren’t based on emotion driven talking points, but on empirically backed evidence and critical thinking. They didn’t just rebel against a King based on an aversion to Monarchy, they provided a mutually agreed on philosophical justification for their actions today known as the Declaration of Independence. It was the tools handed down by past rationalists and empiricists of the Age of Enlightenment (AKA Age of Reason), including by their predecessors like Hobbes, Locke, and Montesquieu, and by their contemporaries like Smith, Hume, and Kant, that allowed for such wildly different patriots to join together to form a great nation. With that said, although the anti-Federalists generally favored a more democratic society than the Federalists (hence their future name as Democrats, their support of the Confederacy, their support of the bicameral Virginia plan, and their support of the Bill of Rights) the founders ultimately agreed that they did not expect the common man to apply the same level of reason they did, and this is a large part of why they created a Republic with an electoral college, rather than a direct democracy.

“Well, Doctor, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?” A woman asked Franklin upon leaving the Constitutional Convention. “A Republic, if you can keep it,” Franklin said (half joking).

The Democratic-Republicans and the Second Party System

Now that we have the founders covered, we can examine the next generation of Americans starting with the tension between two types of Democratic-Republicans in the 1824 and 1828 elections, the “establishment” North Easterner John Quincy Adams (John Adams’ son) and the “populist” Southerner Andrew Jackson. In these divisive races, we can see the start of modern party politics, the end of the Era of Good Feelings, and the start of the Second Party System. In the Second Party System, Adam’s supporters become National Republicans before becoming Whigs, and Jackson’s supporters become the “Second Party Democrats”.

Finally, in terms of pre-Civil War factions pertaining to the two major parties, we can examine key figures like the southern pro-slavery intellectual John C. Calhoun and the centered Democrat Martin Van Buren and compare them to the spiritual father of the Republicans and leader of the Whigs the Kentuckian Henry Clay. We can also look at key policies like the Missouri Compromise and Kansas-Nebraska Act and other events leading to the Civil War, and examine the general mounting tension over issues of states’ rights, popular sovereignty, and manifest destiny, to see the role of each in the splitting of the Whig and Democratic parties from the 1820s to late 1850s.

Here we can see clearly, a Jacksonian Democrat is not the same thing as a Calhoun states’ rights Democrat (and neither are fully Jeffersonian). Where Jackson is a more right-leaning populist version of Jefferson, the sort of states’ rights Calhoun and his pre-Confederates are calling for is a step beyond even this.

Finally, we can relate all this to the Civil War era factions, the Union and Confederacy, at the start of the Third Party System when the Whigs become the Republicans… In fact, here we can’t compare two parties (as the Democrats didn’t exist from 1861 -1865), but can instead compare two Americas: 1. the southern Confederate States of America (and their copperhead allies in the North) and 2. the official United States of America (and their War Democrat allies in the North like Andrew Johnson and their Southern Unionist allies in the South) who went to war with the former southern Democrats over their attempts at secession.

We can classify all these the pre-Civil War factions by saying that the Federalists, National Republicans, Whigs, and Union were pro-north, pro-trade, pro-banking traditionally-conservative classical liberals focused on the collective and modernization (AKA “City Interests“) and the Anti-Federalists, Second Party “Jacksonian” Democrats, and Confederates were pro-south, anti-central power, pro-state-power, anti-bank, socially conservative radical classical liberals focused on individual liberty and rural America (AKA “Rural Interests“).

Meanwhile, we can note that “third parties” like the Free Soilers, who attracted pre-Civil War moderates from the north and south, and the People’s Party, who attracted post-Civil War progressives from the north and south, tell an important part of the story of changing politics.

“Foreign powers do not seem to appreciate the true character of our Government. Our Union is a confederation of independent States whose policy is peace with each other and all the world… The world has nothing to fear from military ambition in our Government.” – Polk describing Monroe Doctrine politics.

“The bank, Mr. Van Buren, is trying to kill me. But I will kill it.” – Andrew Jackson. When asked if the two term President had any last regrets, Jackson responded, “[That] I didn’t shoot Henry Clay and I didn’t hang John C. Calhoun.” (I.e. the nativist populist regretted not killing the southern and northern party leaders of the time, including his VP Calhoun). Likewise he said, “John Calhoun, if you secede from my nation, I will secede your head from the rest of your body.”

Understanding the Changes in Pre-Civil War America

To recap before moving on: In the late 1700s the American factions won their independence from Britain and formed a new country by compromising and coming together as Federalists and Anti-Federalists, in the early 1800’s they found some unity under Jefferson as Democratic-Republicans, but from Jackson to the Civil War their differences pulled them apart with greater force than their commonalities united them together. The divisive new platforms of the parties create two polarized groups splitting America into Democrats/Confederates of the South and Republicans/the Union of the North by the start of the Civil War in 1861 under the Republican Lincoln who ran on a platform which opposed the expansion of slavery.

To understand how things “went south” so quickly, one has to understand how classical liberal positions can become socially conservative over time. The classical liberalism of Jefferson did not allow individual freedom for everyone, as it allowed for “the freedom to own slaves” and “the freedom for states to be slave states”. Thus, what was once progressive had become socially conservative over time, it was still technically liberal in the classical sense, just certainly not socially progressive… but of course, let us not paint any party in any era with a broad brush, as both parties in any era are compromised of factions who agree only to varying extents.

When the North decided it wouldn’t tolerate slavery any more (a position that can be seen as progressive from one angle and despotic from another), it became more than a human rights issue, it became an issue of cutting off the only means by which the south had to compete with the north economically. The same is true for those “sons of Samuel Adams” (Northerners from the anti-Federalists line) in the North who were Northern nativist populists and Know-Nothings, they were against the new immigrants, Catholics, and the blacks. They weren’t slavers like the South, but they dealt with many of the same issues.

So the tension isn’t just about the morality of slavery (or otherwise inclusive policy), it was about old views not fitting in to a new progressive and modern world (a world more accessible to an upper-class urbanite) and the pushback against this (as seen in everything from the Young America movement to Bleeding Kansas). This theme will play out again to account for the changes in the upcoming party systems where modernization spurs on progressivism which spurs on social conservatism, only leaving everyone all the more bitter, speaking of which, this brings us to “Reconstruction” (which at times is less about construction, and more about enforcing the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments and the Enforcement Act of 1870, pushing back against black codes like “apprenticeship laws” which re-enslaved and “disenfranchised” Freedmen, pushing back against paramilitary rebel factions like the Red Shirts and Ku Klux Klan, and military occupation of the south via the Radical Republicans’ Military Reconstruction polices).

“I do oppose the extension of slavery, because my judgment and feelings so prompt me; and I am under no obligation to the contrary… I am not a Know-Nothing. That is certain. How could I be? How can any one who abhors the oppression of negroes, be in favor or degrading classes of white people? Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that “all men are created equal.” We now practically read it “all men are created equal, except negroes” When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read “all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and Catholics.” When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty — to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocracy [sic].” – Abraham Lincoln 1855

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” – Abraham Lincoln

“Let us have peace.” – Ulysses S. Grant

The Third Party System: Reconstruction and the Gilded Age

Post-Civil War era politics in the United States can be understood by examining the Third Party System factions of Reconstruction and the Gilded Age.

In the Gilded Age things change in a major way due to both parties embracing cronyism (supposedly)… but before we get there we need to understand Reconstruction.

The changes in the Republican party in this era are best explained by looking at the conservative, moderate, and radical Republicans of Reconstruction (who were split over how to treat the Southern rebels, with radical meaning those with harsh views toward the south, with conservative meaning those who wanted a quick return to normalcy even at the expense of social justice, and with moderates like Lincoln and Grant falling somewhere in the middle). Meanwhile factions like “carpet baggers” and ex-Southern Unionist “scallywags” are illustrative of different reconstruction Democrats.

Here it is vital to note one of the hardest things to talk about in American history, but I’ll say it plain. The South didn’t want to lose the war, they wanted to win, they didn’t want to stop slavery, they wanted to continue it. They did not respond well to losing the war. Lincoln was immediately executed, Andrew Johnson took over, he was impeached, and the military had to occupy the south while the KKK committed what was frankly genocide against Freedmen.

As noted above, Reconstruction was part rebuilding, part Civil Rights (for example the Reconstruction Amendments and the Civil Rights Act of 1866), part enforcing actual “law and order” and preventing forced slavery under different names and murder (the murder of Republicans and Freedmen by southern conservatives, such as in the Colfax massacre), and part (back to our story) “Redeemers“.

The Redeemers completely changed the Democratic party by unifying the non-racist factions (like the scallywags and carpet baggers) and moving the Democratic party toward business interests (the Redeemers helped to modernize the party and helped them to move away from the slave economy and into the Gilded Age).

This is where the linage of Cleveland, Wilson, LBJ, Carter, and even Clintons arguably come from. When people think “the Democrats didn’t change”, they are confusing Bourbon liberals with Solid South radical liberals. Yes, they are both from the south, no they are not the same faction!

Anyway, before the south can be fully “redeemed”, Reconstruction is ended abruptly by the “Compromise” of 1877 in which the South won the election but traded the Presidency for the end of Reconstruction (see: why it takes another 100 years to get a voting rights act; see: what marks the beginning of the corruption and cronyism of the Gilded Age; see: 1876’s United States v. Cruikshank setting a president).

Generally in this era we can look to war hero Ulysses S. Grant and all the above events to confirm the Republicans are still “the party of Lincoln” going into the Gilded Age… but the upcoming Gilded age in which everyone is pro-business changes everything, especially given Grant’s sometimes laissez-faire attitude toward the crony factions in the Republican party (see Grant, Gilded Age corruption and reform).

After Reconstruction, in the Gilded Age of industrialization and cronyism after the war, we can see changes in the Republican party by comparing Stalwart conservative “crony” Republicans to the Progressive “Civil Service” Half-Breeds. Likewise, we can see changes in the Democratic party by comparing William Jennings Bryan’s Progressive Silver Movement of the 1890s – 1910s (a progressive populist movement that arose in a response to industrialization, and which “swallowed up” the Democratic Party and fundamentally changed it), to Grover Cleveland’s pro-gold classical liberalism (which today we might describe as libertarian and will see in the Republican party, not the Democratic party, from Harding and Coolidge forward), to the traditional southern conservatives still in the party.

The Panic of 1893 marks the decline of “robber baron” era politics and marks the rise of socially minded movements like Marxism and the populist and progressive pro-worker and farmer movements of the north and south (like those led by the Mid-Western progressive populist William Jennings Bryan whose story is one of the most telling in American history in regards to the changes).[19]

Following the Gilded Age, with different types of progressives being in both parties, and workers’ rights and social welfare taking precedence over issues of race, a new “Progressive Era” began.

The laws of accumulation will be left free; the laws of distribution free. Individualism will continue, but the millionaire will be but a trustee for the poor; intrusted for a season with a great part of the increased wealth of the community, but administering it for the community far better than it could or would have done for itself. – Andrew Carnegie

The Fourth Party “Progressive Era”

The aptly named “Progressive Era” or Fourth Party System can then be understood best by examining the events leading up to the 1912 elections. Here we can compare the northeastern social liberal Republican Teddy Roosevelt’s New Nationalism plan (and his split from Republican Taft as a Progressive Bull Moose) to Woodrow Wilson’s progressive southern Democrat mixed-market New Freedom plan (and his Populist-Progressive pro-income tax supporting liberal Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan).

Ending the progressive era in the 1920’s, with Teddy’s progressives now largely absent from the Republican party, we we can see a changing Republican party under Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover (we even see a “Lilly white southern strategy” under Hoover which sets the precedent for the southern strategies of later Republicans like Nixon). The changes can be seen both in their favoring of classical liberal Cleveland-like Gilded Age economics to big government social justice, and in their related reaction to the Red Scare which had resulted in anti-Communism becoming a major voting issue for a growing base of Republican conservatives in post-WWI and Prohibition era America.

“You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.” – William Jennings Bryan

“Political parties exist to secure responsible government and to execute the will of the people.

From these great tasks both of the old parties have turned aside. Instead of instruments to promote the general welfare, they have become the tools of corrupt interests which use them impartially to serve their selfish purposes. Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government, owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people.

To destroy this invisible government, to dissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day.” – Teddy Roosevelt ‘s Bull moose Progressive Party Platform

The Fifth Party System and American Liberalism and Conservatism

In more modern times we can to look at the Fifth Party System in which race, social justice, the currency debate, religious issues like Temperance and Prohibition, and other issues of modernization seen in earlier systems had already split the parties into many factions. In this era, we can see a telling split by comparing the socially conservative anti-communist classical liberal Republican Hoover (who had a “southern strategy” and ends the Fourth Party era following the Great Depression) to the big government pro-worker social liberal Democrat FDR (who begins the Fifth Party era after barely winning his 1932 contested convention due to his strong progressive streak, which he shared with Republicans like the New Deal Progressive Henry A. Wallace, and which had at that point been out of style for a decade, and which was opposed by conservative party bosses in the Democratic party).

To fully grasp what happens from Hoover and FDR on, it’ll help to quickly discuss American liberalism and conservatism and how they relate to other ideologies like progressivism.

Although we can see shadows of most modern political ideologies in any age of recorded history by looking to old nation-states like Sparta, Athens, and Rome or to revolutionary Britain, America, and France, American liberalism and conservatism undergo a noticeable change in the Gilded Age and Progressive era. Given this, the general tension over social issues, and thus the use of government, can be described in modern times as being between a few general political ideologies:

  1. Classical liberalism, the original liberal philosophy of liberty, individual rights, and small government, like Jefferson, Hamilton, Cleveland, or Coolidge. This ideology comes in a number of forms including a radical form like Jefferson or the Jacobins in France, a social form that can be seen in the works of Rousseau for example, a religious form which simply wants religious freedom, and an economic form that favors Smith-style neoclassical economics as can be seen in the Bourbon liberal Cleveland in the Gilded Age, Bourbon liberal Wilson in the 1910’s, Coolidge in the 1920’s, or Ron Paul in modern times. The economic form of classical liberalism itself comes in a few different flavors. The dominant forms being libertarianism, which is pro-free market (the Ron Paul Kind), and a type of Hamiltonian conservative-liberalism often called Neoliberalism (the leftwing version) or Neoconservatism (the rightwing version). Here Clinton is a Neoliberal, Bush a Neocon, and Goldman Sachs a dash of both. In other words, this is a liberal position in that usury used to be a sin under the old church states. Its primary focus is markets, not social issues (even when it seeks to solve social issues via the market).
  2. Classical traditional conservatism, a complex ideology based on hierarchy, order, and tradition. It comes in three general flavors, each opposing a type of classical liberalism: authoritative, economic, and religious. The authority flavor favors the classic power structure of aristocracy, Kings, and order. Our executive branch “deep state” agencies exemplify this classical type of conservatism and certainly, King George III did way back when. The economic flavors include, but aren’t limited to forms of fiscal conservatism and a state controlled mercantile economy. Meanwhile, the religious flavors can be found on the left and right and include movements like Prohibition and Temperance, strict Catholic views on abortion or charity, witch trials, prayer in school, ideas like “America is a Christian nation“, and more. In words, if it stands against liberal ideals of any kind in any era, its a type of conservatism, and if it stands against the classical forms of liberalism, its a type of classical conservatism.
  3. Social liberalism, an ideology which grows out of classical liberalism and classical conservatism with a focus on social equality. It supports progressive pro-government social justice like Teddy, Bryan, or FDR. Social liberalism is a bit like the old church states and kings. In other words, although it is the most progressive of all the ideologies, being the most focused on equality and social justice and compassion, it needs a really big stick to get social conservatives, classical liberals, and classical conservatives to play ball. Thus, it can be oddly authoritative despite being compassionately left-leaning, as can be seen in the war time tax rates under FDR for example.
  4. Social conservatism or paleoconservatism, an ideology focused on individual liberty and a romantic vision of “what America used to be”. It grows out of classical liberalism and classical conservatism and stands against big government and progressive social movements and modernization, like Andrew Jackson or George C. Wallace (they want to “conserve” socially). Social conservatism is essentially classical liberalism in the modern age with a dash of strict classical conservatism on issues of immigration, protectionism, and religion. Small government is a classical liberal position, but when used in 2016 to strip protections from a minority group, it becomes a socially conservative position.

TIP: Yes, that “Leave it to Beaver” “ol’ Eisenhower” Americanism is a type of Conservatism, and we can see it in modern Presidents like Bush 41 and Nixon, and many who identify as Conservative identify as this, but this isn’t what the outward message of the Republican Party of 2016 is. A majority faction of the current Republican party (what people call “the new guard” or “new right”) has a mostly socially conservative message, both on social issues and religious issues, thus they have far more in common with ol’ Dixie or McCarthy than with a “real conservative” like Winston Churchill. John McCain is an Eisenhower, sure, and Romney and Bush are those business-minded Gilded Age Republicans or even 1920’s Republicans… but Palin and Trump… their message is nativist populist, and that is no more classically conservative than Bernie Sanders is classically liberal. Sure the new right has flairs of Taft and Hoover, but it is really very Confederate in nature (historically speaking) and the dominance of that factions has really changed the party. How can a rebellious agrarian sentiment that can be traced back to the Confederates be the same as the sentiment of a five-star general and Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces whom both parties wanted and who proposed Civil Rights Act of 1957 and of 1960? It isn’t, but, remember the rebellious non-elite agrarians are as much a part of William Jennings Bryan’s and Wilson’s base as they were Andrew Jackson’s, as they were Jefferson’s, as they were a portion of patriots who helped defeat George III. The Civil War wasn’t fought to beat the South, it was fought to preserve the Union and ensure rights for each type of minority in America. This is to say, we can respect each faction without pretending that Eisenhower would have tolerated the antics of New Guard Republicans like Palin or that old Guard Republicans like McCain and Bush aren’t falling out of favor with the base. Again, our goal here is to show factions, so we can understand how factions affect what we call “changing parties” and “party systems”.

NOTE: Many “elites” are classical liberals and/or conservatives, yet most issues discussed in politics between voters are social issues (this is true in any era). For example, almost everyone on K street and Wall Street are neoliberals and neoconservatives, yet the average voter votes on social justice issues. Think about it.

NOTE: One may ask, “just what is the difference between a Hamiltonian, a bourbon liberal, a neoliberal, a neoconservative, and a libertarian?” And, without going into a meta-essay I can answer, “not much, as they all put business first, but but generally each term denotes which party ideology they generally support and whether they are a type of neoclassical or a type of Keynesian, globalist or protectionist on trade, and what industries they favor, Agriculture and oil or finance and factory”. Do we say the Clintons or Bushs grew out of the bourbon liberals, or do we say Wilson and Coolidge did? I could make a case for each. The Gilded Age was all business, so most factions have a business ideology that can be traced back to those times and earlier. The more social ideologies are often more vocal and divisive, and their lineage is much easier to spot than their business-minded counterparts.

TIP: With the above terms in mind, the central idea here is that the social conservative Democrats of the American South switched to supporting the Republican Party as party platforms changed in response to the rise of Social Liberal Progressivism between the Third and Fifth Party systems. This resulted in modern Democrats being a coalition of Progressive Social Liberals, Neoliberals, the Religious Left, and Conservative Classical liberals in terms of authority and state-controlled economics, and modern Republicans being a coalition of Social Conservatives, Neocons, the Religious Right, and Radical Classical Liberals in terms of authority and free-market economics. See “Understanding the American left and right” for more details on the factions in the two major parties, also note that most Presidents have “mixed” ideologies in practice. See also a discussion on the types of liberalism and conservatism, or see a discussion on classical and social liberalism.

The Fifth Party System and the the New Deal and Conservative Coalitions

Now that we have clearly illustrated the above factions and ideologies, we can move on to the last round of changes which happened from roughly the 1930s, to WWII, to the 1960s, to the 1990s as the FDR supporting Progressive Social Liberal New Deal Coalition faced off against the Socially Conservative anti-New Deal Conservative Coalition (with each coalition consisting of members of both major parties).

From the 1930s to the 1990s, from Hoover to Goldwater, to Nixon, to Reagan, to Bush, the “Conservative Coalition” drew southern “solid south” “Dixiecrat” conservative Democrats out of the Democratic Party via their “southern strategy.” By the 1990s, this resulted in the modern American “social conservative” and “sometimes classical liberal” Republican party. Likewise, the New Deal coalition, which opposed the conservative coalition, drew progressives into the Democratic Party and out of the Republican party under FDR’s New Deal, LBJ’s Great Society program, and Clinton’s New Democrats. This resulted in the modern American “social” liberal, and thus necessarily traditionally “classically conservative in terms of authority” party during the same time.

Although the tension between these two factions starts in the 1930s with the New Deal, it comes to a boiling point over issues like States’ Rights, the Second Red Scare, and Brown v. the Board of Education following WWII in the late 40s and 50s.

WWII fundamentally changed America in terms of its status in international politics (including its relationship with the world’s old superpower Britain), in terms of modernizing the country, and in terms of its political parties. With the focus off of the war, and with an expanding population of baby boomers, the national conversation turned toward social issues related to the fascist and communist ideologies that pervaded the war, to old issues of race, and new issues of social welfare.

The new focus on social issues created a split in the party that can be seen in 1948’s Truman vs. Dewey vs. Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond vs. Progressive Henry A. Wallace (where everyone except the Anti-Communist New Yorker Dewey was once a type of Democrat) and 1960’s Kennedy vs. Nixon vs. Harry F. Byrd and Thurmond (where the southern conservative states’ rights party of Thurmond once again makes its differences with the Democratic party shown).

“We have undertaken a new order of things; yet we progress to it under the framework and in the spirit and intent of the American Constitution”. – FDR

The Sixth Party System and Seventh Party System

The changes leading up to Kennedy’s Presidency resulted in the Sixth Party System beginning in the 1960s, when LBJ and MLK worked to bring the Kennedy inspired Civil Rights ’64 and Voting Rights ’65 to life. From this period forward, progressive Republicans like Teddy and Henry Wallace are very rare, and a few select Democrats like Strom Thurmond begin to officially join the Republican party.

After LBJ’s Presidency, as Nixon and Reagan era “southern strategy” politics pushed back against changes of the 1960s, and progressive social liberals pushed for even more change, it arguably results in the Seventh Party System by the Presidencies of the neoliberal / social liberal Bill Clinton and the neocon / social conservative George W. Bush (both of whom are illustrative of the two modern parties, even though they both arguably offered a mix of liberal and conservative values found in earlier factions within past Party Systems).

In this era, most of the old solid south states that had supported the Democratic party, in terms of Congress and voter base, support the Republican party as is evidenced by the 1992 – 2000 elections (where in each election a progressive southern Democrat faced off against a conservative southern Republican).

This doesn’t mean all Republicans identify with solid south politics any more than all Democrats in LBJ’s time did, it only means their faction became part of the Republican party just as they had once been part of the Democrats in response to the changing platforms of the parties.

“General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!“. – Ronald Reagan

NOTE: Here we have to be careful to note that Clinton, while southern, is from the line of Wilson, Gore, and LBJ, an ally of Northern Democrats like Kennedy and Obama. He is not from the Deep South, but of course that lineage did ally with the Solid South prior to the split. Likewise, we have to note that the Bush family is from Texas. We haven’t touched on it much, but Texas is not South Carolina. If one were to redraw the states into a few big groups, I’m not sure Texas would really want to be grouped in with the ol’ Dixie Deep South. See: In Texas, history of slavery unique — but not ‘brief’. Texas has large desegregated populated cities and mixed-political views, yes they lean right of course, but a Bush is not a Wallace, a Jackson, an Andrew Johnson, or a Trump.

Modern Party Politics

Finally, we look to what could be the start of a new Party System. The Trump vs. Clinton race largely mirrored the realigning elections of Jackson vs. Adams in 1824 and 1828. In this analogy, Trump is like the nativist populist anti-establishment Jackson who was favored by the South, while Hillary and Jeb Bush to some extent were like the northern establishment liberal John Quincy Adams who was favored by the North. Adams was pro-trade, author of the Monroe Doctrine, and his father was “a Washington insider,” if that helps make the connection clear.

It’s too early to speculate on what the 2016 election means, especially as the November 8th election was an advisory election and electors, who haven’t voted yet, elect the President and VP in our Republic. Certainly, we could comment on strong support for Trump in the north and his celebrity status to draw parallels to Reagan, consider how Trump won with a “law and order” like message typical of the party of the Nixon era, or consider the ways in which Trump harkens back to conservatives like Hoover. It could also be helpful to examine the differences between progressives like Bryan and Sanders and establishment Washington liberals like the Clintons and the Bushs to see changes and lack of changes within the parties.

We might also think whether this was a populist (progressive populist like Bernie Sanders or nativist populist like Trump) election pushing back against the alienation inherent in globalization and if this will have an effect on the future platforms of the major parties.

In fact, even now things are changing. Consider this article which expresses a truism: In Trump era, Democrats and Republicans switch sides on states’ rights. What other changes will happen in this cycle under the new-guard Tea-Party Republican dominated government? What key voter issues, ideologies, and platforms will switch? Great questions, we can assume things will switch, but only time will tell. However, we can assume one thing that won’t switch: the party’s stance on immigration…. and it is an ability to be aware of these things from a 3,000 foot view where our studying of American history will pay off.

“Finally, let us understand that when we stand together, we will always win.” – Bernie Sanders, perhaps speaking as Bryan would have to his farmers and industrial workers crushed under the heel of the Gilded Age; the social populist spirit of Jefferson is alive in any age, but it isn’t always found in one party.

“”In the end, you’re measured not by how much you undertake but by what you finally accomplish.” Donald Trump

TIP: Donald Trump is one of the most abnormal Presidents in the history of the Country, and arguably the least traditional (thus he, like a modern party, is complex). His outward message is slightly neocon and certainly he is from New York, but most of his “traditional” Republican qualities are overshadowed by a strong nativist populist socially conservative message (a Tea Party message). This is why we talk about him as being like a Jackson or Wallace, and not like a Bush, Romney, or McCain. It isn’t an insult, it is simply a truism, he appointed Bannon, not Bush, right? He has qualities of Hoover and Reagan, for sure, but the way he plays to the base is not reflective of the Gilded Age or an Eisenhower Republican, it is reflective of the sentiment of the populist conservative north (like the Know Nothings) and south.

TIP: The Trump vs. Clinton election also mirrors the 1876 election. The fact that it mirrors the two “corrupt bargain” elections shouldn’t be understated given the voting system in our Republic. However, Trump is oddly complex and many more parallels can be drawn than noted depending on what aspect of his character we are talking about.

Summarizing the Party Systems as a Two-Party System

Current events and complexities (like the elements of each past Party System which can still be found in each modern party) aside, there has almost always been a two-party system in the United States. The mentality of each party can be expressed as “northern interests” and “southern interests,” although I strongly prefer “city interests” and “rural interests” (as both have roughly the same meaning in this context). Sometimes we see both interests in the same party, as with Humphrey and LBJ, and sometimes it is less clear cut, but we can always spot it in any era.

Thus, we can use a simple “two party” answer as to which factions held which interests over time, which I hope will be seen as helpful, and not divisive. Remember the U.S. is a diverse Union of 50 sovereign states and commonwealths where the need to get a majority divides us into “red states and blue states” as a matter of custom, not as enemies, but as a United Republic with a democratic spirit.

  • Northern (and later coastal) “City” Interests: Federalists, Whigs, Third Party Republicans, Fourth Party Progressive era Republicans (like Teddy), Fifth Party Democrats (starting in the 1930s under FDR, then culminating with LBJ and then Clinton), Modern Democrats.
  • Southern (and later middle) “Rural” Interests: Anti-Federalists, Democratic-Republicans, Third Party Democrats, Fourth Party Progressive Era Democrats (Like Wilson), Fifth Party Republicans (starting in the 1920s under Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover, then culminating with Nixon and then Bush), Modern Republicans.

The south is still the south, the north is still the north, a city is still is a city, and rural voters are still rural. That isn’t what changed. In any era, geopolitical voters still have their unique vices, like those evidenced by shameful Jim Crow Southern politics or the under-represented Southern Black Belt, or those evidenced by Northern Ghettos filled with refugees from the great migration and working class immigrants. They also have their unique virtues, be they fighting for individual rights, fairness for the farmer, and protecting jobs at home, or for fighting for collective social justice, workers rights, minority rights, and the global trade and central banking that ensures America’s status as a Hegemonic superpower. Sure, at times the divide in America is a single voter issue or economic class struggle, but the basic city/north vs. rural/south split is nearly constant. Thus, it is a good metric for tracing a line through 240 years of factions.

Below we tell the story of the evolution of the American political parties to better describe how figures like Strom Thurmond impact history, and how key issues like popular sovereignty, segregation, free-silver, and civil rights impact the country. We’ll also see how the party of Jefferson became the party of Confederates and only later to became the party of modern social liberalism. First, we’ll summarize how the platforms, members, and names of parties changed and factionalized. Then we’ll explore the party systems and their prominent figures in-depth to illustrate key “political realignments” and realigning elections in United States history.[20]

NOTE: While party officials and members, party ideologies, and party platforms switch between the 1930s and 1990s, it doesn’t all happen at the same time, and some elements are retained by the parties after the changes, and these nuances seem to cause confusion. The Democratic party’s voter base and stances on key issues started switching under figures like Bryan in the early 1900s long before any officials left. Meanwhile, key figures like Strom Thurmond aside, officials were the last people to change in many cases. Many of them remained until they retired like Byrd, while the next generation ran under a different party. In this same vein, one should not mistake somewhat progressive southern figures like Wilson, the Gores, or LBJ to be “the same” as more conservative figures like Thurmond, Byrd, or Wallace. Not everything changes between the 60s and 90s, but what does is enough to flip the red and blue states and reshape American politics. See the 88th United States Congress – 104th United States Congress and compare that to historic elections in that same time for some examples of the slow change from the 60s to 90s. Or, see the 1968 Presidential Election for a symbolic change where the “yellow” states’ rights states in the south were soon to be red, and the blue northern states were soon to stay blue.

The History of the Republican Party (1854-2016). This video does a fair and balanced job of describing the shifting platforms. It pairs well with our points while telling different bits of the story. Keep in mind all videos on this page are curated to help tell the overarching story of the changes. They aren’t made by us, and as such, they don’t necessarily express our views.

TIP: See the voting records of each Presidential election from 1789 to 2012, see the voting record of the “solid south.” see the home states of Presidents, see how expansion and slavery divided the country leading up to the 1860s? See how “red” and “blue” switch over time? These “switches,” which can be verified against the major American political party platforms over time, is what this page will discuss.

TIP: One way to summarize all of this is by saying the changes happened under, or as a result of, key figures including Jefferson and Hamilton, Adams and Jackson, Lincoln, Grant, Cleveland, Bryan, the Roosevelts, Wilson, Hoover, LBJ, and Clinton. See a comparison of the political ideology of each President from Washington to Obama.

TIP: Try not to get sidetracked by the modern day usage of terms like liberal and conservative, this page seeks to use the proper meaning of the terms in each era (with consideration to differentiate between historic meanings, past American meanings, modern American meanings, and types).

An Overview of Platform Switching Between Republicans and Democrats

Above we gave a summary of the party systems, below we will look at key changes, key voter issues, and provide more details and justifications (i.e. if you stop reading now, you can walk away knowing you have covered the basics).

With the above said, there isn’t one change that results in the political realignments and platform switches that define the Party Systems; instead, there are many.

Below is an overview of the most important changes alongside a quick history of the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.

The Ideology of Old Democrats and Modern Republicans

Andrew Jackson (the first Democratic Party President – 1829) was a southern states’ rights populist and “Jacksonian” Democrat, which (in terms of individual rights, small government, and economic ideology) is similar to today’s socially conservative libertarian.

Early factions like Jeffersonians and the Young America movement were rather progressive. The Copperheads and War Democrats in the North were non-Confederate conservative factions during the Civil War. A Bourbon Democrat is essentially a Libertarian. Thus, we can say the pro-states’ rights Democrats of Lincoln’s time held both the beliefs of their predecessors the Anti-Federalists and Democratic-Republicans, and those of today’s modern Libertarians and Republicans.

Compared to their opposition the above major parties are roughly pro-south, pro farmer, pro-state-power, anti-central-bank, anti-debt, and anti-taxes. They tend to favor individual rights over collective rights, typically choosing deregulation over government enforced social justice. Thus, they are liberal regarding authority but conservative in terms of social policy. They are, as a party, classical liberals and social conservatives. Today they might be called neocons, libertarians, and paleocons.

TIP: Want to understand modern Republicanism? See this documentary on the Tea Party.

How the Democrats Became Socially Liberal

The Third Party Democrats began to change from social conservative to social progressive in the 1890s at the end of the Gilded Age under the progressive populist Democrat William Jennings Bryan. Under Bryan, the Democratic Party became increasingly socially progressive and necessarily authoritative. From Bryan to Wilson, to LBJ, to Clinton the Democratic Party increasingly favored progressive social liberalism regarding “government enforced social justice and economic intervention” over laissez-faire governance, this attracted progressive Republicans and drove social conservatives from the party over time.

TIP: See History of the United States Democratic Party.

The Ideology of Old Republicans and Modern Democrats

Lincoln (the first Republican President – 1861) was an anti-slavery Republican in his day. In terms of pushing for social justice, using federal power, and taxation his position was similar to today’s progressive social liberal.

The Federalists and Whigs who became the Republicans were often classically conservative in terms of trade, taxes, and general authority. However, factions like Conscience WhigsHalf-Breeds, and Radical Republicans worked along with the fact that Republicans were not the Confederate pro-slavery South and drew a lot of progressives in America’s first 100-or-so years especially in the mid-1800s at the height of tension over slavery.

With that noted, we can say the anti-slavery Republicans of Lincoln’s time roughly held the beliefs of their predecessors the Federalists and Whigs, but (again confusingly) also of today’s modern Progressives and Democrats.

Compared to their opposition the above major parties are roughly pro-north, pro-banking, pro-federal power, pro-northern factory, and pro-taxes. They favor collective rights over individual rights, typically using Federal power to ensure the welfare of the collective. Thus, they are classically conservative in terms of favoring authority, but liberal in terms of social policy. So they are, as a party, classical conservatives and social liberals (today neoliberal “Reagan Democrats” and progressives).

TIP: See this documentary from 1992 to understand New Democrats.

How the Republicans Became Socially Conservative

The Fourth Party Republicans began to change when the Progressive Republican Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt broke from the party in 1912 (with Teddy being one of the forces, along with Bryan, Taft, and Wilson, that gave the “Progressive Era” its historical name). Following the break, the Republicans increasingly embraced social conservatism and opposed social progressivism (they especially opposed Communism). From Harding to Hoover, to Nixon, to Bush they increasingly favored classical liberalism regarding “individual and states’ rights” over central authority. This attracted some socially conservative Democrats like states’ rights Dixiecrat Strom Thurmon. It resulted in a Southernization of the Republican party and drove some progressive Republicans from the party over time.

TIP: See History of the United States Republican Party.

The Conservative Coalition Vs. The New Deal Coalition

Now that we know the basics, the changes in both parties in the 1900s are perhaps best understood by examining the Conservative Coalition and the New Deal Coalition.

The Conservative Coalition was a coalition between the anti-Communist Republicans like Nixon and Reagan (both Californians) and conservative Southern Democrats. It arose to oppose FDR’s New Deal progressivism, and it blocked a lot of the progressive legislation the New Deal Coalition tried to pass from the 1930s to the 1960s. The socially conservative solid south was still its own entity. It sometimes voted with other Democrats, and sometimes broke off into its own factions. See the 1960 election Kennedy v. Nixon v. Harry F. Byrd. The Coalition tellingly dwindled post 64′ Civil Rights and ended in the Clinton era as conservative southerners became Republicans and formed the modern construct of “the Red States” and “the Blue States.”

Meanwhile, the New Deal coalition (which drew progressives into the Democratic Party, and away from the new American conservative party, making the Democrats the modern American liberal party) explains the progressive coalition of Democrats and Republicans the Conservative coalition opposed. Today the two parties largely resemble these coalitions.

The Rise of Modern Social Liberalism and Social Conservatism

Later we get “a third way” with Bill Clinton’s New Democrats. This “third way” is an extension of the “progressive bourbon liberal” (neoliberal) wing, but mashed-up with the “progressive social liberal” (progressive) wing, and Reagan-era conservatism. These three “social liberal” ideologies which Clinton embodied can collectively be referred to as an American liberalism. These factions, which we can today denote as progressive, neoliberal, and social liberal, can be used to differentiate types of liberals on the political left from the New Deal Coalition and the modern Democratic party of today.

TIP: As noted above in the introduction, there is no one way to understand America’s political ideologies, but each angle we look at things from helps us to better understand bits of the historic puzzle.

Three Factions of Modern Republicans to Oppose This

Although conservatism is complex, it is defined well as an opposition philosophy to liberalism. Through this lens, there is a type of conservatism that stands against for brand of liberalism. Modern American conservatism wants to “conserve,” which means not being progressive on a given issue and which by its nature is not conservative. Thus we get modern social conservatism which says no to social programs and federal power, except when it upholds conservative social values. There is also a more liberal version that we call libertarianism. It is against all uses of state power for any reason and is a form of radical classical liberalism, combined with traditional classical conservatism, which is willing to use federal power to keep order, but not inherently against social programs. These factions (libertarian, neocon, and social conservative) can be said to become allies the conservative coalition mentioned above, although “the establishment” of both parties tends to favor aspects of traditional classical conservatism.

TIP: When either party uses government power, they are traditional conservatives, when either party deregulates and lets the private market and individuals handle it, they are classically liberal. More than one ideology uses classical liberalism, and more than one uses classical conservatism, as all political ideologies grow out of these foundational ideologies.

Other Factors of Note Regarding Switching Platforms – Progressivism, The Red Scare, Immigration, Religion, and Civil Rights in 54′

Other key factors involve the Red Scare (the first and second), the effect of immigration, unions, and “the Catholic vote” (which culminates with Kennedy’s election in 1960) on the parties.

The Republican party changed after losing to Wilson and moved away from progressivism and toward classical liberal values under Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover. In this time they also became increasingly “anti-Communist” following WWI (the first red scare). While both parties were anti-Communist and pro-Capitalist, Wilson’s brand of progressive southern bourbon liberalism and his New Freedom plan and then FDR’s brand of progressive liberalism and his New Deal were opposed by Republicans like Hoover due to their use of the state to ensure social justice. Then after WWII, the Second Red Scare reignited the conversation, further dividing factions and parties.

Another important thing to note is that the Democratic party has historically been pro-immigrant (one of the few platforms that didn’t change). Over time this attracted new immigrant groups like Northern Catholics (see the Know Nothing party) and earned them the support of Unions (who were increasingly opposed by Republicans). Big City Machines like Tammany Hall also play a role in this aspect of the story as well. The immigrant vote is one of the key factors in changing the Democratic party over time in terms of progressivism, unions, religion, and geolocation (as many immigrants immigrated to northern cities), and it is well suited to be its own subject.[21]

Another important thing to note related to liberalism and immigration is religion. Religion has always played a role in American politics, but the conversation is complex. Some religions have favored social liberalism, some the individualism, and traditionalism of conservatism. The Jewish, Catholic, Mormon, and Evangelical voters all have an important story to tell in terms of changes in the parties, as do key issues like Temperance and Prohibition.(see Religion and politics in the United States).

Lastly, although race had long been an issue, Civil Rights had been somewhat stagnant as a voter issue since 1896’s Plessy v. Ferguson, with other progressive policies and the world wars taking precedence politically. However, after Brown v. Board of Education Civil Rights began to split the Democratic Party between progressives (who were typically pro-Civil-Rights) and southern conservatives who opposed desegregation (see African-American Civil Rights Movement 1954–68). TIP: Listen to the Lee Atwater interview below, he explains this from the viewpoint of a GOP strategist.

Given all the above, we can say, over time, the progressive populist sentiment of the party of Jefferson pulled in progressives and pushed out social conservatives, which resulted in new policies, members, and geographic changes for both parties, which in turn attracted other factions to each party. Today, the effect is that the parties have nearly completely switched platforms aside from a few issues like immigration.

Despite these general truisms, the parties themselves have typically been factionalized over complex factors relating to left-right ideology, single issues, and the general meaning of liberty.

Each party has historically contained a Northern (and later coastal) and Southern (and later middle) faction (what we today call “red states” and “blue states”), and each party has split into conservative, moderate, liberal, and progressive (often called radical) factions.

It is these factions, and the ongoing disagreement over how government should look, that explain the shifting platforms from the Civil War to the Gilded Age, to the Progressive Era, to the World Wars, to Civil Rights, to the Reagan and Clinton eras, and then to today.

The Evolution of America’s Major Political Parties. Another video looking at the History of the Major American political parties like we do on this page.

TIP: This page is general. Below we offer vital details on the above, curated videos, and significant proof. If you want to stop reading here, you now have the bare minimum needed to understand the history of the American political parties. Please comment below with any questions or insight!

An Overview of the Platform Switching By Party System and President – From the Founders to Eisenhower

The First and Second Party Systems (1792-1854) included some important changes and debates. Examples included the argument over the Federalist favored Constitution, and the Anti-Federalist favored Articles of Confederation and Bill of Rights and debates over slavery, modernization, and banking. Major changes began at the end of the Second Party System.

The Second Party system ended with the Whig Party dissolving in 1854. They were critically divided by the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the related debate over manifest destiny and popular sovereignty (states’ rights regarding slavery). The heated battle over whether Kansas should be a slave state, and the debate over whether the south could keep expanding southward creating slave states, resulted in the country being split. This had happened in the Mexican-American war. One faction became the Northern Republicans and their allies the Union, who wanted to hold together the Union under a strong central government. The other became the Southern ex-Democrats and their allies the Confederacy, who wanted independence and wanted to expand southward, to for instance Cuba, creating new slave states. By the time Lincoln took office in 1861, the division was inescapable

FACT: The tension was so great the Democratic party ceased to exist from 1861 – 1865 as the Confederacy rejected the concept of party systems; which is why we refer to them ex-Democrats above.

Political fragmentation led up to Civil War. The main “switching” of platforms happened after this divisive war. It occurred in phases over the next 130 years, between the start of Civil War Reconstruction (1865) in the Third Party System, and into the Clinton era (mid-1990’s) in the Sixth Party System. Thus, platform switching took place from Grant to Wilson, to FDR, to LBJ, to Reagan, to Clinton. Often one issue at a time was critical. These included race, states’ rights, the role of government, subsidization, taxationreligion, prohibition, the middle class, banking, immigration, cronyism, progressivism, workers rights, civil rights, voting rights, and social welfare.

When the major parties didn’t embrace a popular voter issue or a specific stance on an issue, a “single issue” third party often did. These parties included the pre-Civil War Free Soilers and Know Nothings, and the post-Civil War People’s Party and Prohibition Party.

During Civil War Reconstruction the parties split into many conservative, moderate, and radical factions over disagreements as to how to treat the South and the Freedmen after the war. This Third Party split resulted in legislation like the Civil Rights Act of 1875, and the politics of the Gilded Age when Northern Republicans, and their private market counterparts, dominated politics and industry until the moderate conservative Democrat Grover Cleveland took office for the first time in 1884. During this period America became an industrial superpower under the “Robber Barons” (or, more respectfully, the “captains of industry”). This transformation resulted in two further divisions between factions, specifically a split over the government’s role in the private market (AKA civil service vs. cronyism) and a split over silver vs. gold vs. green-backed money.

The perceived and real corruption of the Gilded Age led to the formation of progressive third parties. One of these was the Progressive People’s Party, a populist party of southern farmers, western Republicans, and northern factory workers who favored silver-backed money for its perceived inflationary properties. They later joined the Democrats under Bryan, and this was one of the key events that pushed the Democratic Party toward progressivism from the 1890s on.

The era ends with the panic of 1893 under the Democrats and President Cleveland (who favored gold-backed money). Cleveland had to borrow money from J.P. Morgan and the international banks, which angered the southern farmers in the Democratic party and pushed the Wall Street crowd and industrialists back toward the Republican Party. The industrialists had tended to support the Union during the war but supported the moderate pro-gold north-easterner, Cleveland.

The post-Reconstruction Gilded Age and Third Party System resulted in a progressive populist era aptly known as the Fourth Party “progressive” era 1890’s – 1932 (an era in which all parties were progressive regarding social and economic justice).

During this Fourth Party WWI-era, America became a superpower via progressive militarism. Women got the right to vote carried by a wave of progressive feminism. The unions and trust-busters were coming in swinging for progressive worker rights. The “great migration” began due to the north favoring social progressivism over social conservatism. America saw another type of progressivism with the economic policies surrounding the Federal Reserve which was established on the back of the Panic of 1907 in which J.P. Morgan personally bailed out America. Even Prohibition was a progressive movement in a sense. Good or bad, this was an era in which new approaches tried to combat existing problems, and it all started with the union of Bryan and the People’s Party.

As the Fourth Party formed in the 1890s, the Democratic party began embracing the Free Silver movement under William Jennings Bryan. As a result of this stance, and with the support of the former People’s Party behind him, the populist Bryan began “swallowing up” the Democratic party and pulling them to the “left” on many issues.

Meanwhile, the Republican Party also moved “left” on many issues, making both major parties resemble factions of today’s Democrats for a brief moment (AKA progressive populists and pro-banker liberals). Eventually, Republicans would start moving “right” again over disagreements between progressive, moderate, and conservative party members.

The splitting of the Republican party had begun during Reconstruction, but finally culminated in the progressive era with Republican Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt forming his 1912 Progressive “Bull Moose” Party. Roosevelt’s move fundamentally changed the Republican Party and resulted in a win for the progressive Democrat Woodrow Wilson and a loss for the progressive Republican Taft.

As noted above, from the end of the Gilded Age on the Democratic Party became increasingly progressive. First, it was Bryan and Free Silver, then Wilson’s economic, social, and militaristic progressivism in the 1910’s, then Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) and the New Deal coalition in the 1930s.

Despite the increasing populist progressivism of the Democratic party, the socially conservative Solid South Democrats didn’t begin to leave the Democratic Party until LBJ’s Civil Rights Act of 1964. Instead, the parties largely changed under their member’s feet while Republicans slowly moved right and issues like Prohibition, the Great Depression, and WII took center stage.

After Wilson, but before FDR, who was the President during most of WWII, deep splits over progressive religious movements like temperance and prohibition had weakened the Democratic party. This is true even though both Democrats and Republicans supported the Eighteenth Amendment. The split over progressivism cost Democrats three elections in a row: Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover, with each Republican President moving further “right,” especially over issues like Communism. The first Red Scare became an issue starting near the end of Wilson’s Presidency, and then we had three Republicans in a row reacting to it while Democrats lost power.

Hoover sought to capitalize on the split in the Democratic Party in 1928 by pursuing a “lily-white Southern strategy” to resuscitate the Republican Party in the South. He did this “[by] purging black Republicans from leadership positions in the Southern wing of the G.O.P.” This move appealed to lily-white Republican factions but angered the “black-and-tan” factions. Unsurprisingly, this caused white Southerners to gravitate toward the Republican party while black and progressive Americans gravitated toward the Democratic party.[22]

Hoover’s race-related tactics aside, it is largely the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and Hoover’s classical liberal laissez-faire response that opened the door for FDR and his New Deal, which Hoover opposed. The Great Depression had gotten so bad by the 1932 election that many Republicans became Democrats as a response. Just compare 1928 to 1932, this was one of those key realigning elections and the Great Depression a key aligning event.

FDR, whose Presidency marks the start of the Fifth Party system, may have been a progressive Democratic President in practice, but he ran as a fiscal conservative, called Hoover a socialist, couldn’t get the vote in the “solid North,” and relied heavily on progressive Republican support. This is to say, that while the Civil Rights legislation in the 30’s and 40’s was passed under a progressive Democratic President, both parties still contained both progressive and conservative factions. This is also true after FDR under Truman in 1948 when the States’ Rights Democrats run under Thurmond. Of note is Truman’s “Fair Deal,” which was unable to pass due to lack of support from conservatives and Southern Democrats. Also of note are the Jim Crow laws of this era, and the lack of action against them, which is historically attributed to solidly Democratic South, not to moderate-progressive Democrats like FDR or Truman. Civil Rights aside, as with Hoover, other issues were seen by many as more pressing in this time, specifically the New Deal and World War II.

After WII and Truman we get the Republican-led Civil Rights legislation under moderate Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower who has a sweeping win in 1952. Eisenhower was a friend to the New Deal and tried to pull his party back to the center, but was largely unsuccessful. His effort failed partially due to conservative populist forces in the party like Joseph McCarthy, who had switched from Democrat to Republican in 1944.

An Overview of Platform Switching in the Modern Era – From LBJ to Today

The growing tension between progressive southern Democrats (who empathized with northern Democrats and progressive Republicans) and social conservative southern Democrats (who favored segregation and disliked social liberalism) came to a boil with 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education. This Supreme Court ruling led to divisive issues like Desegregation busing causing further splits in the Democratic Party, which Republicans capitalized on as they did under Hoover.

Tellingly, progressive Southerners like Albert Gore, Sr. (Al Gore’s dad), Estes KefauverRalph Yarborough, and Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) refused to sign 1956’s Southern Manifesto (a pro-segregation document which most conservative southern Democrats signed, including its author Strom Thurmond).

By the 60’s, the tension was mounting around LBJ’s Great Society programs; specifically 64’s Civil Rights. Some conservative “Dixiecrats” like Strom Thurmond began to leave the Democratic Party for the Republican Party and the George Wallace-led American Independent Party. (NOTE: “Dixiecrats” is a term used to describe southern Democrats, specifically those who would have ideologically been part of the States’ Rights Democratic Party of 48′).

Other southern politicians and voters followed Strom Thurmond over time. Their exit left the now social-liberal (rather than classic liberal) Democrats to support the increasingly socially conservative Republicans under Goldwater-Reagan-Nixon. The “southern strategy” these leaders developed was continued into the 80’s under Lee Atwater, and even extended into the 2000s).[23]

The last major shift happened slowly from the 60s to the 90s and is denoted by groups like “The Reagan Coalition” and Clinton’s “New Democrats.” These groups represent an increasingly modern political realignment, and a tug-of-war involving appealing to different types of blue-collar and conservative populist sentiments. Other key groups of the era include Nixon’s “Silent Majority” and “Reagan Democrats.”

In the transition period of the mid-to-late 60s, progressive Democrats and Republicans usually carried the less progressive Dixiecrats and Republicans on social issues like Voting Rights 65′ and Civil Rights 68′, but over time, as the Republicans moved further to the political right, this became increasingly less true.

Over the 70s, 80s, and 90s, the southern strategy pulled in white southerners and conservatives to the Republican party, and the Republican party also embraced the religious right.

Meanwhile, the Democratic party pulled in movements growing out of Civil Rights. Issues such as Workers’ RightsLGBT rights, and Roe v. Wade were increasingly allied with Northern big businesses. As they gained popularity in the North and on both the east and west coasts, they embraced the northern economic policy which had traditionally been with the Republican party outside of Cleveland, Wilson, and FDR.

Changes that started with Reconstruction and developed during the period from LBJ to Clinton led the 90’s Democrats toward change. They became the Northern and Coastal party of progressive movements, big business (especially finance and tech), big subsidies, and big taxes (to support it all). Meanwhile, the Republicans, favored in the South and Middle of the country, became the party of individual rights, specific businesses (small business rhetorically, but also big business in terms of tax breaks and deregulation), and religious interests. This is essentially the complete opposite of how things were at the start of the Third Party System.

Although Strom Thurmond left, and the solid south began voting “red” in 68,’ many southern Democrats including the Gores stayed with the Democrats past 1964 – 1968, especially in the Senate (see 88th United States Congress – 104th United States Congress). Likewise, not every progressive Republican became a Democrat. More than politicians changing parties, or the ideology of those politicians changing, the parties and their voters simply changed under them.

Some Dixiecrats, like Robert Byrd, never left the Democrats, and some Republicans retained the spirit of figures like Hamilton and Eisenhower especially under Reagan and H. W. Bush. Despite this, by the time the 105th United States Congress impeached President Clinton, and the GOP turned to W. Bush, the changes are apparent. By the mid-90s the parties finally resembled the parties of today in terms of voter base and positions in the House and Senate.[24]

In the post-90’s era, we saw the second wave of “New Democrats.” These Democrats, like the socially progressive, but pro-trade and business, Barack Obama, stand next to many modern southern Democrats (either reformed or not, depending on who you believe). Groups like the “New Democrat Coalition” (a coalition in the House which contains southern Democrats, pro-trade Democrats, and some progressives) provide an example of this movement.

Did all the “Dixiecrats” “change parties”? No. Did some conservative southern Democrats swap Jim Crow for social liberalism? Maybe, to some extent (Byrd renounced his past, Strom never did). Despite theories that touch on those last points having some weight to them, the voter base and platforms did change over time. Notably, this page is a statement on changing platforms and members of parties, and not on the consequences of social policy, the ideology of the Dixiecrats still in the party, or whether a socially conservative policy from the south is more detrimental to Civil Rights than a given economic policy in the north.

In retrospect, figures like MLK and Shirley Chisholm, along with Presidents like John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton, have all played a part in changing the Democratic Party.

Meanwhile, the nativist populist sentiment of Trump, and recent legislation like the Republican favored voter ID laws, recall the attitude of the socially conservative Democrat George Wallace (“the American populist“), more than the moderate Republican Eisenhower.

Ultimately, the parties did swap many platforms (issues) between the 1850s – 1990s as a matter of record, but not all platforms, members, or ideologies switched. Consequently, we have to explain what it means that Teddy was a Republican and FDR a Democrat, or that Lincoln was a Republican and Obama a Democrat. We also need to consider the way third parties led to changes in the major parties including the 1890’s People’s Party (the Free Silver progressive party who joined the Democrats under Bryan) and the 1912 Progressive Party (where Teddy Roosevelt broke away from the Republican party to run on a more progressive agenda).

The 1960s – 1980s are a little less clear-cut than other eras, but since 1992 the North has mostly voted Blue and the South Red. Compare that to 1860196019761984, and 2016, and you can decide what this means for yourself. The voting record is clear, and so are the platforms; much of the rest is a matter of perspective.

As President Obama once said (paraphrasing), “America looks at a single issue and sees it 320 million different ways.” We need to agree on the facts, but we don’t need to agree on what they mean.

For everything we didn’t touch on in our summary, from our perspective, we have Lee Atwater’s infamous 1981 interview which analyzes the same story, but from the perspective of one of the most important Republican strategists of all time:

Now that we have the post-1960’s segregation issue clear let’s get back to the rest of American history starting with Hamilton’s Federalists so we can understand the platform shifts from a historical perspective. If we don’t have a clear picture of the split between Federalists and Anti-Federalists, we won’t be able to see how issues like states’ rights evolved throughout American history and what that means in context.

Remember, America is not a single group and the major parties aren’t single issue parties. We will be dealing with factions, changing times, and changing viewpoints. Below we detail each party system to explain the changes, which go far beyond social issues or what the Dixiecrats do in 64′.

TIP: For more reading see our series on American Politics, our breakdown of major American political party platforms over time, or our pages on the basic types of political parties (and how the modern American parties compare)how to understand the political left and rightliberalism and the founders fathers, or why the founders chose a Republic.

“Republican candidates often have prospered by ignoring black voters and even by exploiting racial tensions,” and, “by the ’70s and into the ’80s and ’90s, the Democratic Party solidified its gains in the African-American community, and we Republicans did not effectively reach out. Some Republicans gave up on winning the African-American vote, looking the other way or trying to benefit politically from racial polarization. I am here today as the Republican chairman to tell you we were wrong.” – RNC Chief Ken Mehlman 2005.

NOTE: For those who want further proofs and details, read on. Much like our history, this page keeps going despite the complex details.

A Summary of the Party Switching by Looking at the Presidents: From the Founding Fathers, to Civil War, to Civil Rights, to Today

In the introduction we provided a chronological summary of the parties by looking at the Party Systems, this section expands upon the story by focusing on the Presidents.

As noted in the introduction, to prove the parties switched platforms clearly, we need to consider at least four political types (if not more), not just liberal and conservative. We also need to think about the single issue “third parties” like the Free Soil Party, the People’s Party, and the American Independent Party, and the difference between collectivism and individualism. This is necessary as collective rights vs. individual rights is the issue at the heart of the debate.

Although the political ideologies are best applied to each issue, some issues don’t arise until the late 19th or even 20th century. The parties have been factionalized throughout history. We can describe the parties, using modern language, as Social Liberal (like Clinton or Lincoln), Conservative (like Eisenhower or Cleveland), Populist/Socialist (like the Roosevelts), and Libertarian/Classic Liberal (Like Jefferson or Reagan).

Social liberals (meaning modern Keynesian social-liberals) favor social progress, globalization, taxes, corporations, and big government. Populist-Socialists (often called progressives in history) favor the people, civil service, and government-backed social justice over big business (a less “corporate” version of social liberalism). Traditional Conservatives want traditional nationalism, oppose progressivism and social-liberalism, and favor specific big businesses like the military, church, and specific aristocracy and oligarchy. Libertarians or those with a classical liberal ideology with right-wing leanings removed want a small government with limited federal power, free trade, and low taxes even if it means powerful plutocrats and injustice. With that in mind, it is best to start off by comparing the first two political factions the Federalists and Anti-Federalists (and then Democratic-Republicans) in the First Party System 1792-1824:

Hamilton, who roughly favors Northern interests and a strong government, was a hands-on Federalist (which is, very roughly, like today’s Washington Liberal-Conservative, he wants a central bank, strong military, and is conservatively loyal to Britain). Jefferson, who roughly favors Southern interests and less government, was a hands-off anti-Federalist (which is roughly today’s Libertarian-Populist, he wants individual liberty, state-rights, and is against big Government for any reason). In terms of England and France, Hamilton is Whig-like (or a Tory if you ask Jefferson) and Jefferson is a Jacobin supporting admirer of the French Revolution (if we ask Jefferson himself).[25]

To further illustrate the divide, Hamilton’s Federalists favored the collective rights (and authority) of a Federal Republic and supported the Constitution (as opposed to the Articles of Confederation). Jefferson’s Anti-Federalists opposed replacing the Articles of Confederation (which called for less central power) and later wanted the Bill of Rights (a bill of liberal human rights to amend the Constitution), which Hamilton and the Federalists opposed.

There were Federalists and Anti-Federalists in both the north and south. The Anti-Federalists favored individual rights, Democracy, no debt, and small government (ideas popular in the south). The anti-federalists favored collective rights, a Republic, debt and credit, and federal power (ideas more popular in the north). Consider compromise positions like the Second Amendment which allowed for gun ownership, but also calls for a militia which can put down an uprising like Shays’ Rebellion or the Whiskey Rebellion. Although the views of both men and factions are much more complex than can be summed up quickly, these facts paint a clear picture of the first political factions.

Not every issue that is important today was important historically. Specific religion, race, immigration, gender, women’s rights, and gun rights weren’t always as divisive in the past (although they were discussed at times). Freedom of Religion was pushed for by Jefferson as it is a fundamental principle of liberalism and the Age of Enlightenment[26], and Jefferson generally wanted less bureaucracy and looser immigration laws (see the Alien and Sedition Acts and Nativism in the U.S.). Neither took a clear stand against slavery. Hamilton was hardly to the far-right on religion; his main interest was in trade and monetary policy. Issues like these, although discussed since the beginning of our country, don’t become fully divisive (even to the extent of creating third parties) until later due to an influx of Catholic immigrants (see 1854’s Know Nothing Party), the expansion of new territories, and the debate over whether they should be slave states, see 1848’s Free Soil Party.

With the above in mind, in summary, Hamilton’s party is for a British-style central government (a more authoritative liberalism), while Jefferson’s party favors a hands-off, individual rights focused, French-style approach to liberalism.

This division between Federalists (pro-trade, pro-bank, pro-collective rights, and pro-authority) and Anti-Federalists, and then Democratic-Republicans, (pro-farmer, anti-central bank, pro-individual rights, and anti-authority) will come to represent a consistent ideological divide between the North and South, as well as the two major parties. This ideological divide never changes, but new ideologies, platforms, party names and party members will revolve around this divide all the way until the Present day.

Thomas Jefferson | 60-Second Presidents | PBS. This PBS 60 second Presidents series will help illustrate how platforms and parties change over time. Let us start with the obviously Social-Libertarian by governance-style and ideology, anti-Federalist by name (the party that would become the Democrats), Jefferson (a French-style classical liberal). Although Jefferson expands America and accomplishes a few other important feats, Jefferson’s hands-off approach makes his Presidency otherwise lack-luster.

This First Party era also contains the era of good feelings during which the parties worked together from about 1815 to 1825. It also included  Henry Clay’s 1820 Missouri Compromise between anti-slavery and pro-slavery factions to balance the number of “slave states” and “free states” (which itself helped balance the south’s dominance in this era which had resulted from the Three-Fifths Compromise of 1787). The era ends with the formation of the John Quincy Adams supporting National Republicans of 1825 (who disband in 1833 and become Whigs in the next era).

John Quincy Adams | 60-Second Presidents | PBS. Adams, Clay, and Jackson’s stories intertwine to describe the end of the First Party and start of the Second Party system.

The next era, Jackson’s era, is the Second Party System: 1828-1854. It begins with Jackson’s Presidency, which contrasts the hands-off Jefferson to the more hands-on Jackson, and also marks the start of “the spoils system, as well as a growing tension between North and South over whether or not the new states should be slave states.

Andrew Jackson | 60-Second Presidents | PBS. We call Jackson a “Jacksonian Democrat”, that essentially means a pro-south Libertarian in Jackson’s day. Jackson says states’ rights and individual rights trump the collective rights favored by of the anti-slavery factions. Slavery aside, Jackson resembles Jefferson in his dismantling of the big banks and otherwise populist message.

In the Second Party System, the newly formed Democrats (previously Anti-Federalists and Democratic-Republicans), start to show roots of what we today call conservatism. They use classic liberal principles to support slavery, but use federal power when it suits them.

Meanwhile, the Federalists (after a brief stint as National Republicans) become the Whigs in 1833. They take on some more socially left issues under “the great compromiser” Henry Clay. Despite this being true, the Whigs remain conservative regarding federal power and economic policy (the term Whig comes from the English Whig party, a liberal party, split into two factions one more conservative and one more radical, they opposed the conservative Tory factions).

During this Second Party System, some third parties arise to promote issues (often “single issues”) that lacked strong support in the major parties. These third parties included the anti-immigrant Know-Nothing Party, the anti-Mason Anti-Mason Party, and factions of anti-slavery Democrats and anti-slavery Whigs who formed the Barnburners, the Liberty Party, and the Free Soil Party led by the notable Martin Van Buren.[27][28][29][30]

Martin Van Buren | 60-Second Presidents | PBS. Martin Van Buren “one of the most important Presidents we never think of” was an anti-slavery community organizing Democrat. He later went on to head the unsuccessful Free Soil Party which contained both former anti-slavery Democrats and anti-slavery Republicans who wanted new states to be “free” and thought that slavery would phase itself out over time if this were done.

The Second Party System ended when platforms and members change as a result of the tension over the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. During this time, the “states’ rights” advocates in the north and south join forces with the pro-slavery south to push for a state’s right to choose to be a slave state, AKA popular sovereignty.

This divisive bit of legislation, and the argument over popular sovereignty caused some southern individual rights and conservative Whigs to join the Democrats (or the popular Know Nothing Party) and caused some of the northern anti-slavery Democrats to join the newly forming Republicans (or the Free Soil Party).

The result was a split between the North and the South leading to the Third Party system, the formation of the Republican party from ex-Whigs and Free Soilers in 1854 (whose first President was Lincoln), and of course the Civil War.

How one piece of legislation divided a nation. This video describes how the Kansas-Nebraska Act resulted in the Whigs becoming Republicans, and how members changed parties around this time. 

While some platforms and members change during the First and Second Party Systems and help to define the divide we see during the Civil War, most “switching” doesn’t happen until after Lincoln’s Presidency in the Third Party System starting with Grant. Given this, we can draw a rough, but clear, line from the Federalist party of Hamilton to Clay’s Whigs, to Lincoln’s anti-slavery Republicans (who favor tradition and are pro-social justice, even if it means taxation, big government, and big banks). And, we can draw a clear line from Jefferson’s anti-Federalists and Democratic-Republicans, to Jackson’s Democrats, to the pro-slavery Democrats (who favor states’ rights and human rights [for white men], and are pro-farmer and pro-small government, even if it means social injustice).

The Era of the Third Party System: 1854-1890’s marks the start of the parties shifting platforms and splitting into the factions. Lincoln, the Civil War, and Reconstruction, along with issues that gained new importance like immigration, worker’s rights, temperance, and importantly silver v. gold v. green (backed money) resulted in many changes for the nation.

Going into the Civil War, the pro-slavery, small business, small government Democrats (and temporarily Confederates), oppose the anti-slavery, pro-industrialization, big business, big government Republicans (and temporarily the Union) led by Lincoln. It isn’t that the President wants war, it is that manifest density has left the country unable to advance properly into the next industrial era due to disagreement over states’ rights in regard to slavery. The south is for the farmer and individual liberty, and the North is seeking modernization and collective liberty (which stands to crush the south’s business).

Every past President had ignored slavery to focus on expansion, but Lincoln would not as “a house divided against itself cannot stand.”

Abraham Lincoln | 60-Second Presidents | PBS. Lincoln, a long-time progressive Whig, is the first President of the new Anti-Slavery Republican party. Lincoln was a moderate Republican, but a true progressive-social-liberal. He created the first income tax and wasn’t afraid to use his power to ensure prosperity for the North and social justice for all. For the next 30 years after his death, the Stalwart Republican crony capitalists who oppose civil-service will run Congress. This angers the progressive-liberal civil-service Whigs and the libertarian-Democrats, and paves the way for corruption in the Gilded Age. That is, until the great Bourbon-Democrat-Conservative Grover Cleveland comes to end the corrupt cronies in congress.

The Civil War lasts from 1861 to 1865. On April 14, 1865, President Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth, a Southern sympathizer. The next morning, moderate Republican Andrew Johnson took office. Following the Civil War is Civil War Reconstruction, which explains the start of the major switches.

During Civil War Reconstruction, withPresidents like Grant, the Republicans split into many factions (conservative, moderate, and radical/progressive; and crony capitalists and civil service). They were divided over new Civil Rights legislation and the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments (the Reconstruction Amendments), and especially over a disagreement on how to treat the South.

This split results in the moderate Andrew Johnson (who was proceeded by Lincoln and succeeded by Grant) almost being impeached by radical and conservative Republicans (he avoided impeachment by one vote).

During this time Freedmen (freed slaves), joined with more radical Carpetbaggers (a pejorative term used by opponents for new arrivals to the south from the North), and Scalawags or “allies,” who were native white Southerners in Republican factions in the south. Many Scalawags became Democrats joining the conservative Democrats in the 1870’s.[31][32]

The conservative, moderate, and radical wings of the Republican party aside, two main factions stayed with the Republicans into Grant’s era. These factions were the Stalwart Crony Capitalist Republicans and the Civil-Service “Half-Breed” Progressive Republicans. Meanwhile, other former Republicans, mostly conservative Republicans, left the party for the already factionalized Democrats. By this time, the Democrats included the Libertarian-Liberal Bourbon Democrats who favored states’ rights and became today’s liberals starting in the early 1900’s and the Southern Conservative Democrats who favored slavery and remained with the Democrats until their faction became Nixon or Wallace supporters following Civil Rights in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

Other factions of this time (1864-1877), who weren’t part of the major parties, include Victoria Woodhull’s Equal Rights Party, a socially left-leaning feminist and equal rights party, and the People’s Party.

The People’s Party was a populist party that started in the 1870’s but rose from the 1890’s to 1900’s under the free silver movement and Democrat William Jennings Bryan. The People’s Party represents a growing pro-worker populist sentiment outside the major parties in both the North and South throughout the late 1800’s. It fully merges with the Democrats by 1908 creating a solid progressive wing of the Democratic party (who organize behind free silver, which is seen as pro-agrarian, pro-miner, and factory worker due to its perceived inflationary properties. See Bryan’s Cross of Gold speech). The pro-collective rights stance of Bryan stands in contrast to the earlier Democrats who favored individual rights no matter what.

Another faction from the 1870’s, the Liberal Republican Party, represent an offshoot of civil-service minded Republicans that leave the party. The Liberal Republicans are moderate Lincoln-like Republicans who attempted to distance themselves from the “Radical Republicans” who wanted harsher punishment for the South after the Civil War and emphasized equality, civil rights, and voting rights for the “freedmen” (recently freed slaves).

Meanwhile, the Prohibition party shows a more puritanical party that will later find a home with the Republican party during the temperance movement.

These factions (in the major and minor parties) are part of what results in what we call “switching” as they allow large groups of people and politicians, and the issues they support, to go from major party to third party or faction, and then back to major party again. For example, some pro-immigration Liberal Republicans, who are ideologically at odds with their party, move to the Democratic party following the 1872 election, and many of the populist Equal Rights and People’s Party become progressive Northern Democrats in the early 1900’s.[33] See the United States presidential election, 1872 results for an idea as to where the country is at in this era.[34]

Now that we have an idea of what else is going on post-Civil war, let’s get back to the two major parties and Grant.

Ulysses S. Grant | 60-Second Presidents | PBS. Grant, a Half-Breed Republican / Radical Republican opposed by the Liberal Republican party, but popular with Stalwarts, is progressive on social issues like Lincoln and is a popular and moderate politician. However, Grant’s moderate and laissez-faire style ushers in the age of crony capitalists and corruption, his Stalwart friends just weren’t as trustworthy as the rather Progressive Grant.

The Democrats of Grant’s time (1869 – 1877) were split into factions like the Republicans. They began to welcome immigrants and support workers (left), but also enacted new Jim Crow laws (an extension of earlier Black Codes) that worked to segregate the country for the next 100 years (right). Those who remained Republicans embraced issues like religion and temperance, nationalism, and anti-immigration (right), but often also embraced civil service (left).

Many new immigrants in this time are Catholic. This influx of Catholics is part of what make Religion and Immigration major issues in the US, and it is also one of the main things that turn the Democrats into social liberals (along with the free silver movement, the New Deal coalition, and finally the South moving out in 1964). These Catholic Democrats become the Kennedy’s and Biden’s of the world after getting behind Unions and social programs (workers rights and social justice are becoming more important in this new post-war era of industrialization).

One should keep in mind that the Democrats haven’t always had a good track record with immigrants. FDR was no champion of those trying to escape Europe during WWII. Despite the line of Federalists, Whigs, and Republicans being historically strict on immigration, there have consistently been pro-immigrant factions of the Republican party in all eras.

The rest of the Third Party System was marked by weak executive power, further party splitting, a corrupt Congress (see corruption in the Gilded Age), and the rise of the industrialists like J.P. Morgan (who is instrumental in the upcoming progressive era). Not all the issues that matter to the American parties today are with the parties of the late 19th century, but when they are, they are typically split between the many factions of the day (including third parties like the People’s Party). This divisive political environment was exemplified by the post-Compromise of 1877 presidency of Rutherford B. Hayes. Hayes pushed against the Stalwarts for Civil Service reform, and the Presidency of James A. Garfield, which was sadly cut short by an assassination spurred on by the tense relationships between the Civil Service and Stalwart factions of the Republican party.

James A. Garfield | 60-Second Presidents | PBS. Half-Breed politics and James A. Garfield lead to Civil Service reform before the next round of changes ensues. Garfield was shot by a self-proclaimed “Stalwart of the Stalwarts”, Charles J. Guiteau, on July 2, 1881. Despite Guiteau’s intentions, the assassination led to Chester A. Arthur creating civil service reforms in his term, apparently in-part an effort to finish Garfield’s work.[35]

The divisions of the Third Party System largely remain until the upcoming progressive era, but there is some unity in the interim under the pro-business, anti-free silver, anti-imperialism, and anti-tariff, Bourbon Democrat, Grover Cleveland.

Cleveland won popular support of both Democrats and Republicans three times (1884, 1888, and 1892), due to his commitment to classical liberal principles and his willingness to fight against political corruption, patronage (the spoils system), and bossism. This went well until issues surrounding the Panic of 1893 lost him the Presidency.

The end of Cleveland’s presidency and the Panic of 93′ can largely be seen as the end of the Third era, and the start of the next wave of political realignment.

Grover Cleveland | 60-Second Presidents | PBS. Grover Cleveland is one of the more impressive conservatives in history (a Democrat), but he is a progressive in the same style as Teddy Roosevelt (a Republican). America was, in ways, rebelling against the perceived Corruption of the previous era by all parties favoring progressivism of sorts (in this progressive era social liberalism will trump classical liberalism and conservatism).

The Fourth Party System: 1896-1932 begins as Cleveland leaves office for his second time (after replacing the progressive, but lack-luster Benjamin Harrison). This marks the start of the Progressive era, the era in which the parties begin to reunite and become the parties of today.

This “Fourth Party switch” starts with the Democrats. The Democrats begin to move away from the idea of fighting against Civil Rights due to being pro-individual rights and pro-farmer party and start fighting for the collective rights of immigrants and workers while gaining additional populist support by embracing the free silver movement.

Meanwhile, Republicans are still more progressive than the Democrats on many social issues such as Civil Rights, and this results in wins for Republican William McKinley in 1897 and 1901.

As noted above, figures like William Jennings Bryan, the Populist Free Silver Democrat, give us signs of important changes in Democratic party during this era. While still a Jacksonian Democrat, Bryan is also progressive (running on a more populist message than Cleveland). He fights against big banks and monopolies and generally fights against elites and for the working class.

Bryan is never elected President, partially due to the Solid South Democrats “disenfranchising Progressives, Republicans, and Blacks following the Reconstruction Era“, but his Progressive Republican opponent McKinley does get elected. McKinley’s unfortunate assassination then leads to the presidency of Teddy Roosevelt, which can be thought to mark a major change in the Republican party.

Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt serves from 1901 – 1909 as a popular moderate-to-progressive Republican. Teddy is very similar to Cleveland in centeredness, principle, and popularity. He does some good and some bad, including notable state intervention and trust-busting, but it is his split from Republicans, and not his Presidency, that marks a change for the Republican Party.

Teddy Roosevelt left the Republicans in 1908 and started his “progressive” Bull Moose party which ran in ’08 and ’12. He wanted to “reverse the domination of politics by business interests, which allegedly controlled the Republican and Democratic parties.” He also wanted “to destroy this invisible Government, to dissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day”[36]… it is a clear sign that the Republican party-by-name is losing its more progressive members to the Democrats and retaining more conservative Republicans who, like Taft, support “progressivism by rule of law”, are weak on civil rights, and are pro-business. This sort of mindset will, over time, will lead to Republicans losing some of their support of populists and progressives, but gaining the support of conservatives.

Theodore Roosevelt | 60-Second Presidents | PBS. It’s worth noting, that while Democrats and Republicans have some dark history here, the Populist party of the 1890’s, and the Progressive party of Teddy, generally avoid the most negative issues and are favored by the disenfranchised. Check out the Bull Moose Platform of 1912; the “progressive” party is what we today call social-liberal.

This split between Taft and Roosevelt happens at a time the other Progressive of the day, Woodrow Wilson, is barking up a Hamiltonian-Liberal tree of pro-banker, progress, and Globalization. Wilson is in many ways more progressive than Taft when it comes to social justice (spurring on the first New-Deal-like programs), and very notably supports a central bank (creating the Federal Reserve with industrialists like J.P. Morgan, despite Democrats historically being against this and Republicans historically being for it).

These changes in this era help explain how we get both progressive populist, and a pro-banker and big business, wings of the Democratic party, and how the Republican spirit, which had historically been both elite and progressive, begins to shift.

In the next era, a string of Republican Presidents will mark a new type of Republican, and FDR will marry the progressivism of Bryan, Wilson, and Teddy, with the neoliberal economics of Wilson, helping to cement in the Democrats as the party of the New Deal.

Despite the shifting views of Democrats, the elephant in the progressive room, otherwise known as “the Solid South,” will stay with the Democrats until Kennedy and LBJ push for Civil Rights, and Nixon pushes his “southern strategy” as a countermeasure. This can be seen clearly in the South’s voting record (see the Solid South voting record here).

Despite this truth, FDR was the last Democratic President the Solid South stood behind en masse. Over time, some of the Wilson-like Libertarian Bourbon Democrats will start shifting over to the Republican party in a response to the new liberal-progressive Democrats, while the rest will join FDR and the New Deal Coalition.

Wilson is the last Bourbon Democrat to be President, and he is only that by name in many respects. I consider him the first modern Democrat.

Woodrow Wilson | 60-Second Presidents | PBS. Woodrow Wilson is arguably the first proper Progressive Democrat. The pro-south stance has tapered down, but the Democrats still have the southern vote, the next Democrat will be FDR the staple liberal-progressive who starts the New Deal coalition.

After Wilson, and before FDR, we get a string of Republicans who can be seen as the first modern, moderate Republicans.

With Teddy’s exodus of progressives from the Republican party of the 1910’s, and the progressive Taft losing (in large part due to this), HardingCoolidge, and Hoover, step in to create a new “less progressive” era of the Republican party.

Harding famously promised “a return to normalcy” after beating the socialists, who were increasing in popularity, and the Democrats. Harding is the first true modern conservative, and Coolidge and Hoover largely follow in his footsteps.

Harding is critical of Communists and immigrants but favors civil rights and fights against lynching (yes, that was a thing that was still happening and needed to be fought against).

Harding fought organized labor, supported big business, and fought to lower taxes. While he isn’t a modern Republican in every sense, he and his predecessors are a clear shift away from Teddy and Taft.

Warren G. Harding | 60-Second Presidents | PBS. Harding and Coolidge are the first true modern Conservatives. Conservatives favor the Libertarian hands-off style; the Republicans won’t fully embrace modern right-wing views until Nixon/Reagan. Republican conservatives of this era are more Eisenhower-style Republicans.

Like Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover are moderate conservatives (with each arguably shifting the party a bit to the right).

They support lower taxes, are friendly to Civil Rights, and promote the middle class while supporting business. They also generally favor small government classic liberalism like the old Democrats and today’s Libertarians do. Hoover specifically was put to the test over this ideology with the Great Depression (remember the classic liberal position is to do nothing, i.e. zero state intervention in the free-market).

These three Republicans are, in ways, small government Libertarians just like Jefferson and Jackson, but some of their policies and attitudes mark a shift to the modern right in sentiment, as the Republican party also includes the anti-union voters, the anti-immigration voters, and some religious voters too. A third party of the time, the Prohibition Party, represented the more puritanical religious left and right. Although the Republicans of the late 1800’s were friendly to temperance, these 1920’s Republicans lost some of their favor. The Prohibition party notably considered endorsing Republican Herbert Hoover in 1928, but didn’t.

As the Republicans shift further to the right under Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover, a faction of progressives (a New Deal Coalition) is forming inside and outside the major parties, and their formation marks one of the last major political realignments.

Herbert Hoover | 60-Second Presidents | PBS. Hoover “was a different kind of Republican progressive” (i.e. the Republicans are still not yet a “right” party in many respects despite the growing modern Republican spirit). The change is harder to spot on a Presidential level due to the string of Democrats leading up to Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953.

Even though we can consider the Progressive Wilson the first modern Democrat in some respects, and we can see the birth of the modern Republicans from Harding to Hoover, the Fifth Party Systems: 1933-1964 starts with the progressive Franklin D. Roosevelt, and not Wilson.

FDR marks the start of the Fifth Party, but more than just FDR, it is the official formation of the New Deal coalition (that began in the progressive era as different factions) that explains what drives the south out of the changing Democratic party from 32′ to 64′.

FDR forged a “New Deal Coalition” of bankers; those in the oil business; the Democratic state party organizations; “Big City machines;” labor unions; blue collar workers; racial, ethnic, and religious minorities including Catholics, Jews, and Blacks; farmers; white Southerners; people on relief; and intellectuals. Essentially everyone who had been oppressed in America joined together in a group, alongside some of their former oppressors.

This pro-business and progressive faction of former radical Whigs, civil-service Republicans, Federalists, Bourbon Democrats, Unions, populists, and other “social and economic progressives” previously found in both major parties, and the third parties, become a single unit under the Democrats. When you wonder why a modern Democrat is pro-business, pro-North, pro-city, and pro-worker and holds a progressive spirit, your answer starts properly in 32-33′ at the start of the Fifth Party.

We know that a modern conservative doesn’t favor New Deal legislation or the big banks like today’s social-liberal Democrats even with Jackson breaking up the first central banks, the Anti-Federalists running against central banks, etc. We also know the libertarians dislike large social programs and union-like entities. So, it’s clear much of the switch has already happened between Wilson and FDR’s time (aside from the southern bloc, which is still voting Democrat, and still has some of the states’ right ideologist in its midst).

Suffice to say, from 1933 to 1945 FDR doubles down on the social-liberalism and progressive politics found in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party and Progressive party of his cousin, uniting the two forces in support of a New Deal.

Franklin D. Roosevelt | 60-Second Presidents | PBS. FDR changes everything. The Democrats become the New Deal party; we can only assume this would have been the party of Lincoln.

After FDR we get Harry S. Truman. Truman’s Presidency is largely based around the war, but we can understand the subject of switching by understanding that he pushed for Civil Rights which was opposed primarily by Southern Democrats (rather than Republicans). So we can confirm, despite the Republicans shifting to the right on some issues, in 1948, “the right wing” (in terms of civil rights) was in the Democratic party sitting right next to the progressives.

Meanwhile, the traditional conservative character of moderate Republicans is found in one of the nation’s greatest leaders, a five-star general, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, and 34th President of the United States, the last “progressive-moderate-conservative” Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Eisenhower was a war hero like Jackson and Grant, but unlike those two he was centered, motivated, and a friend to conservatives and progressives alike. He supported the Civil Rights Act of 1957, which was notably opposed by the South, supported the New Deal, and fought against segregation in Washington DC and the Armed forces.

Instead of marking changing times, Eisenhower simply marks the last Republican who didn’t have overwhelming southern support. Other Republicans of the time include those Joseph McCarthy-esque far-right wingers, so these folks exist, but this sort of character isn’t seen in a President, and especially not a President like Eisenhower.

Dwight D. Eisenhower | 60-Second Presidents | PBS. The last of the “progressive” Republicans is best described as a “moderate” or “conservative’ (at the time) Republican. He is an ally to the New Deal, but most certainly a modern Republican in many respects. He famously was pushed to run for both parties, as he was very popular.

By the time the progressive Democrat Kennedy pushes Civil Rights starting in the 50’s as a Senator, and then in the 60’s President, the southern Democrats and northern Democrats are in a tense relationship.

By the time LBJ passes his Kennedy-inspired Civil rights act in 64′, it is the last straw. Even the most loyal pro-south Democrats, like Strom, begin to leave for both the Republican party and the pro-segregationist American Independent Party (led by their famously “pro-segregationist” party leader George Wallace, who notably comes back to the Democrats, not the Republicans, after his loss).

The southern voter base, the House, and other Senators follows the shift over time, with the Republican Nixon seeing a sweeping win in 1968 with the support of the South won via his “southern strategy” after Civil Right 68′ under LBJ.

Despite the changing times, many Dixiecrats (like Byrd and eventually Wallace) remain with the Democrats (under southerner’s like Jimmy Carter, whose family had been a staunch John F. Kennedy supporters since the 60’s) until they begin to be swayed by Reagan and H.W. Bush’s southern strategy.

It won’t be until the Clinton era that the exodus of the south mostly completes (i.e. the shift takes 30 years, and some Dixiecrats never leave), despite all the changes to the Democratic platform since the early 1900’s after Cleveland. Ironically, or not, Bill Clinton is (like Carter) a southern Democrat and make no mistake, southern Democrats are alive and well today. Despite this, the platforms and voter base have most certainly changed under this new generation of “New Democrats.”

Lyndon B. Johnson | 60-Second Presidents | PBS.

The next era, which we might call the Sixth Party system, is less agreed on by historians (some stop at the Fifth Party). If we consider the Sixth party, we can say that the Sixth Party system starts with Civil Rights in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which ended most “Jim Crow” laws and resulted in the major shift of the south leaving the Democratic Party over time.

After Civil Rights, we get the new states’ rights Libertarian party of Goldwater and Reagan (making the same “states’ rights” argument made during the pre-Civil War era in regard to slavery). This party now has at least part of the southern vote and tout being “small government.” They stand against socialism, progressivism, and big government, and do so even if it means opposing social justice reforms. Thus, the Libertarians and the Libertarian-Conservatives are the day’s anti-Federalists. Their counterpart is the new party of (some of) the South, the religious right, the big business and military right, anti-immigration, and traditional conservatives who team up in a “big tent” after Wallace’s third party falls apart. This party is, of course, the Republicans. They are similar to the Democrats of Lincoln’s time but are also easy to equate to some of those factions that sprang up like the Know Nothings and Prohibition Party.

Meanwhile, the Democrats retain some Dixiecrats alongside their progressive wing. They rally around a string of moderate leaders like McGovern and Carter in an era during which the country is oddly almost split by east coast and west coast. Eventually we saw a compromise forming in a  New Democrat Clinton era where social justice and the semi-regulated private market held equal importance. They embraced social liberalism, despite the costs and taxes associated, which was opposed by the increasingly classic liberal opposition. Their counterpart was the progressives, who represented the populist, pro-worker, pro-collective rights sentiment found in third parties like the People’s Party and the New Deal Coalition.

Between 1992 Clinton V. H.W. Bush and W. Bush, following the Reagan era, the parties are pretty much in their modern form and are “big tents” of sorts, housing all of America’s still existing factions, each party now resembling a modern version of their former opposition parties from past Party Systems.

Ronald Reagan | 60-Second Presidents | PBS. Reagan is a liberal, er um, classic liberal, er um, essentially a libertarian with conservative leanings. George Wallace, he is not, but some of his party is of Wallace’s flock. Some would argue that Wallace’s faction is dominant in the Republican party of 2016.

One could argue that a Seventh Party System begins with liberals like Clinton and Obama (the first modern Northern Democratic Party President since Kennedy), and is contrasted by Republicans like Reagan and the Bush’s.

I feel that the Seventh Party Begins in 1992 as 64′ – 92′ is pretty clearly its own thing with Dixiecrats considered. One could also argue that a Seventh Party begins with the 2016 election cycle, a time when the establishment of both major parties seek types of globalization. They are pro-business despite their opposing ideologies, while Libertarians like Ron Paul, nativist populist factions of Republicans, and Socialist-Progressives like Bernie Sanders represent some of the nationalist, populist, progressive, classically liberal, and even extreme stances found in earlier eras.

Regardless of specifics, in this post 64′ era (if we consider the factions noted above), and especially in this post Reagan-Bush-Clinton era, we can see that a lot of complex changes have occurred.

When we consider that Democrats and progressives typically vote Democrat, and Republicans and Libertarians typically vote Republican, we can say the two major parties have almost fully switched platforms, members, ideologies, and even geographic locations over time, especially between Grant and LBJ (see the issue-by-issue breakdown below).

Bill Clinton | 60-Second Presidents | PBS. Wait, is this a Seventh Party system?… hmmm maybe. Clinton does call himself a “New Democrat,” and some like Noam Chomsky point out that the modern Democrats are split between New Deal social justice populist FDR types and the free-market Neoliberal big business “New Democrat” Clinton types (their Republican counterparts being the Bush-style Neocons).

“We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace… If you seek peace, if you seek prosperity…, if you seek liberalization… Tear down this wall!” – A message of unity and liberalization from the conservative hero Ronald Reagan.

Summary of Platform Shifting – An Issues-by-Issue Breakdown

The platform switching, evidenced in the above sections, can be explained a few ways. Below we summarize it by contrasting key platforms of each major party in the First to Third Party Systems with the Fifth Party systems onward:

  • Federalists/Whigs/Third Party Republicans: Strict on immigration, pro-tradition, anti-slavery, no need to separate church and state or offer a bill of rights, pro-globalization, and trade, a central bank, big government, big business, pro-foreign-military-policy. Regulated economy based on the finance industry and global economy.
  • Anti-Federalists/Democratic-Republicans/Third Party Democrats: Pro-immigration, anti-tradition, separate church and state, want bill of rights, limited government, no central bank, pro states’ rights (even if it means slavery), pro-farmer, and anti-war. An unregulated economy based on production at home and farming.
  • Modern Post 64′ Democrats: Pro-immigration, anti-segregation, separation of church and state, want bill of rights (today a second bill of rights for education and healthcare for example), big government, pro central bank, pro subsidization (be it to farmer or corporation), and anti-war in sentiment (albeit generally pro-defense). Regulated economy based on finance industry and global economy.
  • Modern Post 64′ Republicans: Strict on immigration, pro-tradition, no need to separate church and state or offer bill of rights, pro-farmer and certain big businesses, small government, pro-south, and pro-strong military. Unregulated economy based on production at home and farming.

As you can see the Third Party Republicans essentially become Post 64′ Fifth Party Democrats, and the Third Party Democrats essentially become Post 64′ Fifth Party Republicans on many (not all) key issues.

It is worth more than a note to mention that fitting all America’s factions into two parties will always cause some splitting on issues. For instance, some modern Democrats favor private industry, are laissez faire and pro-foreign-military-policy, and some Republicans favor trade-based big business and are pro-foreign-military-policy. This pro-private industry and globalization is largely what the terms neocon and neoliberal denote.[37][38] In other cases environment or religion is the primary issue for a voter, and this can result in third parties (like the Green party for instance).

With the above said, ignoring minor factions, today we can break down the current major American political factions into a few basic groups (see a more detailed model here):

  • Neoliberal Democrats: Big business Democrats who favor the private market as a means to achieve social justice, tend to favor big government.
  • Populist Social-Liberal Democrats: Favor a less privatized version of social liberalism, social justice and environmental issues take precedence over free-market economics and big business.
  • Neocon Republicans: Big business Republicans who favor the private market and traditional conservative values and aspects of free-market libertarian ideology.
  • Libertarian Republicans: Limited government classical liberals who tend to organize around right-wing ideology. As noted in the first section, sometimes a classical liberal position is seen as socially conservative today.
  • Modern Conservative Republicans: Social and classical conservatives who are voting only on modern conservative issues of religion, immigration, gun laws, etc.

Exactly what party has taken which stance on each issue has changed over time, but as displayed above and detailed below, some common threads can be traced throughout history to clearly illustrate “switching.” Of course, the exact changes that occurred are complex, and involve many third parties.

We can’t always trace a neat line between issues or major parties, but the underlying arguments of “how authoritative should government be?” and “should we sacrifice individual liberty for collective liberty?” will always remain the same. This is what ultimately allows us to spot the factions and platform switching in any era so we can compare that to today.

If we make the above summary into one simple chart, it might look something like this:

Ideology Spectrum of American LeadersA left-right spectrum showing how Lincoln and Reagan are both Republicans, and comparing that to the stances of Hamilton and Jefferson.

“I have just one purpose … and that is to build up a strong progressive Republican Party in this country. If the right wing wants a fight, they are going to get it … before I end up, either this Republican Party will reflect progressivism, or I won’t be with them anymore.”[39] – Eisenhower on being a moderate Republican and “progressive” friend to the New Deal Coalition, a stance that harkens back to Lincoln, but isn’t found again after Republicans like Nixon or Reagan.

Better Understanding the Changes in American Politics

Above we summarized the switching of ideologies and platforms between the parties by looking at the party systems and Presidents.

Below we explore details, clarify semantics, answer questions, present curated videos, and illustrate some of the key telling moments regarding the changes described above.

Please consider sharing your insight below, our summing up of the history of American politics is an ongoing effort, see the videos for supplemental content from other authors.

For deeper reading:

Did the American Political Parties Switch? – Clarifying the Semantics

People often ask, “did the American political parties switch?”, but this question is semantically wrong, and thus we should address it before moving on.

  • People can switch parties (like Strom Thurmond switched to a Republican in 1964 when Dixie Democrat LBJ was preparing to sign his Kennedy inspired landmark Civil rights legislation).
  • Parties can switch general platforms and ideologies (which is why Strom left for the GOP).
  • Voters can switch parties (like when the white Southern conservatives, slowly over time, left the Democratic party along with Strom).
  • However, the parties themselves only switch when they hang-up their hat to become a new party (like when the Federalists became the Whigs).

Where US Politics Came From: Crash Course US History #9. This is one of many videos from CrashCourse. American history is long and complex; if you want to really understand things, I suggest watching the CrashCourse series on U.S. politics.

When Did the Democratic and Republican Platforms Switch?

As noted above, the planks, platforms, ideologies and even the names of the American political parties switched often, and at many different points. We call these changes: the first party system, second party system, third party system, fourth party system, and today’s fifth party system (and potentially sixth and seventh).

Some changes stick out like a sore thumb, but most of the changes between party systems happened slowly over time. It’s hard to summarize or detail every issue, but the keys are names like Free Soil, Free Silver, Bourbon Democrats, anti-slavery Republicans, Stalwarts, Half-Breeds, American Independent, and other telling titles of factions or third parties whose members inevitably have gravitated toward a major party over time.

When we can’t cut through the rhetoric, we can look at voting records to see which party favored what.

It’s important to note, that the current parties weren’t established until the 1850s (third party). From this point forward is when the major “switching” happens, but it is also when issues we consider important today take center stage for the first time. When Lincoln takes office, the Republican party is only a few years old, prior to this the ideology is roughly the same and they are called Federalists, and then Whigs. The same is true for anti-Federalists, Democratic-Republicans, and Jacksonian Democrats.

Perhaps the best answer to, “when did the platforms switch,” is: under Lincoln, the Roosevelts, and LBJ.

In each case, the President took actions which we would see as “liberal” today (meaning social liberal like Keynes and Mill, not classical Jefferson and French revolution style liberal). They used their authority to favor the collective at the expense of individual liberty, even if it meant war. Since Teddy Roosevelt and Lincoln are Republicans and LBJ and FDR are Democrats, we have no choice to face a simple and powerful proof of “a switch.”

TIP: Sometimes switches seem to happen because we try to treat the complex political spectrum like it is two simple groups. Almost all American political parties and factions hold “mixed views.” See our breakdown of the basic political parties or our page of left-right spectrum explainers and models.

Why Did Parties Switch Platforms and Members?

The common thread of each major switch, aside from war, was civil rights. Or maybe we could more fairly say, state-enforced social and economic justice (collective liberty) versus individual liberty as is illustrated by the charts on this page.

Civil rights aside, since before the first party was formed, our founding fathers have fought each other tooth and nail over the direction of the country. The biggest issues have been: big business versus small business, big government versus small government (in size), big government versus small government (in authority), whether or not to have a central bank, and how much local and foreign credit and debt was the right amount.

We can see how some of the above values are consistent for a given quadrant of the political sphere, but not for a specific party in a two party system or even a faction or member of a party at a given time! We can also see how specific groups have shifted their interpretation of these things over time, and how some groups simply pay lip-service to the overarching ideals.

There is also the overarching question that has shadowed the debates between parties and led to switching, “should our Republic act more like a Direct Democracy or a Republic” (why the parties are called Democrats and Republicans). Do we look to Athens or Rome? To what extent do we mix these to protect the Republic from the special interests that arise as a natural artifact of liberty?[40]To what extent do we mix this to avoid an overly authoritative state? Or really, to what extent do we embrace democracy in our Republic. Today you may think of one party or the other as wanting all the above things, but that has never really been the case.

The “planks and platforms” (issues) of each opposing group (regardless of name) have changed over time, as specific stances on these issues were taken, and as public opinion changed with the times.

How Can We Tell What Switched, if Anything?

If we want to more accurately see what is happening with the parties we have to look at each political, party, faction, and platform in regards to each issue. We can take any issue, from any major American political party platform over time, and see how it compares to other issues of other parties. This can help us see how parties like Federalists, Whigs, Republican-Democrats, Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, and Progressives did or didn’t change over time, and what that means in perspective.

Below is a chart we created showing one way to view the complex political left-right spectrum (it is similar to the chart above but this time lists basic government types and asks a different set of questions).

A left-right paradigm using a four point graph to show how common government types relate to left and right in terms of who has authority and who says so.A left-right paradigm using a four point graph to show how common government types relate to left and right in terms of “who has authority” and “who says so.”

If one had to place historical figures on the “left” and “right”, in terms of the chart presented above (where we consider the commonly excepted definition of left and right circa America in 2016), then VERY loosely we might say:

  • Right Wingers: Hamilton (Federalist), Cleveland (Democrat), Hoover, (Republican), Reagan (Republican)
  • Left Wingers: Jefferson (Democratic-Republican), Lincoln (Republican), Teddy Roosevelt (Republican), FDR (Democrat), Johnson (Democrat)

If one had to place historical figures on our more complex 4-point spectrum, then VERY loosely, but more accurately than above, we might say:

  • Social Libertarian (left): Jefferson (Democratic-Republican). Favoring a socialist democratic republic with limited power.
  • Social Liberal (left): Johnson (Democrat) and Lincoln (Republican). Favoring authoritative Democracy for the benefit of the collective.
  • Conservative Libertarian (right): Reagan (Republican). Favoring authoritative conservatism for individual liberty.
  • Liberal Conservative (right): Hamilton (Federalist). Favoring authoritative conservatism for the collective.

Again, we find that party names are spread out over political leanings (pointing again to switching platforms). From here forward we will focus on telling the history of each Party System in detail, discussing platforms and political views to better illustrate the changes.

NOTE: The first part of the page presents almost all of the story and our argument. The rest of the page contains the original essay written for this page and as such reiterates some points. The aim will be to combine the sections over time. This page has been an ongoing effort to find truth we can all agree on, and perhaps it only makes sense that attempting a feat like that would spawn a long evolving essay inspired by readers ‘ comments. Remember to comment below with insight!

A Final Summary the American Political Parties

The section below puts everything together one last time to recap the story.

The American political parties take many twists and turns, but we can trace the history of “left” and “right” in American politics to better understand people, times, issues, and the parties of today.

The First Party System: The Federalist Party and the Democratic-Republican Party 1792 -1824

To start, the founding fathers can be put into two groups: the Federalist Party and the Democratic-Republican Party (Anti-Federalist)[41][42].

Alexander Hamilton favored central Government and had ties to Britain, and wanted centralized banking. He favored national power over state power. He is today’s “Washington” Liberal/Conservative. Hamilton wanted free-market capitalism and globalization with Britain/America, as a world leader hundreds of years before his time. He is an impressive character.

The Democratic-Republican Party, headed by James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, generally opposed Hamilton and his views (favoring state rights and democracy). In simple terms, they are today’s Social-Libertarians (not Reagan-style, the far-right doesn’t emerge in party politics yet). They are more in-line with what people think when they think “rebelling from the authority of the King to be free.”

In this scenario we can say the “big government aspect” of the current American left is with the Federalists, and the “socially liberal” of left, and “anti-big government” of the right, part is with the Democratic-Republicans. But remember, the who far-right thing simply doesn’t exist yet. So the divisive politics of today aren’t anywhere to be found (that happens over slavery and temperance later in Lincoln’s time).

If you had to examine these men, you would say Jefferson is left wing and Hamilton is right wing. Today we would probably call Hamilton a Neoliberal or traditional Conservative, Jefferson more a Democratic-socialist, and Madison more of a centrist (probably truest to the Democratic-Republican name). As noted above, none fully share the beliefs of the current parties, but Hamilton is certainly more “traditional” and Jefferson more “radical.” Hamilton leans toward being “a liberal elite” or even “big business conservative” economically, while Jefferson tends to be a left winger philosophically.

The duality of the Federalist Party and the Democratic-Republican Party is well displayed in the clip below in a discussion between Hamilton and Jefferson (which you must watch through YouTube or HBO as it’s from an HBO’s John Adams).

Hopefully after reading the above, and watching the video below we have a clear foundation of our founding fathers from which to move forward. If we confuse these men, we will struggle to draw a line from them to today. So make sure you have this one down.

HBO John Adams – Alexander Hamilton takes Jefferson to school. Hamilton pushed for a central bank since day 1, while Jefferson was much more of an idealist. Adams plays mediator. It’s hard to use the terms Democrat and Republican at this point in history. Rather, our founding fathers had a mix of views corresponding to different aspects of the current Democrats, Republicans, and Libertarians.

NOTE: The ideas of the parties changed over the years. It’s important to understand history so we don’t think of Thomas Jefferson as a “right winger” loyal to Britain who would rather have a duel than a debate to protect his honor. That was Hamilton, another of our great founding fathers. If I have to make the call, Hamilton is clearly a Republican and Jefferson a Democrat, but this is more in-line with the actual meaning of the words than today’s political parties.

Second Party System: Enter The Jacksonian Democrats 1828 – 1854

In 1829, the very popular with the people, Andrew Jackson split the Democratic-Republican Party. The new party Jacksonian Democrats were born from this, and that movement would grow into the current Democratic party.[43] If you are looking for the America’s first true liberal Jackson hardly fits the bill. Jackson was a man of the people, and his party was out to take power away from “elites” and “monopolies” and put it in the hands of the people. In practice, his presidency was more like President Obama’s where intentions of change get muddled by the practicalities of the political environment.

Despite many being classical liberals, Jacksonian Democrats in many ways mark the start of right-leaning conservative-libertarians. These Democrats will split into two factions over the 1800’s, one the Bourbon Democrats (social-libertarians) and the other (the solid south pro-slavery). Other Democrats will join third parties like the anti-slavery Free Soil Party as a response to the far-right faction of pro-slavery Democrats of the Jackson era.

Meanwhile, the Whig Party led by Henry Clay came into power around Jackson’s time[44]. The Whigs wanted a national bank, higher taxes, and power for Congress and importantly they want to end slavery. These social-service lefty Republicans are 1/2 today’s progressive, 1/2 Hamiltonian Globalization liberal.

In this time, the Democrats usually want lower taxes and less power for the President on paper (although, lip-service warning, Jackson uses lots of power). For instance, Jackson succeeded in dismantling Clay’s Second Bank of the United States. So, Jackson is opposed to a central bank, is anti-executive power on paper, but is pro-executive power in action. Like Reagan, he uses executive power to deregulate. Jackson was generally anti-tax, but the taxes he does pass damage the south more than the north (the Tariff of Abominations, which tellingly started with John Quincy Adams and had support from Northern Jackson supporters).[45]

Going into the 1830’s, the anti-central bank Democrats in the North anger the pro-slavery Democrats in the South with their general support of the Tariff of Abominations, which specifically hurt the states who put their investment in slavery, instead of industry as in the North. While it is hard to place the blame solely on Jackson, the issue of tariffs favoring the North or South will continue to be a divisive issue that all Presidents have to deal with moving forward.

Voting on “Tariff of Abominations” tally of votes (from Wikipedia).

House Vote on Tariff of 1828 For Against
New England 16 23
Middle States (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware) 56 6
West (Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky) 29 1
South 4 64
Total 105 94
Free States 88 29
Slave States 17 65

TIP: If you have to choose, Jackson is the left winger ideologically believing in small government and farmers, and Clay is the right winger who ideologically favored big banks and big government. On social issues Clay is a progressive Liberal; he wants modernization and social justice. Jackson would sooner duel with you than pass a law that tells states and farmers what to do. That means Jackson is essentially running on Barry Goldwater’s platform and it is certainly still the party of Jefferson albeit a more militant version.

Age of Jackson: Crash Course US History #14.

TIP: The Jackson era marks the start of a pro-tax America. Some presidents will be more willing to tax for social justice, like Lincoln and future liberals (by any party name), and some will tax for conservative reasons, but Jefferson’s era was the last era of truly tax-free Libertarians. See history of the income tax (especially if you think modern Republicans have lowered taxes). The parties throughout history have all wanted to tax different things, namely the cash cows of the other party, but it’s been a long time since a party wanted to reduce taxes. This is partly a strategy for the security of the nation (friends by debit and credit), and partly a side-effect of a growing super-power.

QUESTION: Was Lincoln a Democrat or Republican? He was a Republican by name, but today we would consider him to share many qualities with a socially left-leaning Democrat. Learn more about Lincoln.

Third Party System: Republicans Versus Democrats, the Battle Begins 1854-1890s

By 1854, the Whigs had disbanded. Now we had the Democrats, who were split in factions, the The Southern Democrats, who supported the federal protection of slavery in the western territories; and The Northern Democrats, those Libertarian Bourbon Democrats, who wanted all questions of slavery left up to the U.S. Supreme Court. We also had the newly formed anti-slavery Republican Party, who are the old Whigs and Federalists (today’s progressive liberal, in regards to most issues).

The Democrats of this era were against “big government” telling states whether or not they can own slaves, and they don’t want big banks. See the Democratic Party Platform of 1856. The Democrats still saw themselves as the Liberal party of Jefferson and Jackson, the small business farm owning “libertarians.” Meanwhile, the Republicans were a new iteration of the parties of Hamilton and Clay, but with different factions supporting them then when they were Whigs.

The Republicans are for modernization. They are against slavery, for central banks, and for bigger industrialized business. They embrace ideas of taxes, credits, and debts in the interest of prosperity and social justice. They embrace many of the economic policies of the Whigs, such as national banks, railroads, high tariffs, homesteads, and aid to land grant colleges (where the first free public Universities in America come from).

The Republicans also become known as a “pro-business” party at the time (meaning industry, not plantation). The Republican coalition consisted of businesspeople, shop owners, skilled craftsmen, clerks, and professionals who were attracted to the party’s modernization policies.

Meanwhile, the race issue pulled the great majority of white southerners into the Democratic Party as “Redeemers.” The Republicans want a more northern style of commerce and banks, and Democrats want a smaller farmer-based economy, with less government and no central bank. See the Republican Party Platform of 1856 here

By the time Republicans elect former Whig Abraham Lincoln in 1860, it’s pretty clear that the Republicans are leaning toward the left wing and the Democrats are leaning toward the right wing by most of today’s standards, but the Civil War changes this.

TIP: In 1861, Lincoln signed the Revenue Act of 1861, creating the first U.S. income tax. Learn more about the history of the income tax.

The “Switch” that Starts With Civil War

The Civil War and Civil War Reconstruction caused a three-way split in the Republican party. The Conservatives wanted the Confederate States to quickly rejoin the union with no consideration for racial relations. The Radicals wanted to punish the Confederate leaders confiscate Confederate property, and protect the rights of former slaves. The Moderates didn’t want to punish the Confederate leaders, but did want some protections for former slaves. This split effected Democrats, and the formation of new minor parties led to the start of the major change over the next 100 years. See a visual of the split here.

From the end of the Civil War until the 1890’s the Republican party becomes anti-immigration, and pro-religion (embracing “the temperance movement”), and those who we would consider “left” today migrate over to the Democratic party. With this in mind, the Solid South will remain active in the party for the next 100 years. This will help explain the emerging Populists and Progressive led by figures like the Roosevelts.

Starting with Lincoln and the newly formed Republicans, throughout the industrial revolution, and then until Teddy Roosevelt quits the Republicans and forms the “Progressive Party,” is when the major switching of people, parties, names, and ideologies happens. The full switch is in swing when LBJ pushes Civil Rights, Strom becomes a Republican, and the Goldwater-Reagan movement begins.

Take a look at the evolution of the Republican platform here, you can see “the switch” plain as day. It happens as a result of Lincoln and the Civil War.

Lincoln “Now” scene. Like LBJ, Lincoln lost his supporters on “the right” over sweeping Civil Rights legislation. This is only one instance where the battle over Civil Rights and State Rights in a free democracy ends in bloodshed.

TIP: If we trace the parties of the anti-federalist Jefferson, to the Democratic Jackson, we get a rather clear timeline of socialist/libertarian politics. Conversely, if we trace the parties of Hamilton, to Clay, to Lincoln we see the roots of the traditional conservative and the liberal parties. Following Civil War Reconstruction, the switch happens. After Reconstruction issues of Race, Immigration, and Temperance pushed the social-liberals to the Democrats and the libertarian-conservatives to the Republicans. The full switch took 100 years and was cemented under LBJ.

Third Party Part 2: the Industrial Revolution to the Progressive Era

The string of Presidents between Lincoln and Grover Cleveland includes some important stories of “know-nothing parties” and “populist parties” (where those socialists and libertarians go when they are without parties, as they often are), but we can’t cover everything here.

Importantly, this era ends with Cleveland’s second presidency and the Panic of 1893 (which produced a severe national depression). Cleveland is a right-wing President, who was very popular and supported by the South, ultimately his downfall, the height of the industrial revolution, and an upcoming war set the stage for more changes in American politics.

TIP: Cleveland is a great example of a true Conservative, he is a Democrat by name, but this Bourbon Democrat is great like an Eisenhower, he should be a model for today’s Libertarian who sometimes gets side-tracked by their cousins on the right. The end of his Presidency is arguably more about the changing times than the man.

Gilded Age Politics:Crash Course US History #26. The corruption pointed out in this video starts after Lincoln and continues into the late 1800’s and, of course, some of the arguement hasn’t gone away. At the very, least figures like Cleveland and Roosevelt do a bit to get politics back on the right track before the upcoming Progressive era (which is in many ways a response to the post-Civil War Gilded Age).

The Progressive Era: Crash Course US History #27. The Progressive era, named due to all the parties embracing progressivism to some extent.

Fourth Party System: The Progressive Era – McKinley and Teddy 1896 – 1932

The election between Theodore Roosevelt William McKinley was pretty heated over social issues, but the parties stay the same. Republican Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt (1901-1909) is arguably the last of the “left wing” Republicans. Roosevelt is a very progressive president, and he even started his own “progressive party” after breaking away from the Republicans. The parties are more or less still the same as they were since the split over reconstruction, but the lines are much less clear due to the changing tides of the time.

PBS Roosevelts.

As progressive as every President hopeful is at this time, Taft and Teddy lose to the first modern Liberal and last of the Bourbon Democrats, Woodrow Wilson.

Between Wilson’s time, and the time when Teddy’s cousin Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1933-1945) comes into power on the back of the Great Depression, the Democrats become increasingly progressive (despite the southern segregationist) while the Republicans move to the right after Teddy and Taft under figures like Harding and Coolidge.

Century of Enslavement: The History of The Federal Reserve. Finally, the dream of Hamilton and JP Morgan comes to life. It starts with the Panic of 1893 and culminates under Wilson, the first modern liberal (progressive as a Lincoln, modern and big thinking as a Hamilton).

Fifth Party System: The New Deal Era – FDR to LBJ 1933 – 1964

There was no single moment when the Democrats and Republicans switch platforms. This is because America is a country of many people with a wide array of views and alliances. The big hint is that the Roosevelt family is so liberal that the right wing still curses their name before breakfast today. We might take that as a joke, but the northern Democrat Kennedy and Roosevelt families are not GOP favorites.

The Fifth Party System begins with FDR, the first modern social liberal.

By the time of FDR, the Democrats are at least in-part a left-wing progressive-liberal party (home to some populists and socialists, who sat alongside the Dixiecrats), and the Republicans move toward being a right wing conservative party in response.

New Deal legislation hammers the first nail in the coffin for the right-wing supporting Democrats, and by the time Dixiecrat Johnson passes the very liberal Kennedy-supported Civil Rights Act of 1964, the parties we know today are born.

Despite the tension over Civil Rights bills of the 50’s and 60’s, many Southern Democrats continued their strained alliance with the progressive Democrats into the Sixth Party system and many civil service minded moderates remain with the Republicans.

At the end of the Fifth Party, modern-Libertarianism (a right-wing movement sometimes, and other times an intellectual states’ rights Bourbon Democrat movement) was born (or re-born) with supporters like Goldwater and Reagan.

It is in this era that Democrats start supporting collective rights and collective authority, and the traditionally conservative Republicans start embracing the classic liberal states’ rights stance of the earlier Democrats.

The 1964 Civil Rights Act Explained: US History Review. Johnson lost his right wing Democrat over his sweeping Civil Rights legislation. In this context, the words Civil Rights and State Rights become buzzwords of sorts for the parties (despite their inherent altruism). (TIP: State rights are super important, but also a tactic to retain bad laws at a state level. Civil Rights are important, but also a tactic to expand government. This is an age old battle that manifested since Hamilton and Jefferson and still manifests today).

NOTE: Dixiecrat was a short-lived segregationist political party in the 40s, but also a term used to describe a right leaning pro-south Democrat at the time.

Sixth Party and Seventh Party Systems: LBJ to Today – The New Deal Coalition V. the Reagan Coalition

The Sixth party (although less agreed on by historians, some stop at the fifth party) can be said to start after LBJ.

By Clinton’s “New Democrat” era, the south favors the GOP and the parties resemble the parties of today. These parties are split by north and south, much like we saw back in 1854. Otherwise, it is hard to remember a time when the nation was as divided by geographic location.

Americans are still fighting old ideological battles, still licking old wounds, still indebted to the banks and other countries, and still trying to use taxes as a weapon against each other. Americans, divided by their parties, are still fighting over rich and poor, still fighting over small business and big business, and still fighting over small government and big government, They are still fighting over who should have what rights.

Despite all this, by looking at American history, we can see that America is a country that is strongest when it comes together, despite seemingly unrecognizable differences. “A house divided…”, as Lincoln said.

If you did have to divide the house, you would divide it as “The New Deal Coalition V. the Reagan Coalition”. That is to say FDR, LBJ, Carter, Clinton, Obama V. Nixon, Reagan, Bush.  Of course, we might say New Deal is “left,” and Reagan-Bush ideas are “right,” but even today, don’t we all pay lip-service to the same ideals? Most Americans say that they support small business, a strong middle class, freedom, liberty, and justice for all. What is it exactly that divides us? The answer is complicated, but history can shine some light on the question.

Revealing the Truth about the Democratic Party Part 2: The Parties Switched. This video is giving a counterpoint.

The American Political Parties Didn’t Switch Myth – The Author’s Perspective

The platforms of the parties constantly switched throughout history, or at least they evolved constantly attracting different types of followers by embracing different stances on key issues. You can twist those facts to say “the parties didn’t change at all” and still be moderately correct, but it is much more accurate to describe the changes honestly and leave the absolutist judgements aside or debate.

Twisting history and presenting half-truths to manipulate people is pretty human, it’s a technique called “rhetoric” which Aristotle wrote about along with Republics and Democracy, and this sort of rhetoric-based politics is clearly laid out in the Powell Memo and utilized by today’s media and politicians. It’s important to respect the hard-won battles the country fought, and the people who fought them, but its also important not to look for heroes and villains when discussing great men and women in a great country.

In most cases, the “switches” resulted from debates about how much power a President should have, how many rights particular people should have, taxation, “race,” North V. South, economic ideas, and what it means to live in a free country (i.e. the meaning of liberty). These aren’t new issues, and can be embraced in different ways by people of different ideologies, as they have been throughout all recorded history.

In all the switches and evolutions of planks and platforms, change was slow, and came with politicians (state and federal) and their constituents made gradual changes.

Figures like Jefferson, Lincoln, FDR, and Johnson tend to be considered “left.” While figures like Hamilton and Reagan are considered “right.” But as we noted above, this is a complex subject and rather semantic (especially when we consider single issues instead of trying to paint a party with a broad brush). We can trace rough lines from the revolution to modern times, but it’s hard to compare current politicians with old ones in any overly-simple and still meaningful way. Thus, it is hard to sum up any “party switching” in a mere sentence (or even a long essay such as we have done).

You’ll hear half-truths like “Lincoln was a Republican,” or “Republicans freed the slaves,” or “Democrats fought against civil rights in the 60s.” These statements are all true historically, but very unclear when said without detail in modern times. For instance, Lincoln and the Civil War Republicans represented the North, and some pro-South Democrats like Strom Thurmond fought against Civil Rights before becoming Republicans between 1964 – 1994. We know what these things mean when we think critically about the players, but they come across as dishonest in a rhetoric filled soundbite that is trying to appropriate politicians for parties they wouldn’t have been a part of ideologically.

This sort of stuff is political spin for marketing and ad campaigns. Don’t believe the hype. If you want to know what Lincoln thought, read what he wrote. He wasn’t a modern day Liberal, but he certainly wasn’t a modern day Conservative either. Calling Lincoln a modern day Republican is a little like crediting Reaganomics to Martin Luther King, but calling Lincoln a modern Democrat insinuates that he may have been a Clintonian (and I don’t think that is 100% correct either). King was a progressive Democrat fighting the conservative segregationist Democrats in the South, trying to ensure a progressive Democratic party. Lincoln was a conservative Whig and then Republican, trying to unite the country with Federal power and taxation. Reagan was a classic liberal who teamed up with conservatives to defeat the growing social liberal left. We can debate their character, and we can see aspects of left and right in the character of each, but there is something slightly off about any one party trying to appropriate any American hero in any era.

So, suffice to say, I see a switch, and I see the old Dixiecrat mentality as being with the modern Republicans, but I also respect the many valid counterpoints and value debate and unity over some need to appropriate a specific President and spark more division.

Democrat “Party Switch” Myth Debunked. People like to spin the idea of the parties switching as a myth; they have fair points, which is why these types of videos are featured here. I don’t buy it based on what I know about history. The change was gradual, but the parties switched platforms and planks over time. Given this, it’s fair to simplistically say, “the parties switched,” but more accurate to say, “the parties switched platforms and members.”

Final Thoughts

To end this, I’ll reaffirm, that there is always more than one way to look at one event. Was Lincoln like a modern Republican? I don’t think so personally, but my perspective on the matter doesn’t magically make him a modern Democrat. Likewise, are not aspects of Hamilton more Republican and aspects of Jefferson more modern Democrat, honestly, I could make a case for it. Perhaps the key to better understanding how things changed is to move away from labels, and move toward understanding we are one America who has no better ally in the world then our political opponents themselves. Did things change and evolve? Yes, certainly a Gilded Age politician is not the same as a Progressive Era politician. But, is this best summed up by “they changed platforms” or “they changed ideologies”? Lots of room for debate there. Who am I to tell someone how to read the facts? Or, as Montaigne said, “What do I know?” and “By diverse means we arrive at the same end”.

If we all agree on the general truths, that is enough for healthy debate.

Life is complex, but for all the grey areas, many truths regarding politics are ultimately black and white when you dig deep enough. We can trace a line from Athens to Rome, to the European enlightenment, to America’s founders, to today. Let’s get the facts straight so the next generation can do the same. We don’t agree on everything, but we all agree on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as ensured by the Republic, and that means a healthy respect for ethics, political history, and each other. For every frustrated American of one kind, there is an equally frustrated one of the other. We have a duty to each other and the next generations to work our stuff out and never let 1861 happen again. If that means sharing Lincoln and Jefferson, and Byrd and Johnson, then so be it.


The country has always been divided over issues of trade, the role of the federal government, and taxation, however social issues like race, religion, immigration, and more only divide the country in later years. The evolving political landscape led to some complex changes that can be simply explained by pointing to the Federalist and Anti-Federalists and then Civil War Reconstruction and Civil Rights, but are best examined in detail.

If we look only to compare a Federalist with a modern Democrat and an Anti-Federalist with a modern Republican (on purely ideological grounds) it is easy to see the similarities. However, when we have to trace a line between all parties in American history we have to account for the fact that the Federalist linage becomes the Third Party Republicans before becoming the modern day Democrats, and like-wise the Anti-Federalists are clearly the party of Jackson before they become the Republicans of today. These inconsistencies, which are seen best by looking at who the south votes for (but aren’t explained by that alone), require us to explain hundreds of years of party and platform evolution and that effect on the voter base.

Again, this can be explained by showing how the rift over collective rights vs. individual rights paired with growing progressivism created new alliances and shifting platforms, but it isn’t explained by this alone.

While the American political parties have evolved and changed over the years, the basic political parties (social liberal, liberal, conservative, and socialist) and the factions within parties (moderate, radical, pro-social justice, pro-business, etc) don’t change, this helps us to get a true sense of where any party or President stood at any given time. While the above essay clarifies the complex tale of the American political factions, each person has to ultimately interpret the facts and their meaning for themselves.

NOTE: Today every person holds a “mixed” ideology. Thus we likely relate to a wide spread of past ideologies, parties, and politicians. Politics is complex, understanding that the parties have changed helps us to remember that we need to vote on issues and the character of leaders, and not just on party name alone.


  1. Political Party Platforms of Parties Receiving Electoral Votes: 1840 – 2012
  2. The Presidents of the United States of America
  3. Political parties in the United States


  1. Why Did the Democratic and Republican Parties Switch Platforms?”
  2. The Magical Myth of the Switching Political Parties”
  3. Is it true that Democrats used to be the conservative party and Republicans used to be the progressive party?”
  4. Ideological Realignment in Contemporary American Politics”
  5. History of the Democratic Party
  6. History of the Republican Party
  7. the Conservative coalition
  8. the New Deal coalition
  9. Southern Democrats
  10. modern American liberal
  11. The Twentieth-Century Reversal: How Did the Republican States Switch to the Democrats and Vice Versa?
  12. The Origins and Functions of Political Parties
  13. Party realignment in the United States
  14. Which conservative politicians have been accused of being too liberal by other conservative politicians?
  15. Key: Southern politics in state and nation
  16. Southern Politics, by V. O. Key, Jr. RICHARD HOFSTADTER / APR. 1, 1950
  17. SOUTHERN POLITICS IN STATE AND NATION. By V. O. Key, Jr. with Alexander Heard. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 1949.
  18. John C. Calhoun: He Started the Civil War
  19. Value of Knowledge Reference Marxism
  20. Realigning elections in United States history
  21. Politics of the 1870s and 1880s
  22. Black Disaffection From the Republican Party During the Presidency of Herbert Hoover, 1928-1932
  23. THURMOND TO BOLT DEMOCRATS TODAY; South Carolinian Will Join G.O.P. and Aid Goldwater
  24. 105th United States Congress
  25. Jefferson and the Ordeal of Liberty
  26. The Founding Fathers, Religion, and God
  27. Whig and Tory”
  28. Know-Nothing Party”
  29. Martin Van Buren”
  30. Free Soil Party”
  31. African-American Civil Rights Movement (1865–95)
  32. Scalawags
  33. the Liberal Republican Party
  34. United States presidential election, 1872 results
  35. Stalwart (politics)
  36. Bull Moose Platform of 1912”
  37. Neoconservatism”
  38. Neoliberalism”
  39. Presidential Party Building: Dwight D. Eisenhower to George W. Bush”
  40. The Federalist #10”
  41. Democratic-Republican Party”
  43. Jacksonian Democrats: 1824–1860”
  44. Whig Party Platform of 1844”
  45. Tariff of Abominations”

"Democrats and Republicans Switched Platforms" is tagged with: Abraham Lincoln, Alexander Hamilton, American Politics, Collective Intelligence, Fathers or Mothers of a Field, James Madison, Left–right Politics, Liberalism and Conservatism, Liberty, Party Switching, Thomas Jefferson, United States of America

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Sunny on

Thank you, Mr. DeMichele, for the time you took to write this, although I’d have liked to have seen sources other than Wiki or YT. I appreciate your attempt to come across as unbiased. Even the attempt at neutrality is sorely lacking in today’s “research” and consequent dialogue. I am perplexed over some of your claims and am interested to know if you have read the actual party platforms? This is a nicely done site, and I’d venture to say impeccable in respectability. Let me know what you think.


Thomas DeMichele on

Great resource, and thanks for the kind words. I’ll check the link and re-read the page to see if I can spot improvements. The general idea of the site is that each page is a work in progress toward the end goal of truth.

Sunny on

Excellent. I’m in it for the same reason. You’ll find that the parties’ ideologies did not swap. I’ll send more as I have time to dig through my sources.

Thomas DeMichele on

I certainly think an argument can be made there. Perhaps it is more accurate to say planks and platforms changed more the ideologies.

On some level Democrats always push toward the left socially, and want taxes and regulations and power for the executive, while Republicans are right socially, favor limited taxes and regulations, and then want less power for the executive. I’ll think more on it, all input is welcome and will be considered.

UPDATE: After months and months of reflection and writing I would say: The Democrats always wanted small government, up until the progressive era, when then became the “bigger government party” (the solid south in their party up until the 1960’s to 1990’s makes that odd to say, but it is the case). Meanwhile, the Northern party (the Federalists, Whigs, Republicans) always wanted big government… up until the Gilded Age and Harding, Coolidge, Hoover years. Even now though, “moderate” “establishment” Republicans tend to favor big government more than their Freedom Caucus allies. When Republicans say “small government”, they really seem to mean what the south did way back when, which is “no to second rights social programs” but otherwise “government is fine and in fact we favor military spending and protectionism”. Only very specific aspects of the parties didn’t change, for example the Republican stance on trade protectionism and the know-nothing stance on immigration (to some degree, for some factions). The more I study, the less I would agree that “ideology didn’t change”.

David Glenn on

I have yet to read the article but I will. I am hoping it is as neutral as Sunny seems to think. Very hard to find impartial articles these days. Seems like everybody has something to prove. It is refreshing to find somebody who follows the evidence to the their natural and not the other way around

Thomas DeMichele on

Thanks for the kind words, will be interested to hear feedback when you have time.

Every-time I feel like i’ve nailed the story on the head something else comes up. Hard to squeeze every idea into a story that remains readable and at least makes an attempt to put fact before bias (it can be rather difficult despite one’s best intentions I think).

If nothing else though, this makes a good jump off point for further research. Don’t agree on my take on progressives, the reform movement, the roosevelts, Hoover, states’ rights, northern nativist know-nothings, Byrd, Thurmond, LBJ, or whatever… then google around, watch some documentaries, get some different perspectives, and come back with a rebuttal or insight.

The goal is to present centered information so we can all get something out of it, so i’m willing to add notes and revise my views if needed.

I have a theory (stolen from Jefferson) that the political left and right are just a natural manifestation of the human condition that arise as soon as a people are free enough to express themselves honestly (i.e. that the parties and political ideologies are naturally occurring social systems), that it is our nature which is used to divide us over certain social issues, and that in the Constitution, Federalist papers, philosophical works from Plato and Aristotle to Locke and Rousseau, and a little history hold all the keys we need to ensure and safeguard the Republic.

How do we know not to give in to an extremes? Well, aside the fact that it is the main point of all the aforementioned works from ideal city states, to the separation of powers and non-aggression principles, to civil governments… we have a long and well documented history abroad warning us all of Caesars, Stalins, and Hitlers, and some history at home warning us of internment camps, house un-American committees, and Civil War.

If we understand facts and history, we will be fine…. if we forget, we are all screwed. If we divide, we face Civil War, if we unite we can face anything. I could go on, but if you got to this part of the page, you already know that.

See more musings on the philosophy of all this here:

Adam Butler on
Doesn't beleive this myth.

And herein lies why the party switch conspiracy theory never holds up under scrutiny: It looks at geographical trends (which aren’t even nearly as absolute as they claim) and a changing in voter demographics, then attempts to use that to argue that it wasn’t the demographics of party affiliation which changed, but the core message of the parties. If there was a massive party switch, we’d have evidence of major changes in party platform.

Thomas DeMichele on

From my research, the idea that the parties didn’t change (and thus confederate slave holders of yesterday should be equated with progressives and liberals of today or even the 1960s) is the only thing that makes no sense. The southern democrats were the southern social conservative slave holders of the 1860s. Today the south social conservatives are Republican. That doesn’t mean that people alive today would have done what their ancestors did in the 1860s or 1960s… but like, Jeff Sessions though.

Everything else is nuanced, like how we explain the Know Nothing America first right wingers of the north who were Republicans in that time, or how we explain all the Jefferson and Van Buren types and even Bryan types who allied with the Southern Democrats (how different factions allied in the Democratic party of yesterday who aren’t all still in the party today; i.e. specifically the Solid South social conservative faction is not in the party).

It leaves us with a complex picture that we shouldn’t be so quick to make judgements one. However, the D’Souza logic and the right-wing talking point version is utter nonsense and is the primary thing that in my opinion truly falls apart under scrutiny.

I won’t budge on that, on the rest there is a real discussion to be had.

Enzo on

Sorry Mr DeMichele, but you are incorrect. It is widely known that the “Party Switch” is a myth that the Democrats have concocted in order to deflect the their own shameful history of anti-Civil-Rights actions on to Republicans. The whole concept of “parties/ideologies switched sides,” is simply a LIE.

Thomas DeMichele on

Thanks for the share. I’ll consider this more and make sure your viewpoint is represented and addressed.

My opinion without more research: When Strom leaves the Democrats though, that is happening for a reason. That reason looks a lot like Kennedy, LBJ, and Civil Rights (big government, but liberal policies). I mean, I agree, LBJ is a Dixicrat who probably makes a power grab of sorts with his sweeping legislation. I’m not saying he is completely altruistic or a shining example of why “the American left” is always right (they aren’t), but it did push the racist pro-south Democrats out of the Democratic party and into the big tent of the Republican party. This is what is meant by “shift”, it’s a shift of supporters and policies, not a “party shift” (dang semantics!).

We have a Lincoln Republican, then a Teddy Roosevelt Republican, then a FDR Democrat with the new deal, then Kennedy / LBJ Democrats, then Strom leaves the Democrats. This paints a complex picture, but I think we can state it correctly without sacrificing truth for reference frames.

Thomas DeMichele on

UPDATE: It seems clear that the Democrats remain pro-south for a long time after Lincoln. However, as now detailed above, the switch begins with Lincoln (with some issues) and then continues to Roosevelt’s and Kennedy / LBJ on Civil Rights, albeit way slower than comfortable. But, even if we don’t think the parties ever changed their core ideology we can see many types of switched. At least some of the major switches are detailed above.

James Limbaugh on
Supports this as a Fact.

Of course, everyone with a grain of common sense and a cursory knowledge of History knows sure-fire that – put simply, The Republicans used to be the Liberals and the Democrats used to be the Conservatives.

Now, The Republicans are the Conservatives and the Democrats are the Liberals.

And what everyone should also know is that Liberalism always eventually destroys Conservatism.

Thomas DeMichele on

That last line is an interesting concept. Maybe though it is more a cycle of liberalism falling into conservatism and vice versa? Just me pondering and some food for thought? Like if things get too liberal, it paves the way for conservatism and if things get too conservative, it paves the way for liberalism.

GumBoocho on

This attempt to synthesize political history is as accurate as speaking of a president “Regan.” “‘Twas brillig & the slithy toves.” None or hardly any of the politicians until the 20th century, & late into it, approved of what goes by “liberalism” today, baby-murder & sodomy. Neither of the parties today is so conservative as to wish to revert to what was self-evident to most politicians in the 18th & 19th century. Both parties of today are for (what seemed to those politicians to be) outrageously big federal government. The Zeitgeist covering both modern parties is just alien to the older Zeitgeist. For example, neither old party believed in women running the government. The essay on this page is fantasy.

Gumboocho on

Moreover, the idea of huge federal government socialist entitlements whereby checks are cut to many persons in a regular basis on a federal feedbag, is totally alien until quite recent in American History. Lincoln must be rolling in his grave to hear that he believed in anything like socialism. Whoever wrote this piece just doesn’t know what he is talking about. (Neither would any of the original parties disapprove of using “he” for singular pronoun — neither would have approved of using they & them for singular. We live in a different world.

Thomas DeMichele on

I get your outlook. Some aspect of this is just us doing our best to draw a line from our founding fathers until today.

When we say Libertarianism we mean the political philosophy, not necessarily the exact system of spending and funding (which is Hamiltonian if anything, as it is credit and debt). If you look at our left-right chart, what we are saying is that we are breaking four quadrants of beliefs on the role of government into four ideologies and tracing those ideologies. We also say that each issue must be judged as left or right on it’s own merit. And like Slavery in the early days of America, not every issue today is always an issue then.

We are saying that Jefferson is Libertarian in governance style, not in a hands-on modern Reagan way, but in a hands-off Ron Paul the philosopher (with his right wing ideology removed) way. This is to make an analogy, not to speak of specific stances on specific issues.

Same for Lincoln, he is a modern liberal in that he expands government, uses federal power, and pushes for social justice. He is not a modern day Democrat in the extent to which there is spending and bureaucracy (that is something that starts in the 20th century, so that aspect is hard to compare to anything directly). We will continue to tweak the story line as we dig for deeper truths, but at this point it constantly refers back to each President, platform, and party as an example of where the factions of the parties were, at each general point in history.

When you look at those Civil-Service Whigs, or when you look at those Progressive Parties in the 1890’s and 1910’s, it’s hard not to see the roots of progressivism. Just like it is hard not to trace the voting record of the South, or to trace the Libertarian principles found in the Jefferson, Jackson, and then Bourbon Democrats.

So generally noting your skepticism and will try to ensure this gets so rock solid we are left only to argue about ideology, but generally think you are brining your bias into this instead of looking critically at what we are saying at each step.

To be clear, all sources and specifics are welcome. And general comments, dissenting or approving, are welcome as well.

Rebekah on

I am very impressed with your comment replies. Respectful and willing to learn more. Refreshing.

Thomas DeMichele on

I appreciate the compliment, the goal of the site is to do hard research that leads to useful truths and then crowd source the rest from thinkers of all viewpoints. I don’t think any one person can really fully filter through all history and their bias to present a perfect account of truth. Our goal is to create a breakdown of history that we can all generally agree on, and then update and add in dissenting opinions as needed.

That is the general goal of the site, but seems to be working alright on this page so far.

Melissa on

Great read… Unfortunately you fail to truly state the fact that the parties switched. Opinions of your research are not facts and your sources are from more opinions. Lincoln was most definently a right winger in today’s standards. Big government at that time was needed. Consideration is needed for what was going on during that era and why big government was important for the country at the time.

Melissa on

In addition you can’t suggest the parties switched when every individual holds some of each parties ideologies. Irresponsible journalism and research.

Thomas DeMichele on

Thank you for the feedback. I’ll continue to try to refine this into something that rings true and we can all agree on.

Certainly with a two party system it is hard to make a case for a clean switch. I think rather history shows that platforms changed, including key platforms revolving around social justice v. classical liberalism.

As for Lincoln, he has some right wing ideology (when we consider using authority, government, military, and taxes as “right-wing”), yet when it comes to social justice he is certainly on the left and not on the right with aristocracy and kings (look to classic conservatism vs. classical liberalism, for instance English Whigs Versus Tories, Lincoln is certainly a Whig). So Lincoln is right for his time on individual liberty (in favor of the collective and liberty for all not just states or oligarchs), but left for his time on social justice and executive power (in favor of the collective, even at the expense of limiting individual liberty).

Today modern American Libertarians push for individual liberty (but often put social justice in a back seat), while Democrats tend to favor social justice, trade, tax, and executive power (but often do so at the expense of individual liberty).

I’m trying to synthesize over 200 years of history, rooting thought in the philosophy of England and France which is liberalism in the Age of Enlightenment, and then trace that ideological line through parties and presidents. It isn’t easy, but keys include Lincoln, the Roosevelt’s, and LBJ (as noted above), this still to me paints a picture of changing platforms.

But, disagreement noted and i’ll have another look with this in mind.

Thomas DeMichele on

Also, make sure to check out the following pages to get a better understanding of what we are saying here. It is vital to understand the types of liberalism as well as the shifting platforms of Americas two parties.

Chris on

The biggest concern for most is did racist Democrats switch to Republican after LBJ. Only three dixiecrats switched. Jesse Helms, Mills Godwin, Strom Thurmon. All the other 16 Democrats were Democrats for life. For approximately 100 years, from after Reconstruction until the 1990s, the Democratic Party dominated Texas politics. Look up southern Democrats, and tell us who controlled the south. It was, and has been Democrats. There was no ideology shift. Only a shift in how states voted. The Democratic platform hasn’t changed.

Thomas DeMichele on

I get what you are saying, but you are twisting your logic here.

Yes, only three switched in that time… because the solid south switch hadn’t made its full completion yet. That didn’t happen until about Clinton / Bush.

You say the Democratic Party of old is still the one of today, but I fully disagree. The progressive south is still with the party, but the right wing populist southern democratic solid south socially conservative southern bloc leadership and base are now fully on team Trump (just like they were on Bush after starting to switch under Goldwater, Nixon, etc).

That is why the map looks different, that is what the switch story post LBJ is all about. It isn’t the only switch story, we both agree on that… but what you say is a little off.

Some elements of the old Democratic party platform remain for sure, but those are essentially every ideology except southern socially conservative democrat. That force, that southern bloc, is one of the main forces blocking the progressive agenda in modern times. If it was in the party, then the tension would be cross party like it used to be in the times of FDR and early LBJ, we can look at any record of voting from congress and see the conservative coalition that was once cross party is now solidly GOP. Meanwhile, we can see the progressive agenda that was once cross party is now solidly Democrat.

I appreciate your string of comments, it is clear that you have thought on this, but your takeaway is in my opinion (based on research and fact) fully incorrect.

So agree the southern leadership, base, and thus majority was always generally for the Democrats, and that often included Texas, but today that force is for the GOP. This shift happened over time from about FDR’s time to Bush’s time, but LBJ’s Civil Rights was a major catalyst in the shift (that is why we see some serious signs in that era).

You may only be concerned with the few that actually switched in the mid-1960s… but the full story is concerned with the full story.

So, much of the ideology of the old democrats remain, but that social conservative southern democratic ideology does not. Today no Democrat is going to fly the rebel flag for Lee. Instead their crime is being apologist for the one who punches a white supremacist at the unite the white rally (to use colorful language to make a point).

Today Bernie is working to appeal to the southern base on populist grounds, prior Bill Clinton had tried to win back the south by being a Reagan Democrat after Reagan used a trumpian message to shift some of the base.

So, the southern socially conservative majority used to vote Democrat, now they vote Republican… we agree. But I don’t get why you would suggest they didn’t take their planks and ideology with them to the new GOP platform? Clearly they did.

Adam on

Curious about this: “By the time the progressive Democrats Kennedy and LBJ pass Civil rights, the last of the pro-south Democrats leave for the Republican party.”

What were the vote breakdowns in congress for the civil rights legislation in the 50s/60s?

Thomas DeMichele on

The vote totals for the 64′ vote show pretty clearly that Southern bloc is voting against Civil Rights:

The original House version (Totals are in “Yea–Nay” format):

Southern Democrats: 7–87 (7–93%)
Southern Republicans: 0–10 (0–100%)
Northern Democrats: 145–9 (94–6%)
Northern Republicans: 138–24 (85–15%)
The Senate version:

Southern Democrats: 1–20 (5–95%) (only Ralph Yarborough of Texas voted in favor)
Southern Republicans: 0–1 (0–100%) (John Tower of Texas)
Northern Democrats: 45–1 (98–2%) (only Robert Byrd of West Virginia voted against)
Northern Republicans: 27–5 (84–16%)

The Civil Rights Act of 1957 Under Eisenhower (Republican) is strongly opposed by Strom Thurmond (the then Democrat). He conducted “the longest fillbuster ever” speaking for 24 hours and 18 minutes.

Here is the vote breakdown, the support is predominantly from Republicans and opposition mostly from Democrats in the South:

By the time we get to Nixon we can see that the country is changing:

With all that said, “the last of the pro-south Democrats leave for the Republican party” should probably be reworded to something more specific like “most of the pro-south Democrats leave for the Republican party, with many showing strong support for the far-right American Independent party”. Doesn’t have the same zing, but i’m seeing how the statement above is a bit oversimplified. Hope this helps.

Dr. Cj on

WOW! That is one of the best MYTHS I ever read.
You definitely failed to prove that the parties switched utilizing POOR resources and conjecture while failing to explain details. And your opinions of your research are NOT facts, the sources are from more opinions. So poor that they are not allowed on college papers which is SHOCKING why anyone would believe this myth.
Lincoln was most definitely what could be considered as a far right winger in today’s standards and not some liberal lunatic as you stated.
Dr. Cj

Thomas DeMichele on

Of course, the above is in turn your opinion backed by no facts what so ever (not EVEN easy to read Wikipedia links, like we provided for our reader).

I am happy to explore any claims made against our arguments, to fact check it against additional sources, to verify, and to revise it if it is wrong.

In fact, this is the goal of our site.

With that said, Lincoln (being of the line of Federalists and Whigs) is a right-winger of the times in terms of federal power and economics, and a left-winger in terms of social justice. We have the anti-feds then Democratic Republicans, and then Democrats who are the pro-south individual rights party born from Jefferson. So they are left, but over time (and especially in Lincoln’s era) that left becomes right as they get behind slavery like it was John Locke’s intention when he discussed the right to life, liberty, and property (he clearly didn’t mean owning other people, see chapters 4 and 5).

I really don’t see the logic behind not admitting the southern bloc switched parties in 64′, and did this because the parties changed platforms (largely over civil rights between 1860 and 1960), and this caused further changes as the bloc took their pro-south issues with them to first the American Independent Party and then to the Republican party of today.

I’m not sure what your stance is? Are you suggesting the party of Lincoln is today’s Republicans when it comes to the issues? Why, because Lincoln’s Republicans were pro-south and wanted to raise taxes and have more federal power? And the party of Jefferson somehow is the Democrats, because they were pro-north, and wanted individual liberty and small government regardless of costs? Literally the only thing the parties retained are their names and a few issues like immigration (the Federalists, Whigs, and Republicans were typically always harder on immigration, especially after the influx of catholics who became democrats).

See, this is a long discussion, but I can back up every point with historical data (for instance the voting records of each year, see how blue and red switch?) The links we choose to support are arguments aren’t the only place to find information, they are just easy to read. We have already presented an essay and all facts are checkable with a google search or a good book.

So, willing to support any view or revise that which we got wrong, but straight critique with no supporting arguments gives me nothing to go on.

Your opinion is noted. Next person who agrees with this, please explain your position.

Chris on

You must have accidentally left out LBJ’s most famous quote that was recorded on air force one while talking about his implementation of Social Programs.

“I’ll have those n*****s voting Democratic for the next 200 years” – LBJ

LBJ voted against anti-lynching laws, eliminating poll taxes and denying federal funding to segregated schools.

The Democrats just found a more acceptable approach to slavery, government programs.

Civil Rights Act
The House:
Democratic Party: 152–96 (61–39%)
Republican Party: 138–34 (80–20%)

The Senate :
Democratic Party: 46–21 (69–31%)
Republican Party: 27–6 (82–18%)

The Senate version, voted on by the House:

Democratic Party: 153–91 (63–37%)
Republican Party: 136–35 (80–20%)

So more Republicans supported the Civil Rights act than Dems.

You also must have forgot the Eisenhower in 57 that the Dems forced him to water down to get passed.

You say that the racist Dems jump ship after the Civil Rights act. So heres a list of Racists in the government at the time:

Notable Dixiecrats who remained Democratics after 1964:

Rep. John Rarick D-LA
Commissioner of Public Safety Bull Connor D-AL

Racist & Segregationist Democratic Party Governors:

Gov. Orval Faubus D-AR
Gov. Frank M. Dixon D-AL
Gov. Benjamin Travis Laney D-AR
Gov. William H. Murray D-OK
Gov. George Wallace D-AL
Gov. Lester Maddox D-GA
Gov. Fielding Wright D-MS

Racist & Segregationist Democratic Party Senators:

Sen. B. Everett Jordan D-NC
Sen. A. Willis Robertson D-V
Sen. Olin D. Johnston D-SC
Sen. Sam Ervin D-NC
Sen. J. Lister Hill D-AL
Sen. John C. Stennis D-MS
Sen. James Eastland D-MS
Sen. Allen J. Ellender D-LA
Sen. Russell B. Long D-LA
Sen. John Sparkman D-AL
Sen. John “Little” McClellan D-AR
Sen. Richard Russell, Jr. D-GA
Sen. Herman Talmadge D-GA
Sen. Robert Carlyle Byrd D-WV
Sen. Harry F. Byrd D-V
Sen. Al Gore, Sr. D-TN
Sen. Spessard Holland D-FL
Sen. Herbert S. Walters D-TN
Sen. George Smathers D-FL

Here is a list of all those that switched parties:

Gov. Mills E. Godwin, Jr. D-VA
Sen. Jesse Helms, Jr. D-NC
Sen. Strom Thurmond D-SC

Thomas DeMichele on

So, the Senate is a little less clear cut than everything else in the country, many Dixiecrats (like Byrd) never left the party, or left far after their voter-base did.

The Senate changes from 64′ to 68′, over civil rights 64′ and 68′ and voting rights 65′. However, many Dixiecrats stay until Clinton or until the end of their careers.

Not the start of Clinton… but the end of Clinton. By the time Bill was done being “a new Democrat” the Senate looks a lot like it does today.

As for the rest of issues important to people and that define the parties, by 64′ (Dixiecrats aside), the parties look a lot like the parties of today.

When MLK marched for Civil Rights he did so as a Democrat from the south.

If you want to see Dixiecrats embracing social programs as racist, that is opinion. On that issue i’ll direct you to our page where we discuss implications of the Second, the Three-Fifths, and the Thirteenth. Those important bits of legislation have implications, but I don’t think any can be boiled down to voting tactics alone (thus removing their human right aspects)… This discussion would make a good separate page (which I am now inspired to create), but it is not really a topic for this page.

Not going to argue your opinion, and will instead stick to the facts here. I will however note that pulling out some racist LBJ quote isn’t going to undo all of American history to somehow convince readers that the southern bloc votes Democrat here in 2016. The southern vote switched starting in 64, by Clinton’s presidency we can see the change take effect, exactly what that means is much more complex.

I’ll make sure these truths are clear for the reader. Thank you for the comment. But no matter how we play hot potato with the south, we know where the southern vote is today… with all that said, the single thing wrong with the south is the old slavery / segregation issue. That aside, we are all Americans with valid points, even when our answers are wrong from a historical perspective.

Danielle Everhart on

I find this extremely biased and inaccurate. I think you need to go see Hillary’s America where real historians have done research and come to the conclusion that Democrats were and have always been oppressive and racist.

Thomas DeMichele on

Thank you for your opinion, I didn’t know there was a movie on this?

The Democratic party of Jefferson and Madison looks different than the one of Jackson, than the one of Cleveland, than the one of Bryan, than the one of Wilson, than the one of FDR, than the one of LBJ, than the one of the Clintons. They start classic liberal, and become social liberal by “the progressive era”. I have seen the party platforms from history, looked at the elections, know the political theory their views are based on, read history books, and am aware of the single voter issues that explain the switches. I know the vote of the solid south. I also know the history of the Republicans from Hamilton, to Clay, to Lincoln, to the Gilded Age Presidents, to Teddy and his leaving to start the Progressive party, to Harding, to Eisenhower, to Nixon, to Reagan, to Bush, to Trump. And i’ve discussed this above.

When we put all this together, we see that the south and north switched what parties they supported. When we consider what demographic supported slavery and segregation, which supported anti-immigration, which stood against worker’s rights, which stood against LGBT, which stood with temperance, which stood with unions, and which stood with banks and finance, we can paint a clear picture.

I watched the trailer of the movie, I would happily go toe-to-toe with its writers and producers and argue American history point by point. The idea that somehow the south of the Civil War is different than the south of today makes little sense (party names aside), especially when you consider the battle is over state’s rights vs. collective rights (and largely also around debt and finance).

In this video, we see a far-right-wing viewpoint trying to pretend like the southern Democrats of the Civil War are somehow the pro-social justice social liberals of the 1900’s. They trace party name, but not party members, geographic location, and issues. The new deal faction of the Dems that grows out of immigrants, free silver, and the new deal are not the same as the old pro-slavery south, although they do occupy the same party for a long period of time)… but it is Lincoln who is the social liberal of the era, the first in many ways (note this source from the libertarian-right Mises Institute, this is the intellectual rebuttal rather than the one of pure propaganda).

Lincoln is pro north, uses federal power, creates free state college, the first income tax, and sends to north to war with the pro slavery south. This grows in to modern day social liberalism, especially in the progressive era when Taft, Teddy, and Wilson are all progressive. Teddy is largely the last progressive Republican (after he forms the progressive party the Republicans move right and the Democrats move left, minus the south). And it only makes sense, that many of those progressives who follow Teddy out of the Republican party gravitate to FDR and the Democrats.

Like Mises, you and the movie see this social liberalism and progressivism as oppressive. That is an opinion, and a valid one, but that progressivism starts with the Republicans and then is embraced by the Democrats as republicans move away from it.

Progressivism is largely of the spirit of Lincoln, Teddy, FDR, and LBJ (two Republicans and two Democrats). Meanwhile the nativist populist party of Jackson (a Democrat) and the Know Nothings is reflected by the modern day GOP.

The parties evolved and changed, and we have to look era by era, issue by issue, but the narrative in this video (that somehow the pro-slavery south is the northern progressives of today) is laughably wrong… The Republicans embraced those issues over time via the southern strategy and the general changing of the parties over the 1900’s.

Simply put, the pro-slavery south were state’s rights small government democrats who didn’t want to be indebted to the northern bankers who favored social liberalism, they stood alongside the individual rights Democrats (who especially in the north over Civil War become Lincoln Republicans).

The page above explains the shifts with historic accuracy. It is not enough to tell me they are inaccurate, I expect more. Tell me what points you think are wrong, and i’ll address them. Other commenters have done this, and it has helped. But it is the video you cite, and not my account of history, which is the truly bias one.

All that said, here is a link to the trailer of the move you mentioned. All fell free to watch this movie, take notes, and let me know where you think they are right and I am wrong. History is well documented, i’m secure in my position, and would be overjoyed to debate it.

77 on

Don’t believe everything Dinesh says. He is a fraud.

Bob on

I try to be open minded and view issues and presented “facts” from both sides. You said in the beginning in the first video that you present a balanced argument.
However, watching the first video I noticed biased video editing one that really stood out was when you were reporting on Bush talking about his popularity ratings with Americans while showing video footage of a Middle Eastern man throwing his shoe at Bush. There are other misleading clips that do not fit the narrative at those points in the video. I won’t list them all, I have a feeling you know where they are.
Then you go on to push the narrative that the parties switched when in fact there were only 3 politicians that actually “switched” parties. You can spin your opinions however you want but you cannot change the fact that only 3 people actually switched parties.
As far as social programs put in place by Democrats, I have to ask you to be fair and list the successful programs that are working for the black inner communities. Please show where even non-profit organizations for the betterment of black communities.
As far as racism is concerned, I do not believe either party is guilty. There has been so much change in regard to policies, moral beliefs etc that neither part is guilty. The issues facing minorities are all economic and NOT based on actual racism. Is there racism in the USA? Yes. But it doesn’t come from political parties, it comes from older generational up bringing.
I could go on for many paragraphs about the use of the “N” word and all the various meanings, who uses the word and why it has become “accepted” and acceptable by the younger generation of many ethnic backgrounds and colors. It is still a despicable word regardless.
Both parties in the years past and currently have not performed in the area of providing the economy to inner cities to generate good schools, good education and good jobs and good opportunities. Both parties have failed to rebuild the family unit in the inner city communities. It isn’t one party or the other, it is both parties that have ignored and destroyed these areas.
Your “Fact” based and “fair” is not fair, it is left sided and you know it. I despise writers that claim to be un- biased and then write a biased, misleading article. It is poor journalism written by someone that thinks they are un-biased completely unaware of how their own article is written, which makes them an idiot, or the writer is completely aware, which makes them a liar.
Since you are not aware, or at least that is what you said in another comment, that you have a competing view albeit some common facts, in Hillary’s America, then you are not very well informed and up to date on current opposing political views. Which would leave me to believe you only read and research information that fits your left sided view, not a balanced view.
Both parties are guilty of selling out to the highest bidder. This country needs Term Limits, political finance reform and lobbyist reform. Without these three things Washington is never going to be the government for the people again.

Thomas DeMichele on

Those are all good comments, let me clarify, we wrote the content, but didn’t produce the videos (those are curated as in hand picked from the internet based off of the videos that have been produced by others on the subject).

I’ll review the first one and see if it is perhaps to lopsided to take the lead.

As for the content, I will defend that.

I think we can make the case that both political parties (of any era) have both had aspects that we can call “racist”.

The solid south racism that created slavery and Jim Crow is one type, the aristocratic New York elitism is the type that creates Urban Ghettoes. I am “left” in that I consider both of these forms in opposition of my ideals, so I am classically liberally progressively left in terms of liberties and rights, but I am generally a conservative person and if I had a magic wand I’d bring back Hamilton, Washington, and Eisenhower before I brought back the Rooselvets, but that is personal opinion for perspective only.

I don’t actually care to favor either historical faction completely, and I don’t mean it to come across like that. However, today the Solid south is mostly voting with the Republicans, and before they used to be Democrats, and that is the big switch. That aside we have many little switches.

The solid south Democrats slowly migrated to the south between [mostly] the 60’s and 90’s… but most didn’t “change teams” most just ended their career in the 30 years and then the new wave of politicians took up a different banner.

The history of the US is pretty clear, so if you don’t like my version just dig out the history books.

You won’t find a legit source tell you that that the solid slavery south moved up north and now lives in Chicago, they still live in the south. That is a very general statement though.

Given all the switching that occurred our current situation is complex, and I don’t wish to overcomplicate it by telling you one side is amazing and the other is bad. This isn’t my takeaway. Rather we should look at factions. So something like this:

Neoliberal Democrats: Big business Democrats who favor the private market as a means to achieve social justice, tend to favor big government. Most like the old Tammany Hall Democrats and their Republican allies.

Populist Social-Liberal Democrats: Favor a less privatized version of social liberalism, social justice and environmental issues take precedence over free-market economics and big business. The progressives found in both parties; sometimes they vote Green today.

Neocon Republicans: Big business Republicans who favor the private market and traditional conservative values and aspects of free-market libertarian ideology. The most like the old Republicans who allied with the Tammany Hall Democrats.

Libertarian Republicans: Limited government classical liberals who tend to organize around right-wing ideology. The most like the old Democrats.

Modern Conservative Republicans: Conservatives who are voting only on modern conservative issues of religion, immigration, gun laws, etc. The most like the old solid south.

I’ll just end by saying we agree on the solution. Just don’t let your takeaway be that the south of yesterday is the north, NO

The social conservatives switched teams starting in the 60’s (the most accurate, but overly simple, statement).

Other things to consider is that the Bourbon Democrats are essentially libertarians, that Teddy is essentially a progressive and lost to the Bourbon Wilson, that Hoover went full anti-Commie right-wing, that FDR won a contested convention and the DNC hated him, and that generally each party has been factionalized. There was a point when the Democrats were Bryan, Wilson, and the Solid South in one party. In that era Teddy and the about-to-be anti-communists were in the other. Today Teddy and Bryan’s factions are teamed up with Wilsons and the Solid south and anti-communist nationalist religious vote is on the other. I mean, just look at the 2016 elections.

Feel free to ask any follow up questions.

chris on

You state “When MLK marched for Civil Rights he did so as a Democrat from the south.” That’s a lie. MLK was never a registered Dem, or Rep. That’s a fact. He never endorsed any political candidate. Why are you posting false information that’s easy to find? You also stated in another reply “It seems clear that the Democrats remain pro-south for a long time after Lincoln. However, as now detailed above, the switch begins with Lincoln (with some issues) and then continues to Roosevelt’s and Kennedy / LBJ on Civil Rights, albeit way slower than comfortable.” That’s also false. I stated “For approximately 100 years, from after Reconstruction until the 1990s, the Democratic Party dominated Texas politics.” Those were Dixiecrats. Southern Dixiecrats. John R. Edwards, U.S. Senator from North Carolina, 2004 Democratic Vice Presidential nominee, Democratic presidential candidate in 2004 and 2008. Lyndon B. Johnson, U.S. Representative and Senator from Texas, Vice President of the United States (1961–1963), and President of the United States (1963–1969) Jimmy Carter, Governor of Georgia and President of the United States (1977–1981) Bill Clinton, Governor of Arkansas and President of the United States (1993–2001) Al Gore, Representative and U.S. Senator from Tennessee, Vice President of the United States (1993–2001) and 2000 Democratic nominee for President. Lester Maddox, governor of Georgia. Tim Kaine, Governor of Virginia, Chairman of the DNC, current U.S. Senator from Virginia, also the 2016 Democratic Vice Presidential nominee. John Bel Edwards, current Governor of Louisiana. Roy Cooper, Current governor of North Carolina. You post false information again about the “Switch” These are all Dixiecrats. This is 2017. Their platform has never changed, and their ideology.

Thomas DeMichele on

So we are miscommunicating. I meant MLK marched with the Southern Democrats like the Mississippi Freedom Democrats:

In other words, MLK marched with Democrats against Democrats at the time. He marched with the Kennedy types, the liberal Democrats, the Hippies, the college kid Democrats of the time, the progressive north and south in the Democratic party, AND many Republicans AGAINST the socially conservative factions of the Democratic party (and their Republican allies; here only meaning that in those days the parties weren’t as poloraized and there was still cross party coaltions).

I didn’t mean MLK was a registered Democrat. We all also know he had no party (I cover this in the essay).

The reality is, the states rights parties, the know-nothing Bannon populist right parties, the progressive populist left, the elite centrist GOP, the elite conservative GOP, the elite centrist Democrats, the elite further left Democrats, and the small government libertarian types are all very different types.

Even in the 1960s there were many different types, sometimes they broke into their own parties, sometimes the banded together in one party, sometimes they formed cross party coalitions.

This whole red team blue team polarization and the modern forms of the parties and their platforms is somewhat new. Not only did platforms change… but like they have substaintally changed over time.

THe Democratic party used to be the small government party of the south and they were the Confederates in the Civil war. I don’t get how one could tell me with a straight face that something clearly didnt’ change. Then you look at the voter map and it becomes more clear.

Now, you list off a bunch of liberal and progressive southern politicians. Those types are some of the types who have been in the Democratic party for a long time. These are the ones who reformed or who didn’t sign the Southern Manifesto. Those types. Never met a Democrat with a bad word to say about them. Democrats aren’t judging every southerner by the history of the south, they are judging those who cling on to bigotry and reject social reform and instead look to banning others and building walls.

As for when the parties changed. They have been changing since day 1. Sometimes know-nothings, populist progressives, and states rights, and libertarians get their own parties, sometimes they ally with the major parties. Factions change parties and party platforms and voter bases change.

Civil War, Gilded Age, Progressive Era, Civil Rights era (and generally post WW2 era), and Reagan / Clinton are big moments where we can see big changes… and this is why I look through history and don’t just focus on 1964. The reality is the parties changed and even switched some things over time.

So, let us be clear though. A Dixiecrat is a term that describes a southern Democrat who would have gone into a states rights party (or more generally just a southern Democrat). In terms of those who would have gone into states rights parties, they switched. In terms of just southern Democrats, many are still in the party. The LBJ and Gore types, trust me, Democrats are stoked to have them as allies. They are an important part of the party. Democrats are not as stoked on Jeff Session types.

In Alabama, that is the Deep south, we have Roy Moore vs. Doug Jones. They are both from Deep south, but they are running in two different parties. Democrats are supporting the modern social justice southern Democrat Dough Jones… Democrats are very nervous about the religious right somewhat nativist nationalist right-wing Roy Moore.

It used to be that only a Democrat could win the south, be he a Moore type or Jones type. Today Republicans are almost certainly going to take Alabama with the Moore type (they won’t run the Jones type, as that type is not in their party today, nor have they ever been… unless you consider Jones a Bourbon who would have been with the Whigs/National Republicans/ Federalists before the Civil War).

This helps illustrate what changed in terms of just southerners. But like, the country has much more going on then just that. There is much more that switched and changed.

Me on

Nice tspdance, but they.NEVER seit hed platforms

Thomas DeMichele on

It think you said “nice tap-dance, but they never switched platforms”. So you’d attest to points like:

1. The party system naming has nothing to do with changing parties. Third Party Democrats and Sixth Party are the same?
2. The ideology of an anti-federalist is the same as a 2016 Democrat, and a Federalist the same as a 2016 Republican.
3. Jackson and Obama share more ideology than Obama and Lincoln.
4. That the red and blue switches on this map are explained by something other than parties switching planks and members.
5. The rise of social liberalism in the late 1800’s and 1900’s had no effect on American politics, and FDR was being a state’s rights classic liberal when he embraced the New Deal.

Call me out on any point and i’ll debate it happily. I would say that none of the claims I made above are accurate and each can be debated with little more than party platforms, policies passed, voting records, and other official documents.

We must stop this allegiance to party name alone. I look at Lincoln and Teddy and I see heroes, I feel the same way about Jefferson, Madison, FDR, and Eisenhower. I get wanting to disown the south during the civil war era, but party names aside… they were “the south” and today are still “the south”. That doesn’t change. They used to be Democrats, post 64′ they start becoming Republicans. Again, we have the map and the voting records to check here:

The southern vote aside, we have a lot of other single issue voter issues to account for in the story. We also need to look at immigration, banking, collective rights, individual rights, religious vote, worker rights, etc. Not only did the parties change, they changed in complex ways that don’t just center around Civil Rights.

Richard Sentner, Jr. on

In 1984, the two major political parties switched labels and almost nobody noticed. This is a clear indication of how closely aligned the two parties are. One person who noticed is Thomas Ferguson, the main architect of the Investment Theory of Politics. This theory holds that in order to know where candidates really stand you have to track their funding sources. This is what Ferguson has been doing going back to this country’s beginning. The Republican Party had been known as the party of fiscal conservatism and the Democratic Party as the part of Keynesian growth. Following the money trail, Ferguson discovered the labels had switched. The financial corporations, concerned about deficits, were giving more money to the Democrats and the “Defense” and computer industries, recipients of the Pentagon system, were now supporting the GOP. 1984 was the year Ronald Reagan was running for re-election as president following his massive expansion of the Pentagon budget. It was now the Democrats who were screaming about balanced budgets. It was rather remarkable that so few people noticed the change with virtually no media coverage of it. Even today, when I bring it up, I get very incredulous looks. None of this should surprise us given how the two parties have moved closer and closer to each other, with the Democrats having forsaken their defense of the poor and working class (See Thomas Franks book, “Listen Liberal”), the pronouncements at this year’s Democratic Convention to the contrary not withstanding.

Thomas DeMichele on

Great insight! I’ll have to research this and see if I can weave it into the story without creating too long of a page. It may simply be something we address on another page as well. Very interesting perspective.

Dave on

Wow, had ever an article got so many things wrong. The Democrats are still the party of racism and slavery.

Thomas DeMichele on

Minus the theory that social welfare is racist, the Republicans are easier to equate with this today in sentiment, no?… I mean, your theory is, Fox News and Right-wing Talk Radio are pro-minority and NBC Rachel Maddow is an ol’ boy racist. This theory is really stretching it, ignoring geographic location, and generally ignoring everything except the history of the southern vote and the Democrats… before it switched pretty fully in the mid-90’s….

Consider GOP strategists who say stuff like:

“Republican candidates often have prospered by ignoring black voters and even by exploiting racial tensions,” and, “by the ’70s and into the ’80s and ’90s, the Democratic Party solidified its gains in the African-American community, and we Republicans did not effectively reach out. Some Republicans gave up on winning the African-American vote, looking the other way or trying to benefit politically from racial polarization. I am here today as the Republican chairman to tell you we were wrong.”

Can you really use the social programs progressives fought for for the past 100 plus years to paint the modern Democrats as racist? Is that fair? They often fought against the Dixiecrats to get these. The Dixiecrats didn’t like Kennedy, but the progressive Democrats loved him… they were in the same tent, but it doesn’t make them the same person (i’m sure a modern Republican can relate!).

Today most of the Dixiecrat ideology is in the Republican tent, at least when we consider outward rhetoric. If behind the scenes they plot, well, it is hard to prove, but your theory has been noted.

Anyway, America is not a single issue country. So put aside Dixiecrat segregation, and do we (that aside) agree that the rest of the issues swapped? That will at least leave us arguing over this one point.

Sam Imam-Eli on

The only thing that truly “switched” was that Democrats usurped the Republican platform. Because Republicans were not the con-artists that the Democrats were (look at all the historical record of Democratic wrangling to obtain votes as one small example), they didn’t cry foul. Now Democrats have sold the great scam on just about everyone to include unfortunate blacks who have suffered more under the Obama administration than any other modern president.

Thomas DeMichele on

But Trump is essentially a nativist populist like Wallace while the Clinton’s are pro-banker, pro central power, pro north, pro worker, pro lgbt, pro social program, etc. So based on platform alone I disagree with this. I will however entertain the idea that some of those southern democrats bit their lip and continued on benefiting from social liberalism. But no, if we look to Bryan and free silver, then to the progressives under Teddy (who leave with Teddy for the progressive party), then at FDR, and then at MLK and LBJ, and finally at the New Democrats like Clinton and Obama, I really have to disagree with your theory.

The state’s rights libertarian party of Goldwater is a big clue that shifts do occur at this period. The rest is explained by the southern strategy.

But we know this is a disagreement, and that is OK, looks like this page will help clear it up as we point and counterpoint.

If we look from strictly 1776 to say 1912 when Teddy splits, then we still have to consider switches to explain the switching of issues between major parties. We have to be careful not to try to pin the whole thing on the post 64′ era. That isn’t what this page is saying.

MichaelC on

What percentage of pro segregation Democrats switched parties? The answer is 1%. The “Dixiecrat” myth is strong with you.

Thomas DeMichele on

Yeah, they didn’t need to “switch parties” for the most part because the simply phased out from the 60’s-90’s. The new generation of politicians simply ran under a different party name.

The member switches (both officials and voters), ideology switches, platforms switches, etc don’t all happen at the same time.

The Democrat’s voter base and stance on key issues started switched long before the officials left. The officials were the last thing to change.

One easy way to realize i’m right is to think about this “Which party supports the south today? Which party supports the rebel flag? Which party sometimes wishes they could split away from the Northern liberals and bankers? Which party says states’ rights?” If the answer is to you “the Republicans”, then you should take another look at what I have to say.

AND REALLY REALLY, do listen to Lee Atwater explain this whole thing.

Mark on

This is how history gets rewritten! The democratic party has not changed. They simply adapted. The plantation is still alive and well.

Thomas DeMichele on

On the issue of segregation alone (formally popular sovereignty and slavery), AKA how white southerners treat black Americans, the Democrats are guilty for most of American history. Since the 1900’s the progressives have been in the Democratic party for the most part. And since Wilson and Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover the Democrats have favored northern banks and big government more than the Republicans.

So there are different factions and way more platforms than just segregation swapped places.

Today the south votes Republican and North votes democrat. Pretty much a fact we can’t argue.

Now, did southern Dixiecrats stay with the Democrats and push on with an anti-black agenda, expanding welfare, supporting BLM, housing MLK, electing President Obama, but secretly being racist?

Maybe, just maybe, but that has certainly become less true over time, and even if it was true the progressive wing of the Democrats has been at the throat of the Dixiecrats since before Kennedy. It is really hard to swallow your theory today when we look at all the R’s next to the names of southern bloc repersentives today and look at the voting record.

I am starting to get that you guys really want to draw a line from Dixiecrats, to social justice, to slavery, but I think you are confusing the progressive wing of the Democratic party which essentially dominated the party during the 1900’s and especially today with the southern segregationist who has dwindled, as Republicans shifted right over the years.

Yet, as i’ve noted above, its likely the Democrats still have Dixiecrats in their ranks while Republicans still have those great Half-Breed post-Lincoln and Teddy Republicans in their ranks. I’m not trying to deny stragglers or the history of the party, the point of the page isn’t segregation alone, it is the shifting of platforms over time… which did happen as a matter of record.

Bob on

Why is so much of your argument based on 1 man, Strom Thurmond switching parties? Democrat Governor George Wallace who symbolically stood in the college doorway to keep segregated schools was a Democrat until he died. Democrat Senator and former KKK leader Robert Byrd was a Democrat until death. Al Gore Sr was a segregationist Democrat until death. William Fulbright, a Democrat segregationist idolized by Hillary Clinton was a Democrat until death. The vast majority of racist Democrat/Dixiecrat governors and senators never switched parties, but you repeatedly build your argument of the switch on 1 person named Strom? I find that argument unconvincing.

Thomas DeMichele on

This is a good point. We use Strom to represent the change that can be seen to start in 64′, develop over the Reagan era, and then solidify in the 90’s.

As can be seen on this year-by-year voting map.

Wallace had a brief stint in the American independent party in 68′, but otherwise stayed with the Democrats continuing a trend of a progressive Democratic party with southern seats and representation in Congress which had continued since the early 1900’s.

By 1972 we get Shirley Chisholm (a black progressive woman and George Wallace (the segregationist) running for President via the Democratic Party in the same race. Wallace once said, “The President (John F. Kennedy) wants us to surrender this state to Martin Luther King and his group of pro-communists who have instituted these demonstrations.”

Jack Newfield wrote in 1971 that Wallace “recently has been sounding like William Jennings Bryan as he attacked concentrated wealth in his speeches”. Newfield, Jack (1971-07-19). “A Populist Manifesto: The Making of a New Majority”. New York. pp. 39–46. Retrieved 6 January 2015.

Strom and Wallace and Byrd are easy to cite and talk about as they were popular figures who were well recorded. William Fulbright is of that ilk (anti-Kennedy, but a Democrat) and I’m sure we can pick more and have a similar conversation of each.

Still, today, Alabama is for the Republicans and not Democrats, so the sometimes Democrat Wallace’s Alabama did undergo some change since then.

In a way, aspects of Trump mirror Wallace, a populist liberal in some ways, a social conservative in others. He isn’t my cup of tea, but we certainly do need to explain why he is running as Democrat in the 70’s. 100% agree on this.

I’ll try to make that 64′-94′ argument more clear by denoting the Dixiecrats who stay with the party more clearly. The overarching point is that today and since the 90’s many platforms have historically switched (south included), but prior to 64′-94′ the switches don’t fully include southern interests (despite the southern strategy) and just include most other issues related to collective rights vs. individual rights. The state’s rights focused issues were in Lincoln’s time with the Democrats and are today with the Republicans. In Lincoln’s time the south voted blue, today the south tends toward red.

But as you say, trying to paint 64′ as a neat and pretty switch is, I think, the mythology of the modern Democrat who wants us to forget Byrd’s career and Wallace as a Democrat. The more I research, the more this seems true.

That said, I think the idea that the Democrats of 1864 are the Democrats of today is Republican mythology.

You can see how these two viewpoints bump heads when we don’t clearly explain the behavior of Dixiecrats who stay with the party longer than Democrats will admit (in some cases forever).

We also get confused when we treat southern racist policy as the only American issue. We are also discussing geographic location, banks, government size, debt and credit, immigration, taxation, religious issues, etc. These platform shifts are all complex, but some are less emotional and recent than segregation and the Dixiecrats.

The logical take-away is that while some of today’s Democrats are likely Dixiecrats (reformed or not), the southern bloc has clearly switched what party they prefer (especially when we count the voter and not the Senator or Governor).

This means, in a fair statement, at the very least both parties contain the remnants of the southern segregationist and, while I’d argue the big government pro bank faction as always been in the north, today (because of the evolution) it would only make sense that we have Republicans who are still pro-banker and pro-central power.

Maybe we would say something like Neo-cons and Neo-liberals are the pro-banker and pro-government of each party, the progressives and libertarians represent the individual and collective rights crowd. The lefty organizing progressive protester has typically favored the Democrats since Bryan and then FDR (see “the New Deal”), but their bedfellows were the south for years. The single issue right-wing voter (pro-religion and anti-immigration) is in part of the Republican tent today, but pro-religion (temperance and prohibition) was a left-right third party for much of American history…

…And somewhere in that Democrat tent are the Dixiecrats who never left. I want to be honest about the evolution, and I can see it there in the voting record. The the effort is in no way to disown the truth of history, so with that in mind i’ll rework the page a bit to make sure your point is clear and my isn’t skirting this truth.

Good comments, think we are getting closer to the truth with every smart rebuttal.

Troy Martin on

“Meanwhile, the Republicans of Lincoln’s time roughly held the beliefs of their predecessors the Federalists and Whigs, and also of today’s modern Progressives and Democrats (pro-north, strong federal government, pro-banking, more taxes, and collective rights over individual rights).”

Wow, you haven’t read “The Federalist Papers”, have you?

Thomas DeMichele on

The Federalist papers by Jay, Hamilton, and Madison? I have actually. They are classic liberal whig-like conservative views mostly. The anti-federalists in the south, like Jefferson opposed them generally. For the time, the Federalists wanted a stronger central power (a federation of states) while the anti-federalists wanted to maintain the confederacy. So for the time, Federalists were pro-north, strong federal government, pro-banking, more taxes, and collective rights over individual rights, compared to today both parties are classic liberals and we need to introduce the term social liberalism (which largely starts with Lincoln) to explain the evolution of the Republican party from there. Today the Democrats are the social liberals.

Guenter Falz on

My 5 cents: I live in Texas, where white Republicans, many of them my personal friends, are still using the “N” word more often than not. Or they call some male adults “boy” — guess what color of the skin the “boys” have. I haven’t heard any of this from people I know are Democrats. That may sound too simplified, but KISS — Keep It Simple Stupid — supports ideas best. Based on my 18 years of living in Texas as a German born proud American citizen, the reality of the Party Switch cannot be documented any better, but of course not only.

Todd on

While that perhaps is the experience you have had in Texas, I have had the opposite (with Democrats being exactly as they were pre-Johnson) experience in rural Kansas, Idaho, Wyoming and many other places. If you really want to see racism and its ugliest side, most European nations are extreme. Germany continues to be one of the racist nations I have perhaps ever been in, though South Africa and many other African nations were amazingly prejudice, many times predominately black nations were prejudiced against different segments of society rather than race, for the worst example I have seen on that type of prejudice is evident in the caste system in India.

Just some experiences I have had, not conclusive by any study.


Thomas DeMichele on

Interesting point of view. I think the simple answer is that both the left and right deal with forms of social conservatism (it isn’t limited to one party or political ideology). Human nature is dualistic. It is difficult to see when a side takes an extreme stance like the 44′ States’ Rights party or say the Germans under Hitler, but its probably a mistake to any that any single ideology, group, or movement is filled with saints and good intentions.

Ray Thibault on

I voted “fact”, but it certainly is a murky/nebulous subject. Papers such as this, written by people such as yourself (with no seeming agenda and with a sincere and open desire to enhance knowledge) help to make a great society. I enjoyed your treatise, and the comments were great – especially appreciating your nonemotional and reasoned replies.

Thomas DeMichele on

Thank you, i’m glad my intentions are coming off as they are. And I agree, it is murky/nebulous. The more I get to what I feel like is the core truth, the more I realize that there is more than one way to interpret it. Very much appreciate the feedback, for or against.

mike on

Biggest load of crap I’ve ever read. Typical whitewashing attempt by liberals trying to hide their racist roots

Crudo Unveils a Political Magic Trick!

I have traversed many lands in hopes of enlightenment, and have met many scholars on my quest. They speak of the olden days of slavery and the horrors that came with it. With great pride they praise the Civil Rights movement in the ye old United States where the North were valiant knights and the South were dirty racist Republicans. Conflicted but confident, I raise my hand and query:

“Were not, the Republicans founded for the abolition of slavery?”

The scholar with his slicked back hair glances down at his Malcolm X wrist watch, grinds his teeth and says, “Perhaps it be so, but the Republicans and Democrats switched places long ago.” Then without skipping a breath, he goes on with his strange rhyming lesson, for a fact like this is a flawless declaration.

Except that it’s bullsh*t.

Minus some minor exaggerations and the medieval overture, this is a true story from my college American History class. I swear, my radical Marxist professor actually had a Malcolm X wrist-watch. I’m not creative enough to come up with something that bizarrely funny.

Malcolm X Wristwatch

We hear this party-switching myth so often, but nobody ever has a clear point or example in history for where it occurs. Ever since the birth of the Republican party in 1854, Republicans were strong supporters of abolition. Meanwhile, Democrats had KKK members in Congress, and Al Gore’s father not only voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but gave quite a lengthy filibuster. Republicans championed the Constitutional amendments ending slavery, giving African-Americans the right to vote, as well as securing that right. Civil Rights legislation as well as anti-lynching laws, and anti-poll taxes were pushed through by Republicans to ensure this, while Democrats fought them tooth and nail.

The closest I’ve gotten to an answer, in regards to the switch, was the Civil Rights “hero” Lyndon B. Johnson championing the “bi-partisan support” of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. I used quotations because I’m being incredibly sarcastic.


“These Negroes, they’re getting pretty uppity these days and that’s a problem for us since they’ve got something now they never had before, the political pull to back up their uppityness. Now we’ve got to do something about this, we’ve got to give them a little something, just enough to quiet them down, not enough to make a difference. For if we don’t move at all, then their allies will line up against us and there’ll be no way of stopping them, we’ll lose the filibuster and there’ll be no way of putting a brake on all sorts of wild legislation. It’ll be Reconstruction all over again.”-LBJ

Shockingly, I didn’t learn this in any of my American history classes. In middle school, we spent half a semester learning about Japanese culture and coloring electoral college maps with my teacher telling us how awesome John Kerry was.

Me learning American History

Then in college we spent half a semester on Hiroshima and discussed how racist the founding fathers, Joe McCarthy, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush were. We spent a week on the Magic Bullet theory and glossed over most of recent history to focus on Hurricane Katrina.

I really wish I was joking.

But I digress.

Once African-Americans were free of slavery and had legitimate voting power, (both thanks to Republicans) then and only then were Democrats forced into supporting Civil Rights legislation. It was all a charade for votes. Beyond this point, what significant events happened that showcased any sort of structural attitude change in either party? Not to mention, last I checked, the front runner in the 2012 Republican Primary, Herman Cain, is an African-American loved by many Conservatives. (Even despite his sideways twinkles controversy!)

Even to this day, the most inflammatory, offensive, racist comments come from the Left and are usually directed at the Right. Al Sharpton is busy debating whether Herman Cain is “authentically black” while Cornel West want’s Cain to get off the “symbolic crack-pipe”. Yet, somehow, we’re hiding our deep rooted racism because we support an African-American in some sort of twisted reverse psychology (according to Janeane Garofalo).

Even more ridiculous, we’re accused of hating Barack Obama just because he’s black. They say that our goal is just to “get a black man out of the white house” and our opposition apparently has nothing to do with his policies. Humoring that insane notion for just a moment, how is it that we accomplish this racist goal by supporting Herman Cain? I mean, in a Leftie’s mind, Conservatives/Republicans can somehow be both diabolically sinister and absolute morons at the same time, but even they should see that this would make no sense.

Evil Dumb Bush

Misrepresentation and misinformation has brought us ignorant Lefties and KKK members alike who think the Democratic Party are the warriors of Civil Rights while the Republicans are the party of racism. Despite most evidence pointing in the opposite direction for both sides, this has become a common belief among the masses. This somehow results in this party-switching myth, which seems like a really lame cop-out excuse for Lefties to use akin to “My dog ate my homework.” (Although, I guess a more apt metaphor would be “My dog ate my civil rights bill.”)

I guess it’s true that if you repeat a lie enough times, that it’ll eventually become truth…and that certainly seems to be the case here. Using that logic and judging by my own personal experience, I suppose it’s only a matter of time until Misfit Tots are learning that George Washington won the Hiroshima war in a kimono.

Thomas DeMichele on

Thank you for the thoughtful rebuttal, Obviously as the author I disagree and feel a bit like you didn’t follow the whole argument. Specifically, the idea that the social conservatives from the South are still the social conservatives from the south, but are now voting for a different party after the battle over Communism starting with Hoover (again see his Lily White Strategy). Also, what of Teddy and his progressive party leaving in 1912? Why would a progressive Republican leave? What of Eisenhower complaining of his party shifting to the right in the 50’s? Also, What of Strom? and Why did Wallace feel the need to leave and create his own party? Why did good ol’ Joe McCarthy switch from Democrat to Republican? The states’ rights movement of the mid-40’s clearly resurges as Goldwater’s states’ rights party, and is did Goldwater not spark the resurgence of the American conservative political movement in the 1960s? What of the southern strategy? What of the Lee Atwater interview that is posted above where he backs up my point, but not yours?

I again think people are mistaking economically liberal and authoritatively conservative pro-trade northern prejudice (the kind that say creates a Ghetto in Chicago or New York, but isn’t directly prejudice) with the Ol’ boy racism of the south (the kind that created literal slavery).

For my money I have a bone to pick with both groups, but it is very hard to justify standing against Civil Rights in the name of States’ rights in my book, thus I perhaps have the biggest bone to pick with the states’ rights southern democrats of old and the states’ rights southern republicans of new… on Civil Rights at least. On economics and the large range of other issues my views are as nuanced as the constant changes in the political parties (as it isn’t just Civil Rights stances and related factions that switch teams).

Let us also not forget, Albert Gore Sr. and LBJ refused to sign the Southern manifesto. Both had a spotty record, and far be it from me to go supporting Dixicrats (I try to remain centered for the reader, but trust me, I have my own opinions). So Gore filibustered the 64′ Civil Rights, but he support the Voter Rights Act a year later… That counts for something given the options. If you want a Civil Rights hero look to MLK, not his Dixicrat allies. Just like today, if you want a progressive hero look toward Bernie Sanders, not some neoliberal elitist banker… sure, they are kind of in the same party, but not really. You know?

I have a hard time believing Obama and Biden are the true southern racists and are knowingly selling out America while the proud pro-civil rights Fox News watching southerner fights for the sick, tired, and poor minorities. I mean, lets just look at The Affordable Care Act, it is today’s red state that rejects Medicaid expansion, and the numbers say this is essentially depriving poor minorities of healthcare (

I could go on, i’m sure you could too, but what we shouldn’t do is underestimate each other’s perspective. I see where you are coming from, and all i’ll ask is that you do the same. If we can come to agree on the facts, we may be surprised to see what else we agree on.

James on

Lots of strawman and logical fallacies in your opinion piece. Republicans have always been the party for individual rights; how that was accomplished may have changed (by having to create national laws during Lincoln’s time with a very small federal government) to the civil rights votes … if you actually look at the reasons for the Republican nay votes, you will see they opposed the government intervention into personal lives, while the Democrats strongly opposed allowing minorities the same individual rights as everyone else. The Democrats lost their plantations so have shifted the “plantation” to “government” and dependency. Before social programs, black marriage rates actually were higher than whites, and there were less black children born out of wedlock than there was white children. Also, look at the social programs the Democrats “champion” … planned parenthood, whose originators believed that negros were lesser people and that PP would assist with ethnic cleansing. Then look at what LBJ’S policies did to the black family… you could get as much assistance as you want … as long as there was no father in the household … and with that, you clearly dismissed Mike’s comments about LBJ and his clear pandering to minorities to secure their vote.

With each new “progressive” law … Obama care being a major one … it not only takes away from small business, it also takes away individual freedom and reliance. Labor participation (a much better indicator than the massaged unemployment rate) has steadily declined with the addition of each new social program … welfare, Medicaid, snap, and others.

The fact is that Democrats have simply shifted the plantation from a physical location to a dependence on the government by fooling it’s voter base. If you ask someone on the street which party started the KKK or filibustered the civil rights act, you will most likely hear “”republican” … even though that’s clearly wrong.

Also, you may want to check your info regarding MLK being a Democrat, he was a registered Republican, or you can always ask his family members … who all state he was Republican as well. You can also look at what Malcolm X said of the “white liberal” .. it is as true today as it was in the 60’s.

Thomas DeMichele on

Good feedback. Again though, and this might just be perspective, but I’ve always seen the Anti-Federalists, Democratic-Republicans, Third Party Democrats as favoring small government. What is popular sovereignty if not a call for the brand of Federalism that puts state power before federal power?

The Democrats of old were small government populists (both progressive radical and nativist radical). Today that is Republicans.

Again, I think we are confusing northern economic policies, which often are OK with a stronger federal government and things like a Federal reserve central banking system (which the Federalists and Whigs and third party Republicans wanted) with the social conservative small government south.

Again, we can paint either party as having polices that are detrimental to non-upper-class-white-males, and specifically to black Americans, but the ideology behind those polices is pretty clear each step of the way.

Our argument is that those Virginia Anti-Federalists are small government, those Civil War Democrats are small government, and then between Bryan, the Roosevelt’s, and the Red scare that shifts.

I think you make valid points, and all the switching has certainly mixed up who is on what side, but the small government vs. big government ideology has been a consistent divide that we can track, and that ideology switched from Democrat to Republican between 1865 – 1965 (and then to 1996).

To be clear, the southern Democrats are the root of Jim Crow laws, the KKK, and were the ones who filibustered Civil Rights (the southern manifesto is clear enough without looking at each voting record, but this should be done too). So while the average joe on the street might mistakenly assume the southern conservatives of the first half of the 1900’s were Republicans, they would be wrong (but I’d say their confusion is rooted in the switch, as that is true today).

The clearest proof of all the above is simply geographic location of voters who support each party over time. I don’t think we can really argue that that doesn’t switch. We need only look at the voter map and party platforms ( and

Yet… We should not divide over our past and should instead look forward together. As I said, if we are both arguing that we care about black America and general Americanism, then our main disagreement is over how to address issues (and not over whether an issue needs addressing). That is good!

No one is without blame, and it is a mistake to see the solid south as bad yesterday or today. The individual rights stance is prickly, but I refuse to believe the thinking process of large portion of my fellow Americans is without some logic or merit.

Let me present you with a favorite Jefferson (Anti-Federalist progressive social left-y for natural and individual rights slave owner from Virginia) quote:

“Men by their constitutions are naturally divided into two parties: 1. Those who fear and distrust the people, and wish to draw all powers from them into the hands of the higher classes. 2. Those who identify themselves with the people, have confidence in them, cherish and consider them as the most honest and safe, although not the most wise depositary of the public interests. In every country, these two parties exist, and in every one where they are free to think, speak, and write, they will declare themselves. Call them, therefore, Liberals and Serviles, Jacobins and Ultras, Whigs and Tories, Republicans and Federalists, Aristocrats and Democrats, or by whatever name you please, they are the same parties still and pursue the same object. The last one of Aristocrats and Democrats is the true one expressing the essence of all.” —Thomas Jefferson to Henry Lee, 1824. ME 16:73 (see this page for more on that quote and the parties

Here, he is not denoting splits between just left and right ideologies, but simply denoting splits between two like either left or right ideologies. He says, essentially, even though we see the same problem, we are naturally split over a solution.

The Gilded Age and Progressive age greatly confused the conversation, but the basic divides still split us and we can trace where that ideology has been favored. We will always seen it is the South who tends toward individual rights and classical liberalism / Democracy as a form of government and the north that tends toward aristocrats / Republicanism (banks, federal power, and general order, including now subsidization, taxation, regulation). This is the difference between a radical classical liberal and a conservative whig-like pro trade classical liberal. Those are America’s Federalists and Anti-Federalists, we simply need to trace their evolution… when we do, we find the story we presented above (although, I admit we can see it from different perspectives).

I would lastly just urge all readers to remember, the issue that started with indentured servitude and slavery (which Locke stood against), then became states’ rights, then today became this divisive conversation, is only one small aspect of the American debate. Don’t rule out corporations, central banks, and the size of government as more central issues. Heck, just the debate over silver backed and gold backed money dominated our conversation for years, as did Communism, all while Civil Rights often took a back seat. At other times, we all agreed on bad ideas as a majority, like Prohibition.

In summary, I still stand by the idea that switching happened and urge us not to only look at how this relates to Dixiecrats and black America. Even during the Civil War the South consisted of social conservatives and radical social progressives (they just favored individual rights over outlawing slavery). Some of both factions stayed with the Democrats for sure, but under Bryan and after Hoover many of the progressive Republicans and what today we call neoliberals migrated to the less Anti-government and Anti-Communism party of the post-Hoover Republicans.

Anyway, like I said, all good and valid comments. Hope to see more counterpoints.

MrApple on

Democrats desperately trying to distance themselves from their past.

Thomas DeMichele on

Neither party can fully distance themselves from either party given the way history worked out (with so many platform shifts and such).

Just remember, today the Republican party has its “red states” in the south, in the same states that formed the Confederacy, the same states in which slavery was an institution, and the in the same states where the Jim Crow laws got the most support in the early 1900’s. Also, the same states annoyed with the New Yorkers and rail road tycoons, and who were pro silver and farmer and such, those southern states wanted to keep America the way it was, and the wanted a fair shake for the rural farmer…

The history is complex, but it is a little short sighted to see the Democrats of today as the party of the deep Confederate south. There is a line to be traced between the southern progressives (who didn’t care for social conservatism regarding slavery) and today’s modern Democrat, and some lines can be traded for Dixiecrats, but generally we are talking about nearly every platform switching parties over time as factions and members shift.

The geographic evidence is a big clue. All we are really saying is that the southern social conservative is still the southern social conservative and the modernization northerner is still a northerner. But we can’t look at segregation alone, the Red Scare and then FDR actually tells a big part of the story and that is a story of the 1920’s forward.

Remember changes were happening as late as the 60’s, 80’s, and even 2000’s. So we can’t oversimplify this… but we also can’t just all appropriate Lincoln either. There was a war fought over an ideological divide that still exists in part today. To put that behind us in a respectful way we need to come to terms with some facts.

If you don’t agree with our narrative you can always just read the WikiPedia page:

I’m open to all feedback, but little quips aren’t really helping either side.

77 on

It’s really the history of the South. All the crime was committed by white southerners in the South.

Brent on

This is all so complicated because many things are occurring simultaneously as the story unfolds through history. Without significant study, it doesn’t seem possible to understand more than the most generalized conclusions. Being an engineer, In science, we used charts/graphs to help us understand. So, would it be possible for you to do the same? For example, take the value of “importance of individual rights” and trace it through time. It would look something like:

Carried the torch for individual rights:
YEAR: 1800 1860 1930 1960 1992
PARTY: Whigs Republicans Republicans Democrats Democrats
PRES: YYY Lincoln FDR Kennedy Clinton
EVENT: ZZZ Civil War New Deal Civil Rights XYZ

All this is just an example, but the idea is to break this down to a much simpler and easy to follow path for a single line of thinking rather than blend it altogether. I think this is easier to discuss.
thanks for your consideration.

Thomas DeMichele on

Very good idea. This page is an ongoing project and I will certainly take this into consideration. I’ve been trying to think of a way to display the information simply without adding another layer of complexity or simply more words to the overarching discussion. Thanks!

Victor Passenheim on
Thomas DeMichele on

Obviously we respectively disagree given the book-length essay that refutes these views above… But the feedback is 100% appreciated and respected. I’ll dig through here and give rebuttals.

One thing to note is that the Democratic party was split in factions since Bryan and Cleveland. We have a progressive faction, a libertarian faction, and an ol’ boy southern democrat faction. The southern democrat faction found a new home in the Republican party and have since dragged the Grand Old Party into the deep south of politics. I actually personally feel it is “what is wrong” with the Republican party of today and why you have the nativist populist Trump who not even CATO can stand next too. I.E. libertarians are like the Cleveland Democrats…

Today’s Democrats are a mix of Hamilton, Roosevelt, Bryan, and Wilson, and the dang southern Dixiecrats are STILL acting like Confederates and dividing the nation over their racist law-and-order BS. The modern Republican, or at least the ol’ south faction within it, is not the party of Jefferson, or even Jackson, this is the Party of Andrew Johnson that you invited into the Republican party with the southern strategy from Hoover, to Nixon, to Reagan.

Anyway, won’t go on this tangent… will review the links you posted and attempt to give feedback minus the emotion so we can actually communicate points with each other (or having it come off like i’m equating “the whole south” with Andrew Johnson’s divisive faction who almost split the Union back in the 1860’s (which would have hindered industrialization and our current status as superpower).

Remember, Federalist, Third Party Republicans, and Today’s Democrats are all the ones who favor “Northern interests” central banks, taxes, federal power, trade, globalization, etc… it is weird to see the Republicans of today with this group based on just the culture pushed on us by say NBC and Fox news. See what i’m saying here?

I’ll end by reiterating that a lot of this is about factions, not the overall party (although the company a party keeps does say something about them in any era).

Thomas DeMichele on


D’Souza Obliterates Leftist Professor During Q&A Session… Umm, actually Leftist Professor obliterates D’Souza… yeesh: The guy who starts this out is right, D’Souza is wrong (when he summarizes the argument he is right, but his rebuttal is wrong). Here is why, the party switching happens from the 30’s to the 90’s, D’Souza incorrectly assumes that the switch would have happened earlier (although he correctly postulates it is a reaction to the New Deal [and Great Society Programs and MLK]. The party of Hubert Humphrey and FDR and MLK and Kennedy drew in the black voter and pushed out the Dixiecrat (who, through the Conservative coalition with the anti-communists became today’s Republican)… This is OUR THESIS ABOVE.

Now he is right, the “NEW” programs draw in the black voter and get them to leave the party of Lincoln and join their previous oppressors. But this isn’t about the Dixie’s this is about the FDRs and Kennedys, and William Jennings Bryans of the world. This isn’t about the Dixiecrats using social programs as a honeypot, it is about the Progressives taking over the Democratic party and the Dixiecrats being pushed out as “a bunch of liberals” took over their party.


How do liberals take over a party and push out Dixiecrats you ask? Unions, support from industrialists, investors, and banks (despite the trust-busting), and a popular WWII President on the back of the Progressive era and then Great Depression (which followed a decade of anti-communist Republicans), and lots of boots on the ground progressives.

Today Clinton and Gore are about as close as we get to “Southern Democrats” still in the party (they aren’t saints, but they certainly aren’t George Wallace).

The key to this all is “factions” and realizing that the switch happens from 30’s to 90’s, not 30’s to 70’s and 80’s. Otherwise D’Souza is right about southernization and whites moving to the Republican party. Also, politicans don’t typically “switch” (sometimes they do like Strom) instead the parties and their voters switch and thus platforms switch over time (the title of the page is platforms switch).

D’Souza has his facts right, but his conclusions are wrong. War Democrats in the north are another issue (but we cover them above).

So the YouTube video is not refuted and our answer is clearer, more detailed, more accurate, and the correct account of history.


So first off, I have watched Fox News and rightwing Talk Radio. Trump wants to ship the Mexicans out of the country, build a wall, and “law and order” the “thugs”… right? So I mean, we know even the title of this article is refutable. Anyway. This is the Rebuttal of that:

The whole article can be proved to be off-base with a few simple points. 1. The switch happens from the 30’s to 90’s (it isn’t in full swing during Nixon at all; in retrospect Nixon is way more complex than we give him credit for, Glass Steagall, Freddie and Fannie, Kissinger, his southern strategy, his fear of hippies, his otherwise liberal policies, his very real struggles with war, the list goes on).

No, Nixon alone didn’t magically spirit away all the racists with his southern strategy, just like Hoover didn’t in the 20’s with his Lily White Southern Strategy (and look at the polls, unfortunately both parties still contain racists today “Republicans are more racist” according to polls, but “more racist” isn’t a compliment to anyone

What we are saying is that the policies put forward by the Republicans are in the spirit of the Southern “Jim Crowe” Dixiecrats and the anti-Communists. Their ideologies align, they both want less government, they both want less social programs, its odd they didn’t team up further, but the Dixiecrats are a loyal lot, and here we can (bad qualities aside) their good qualities (which all of America’s factions have).

The switch can be seen plainly right there:

Also Lee Atwater explains it all well:

In ’24 and ’44 blue is on the bottom, by ’92 blue is on the top. It isn’t that plain, but I mean look at the map and compare NBC to Fox news… the rest is just a matter of logic.

Lets speak plainly: The anti-communists and Dixiecrats and religious right are on a team right now (with certain business types; the neocons), that team is Republicans. The progressives and pro-trade group (so bankers, trade deals, northern business interests, etc; otherwise known as the neoliberal wing) are on another team, that team is Democrats. That is “modern red-state / blue-state politics”.

I’ll end by saying yet again. It is really strange that southerners of today want to appropriate the north who fought agains them and their Confederate brothers in the Civil War? Literally, your forefathers fought against the north (yeah, including the war Democrats, who are a bit like the neocons) and now you want to hold Lincoln up on a cloud of rainbows like he is your father and bestowed upon you your total progressive values which have you what, voting for Bernie Sanders over Trump…? No, right? It makes no sense. You don’t see Democrats praising Andrew Jackson or talking about how awesome it would be to abolish the IRS and have a society fueled by pure unregulated capitalism and southern interests.

I get it, Jim Crowe is a blight on history, but building a wall to keep Mexicans out will be too. Think about it. Meanwhile, once we do get our eye back on the ball, we should really address the many many issues which have gone unnoticed while we bicker. I noted Glass Steagall above, consider that Clinton signed the Republican initiated deregulation ‎Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act November 12, 1999… In this time we were more concerned with red-state blue-state and Monica Lewinsky than the bubble that would eat the 401k’s and pensions of hardworking people like you.

Above I note that northern interests have the backing of banks (think Hillary and Goldman Sachs), but this is one industry (like the military) where both parties have a foot in the door. Again, these are called neoliberals and neocons and, while I personally like them, I feel like those fighting against the idea that their southern ancestors from Mississippi were Dixiecrats would do better taking a closer look at America’s true history.

Benjamin P. on

Yoo. Demichele. I gotta tell you man, I really like the article as a whole but what I appreciate even more is your perseverance in fighting these keyboard warriors that wanted to find a page and comment how wrong it is based on a meme they saw their uncle or grandfather post on Facebook. But what I like even more is how you reply without anger and then type out a well, concise and articulate, whether it be wrong or right, reply to everyone. I truly respect that. Good stuff my man, good stuff.

Thomas DeMichele on

I Appreciate the kind words.

Dale Gross on

Even if everything in the article is true, it doesn’t support your position.

Frank on

I do not think it really matters since the only people who care are those trying to manipulate the votes. That said, it should be noted that when Jessie Jackson encouraged 7 or 8 million blacks to register to vote, a great many white Democrats quickly moved over to the Republican party. And it should be kept in mind, that whenever a characteristic is assign to an entire group, it is prejudice.

James O. Helms, CMSgt, USAF, retired on

This reminds me of what one of my professor peers once said about essay test questions, “If they give me a garrulous response, I just give them a pass for effort.” The facts remain, both the red and blue states share in their percentages of racist and that single important issue cannot be whitewashed with verbose postulations. The reality is, the primary differences between Democrats and Republicans is the Democrats will say/do whatever it takes to sway the vote in their favor. Because they can no longer get away with their old KKK approach, they have switched tactics. For example, LBJ is credited with helping the depressed blacks in America but in reality, all he wanted from them is their votes. Because the Black population in America is around 13 percent, the democrats are now increasing their voter base by bringing in millions of illegal immigrants, knowing they will return the favor by voting Democrat. Here, give an ear to your typical white Democrat:

Thomas DeMichele on

You aren’t wrong. Segragation is still a problem in areas dominated by Democrats like NYC (as John Oliver points out here, and banking deregulation which hurts lower-incomes more than higher incomes is favored by both parties, etc. It isn’t like Democrats are saints and Republicans villains. However, the conservative coalition and solid south shifted from the Democrats to the Republicans and this is what caused a southernization of the Republican party. So the switch is real, but anyone really paying attention is right to not give either party a free pass.

I see it like this. Our two parties represent two aspects of the human condition, specifically two major aspects of the American character. Neither aspect is right or wrong, they both have pros and cons. It would be my opinion that we need to work together to make progress, and that involves admitted where both parties have been wrong in the past and fixing it moving forward.

As to your LBJ point, he was emblematic of a change in U.S. history where some progressive southern Democrats stepped up to the plate to stand next to Northern Progressive Democrats who supported workers and “minorities” and generally favored King as a group (while some progressives favored Malcolm X and the radicals). This, and the Civil Rights legislation passed, sincerely pissed off the more conservative solid south democrats, and many migrated to the Republican party over the next 30 or so years by W. Bush (Clinton is sort of the last straw for the south, YET ANOTHER progressive southern force with Clinton and Gore; while Gore’s dad was more an LBJ figure btw).

Lee Atwater is emblematic of the change too, but he (a Republican strategist who understood the solid south strategy) comes later.

TIP: Do Democrats favor “minorities” (like Blacks, Workers, Catholics, Jews, etc) because they want more votes? SURE. Yeah, especially the LBJ’s of the world do this. They are politicans first and politicans second. Their base though, that is made mostly of idealistic progressives and market-minded liberals and northerners who are ideologically with the party of Hamilton and Lincoln (if not with just with Teddy and Bernie). That is mainly what you see is the Democrats embraing that voter base and the Republicans taking most conservatives into their big tent (modern left-leaning finance, like tech, north east businesses, and wall street asdie). Just look at the message of Trump and Clinton to find what the base wants, then look at the lobbyists, bills passed, and money to find out the full extent of what the party does to compliment this.

TIP: Humprhy was the liberal of LBJ and Humprhy, I don’t know if you saw the HBO LBJ show, but its fairly accurate. LBJ was an ally to the deepsouth, but ended up siding with Humprhy, MLK, and the liberals. Today the Democrats are the party of liberals and have lost thier southern conservative base (who was incrediably loyal post Civil War considering Bryan, Wilson, FDR, and the New Deal Coalition dominating their party since the early 1900’s).

Lee Atwater explains, in famously unrepeatable words, that there are things southern conservatives can’t say anymore and so they say “busin'” and “illegals” and “thugs” and stuff like that. By the time we get to Atwater the Democrats hate him, and he is the Republican darling of sorts, he is Karl Roves precussor.

There may be lots of similarities between Neocons and Neoliberals, but those Paleocons (whose forefathers were Confederates and fathers before that the Patrick Henrys of the world) used to be Democrats. Today the party of Obama, Kennedy, Clinton, Gore, MLK, Jessie Jackson, etc, etc is the party of Progressives and the solid south and their ex-anti-communist and religious-right conservative sidekicks have been throwing tea parties and worse at the new left constantly since the 90’s.

So, things changed, and the argument above stands, but I do think if anything it just shows how much work we need to do and how we aren’t natural enemies in any era, but rather two forces that need to balance each other (even when aspects of those two forces change).



Brett on

To make this essay a bit more credible, apart from the fact that it is inherently bias, do not at all refer to Wikipedia as a reference, either in the essay or in your rebuttals. Wikipedia sources are able to be accessed by pretty much any user, edited by said user to provide inaccurate information. For example, I could create an account, go to your source and rewrite to completely oppose your view. Wiki’s are designed this way and as such not trustworthy as a source. They are good for a starting point, as many have references that can be followed and verified. Additionally, using other people’s opinions also tends to led an author to be bias whether intentional or not. In short, get rid of the fluff and opinion, find the straight facts, present the facts, and keep a personal opinion out of it. Allow the readers to draw their own conclusions. I was very interested in your essay, but was put off immediately by the bias. Now to verify your facts, if I can find the time, I have to sift out your bias and verify them with at least three independent, non-partisan, and authoritative sources, to determine that they are indeed accurate. When presenting an essay of such a magnitude as this, it will aid the reader if such non-partisan and authoritative sources were made available for verification. As it is, your essay cites three references and thirty-six citations. Of these sources, the citations are your strongest evidence. I would recommend you find better sources and rewrite it with a concerted effort not to allow bias.

Thomas DeMichele on

I appreciate your feedback. I actually won’t argue with your assessment, and will work to eliminate the opinions and strengthen the citations over time (after-all

I find that Wikipedia tends to be generally accurate due to its process… but certainly again I won’t argue your point, if I was aiming to put this together as a book I would avoid Wikipedia for stronger citations (so it isn’t unreasonable to hold this page to the same standard over time).

I am confident that anyone who goes to fact-check this will come back finding that we have made a sincere effort, and will generally concur that it is based on fact (even when bias or opinion slips in), but with such a long essay pieced together over time, I won’t kid myself into thinking there isn’t room for debate or more work to do.

Thanks for the thoughtful response.

Darren Pearson on

This report is not accurate. The dxiecrats who left the democrat party to support Thurmon all returned to the democrat party except one,,Thurman himself.
No republicans became democrats during that time.
The big party switch of the 60 is a lie perpetrated by the left to escape accountability for their haenous actions. It is a complete myth.
The ideologies never changed parties. LBJ was a noted racist who voted against the civil rights act under Eisenhower. He later usurped the act as a strategy to gain the Black American vote.

Thomas DeMichele on

I know this is what people think, but it is a misunderstanding. Thurmond goes back with Wallace, but that is the 60’s and early 70’s. By the 1990’s those types are mostly out of the Democrats and in the Republicans, here in 2016 all these years later they are long gone (accept the converts who stayed).

Do the Yankee liberals really seem like solid south rebel flag flying Dixicrats from the deep south? NO! Of course not. That is the big hint.

You are right though, LBJ was a little racist. Pick up any LBJ biography and you’ll learn that on page 1. Then you look to his left and see the Kennedys, and MLK, and Humphrey, and the Hippies and Workers, and you are like “oh Democrats was just a big party with different factions, one faction was the solid south who were very loyal (in a sort of sweet racist side story).

LBJ’s rather ol’ boy racist politicking was what was able to garner the support of the Dixicrats at first, before him and the liberals pissed them off over and over to the extent that now we have Fox News which makes it a full-time job to attack northern liberals. Forget party names, think about issues, geography, and the character of people and you’ll see the story play out.

Anyway, we could go in circles. But the modern democratic party is not the party of the civil war. I mean, just look at a map. There are so many ways to explain this.

And really really, listen to this:

Sandra L Hauge on

I enjoyed your reading your perspective; however please read Chapter 6 in Dinesh D’Souza’s book “Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party”. It is very well documented. The Democratic Party enslaves those in poverty, especially the poor Blacks, even more than when they were in slavery. They give them just enough and do not expect anything of them. They don’t want them to be independent. Pres Johnson talked about having the “n*****” vote for the democratic party for 200 years by giving them welfare. Hopefully you will read this.

Thomas DeMichele on

Thanks for the comment. I do think I owe D’Souza a read through of his book, perhaps with a rebuttal on a separate page. It is obvious we disagree with some things.

I think this is something we have to look at your point separately from the solid south social conservatives / classical liberals. That faction, who would have been the confederates in the 1860’s, is with the Republicans today. So that doesn’t explain modern problems pertaining to race in the Democratic party. Instead, to me, it is the paradoxical effects of bureaucratic social justice programs after they have been porked up and cherry picked by officials and lobbyists that turns some safety nets into glass ceilings.

I think it is short sighted to equate Medicare, Medicaid, housing assistance, food stamps, obamaphones, child assistance, etc, things that help low-income of all races and sexes, with slavery. Slavery is an abomination in which not only labor, but a person, is owned by another person. Social programs are a double edged sword which create a net for our poorest, but have the downside of arguably being too comfortable and tax disadvantaged when it comes to increasing earned income.

I can look around and see the Ghettoes of the North and segragation, and if I had a time machine I could see it in early North East America too, this is not the same as the Southern Confederate rebel flag ex-slave state mentality, it is a different type of problem from a different type of American.

Today, the Democrats still have to face their own brand of elitism and racism, but it is not what you are thinking of with the Civil War Southern Confederates. That faction left the Democrats between the 1930’s – 1990’s, except in cases where reformed families like Byrds and Gores hung in there and admitted their wrongs.

Also, lest we forget, all politicians are politicians. I promise you, the modern progressive social liberal Democrat will jump through hoops to keep any voter they can, so i’m not saying that a Democrat wouldn’t beef up a social program to retain the votes of those who it benefits, they would! But, in the Republican party the same thing happens, they want to slash the net because they don’t even want to give them “just enough”. They want to give them nothing.

MLK knew history, he made his choice. Kennedy knew history, he made his choice. Bernie knew history, he made his choice. Obama knew history, he made his choice.

I really don’t think Wallace and Andrew Jackson would be Democrats today, but Democrats need to do a lot of work to explain why this list isn’t filled with southern states:

In short, I see what you are saying, and will read D’Souza’s book, but from my understanding of history, you are all seeing the continued problems of the North (since the days of Hamilton, to Lincoln, to FDR, to Kennedy, to Clinton, to Obama) and thinking you are seeing a continuation of the south… but the south is actually right under your nose.

Anyway, we are all Americans regardless of geographic location and race, and if anything the story only tells us we all have more work to do and have more in common than we sometimes like to admit.

Martin on

Reasonable information and a reasonable level of support. I appreciate your diligence. You’ll always have those that disagree but from what I’ve read their arguments are very weak and not worth consideration. Please keep up the good work!

Shavri on

You keep saying “However, the conservative coalition and solid south shifted from the Democrats to the Republicans and this is what caused a southernization of the Republican party. So the switch is real, but anyone really paying attention is right to not give either party a free pass.” Yett when people point out that only 3 people or 1% actually switched, you keep saying that the rest of them just retired. Well, yes, over the next SIXTY years. Yet you still want to say the parties changed when the “Solid south” moved to the Republican party. Huh? You seem to have ignored you OWN statement that the majority of them stayed on for the next thirty to sixty years. How is that switching in any sense? Just accept that neither party has ANY racist tendencies with some individuals being racist regardless of party. Different actions but same result.

Thomas DeMichele on

Look at a map of voters (as offered in the video above for example). The south used to be blue, now it is red. That is the big hint.

The parties switch platforms and a voter base from the 1930’s to the 1960’s. The main thing that happens is that the “solid south” switch. Those southern ol’ boys used to be Democrats, but now we know the rebel flag waving Americans are Republicans. We know this logically, we don’t need to see a signed document from a southern gentleman that says “I switched!”

While we can see William Jennings Bryan, FDR, and Kennedy like figures in the Democratic party since the late 1800’s, the solid south allies (the old Democrats) and their ideology is today found in the Republican party. We can point to the 1% who actually switched like Strom, we can point to Northern Ghettos, we can point to LBJ being sort of racist, we can point all over the place, but you know which party David Duke wanted to win, we know what party Jackson would have been in today, we know who the Confederates would be today… The Republican party’s anti-communist conservatism attracted the solid south, as both factions wished to “conserve” America.

I will say that the Clintons and Gores of the world are hybrids. They, like LBJ, still have a dash of ol’ southern boy in them, but obviously it isn’t enough to attract a modern gentlemen from Georgia is it? I mean, look at a map, look at the 2016 election, look at the party platforms.

American history is complex, but the current south is the south and was the south, and that was the group who joined the Confederates, and that was not the group that Lincoln and the pro-bank northerners fought against. I mean, we can say this a thousand ways.

AND “Just accept that neither party has ANY racist tendencies with some individuals being racist regardless of party. Different actions but same result.”…

Yeah, we freely point out the prejudice of a Northern Ghetto and compare it to say “the Black Belt”, but one type of racist is an elitist New York Liberal kind and the other kind is a solid south pre-civil war kind. I’m simply saying the northern kind is still the northern kind, but the party that represented that switched.

Thus, each party today is an evolution of past parties, but when having the Lincoln / LBJ conversation, we MUST look to the south and see how the solid south voter and political switched from Democrat to Republican. If they didn’t, Hillary would have just won 2016 as the Dems would have had a TON more votes than the Gilded Age Populist War Democrat like Trump.

Think about which party waves the rebel flag today, think about which party lives in the south, look at the vote map and see the switching colors, you have good points for sure, but I can’t and won’t sit here and pretend like Hamilton and Adams weren’t Federalists, National Republicans, Whigs, Republicans, and I won’t pretend that after Teddy things didn’t go south via Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover, I won’t pretend FDR isn’t an extension of Teddy’s social liberalism, I won’t pretend Kennedy and LBJ didn’t change things, I won’t not connect Reagan and Trump as California republicans, and I won’t ignore the southern strategy or which side the south votes for today.

And I certainly won’t ignore Lee Atwater when he, as a student of American history like many of us, says the same exact thing.

The Conservative Coalition and New Deal Coalition still exist today you know. Lets just recognize them for what they are.

To avoid a continued rant i’ll end by saying:

“If the Democrats are today the party of the Confederate south… Why in God’s name won’t the south vote for us?” Long live Dixie, vote for Bernie, Warren, and Obama?! Right? Climate change is real, a woman’s right to choose, LGBT rights, long live the south fella? See where i’m going with this? It is a silly line of thought, no? If so, try giving the above essay another read and suspend the disbelief. There are many factions in America, I admit the Gore / Clinton New Democrats exist, they just aren’t the same as their more traditionally Jacksonian brethren who today are Republicans.

TIP: For more reading, see my essay on “what is liberalism” Today’s republicans are radical classical liberals / social conservatives, the Democrats are generally social liberals / classical conservatives. People in the cities and north tend to be Democrats today, people in the south and cities tend to be Republicans today. Prior to the Civil War it was the other way around, just ask Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson, two amazing founders from Virginia who our northern darlings like Governor Morris and Alexander Hamilton managed to grit their teeth and get along with… and thank god they used critical thinking to find common ground, that is where our America and ‘Murica come from. We can do the same, but not based on some half-baked misunderstanding of history that tries to make the modern Republicans the party of Lincoln. We can take responsibility for the despair of Northern poor, but not for the actions of the south.

Jim Hill on

I personally still believe that Republicans and Democrats didn’t switch but I do like this article for being highly evidence-based and explaining every factoid in history that made you come to your conclusion. I find this admirable.
However, I find it extremely insulting that you said Abraham Lincoln would be a democrat in the modern political landscape. This underscores a creeping sensation that this article is subtly trying to imply that modern republicans and conservatives are evil racists and democrats are everyone moral in history. This detracts from the quality. Saying that every almost good republican in American history would be “left-wing” in this day and age is both alienating to anyone who isn’t a loyal democrat and makes you look hypocritical considering that this article tries to tell its readers to look past party names and assess politicians as individuals. It’s a simplistic line of thinking and only feels like more “republicans and southerners are evil racists” spew that will turn away anyone who isn’t left-wing.

Furthermore, after reading the article, I think a far more appropriate title would not be “Democrats and Republicans Switched Platforms”, but more that they’re tactics evolved.

In the article itself, you say that their ideological core has always stayed the same, individual freedoms vs collective benefit, which is what I believe as well. However the word, “switched” could make you sound like your saying politics has always been evil racists versus civil rights champions. You say yourself that neither party is necessarily racist in this day and age but the title “switched” seems rather counter-intuitive to the message. Parties evolved, people cross party lines, but considering that both republicans and democrats have voted for civil rights and freedoms in the past (not including the debate on affirmative action, and many republicans advocate for color blindness in the admissions process which is objectively less racist and condescending to minorities such as myself.)

Thomas DeMichele on

All good points. Thank you for the insight. I’m constantly having to reassess my stance on things. For the record I don’t think there is an evil party or faction and a good party or faction, it is just different types of Americans in different groups rallying behind different leaders with the sole intention of taking the country in the right direction.

I come from a family where 1/2 is staunch Republican, from Florida, super excited about building a wall, and think liberals are destroying the country, and 1/2 staunch Democrats, who live in the nice part of Connecticut, and think the country is doomed. I would no sooner dismiss an entire party than dismiss half my family (as tempting as it may be in heated moments when reason takes a back seat to passion).

I don’t want to lose 1/2 of my audience over my bias leaking through (my bias being that i’m a Hamiltonian first, a Jeffersonian second, and have to stretch to put myself in the shoes of John C. Calhoun or George C. Wallace)… But yeah I mean, at the end of the day, your points are valid, and I can put effort into not alienating my audience (with the article probably being better for it).

Appreciate the level-headed feedback.

ps. I do think you are onto something with the word “evolved”. That kind of splits the difference and lets us discuss changes without having to play hot potato with complex social issues. Dixie has its history, but part of that history has nothing to do with race and everything to do with being an underdog in the story of the rise of modern banking and neoliberalism. Likewise, that anti-communist Coolidge ideology or centered Eisenhower ideology has little to do with the solid southern wing of Wilson, FDR, and LBJ’s Democrats (and that aspect of modern Republicanism is still going strong). Always trying to step into the other person’s shoes, especially when it is the shoes of those whom I personally identify with the least…. although that is easier said than done for sure.

DK on

Fantastic stuff, but I especially applaud the genuine effort you put to remain balanced, hear criticism, and respond thoughtfully.

Thomas DeMichele on

Thank you for the kind words. It is difficult to tell a large and complex story like this without letting any bias slip through. I think, from a modern frame, it is tempting to believe that whatever party we are in today has always held nothing but the positive values we support it for in this moment… but that isn’t true.

It is also perhaps tempting to believe that progressives have always been in a party opposite of other less progressive figures like very conservative slave holders, warhawks, or globalist or nativist businesses barons… but that is also not true. What is true is that different progressive and conservative factions have fluidly changed parties over time and embraced different voter issues in different regions and eras… and sometimes, like with LBJ, this results in single figures holding mixed ideologies.

Nothing about our history magically makes a modern Progressive “exactly the same” as a staunch Confederate, or a McKinley / Roosevelt Republican “exactly the same” as a Know Nothing in any era, but it does hint that alliances can be made between nearly any type of American and that who today we see as our “opponent” was not always this.

Interestingly, parties are still changing today. Some who voted for Trump voted for Obama, some who were Democrats are now Green, some who were Republican now libertarian, some who were Democrat now “BernieCrats”, some who were Establishment old gaurd Republicans now “Trumpsters”. All this just in the 2010’s!

Who wants big government? Who wants small government? Well it really depends. Is government putting “one nation under god” in the national anthem? Or is government expanding public healthcare? Is government taxing imports? Or is government signing fair trade deals? In each case, you’ll attract different ideological factions to different ideological stances.

Still, all changes and nuances aside, while some modern Republicans are roughly Lincoln Republicans, and some modern Democrats are roughly George B. McClellan Democrats, mostly (if we had to divide by north / south today) the North would be Democrats calling for a Union, Central Government, and Social Justice and the South Republicans calling for limited government, nativist “America first” policies, and rural interests. Of course, even in that Civil War, we had War Democrats in the north and to some extent the equivalent in the south and in some eras, even after they had become more progressives, Democrats were the party of rural America and Republicans the party of big cities like NYC.

We must remember, there is no mandate for history to be simple, and for our all our differences, our love of liberty unites us, even if we disagree on what liberty should look like and government’s role in defending liberties and rights any era.

There is too much history binding us together for us to try to make overly simple and divisive conclusions today, and that means we can’t just say overly simple and “alternative-fact” truths like: “because welfare can be oppressive and because a Democrat is called a Democrat the modern Democratic party is still the party of the 1850’s conservative south”…. most of us logically know that isn’t true in general, but it takes a lot a true facts and history to understand the nuances. Once we have the nuances down, we can just simplify it as “factions change and the solid south faction that led the confederate army has mostly shifted to the Republican party… not every member, but mostly from the Civil War to the modern era… and meanwhile, concurrently, the Progressive coalition in the modern Democratic party has grown as well”.

There are a thousand ways to phrase it, but the answers are always found in key figures like Bryan and the Rooselvets, Calhoun, Jackson, and the many Wallaces, and in factions like the Know Nothings, Tea Party, Populist Party, Progressives, Bourbon Liberals, Neoliberals, Red scare, states’ rights, etc.

All that said, we all live in the same America, so who am I to tell a modern Republican who loves Lincoln that Lincoln isn’t for them? Figures like Reagan, Lincoln, Jefferson, and Esienhower are too great and centered for one party to hold a monopoly on. It is American tradition to at least allow for a duoploy 😀

Roger Yaste on

Not only a myth, an outright lie by the left trying to escape responsibility for their racist actions.
The truly absurd bit about the Left’s beloved Southern Strategy nonsense is that the people who espouse it have precisely zero conception of the time scale necessary for it to work. We’re to believe that Richard Nixon created this elaborate racist scheme to win the South that took almost thirty years to cook off. Because between 1968 and 1996 the GOP ‘won’ the South three times: once during the disastrous McGovern campaign, once during the even more disastrous Mondale campaign, and finally during the slightly less disastrous Dukakis campaign*. During each of those times – and in the 1980 election the GOP cleaned up everywhere else, too. Meanwhile, the South continued to field significant numbers of Democratic Congressmen and Senators until well into GWB’s first term. State legislatures and Governors took even longer for the GOP to dominate. Translation? Nobody in the Democratic party who duckspeaks the Southern Strategy meme ever bothers to look at a map.

Put simply: Occam’s Razor allows us to use a much simpler answer than Mystical Ninja Shadow Racism to explain what happened. To wit, the South went GOP in my lifetime for two reasons. One: the national Democratic party ended up being run by Northern and West Coast liberals who [expletive deleted] hate the South. Two: the old school (and often extremely racist) Southern Democrats died out, and their (often quietly embarrassed) children decided that some traditions didn’t need preserving – like segregation, other forms of institutionalized racial prejudice, and voting for Democratic candidates. Backing that point up is the amusing little quirk of American political life that white Southern Republicans seem to have no problem whatsoever with electing minority conservatives – which is a trick that white Southern Democrats still seem to have not really mastered. Or white Democrats in general, honestly**.

Shorter Moe Lane: you may safely assume that anybody who spouts the Southern Strategy nonsense at you is ill-educated at best, and doomed to stay forever in the kiddie wading pool that’s just beyond the shallow end of the gene pool at worst. Which would certainly explain why they’re remarkably childish, and always vaguely smell of pee.

Thomas DeMichele on

Well, I obviously disagree with everything you said, think you are just twisting the truth and focusing on the 80’s when you should be looking at the simple truths like: 1. who flies the confederate battle flag. 2. Who has the policy that is socially liberal like the old social liberal liberal Democrats who were a faction in the Democratic Party who are still there next to very few reformed Byrds 3. The Bleeding Voting map over time 4. Literally the Powell Memo, Strom’s southern strategy under Nixon, and the conservative coalition. 5. The Fact that there are near ZERO social liberals in the Republican Party (like McCain, just barely). 6. The fact that the KKK generally supports Republicans. 7. The fact that… both parties have racists in them in any era. 8. Jeff Sessions comes to mind. 9. Teddy’s exit from the Republican party and the rise of progressivism and immigration which changed the Democratic Party and push away the south especially after 1964 and 1968 (if not, Democrats would have just won every election by a landslide).

Do you not see the States’ Rights parties, the American Independent, etc? Like the Populist and Progressive parties, their breaking away was no accident. It tells part of the story.

At least us progressive left populist Democrats didn’t go nestling up to the Tories! (it is a little snooty to go there, but if you follow me, the progressive populist like Bryan stayed in the Democratic Party and the Southern Bloc joined the very party that fought them in the Civil War).

Our whole history is proof, what happened happened, no need to insult others (true for me and you), snark is OK probably, but insulting is not. I don’t actually feel ill will, just frustration that ya’ll are trying to make Bernie like Hitler and the Confederates when the Republican Big Tent contains its Know-Nothing and Solid South Faction… Like really, own your own thing. I own mine. Shall I quote you Teddy’s New Nationalism or explain the perks of Rousseau? Because I feel no shame for my own ideology, I suggest not feeling shame for yours.

As far as facts go, you can’t win this argument (there are points to be made about Gore’s and Clintons and Bryds, and the ills of the welfare state, but you can’t magically change how the Southern Bloc votes).

You can however help to force us to focus in on the truth. That truth is that 1. the change happened slowly (true for all eras) and 2. this happens over generations. You say the extreme southern racists died out. Ok, so that is partly true, they didn’t live for ever and switch parties. Instead the next generation of slightly less racist southerners joined the Republican party (as you can see if you look at House and Senate seats over time and the voting blocs and platforms and policy in-action; not just look for literal switches).

Bottom line here is the socially liberal Democratic Party has becoming increasingly socially liberal and increasingly less Dixiecrat since the times of William Jennings Bryan. If we didn’t lose our Southern Bloc, whey did we lose it? Like why aren’t they voting for us and we winning elections.

If you do insist on your history. Someone tell Jeff Sessions to get back to the party, why go with Bannon’s Populist Nationalism when the Good ol’ Dixie south is still clearly Democrat?

I’m happy to twist truth if it gets me votes. But I do have to say, it would seem to me like the Southern Bloc abandoned us (Democrats) to go support the conservative fox news coalition in the fight for free-enterprise against the progressive globalist neoliberal state. I mean, as much as the master plan conspiracy about the northern welfare state (which existed since for ever) being like the southern plantation makes more sense.

All the blabbing I can do aside here. In-action the results of this are what is happening now as we speak. The Know-Nothings, Southern Bloc Conservatives, Neocons, Religious Right, and other socially or classically conservative factions have teamed up in a conservative coalition which is pushing back against the Democratic Party and the global progressive neoliberal (which used to include the bloc and now does not)…

I get why everyone wants Lincoln and no-one wants Calhoun, but yeesh, like I said, if you don’t respect em’ send up back over here because we need the votes.

Sorry for the equal opposite rant there, appreciate any an all feedback even if we are just throwing fact spaghetti at each others walls.

Check out this version of the switch, it focuses less on the South (I get why that is divisive, the Federalists ragged on the South hard back in the day, but hey, the switching shows we can always form new allies as voter issues change and the country changes too).

Thomas DeMichele on

So to be fair, reading your comment again and thinking on it more. You are implying that both parties changed in policy and members and that white southerners of the next generation support the small government conservative policies and not the liberal Democratic Party. That makes sense, that still fits the history as it is. I think the charge that republican policy is racist (strict voter Id, a wall, no to Medicaid expansion, etc) is a separate issue in some ways. If we agree that the charge the alt-right makes (that the southern conservative solid south voter is still a democrat on average and there was no switch) is wrong and we agree the parties changed and factions changed parties, we can then have the conversation about the effects and intentions of both teams policies as a separate issue. The main charge here for me isn’t that the south is racist (a prejudice idea itself) it is that progressive liberal democrats in the Democratic Party aren’t the confederates of 1860 and that the welfare state is not a thing that correlates to chattel slavery and that there was a conservative coalition formed around small government that changed the parties. The south now votes republican as a bloc (clearly), but it does not mean either team is somehow carrying on the racist politics of last generations itself. Does that makes sense? Still don’t fully think our facts line up, but I do get what you specifically (not with the videos on YouTube that charge “the switch is a myth”).

Perhaps I can best summarize the positions like this: I can see how it is not helpful for liberals to display prejudice against the South due to the feeling like the South’s own historic prejudice is holding back better progressive social policy. I do realize that the “Solid South Switch” is only one switch, and that given it is something that happened over a long stretch of time there is a generational factor.

That said, I’m not originating the story.

The reason I wrote this in the first place is because I kept hearing this sort of alt-media about “how the switch is a myth” and how “Lincoln was a real republican”. In other words, our page is part history lesson, but also part a response to the alt-right talking points that fill the internet like: “Hitler was a liberal” or “the parties didn’t switch”.

Like a Southerner may be offended by a northern liberal trying to tell them “the Republicans are the party with the racist southerners in it”, I can confirm that a northern liberal finds it equally offensive to hear “modern Democrats are the party of the KKK and the welfare state is the new chattel slavery”, or “Lincoln was a Republican, just like a modern Republican” (implying stances on race or the use of state), or “Bernie is a liberal like Hitler because they both want healthcare”. Just consider how messed up it is to hear stuff like that, it really dips a toe in Storm Front land and tries to re-write history (and I certainly never hear long introspective pages considering my points).

Still, one has to consider, “wait, if one faction of old Democrats is fighting with another one… who is benefiting from this?” Is this just two old factions of Democrats slinging mud, or is something else going on?”

I could go on, but you already know that. I’ll save musing on sideways questions for other pages. Still, good points. The switching from DixieCrat to Republican of some of the South isn’t just about “race” it is about small government and the progressive welfare state and to what degree it is about prejudice is something everyone gets to decide for themselves (although policy in-action is telling… but again, another story).

So to end. Videos like this “Bill Whittle – Racism – Democrats and Republicans switch sides?” are generally completely wrong or missing key details, but it doesn’t make one party the good guys or one party the bad guys. So much has changed and in no era was one party all good and one party all bad. So try not to see it that way.

Fact Man on


Tippy on

LOL, what a Leftarded Opinion Piece of Donkey Dung! A very well educated person in Denish Desousa exposes this biased author’s opinion piece in Hellarys America. It is very well documented and exposes this Political HACKS bias and lies posted throughout the opinion rant. The DemonKKKrats Racist Organized Crime Syndication has been trying to pass off their Racist and Criminal Record over to the Republican Party for decades. Despicable history of the KKK Party, Party of Slavery, Anti Civil Rights, wrote and passed their Racist Jim Crow Laws and Segregation. Murdered Lincoln, MLK and LBJ’s CIA murdered the Dems lone good President in JFK. Read Blood. Blood​, Power and Money along with Who Killed Kennedy The Case and Evidence Against LBJ. Oswald was the DemonKKKrats pansy…

Erin Georgen on

Right, so what we are doing above is debunking Dinesh D’Souza’s version of history. What he says is true, but his conclusion is wrong. That faction of social conservatives that he bad mouths, and who we treat with respect in our essay, is now Republican (look at the map and think about who waves the confederate battle flag). We all get to bring our opinions to the table though, thanks for sharing yours. We will be doing a fact-check of D’Souza’s viewpoint, that will of course include a much more respectful view of the south (whatever party they are in today). It will show how the “Sixth Party Strategy” changed the Republican party to create a conservative coalition as the Democratic Party became more “left” in response to the rise of progressivism. Today the forces that pulled the parties and factions apart can be see in the head-to-head over nationalism and globalization globally. We need to stand together as Americans even when we disagree. Or that is our response at least. Peace, love, and libtard rainbows.

Kevin H on

The two party system requires coalitions of voters to hold together. Sometimes parts of it dealign and realign with another party, hence the switching of some ideas and shifts of coalitions.

Thomas DeMichele on


So the idea here is that as America and the Democratic Party became more progressive (from the late 1800’s on, but especially after 1912, 1932, and 1964) a conservative coalition formed in the Republican party to pushback against the growing coalition of New Deal progressives in the Democratic Party.

This tug of war resulted in Fox New and the “sixth Party strategy” and “southern strategy”. Today the Solid Southern bloc votes Republican, but there is still a lot of Democrats and Republicans in any reason. Just that those one party states are voting Republican and the parties have generally changed.

This is provably true, one can see it in rhetoric, on the voter map, on Fox and NBC, in the platforms, and everywhere. It isn’t just history, it is empirical reality, it is what is happening right now.

I would be very insulted personally if I was a Solid South voter, as the Republicans are dragging their history through the mud to try to discredit Bernie and Obama. Progressive Dixies and big city machines are real, but the History that Hillary’s America tells is that of the Southern Conservative. So messed up to use them as pawns in trying to attack progressives. One can see why that faction sided with liberals back in the day if that is the way the Tories treat their fellow factions.

Caleb Ely on

This topic is always about making a point about which party is “more racist today”. To answer this question, it is much more effective to just look at the CURRENT policy positions of the two parties and see which support race-base defacto unequal treatment under the law. I know Democrats do support some race-based programs like affirmative action, as a part of their platform today, but I cannot think of any Republican one’s. At what point in history did Republicans ever have a platform of unequal treatment based on race? As far as I understand, it was only ever a Democrat position. We can discuss switches on other policy positions, but if racist policies is the ultimate question, we should recognize that Republicans platform has had no historical or current racist polices. And we should note that switching of the parties on other polices did not effect the racism of the parties. Blacks started voting for the Democrats in the 30’s while they were the still the party of the KKK. This happened because Democrats switched on other economic policy positions, but they were still the racists.

Another important question is, if you are a Democrat today, ask yourself what Presidents do you support their platform. Some Democrats may say Lincoln, but most will also have presidents like FDR, LBJ, Woodrow Wilson… Current Democrats identify with these men and their policies. This is does not indicate that current day Democrats just don’t know that they are themselves racist. If you think you are not a racist, you likely are not one. It does however indicate that they identify their policy positions with the racist Democrats of the past and would indicate that there was not much of an ideological switch.

If you ask a Republican, they will say leaders like, Reagan, Coolidge, and Founders like Washington and Jefferson. The more modern 2 are Republicans and did not have the racist policies of the likes of FDR, LBJ, Woodrow Wilson.

I think the policy and strategy changes around the time of Theo Roosevelt are conflated with Republicans becoming Racist, that was never a policy that switch at the time. It ignores that the racist were still in the Democrat party through the 60’s. Then, as we became less racist as a nation, they declare the racists went to the Republican party but there is little evidence of this in actually party platforms, it is more an indication that the nation became less racist altogether, and any changes in geographical alignment with party was not based on race policies but based on economic changes geographically.

Thomas DeMichele on

All good points, thank you for the thoughtful response, let me offer some counterpoints (for give any hyperbole, if I didn’t see politics as complex I would use way less words in general):

This isn’t “all about race” it is also about women, immigrants, low-income Americans, LGBT, and all other minorities that progressive liberals wake up and fight for every day against the “Vast-right wing strategy” the conservative machine that would defund the arts just to get the progressive over-educated liberals who don’t work in business off publicly funded Media.

This is a struggle between free-enterprise Powell-memo-style and Progressive America (which certainly includes many women, immigrants, low-income Americans, LGBT, and since the 1930’s black Americans).

In fact, more than it being about social issues or prejudice, it is really just about the push and pull between big government progressives and small government conservatives (where small government does include statist socially conservative policies and big government includes some planks like states’ rights on pot; again complex, not simple).

Complexity aside, that story explains why all these conservative movements teamed up, they had to push-back against the progressives to save business and to conserve back to a time when there was no income tax, no protections for the have-nots, less immigration, etc. This is well documented and makes sense if you listen to any rhetoric of the GOP or look at any of their policies or flip on Fox news or right-wing radio.

This isn’t to say that most GOP are overtly racist, it is to say they are as an effect of all the single issue conservative issues they support. They dress it all up as “small government”, but that is a in many cases a dog whistle.

What is the effect of “small government” States’ Rights… well, we saw that with the Democratic Party from 1860 to 1960, the result is blacks get hurt worse than whites, that poor rural America gets hurt worse than middle-class citied America, that the school in the ghetto suffers while the upper-class gets more “choice”.

Today we can see strict voter ID, gerrymandering and the black belt, a call for “law and order” and a rejection of BLM, we can see anti-LGBT, we can see the religious right trying to defund planned parenthood, we can see GOP saying no to common core, we can see they saying “support private prisons and get though on crime”. These are issues where Democrats stand with their allies in a rainbow coalition, and the socially conservative GOP does not. Are some of those in the rainbow cashing in on the hard-work, yes, that is a complexity (we progressives call it neoliberal, but it isn’t as simple as one faction or term).

Look, to me, the effect of those socially conservative policies are all very racist and classist. Just because we can put lipstick on the phrase “build a wall and keep America safe” or “America first”, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have xenophobic undertones. Likewise, when the GOP says their other dog whistles, it works the same way.

People respond to these whistles, so it seems dishonest to pretend like they aren’t a thing. Everyone screams and cries when Trump says “law and order”, but the intellectual liberal knows the history of the phrase and is offended. Not everyone catches this, but those professors in the schools the right slanders do (not unrelated of course).

The GOP wants to defund Medicaid expansion. Who does that hurt? You can call it what you want, but the statistics show it hurts poor black Americans (just like so many of these other policies).

Meanwhile conservatives will say “oh that expansion, those food stamps, that affirmative action (which was not a great policy by the way)” they say that is just the racist welfare state Democrats using big government as a new form of slavery (but wage slavery and chattel slavery are different and the history of each is complex… So, that charge is slander at best (especially when applied to the virtuous progressive who fights for the have-nots and not the elite neoliberal whose tower is across from Trump’s).

We Democrats, especially the Progressives, are simply trying to move forward the policies of FDR, MLK, Kennedy, and Obama. Food stamps, PBS, education, healthcare… this isn’t an attempt to profit (for most Democrats), it is an attempt at progress. We are reformers, not conservatives.

Look, though. I’m talking about factions, not parties as a whole. There are good hearted liberal Republicans and simple pro business republicans and traditional republicans… These are the one’s who voted against big government and for anti-elite change. I get that. I respect that… but they are in bed with some crazy factions who chant “climate change isn’t real”, “strict voter ID”, “Lock her up”, “feminists stink”, “segregation isn’t that bad”, etc. They don’t just chant it, they use right-wing radio to indoctrinate their base in a way that is going to be a blight on their history (now that Trump has gone all Twittery I don’t think history can or will ignore it).

From 1787 to today the Anti-Federalists, Democratic-Republicans, Democrats (of each era) have had more than one faction in the party. One of those factions was the Socially Conservative Solid South (there is of course more factions in the south, but that one tends to dominate). However, since around 1965 (when black America could finally vote freely and when the Hippy uprising was starting to change America post-war in a progressive direction) things really changed.

From the 1960’s forward most politicians stopped being overtly racist (as that could no longer win votes) and instead turned to “dog-whistle politics” (racial codes). They couldn’t say the N-word, so they said looters, and moochers, and busin’, and law and order. Stuff like that. – LEE ATWATER EXPLAINS WHAT THE POWELL MEMO DOESN’T HERE.

Today, when they say “welfare queens” and “poor welfare moochers”, though on crime, rioting, Obama phones, the poor don’t want Medicaid, and all this other lingo, they are still being racist, they just aren’t saying it head-on.

We can confirm this in Goldwater’s policies and we can confirm it in Reagan’s.

We can see Clinton’s Crime bill and scoff (as we should), but that was him being a Reagan Democrat and trying to win back the part of America who was howling at the dog whistles screaming the 80’s version of “lock her up” and “drill baby drill”.

So why does this happen? Again, this happens because of the New Deal Coalition (the progressive liberals of the coasts and cities who have been dragging America toward a progressive future, since FDR on) and this happens because of the Conservative Coalition (the big tent of socially conservative factions like Solid South, Religious Right, and Big Rural Business) have been pushing back (by some shadey means at times that should really offend more than they do).

This conversation gets the dog whistle terms “big government” / “small government” to describe it, but again, what is the effect of small government? The effect is no regulation, the effect is no medicaid expansion, the effect is defunding the arts, the effect is climate change denial, the effect is school choice (which hurts black America), the effect is strict voter ID (which hurts black America). The effect is gerrymandering around the “black belt”:

The post 1960’s Republican dresses up the hateful policy (that sometimes went to third parties like the States’ Rights and American Independent (although too much focus on this ignores the Know-Nothing faction of Republicans who did not switch much and the America first one), so it looks like “no one is racist anymore”, but the “ends” of their policy is still racist in its effect and intent.

Meanwhile the Democratic Party is the party of progressives, sometimes the welfare state creates some bad effects, but its hard to say it is purposefully prejudice to offer food assistance, housing assistance, healthcare, education, etc. That is a stretch considering those programs weren’t really embraced by conservatives of any era and states’ rights was often about breaking them and starving the beast.

We have pro business factions in the Democratic Party, and I’m sure we have many who are just as racist as the average Republican (which I like to think is “not very racist” outside of the single voter issues of some factions)… I don’t think the average person is overly racist, instead I think that the conservative coalition in its war against progressivism benefits from dividing the people by social issues and taking away programs that direct government spending directly at the have-nots (and then black America gets hurt as an effect; it isn’t a direct thing for factions outside of a select few like Duke’s).

This isn’t just about social issues, it is about voting power, it isn’t just about voting power it is about economics, it isn’t just about economics, it is about progressive neoliberal globalization vs. conservative nativist nationalism. It is no different globally than it is in America, it is a shadow of WWII dancing on the wall, it happened in the Civil War, and it happened in other revolutions. It is the complex natural response to social, political, and economic inequality to pushes brother to take up arms against brother. It is a dark and deep concept that requires as many words as it takes, but the human attention span is hardly going to tolerate that.

So, to sum this up, the Progressive Party of Democrats has become less and less of its old self from FDR, to LBJ, to Clinton, to Obama, to Bernie and Hillary as factions changed and new voter issues took importance, and meanwhile the Republicans have turned to dog whistles and fox news (mashing up a pro business message which hurts low-income with a religious right and socially conservative message that wants its single voter issue social conservatism). The effect of all this is prejudice in that it hurts poor people, women, seniors, minorities, progressives, LGBT, etc, etc.

I’ll end by saying this “don’t insult progressives, LGBT, women, black America, immigrants, liberal professors, liberal Hollywood, or liberal whatever” by saying we are voting for racism when we vote for a more socially liberal state. Our social Democrats and neoliberals don’t agree, but no faction who comes out for the party en-masse is being duped by some secret southern racist in the party.

Likewise, I’m not saying the bulk of the solid south is racist, I’m saying they teamed up with the old Tories and know-nothings in a big tent with the relgious right to push back against the progressive welfare state.

Likewise, I’m not saying the bulk of the Republicans are racist, only that white nationalism is not a thing of the social progressives… when it becomes such, we call it by its name, fascism.

We all act in our self interest (that is Smith’s invisible hand), but the faction that used to be the solid conservative Democratic Party south turned their back on the liberal Democrats to support their new interests in Goldwater, Nixon, Reagan, Bush, and now Trump.

We can all go sleep in the bed we made, but of course history happened the way it did. America got less overtly racist (and probably literally less racist), but the Republican party has policies that hurt everyone except rich white people… Which kind of sucks for all the poor rural Americans in the deep south who get promised “small government” and really just get their assistance taken away.

It isn’t a secret, I’m an ex-Republican northern liberal who voted for Bernie, ally with Democrats out of policy preference, but prays for a Roosevelt Republican. I know my history, my positions, my stances, and which factions are working against me. I wish others would be as discerning.

I get why the rural south doesn’t like citied liberals, but I do feel sort of bad that they have to sacrifice their economic interests for their pride and get dumped on by the rest of their party at the same time.

You above noted Presidents of each party as inspirations for each type of American, at the end of the day, that is where we agree. More than caring about parties, I care about Americans and liberalism. I hate polarized politics because it hurts America, I dislike prejudice exclusive policy because it offends what I see as our virtues.

Anyway: It is a fact the parties switched. Now is it a fact that the South becoming not racist lined up with them switching to Goldwater and Nixon and Reagan and Bush? That is of course another subject. It is a fact that the Conservative Right-Wing strategy occurred and created Fox News and that sometimes that pushes alternative propaganda designed to indoctrinate the right with religious right and business conservatives views…. but is that racist or is just pro-business and small government? I don’t know, seems like both to me, but maybe i’m hearing a dog whistle that isn’t there.

I didn’t vote for old man Trump, I voted for Bernie. However, I am conservative myself in many ways and think the parties being divided over social issues while the business wings of both parties profit couldn’t be worse for the nation. I’d rather we talked out our differences honestly and worked together.

If you want to understand more of what I really think about politics check out the bevy of other articles. I get that as long as we connect race with switching we won’t agree here, so how about we remove race and talk about the real effects of liberal and conservative policy in America. I doubt Washington would have approved of factions fighting factions while the nation and people of our nation suffer.

For more on the race part and what I think about that aspect, see:

Vincent Licitra on

Too long and making many assumptions. Even the VOX videos have clear misleading comments and outright mistakes.

Thomas DeMichele on

Thanks for the feedback, the page is long, but also very complete for the researcher who wants the info.

The problem is the history of the parties is long and even a film like Hillary’s America is way overly simple and takes an essay to debunk.

Will try to trim this up, but I’m very sure we are right. Happy to address any specific point.

As for the VOX videos, they aren’t perfect (fully agree there), but they sum things up better than any other videos I could find.

Certainly modern democrats aren’t confederates and certainly things have changed a lot.

I expect that this is one resource in a long journey of research for people who happen upon it. What you do is take our research and then go explore 1912 or 1968 or 1860 for yourself. Google “first party”, google “anti-federalist”, and take your journey to better understand our parties.

Our site has tons of resources and explainers, yes, maybe too many a times, but tons.

When I can formulate this into less words I’ll come back with a simpler version 🙂

TH on
Doesn't beleive this myth.

I love how brief the references are to LBJ. There are none of his intently racist quotes talking about n++++++ and how they will vote after he passes his Entitlement Packages. Further, when LBJ nominates Marshall the high court. The movie All the Way paints LBJ as an ardent supporter of African Americans, but truthfully he was a hateful self absorbed opportunist racist Democrat interested only in securing the votes of African Americans through political pandering. Then there is Wilson. Seriously. How about you read some articles about how the economics of the South impacted the voting patterns.

Thomas DeMichele on

Seriously though, I do talk about ol’ progressive Dixie LBJ. He had a mouth on him as I say. That is empirically provable with all the footage out there and secondhand accounts.

In fact, “progressive Dixie” is almost a misnomer. He was a rather poor progressive as an absolutist term, but over time he became a pretty darn good ally of progressives. Not on every issue, but on those key Kennedy Civil Rights issues. Ultimately, all his words and actions aside, there are a few points when he stood with progressives and liberals, and those few points changed the United States forever.

That is how to understand LBJ. He only looks progressive at certain points in history, and only looks progressive in contrast to the ol’ boy conservative solid south ones who switched like the Thurmond (those who were somehow to the socially conservative right of progressive Dixiecrats… every faction has wings, as noted above).

The problem is, you are trying to treat LBJ’s racism and southern charm like it says something about the parties switching or about the Democrats in the party here in 2017.

But the maps of 1964 on tell a different story.

Yeah, LBJ was a big towering progressive Dixie with a mouth on him, probably filled to the brim with implicit bias, and we could go on and on about him. I mean he was divisive, if not, why did the South switch on him so hard and go bananas over states’ rights Barry Goldwater (see the voting map:

But, let’s not lose track here, LBJ wasn’t Thurmond, he wasn’t Goldwater, and he wasn’t a modern Republican.

Heck, there are lots of progressive southern Democrats in the party today, so at any point it isn’t like everyone in the south has the same politics. There are lots of democrats who are liberal on many issues and conservative on others (same for Republicans in any era), so it isn’t like every liberal is a saint or every conservative trying to pull a reverse Robin Hood in every instance.

I think of LBJ like a racist old grandpa, like Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino or something. Like, he was a conservative and a racist, but he was not the kind of Tea Party Republican we all know today.

LBJ was not a Know-Nothing and he was not a Solid South Conservative switcher (a conservative who switches parties over Civil Rights).

At the end of the day LBJ supported New Deal-like progressive values and figures like him and Byrd didn’t betray their party while others did.

So, he did not switch, he did not betray, and he did pass Civil Rights (and if you don’t betray and pass Civil Rights, can we really equate you with a Confederate?). That is why most Democrats still support him today, but it doesn’t speak directly to the story of switching.

Can we really blame a Democrat who looks to Jefferson, or Van Buren, or Bryan, if they support Wilson or LBJ? Well, maybe we could have before 1964, and maybe a bit even going into the 1990’s, but today, I don’t know, today the Democrats are a bunch of neoliberals and progressives and the Solid South Conservatives are on team Tory (the big Tent Republican).

So I mean we can talk about the Solid Southern conservatives who switched, or we can talk about the few who didn’t, or we can talk about the Great Society programs and the related spending, or we can talk about Reagan and Trump tax cuts and how that has the same effect on the budget minus the social justice, or we can talk about LBJ being an ally and not signing Thurmond’s Southern Manifesto, or we can talk about how Obama, LBJ, and Bernie are different types of Democrats.

It all speaks to the heart of the story, just like Wilson does (another solid south progressive; an ally, but no Bryan orFDR).

We know the Solid South’s Southern one-party Democrat history, we know about carpetbaggers, party bosses, Jim Crowe, and reconstruction. That is the history of both parties because of the switching, and a smidgen of that remains with the Democrats of today, after-all they have their Clinton and Carter… but you know, Carter and Bernie, they are more like W. J. Bryan, and Clinton is more like your Kennedys and Obamas.

Meanwhile Republicans are all like: “Build a wall, Jeff Sessions, States’ Rights, Confederate Flag, Alt-Right, Steve Bannon,” so I mean they aren’t fully Lincoln Republicans (as Lincoln did not war with himself).

Obviously, speaking in historical terms, the Tories, the Solid South, and the Know-Nothings are in a big ol’ tent today with the religious right.

And while the Tories and Know-Nothings did not switch, the Solid South Conservatives and many on the religious right did (they would have mostly voted for Wilson and supported figures like Bryan in those days).

So why don’t I go on about LBJ quotes (and instead just sprinkle them through the essay)… it is because that is just a misleading bit of propaganda designed by the Republicans to throw people of the trail of our true American history.

We try to treat both parties today like they have always been this way, but that isn’t the way it is. Most of this is new, and it has been heavily influenced by propaganda.

I personally stand with a mix of party figures from today and yesterday, and when I do I do so per-issue. A politician has to earn my respect.

I stand with, generally speaking, Jefferson, Hamilton, Van Buren, Lincoln, Cleveland, Bryan, Coolidge, heck I don’t really mind any President or popular politician.

But history is history, and the Solid South Switched parties… well most of them, but not some of the progressive southerners like the Gores and LBJ, or even Byrd.

At the end of the day the South has a solid progressive and liberal base here in 2017, so when we say “switch” we mean majority of voter base and party leadership of the one-party conservative south, not literally all Southerners and Northerners switched places.

Anyway, LBJ and personal characters aside, it is the platform that matters, so LBJ is pretty darn good in platform, Wilson, well he did help win us the War and his New Freedom programs were pretty great in platform.

With that in mind, here are some LBJ quotes:

But here is LBJ’s voting record before becoming an ally of progressive liberals:

Here is his what he accomplished in 1957 when he started earning his place in modern party history:

Here is what LBJ did to carry the torch of Kennedy (and thus causing the Southern Democrats to switch):

TIP: The story here isn’t about bad guys and good guys, it is about how people and parties can change and how there isn’t “two parties” there are 320 individuals in many different factions. Ultimately, everyone is going to be judged on their actions.

Jon Smith on

I took – quite some time – to read your article, watch the videos and read all the comments.

There is something I noticed is left mostly unconsidered, by both you, and even those trying passionately to disagree with you.

A “3rd Player”.

It comes up a little bit, I did see the word “Zeitgeist”, and it was suggested that the two primary party populations, as political entities (not social constructs), at deepest core, are very nearly the same, but even those ideas are muddled and predominately un-intellectual.

Much is done here, and in comments to focus on political tags, and iota of this or that microcosm example, but not very much digging has been done into the deeper foundation of fundamental philosophies, in order to draw connections to what drives the agendas.

I do not have the time to write, nor do I believe a long explanation would even be necessary with you, as you do seem to be an honest person, who is trying desperately to see an objective truth. So cutting to the heart of the matter…

…If you were to do the same level of research, except with a focus on eugenics, Humanism, moral relativism, secularism, and globalism …

…and then overlay their pattern of movements on top of your history of political parties – *I* believe you would see the people that adhere to those belief structures are always a profound underling influence.

Thomas DeMichele on

Interesting comment, I sincerely appreciate you trudging through the long essay and comments. Cool to know some people are doing that (keep trying to make it shorter and it keeps coming out longer, so glad to know it is still readable).

As for your comment, I do think there is at least one if not more third players and I do think there are many ways in which all parties in all eras (especially when they get in power) govern the same (and that probably hints at something).

I guess I would say that we could probably look for these points of interest within the establishment wing of both parties (more than in the Bernies and Pauls of the world).

Globalism and eugenics are two places to look, at those two places where we see figures in both parties pushing very similar policies (and when we consider these are both economic policies at their root, I think we can see a connection). <— this explains how wide-spread that old theory of Malthus was. <— this shows differences and similarities.

Likewise, we can see these things: <— Where protestants and classical liberals pushed for secularism. <— Where we realize many things have common roots (not a suggestion there is only one people at the root). <—- related to the above points. <—- the nuts and bolts of the players in banking from its 1200's roots to more modern times.

Those certainly tell a story that underlies the story of the two party system, the west, and much of our history in general.

And then there is general liberalism born in the age of enlightenment with the mason inspired French Revolution (not unrelated to the above points).

And then there is the reality of economics and the class system:

I think when we put all that together we can see an overlay of self-interest, special-interest, and national interest that speaks less to the divide of social issues and more to a unified vision (that is in no way removed from money).

Here these come to mind:

When people say "the two parties are exactly the same" I know what they are talking about, but on social issues and those things to where the two parties don't agree, they are really not. I don't think Hitler and Stalin were puppets, although there may have been some strings pulled here and there.

Now, is some of what any two factions polarized over social issues disagree on smoke and mirrors? Is a third player (or third players) driving a wedge (not just in America, but in the West). Maybe and probably and in some cases for sure. Problem with filling in those blanks is that it starts to turn into conspiracy theory mad libs.

Yet, at the end of the day, this is happening:

Because of this:

But what we really need to do, is all politics and special interests aside, is focus on this:

And this:

If want further clues, we can look at things like this:

We should though, back to social issues, not let this tear us apart:

Like it did here:

After-all, both the self-interest of entities and the basic ideologies are:

… and at the end of the day, why war with our own nature? Especially when the point is:

Luckily, we always have:

Unluckily we are driven by emotion and are primed to make bad choices on some level:

Eh, I guess that is what this metaphor was all about:

Jon Smith on

​**I do think there is at least one if not more third players**
As do I. My usage of “3rd” player was only meant to indicate another game beneath the one visible.

**I do think there are many ways in which all parties in all eras (especially when they get in power) govern the same (and that probably hints at something**
Any pattern by axiomatic definition hints at an underlying something.

**I guess I would say that we could probably look for these points of interest within the establishment wing of both parties**

​**​Globalism and eugenics are two places to look, at those two places where we see figures in both parties pushing very similar policies​**

​**​(and when we consider these are both economic policies at their root, I think we can see a connection).​**​
​I disagree.
It is impossible for economics to be a “root”.
Economics is a defining of the structure to flow of agency via materiel control.
​In other words, economics is as much of a “root” as “relationships” is.
Relationships is not a root; it is the boxing of the social constructs created by true roots such as “I” vs “We”.​
​I think the true root that economics grows from is “control”.​

​**​ I think when we put all that together we can see an overlay of self-interest, special-interest, and national interest that speaks less to the divide of social issues and more to a unified vision (that is in no way removed from money).​**
Connected to the above – I agree.

​**​I don’t think Hitler and Stalin were puppets, although there may have been some strings pulled here and there.​**​
​I agree.​

​**​Now, is some of what any two factions polarized over social issues disagree on smoke and mirrors? Is a third player (or third players) driving a wedge (not just in America, but in the West). Maybe and probably and in some cases for sure.​**
This was precisely my only point.

​From then on out I see a true general wisdom to the rest of your reply, and almost utterly agree.

The only thing I would insist on going back to draw a focus on is,
**Problem with filling in those blanks is that it starts to turn into conspiracy theory mad libs.**

While that is true, the greatest effort must still be put into uncovering what is truly true. It is important to cut through the background noise of conspiracy theory misinformation and disinformation.

Power requires control to keep power.
Control requires power to keep control.

Nothing is more important than understanding to what end is who doing what with those concepts.

Thomas DeMichele on

Interesting take, thanks for sharing. I think you make a good point about economics not being the root.

Power is a root even deeper than economics.

Whoever controls the wealth has the power.
Power requires control to keep power.
Control requires power to keep control.
The most certain way to ensure the above is to have the most money.

As for musing on the unknowns, I didn’t meant to imply it wasn’t important, only that we have to be cautious with assumptions (if the goal is finding truly true truth). Seems we are generally on the same page here though. Certainly I’d suggest anyone who makes it to this comment to consider these factors and not only to focus on the divide over a specific social issue in a specific era.

David Molinarolo on
Doesn't beleive this myth.

I think there was another party switch after 9/11, for people like myself, who was a socially conservative Democrat, switched to the Republican Party when I saw how radical the Democrats had become after the Bush-Gore election debacle and the aftermath of 9/11 with many Liberals and Libertarians claiming that 9/11 was an inside job (aka the 9/11 Truthers). It was then that I realized that the Democratic Party was not the party I grew up with during game the 90s under Clinton. And honestly, I was only a Democrat in the 90s because after 12 years of Reagan-Bush 41, because Bush failed to acknowledge the recession of 1992. I voted for Gore in 2000, but regretted it soon after. But since I switched, I have become increasingly anti-Democrat because that Party has lost its ever loving mind with its sole focus on identity politics, which is very tribal in nature. It attempts to group people into small distinct groups that don’t always agree with each other. It’s tribal because it’s the same way the Native Americans were. They spent more time fighting one another than uniting to fight the European colonists.

Oh, as for the party platform switch? It’s a myth. The platforms didn’t switch. The parties changed in one way or another, and people who were moderates who were caught in the middle when one party or another became too radical or extreme for them, switched to the other party, like I did.

Thomas DeMichele on

I appreciate the insight into your perspective. I’ll be clear that I consider it a fact that the solid south conservatives certainly switched out of being Democrats and into being Republicans and the party platforms really were affected by this… but that doesn’t discount your story or your perspective.

Instead I think it speaks to 1. reality and, 2. the right-wing strategy that was aimed to playing to the sentiments of people like you who feel this way (something I also note above).

It is very common that a person only sees their side of things. You say Democrats are all about identity and being tribal… but the right-wing is just as guilty here. The right is constantly complaining about liberals, feminists, muslims, illegals, rioters and looters, etc. See: and

I fully agree that the things you say are problems are problems, but I disagree that only one party is guilty! Democrats are overly politically correct, Republicans are overly patriotically correct.

If everyone stepped in my shoes for a second (i’m obviously more liberal and more likely to vote democratic), then stepped in yours (you seeming to be more on the opposite side), I have a feeling they would be casting their ballot for a figure like John Kasich (a centrist essentially).

The whole dividing the country into correct-wing and wrong-in-every-possible-way-wing is a detriment to our country. Those who play into this, like Trump AND Hillary in 2016 do us no favors (in my opinion).

I get very frustrated by the way people like Rodger Stone feed off this and use it influence politics. But it isn’t just Republicans, it is both parties. Powell memo strategy, Rodger Ailes’s plan for putting the GOP on TV news, and the Cloward-Piven strategy are all notable here.

There is lots of back and forth we can have here, because there are so many layers to consider. But in terms of historic fact, the parties changed over time. In terms of historic fact, the solid south conservatives started splitting from their long-time position as “Southern Democrats” and started becoming republicans over time after Goldwater (in part due to… you guessed it… a strategy called the solid south strategy).

As for 9/11 truthers and that stuff. I totally get why that would make someone want to switch (just like I get why Civil Rights made a segregationist switch).

But ask yourself, did you switch because you got frustrated with a democrat saying that… or did you watch Fox News and listen to right-wing radio hear about how crazy Democrats were and then switch?

Lots of things to think about here, but certainly we have a democracy, no wrong choices for what faction or party you align yourself with. The only thing wrong is the propaganda of the strategists who seek to divide us and the cronyism of the politicians who put their pocketbooks before people.

Gideon on

This does not line up with history at all. The 2 parties have never switched platforms. They may have switched support from geographic locations but the platforms never switched.

Thomas DeMichele on

I would phrase it more completely as “many thing switched from the founding factions of federalists and anti federalists to 2017, this includes support from geographic locations, members, factions (like progressive republicans and southern conservative democrats), and support for key voter issues… and with all that, many key platform planks changed over the years as well (some/many, but not all); there are some planks and factions that are consistent throughout history (or evolve within the same party).”

Here I’ll note that I owe the reader a list of planks (there is one further down the page and wove into the narrative, but I’ll make sure it is clear at the top).

A few planks that swaps back and forth can be summed up as states’ rights, “small government”, and being the party of the “forgotten worker.”

The aristocratic cousins of the tories were always the republicans, today we see the democrats as the party of the global elite. This difference and many more underly the subtle changes to platforms (explicit and implicit).

Those few paragraphs express what I mean and are thus perhaps a more accurate version of the “parties switched platforms” statement. I’ll aim to make that general thesis more clear.

The reason the title is what it is is because that full sentence doesn’t exactly fit as a title and frankly I had a hard time finding the right words to summarize that all in a single small phrase.

Point noted though, the page like the whole site is a living document meant to evolve after research and input. So this claim is noted and i will address it.

As for the video, I’ll review it… but for now the thing I’ll note is that prageru is a somewhat centered, but rightwing libertarian, source. I would think they (as classical liberals of sorts) would know better than anyone that some of the classical liberal small government states’ rights planks that underlaid the foundation of the old democrats have no switched… after all they are. (In many ways) the spiritual descendants of the free soil faction that used to be Jefferson and van buren democrat and is now libertarian caucusing with the Republican Party since Goldwater.

The changes are subtle, but real and clear enough when you dig through the factions and platforms era by era.

Thanks for the comment and the input, all viewpoints are considered here. That doesn’t mean I’ll change the conclusion, but it does mean reubttles are considered, appreciated, and taken seriously.

chris on

So let me see if I understand you. Lincoln would be a modern day Democrat. Woodrow Wilson and FDR would be modern day Republicans?

Thomas DeMichele on

Things changed too much to make a simple distinction. Fdr would almost certainly be a democrat still (as what he was didn’t really change), Wilson would probably be reformed by now (more like Byrd)… but could very well have done the other direction and picked up some right wing planks (like a graham type figure), Lincoln would either be a moderate republican or would have picked up more progressive planks and been somewhere between neoliberal and progressive I think.

It is impossible to say for sure.

The right of today is mainly old school conservatives and globalist neocons (like McCain) and know nothings (like Bannon) or hybrids (like trump), while many of those who hold the old confederate spirit (Duke and session for example) are now allies of the right as well (along with a few other factions like the religious right).

Not sure if Wilson would have been a Byrd of a Thurmond, I suspect a Byrd… but who knows. Fdr would have still be a new deal progressive / neoliberals ally though, so he for [almost] sure would still be a democrat.

Tories and neocons, southern conservatives, know-nothings, and the religious right; the conservative coalition, a coalition of socially conservative and conservative single voter issues mashed up with some Rothbard libertarians. That is the big tent Republican, so hard to see how Lincoln fits in given his thoughts on those factions (see: But I mean he was a bit of a classical conservative/neocon… so maybe?

On the left (the Democrats), Hillary is more that globalist Merkel and Macron type. That neoliberal type that teams up with what we today call progressive Berniecrats (the ones who make up the rest of the party outside ally groups like unions). Those factions have a few reformed Byrd types for sure, but outside of that they have very little to do with the kkk and the history of the solid south given their progressive and internationalist spirit… And, given that progressive and internationalist spirit, I assume Lincoln would be in that tent… but there is some cross over. So, who knows?

All I’m saying is what happened. I am not saying either side is fully right or wrong or that there was a full literal shift… or that we can know for sure what faction which past President would have aligned with. I’m really just pointing out changing factions and changing party planks to make the general claim that “the parties switched” (a short hand way of saying everything I’m actually saying here).

chris on

You think. In other words you have no idea other than an opinion, and you wasted this much time writing your “I think”. A bunch of hot air that didn’t even blow up the balloon. Nice waste of space, but “you” claim it as fact.

Thomas DeMichele on

I think, therefore I have thought about it. I researched and collected facts, I watched documentaries, went through the voting records, read about the history of the U.S. and the south, studied different eras, researched immigration, great migrations, and city bosses, learned about the different factions of the Civil War, etc.

Then I formulated opinions on what that all meant. Then I tried to turn that into a readable story laced with facts, citations, and proofs. I mean, this is sort of what an essay is right? This isn’t submitted to a peer reviewed journal, but I do think it does justice to the subject and relays the facts well. Happy to debate any specific points, but the ad hominem argument you make and this rebuttal I think are the only exchange we are having here that is actually wasting space.

If D’Souza had only done half of this before he started filming, perhaps we would be arguing less.

David on
Doesn't beleive this myth.

Promoting myth as fact is rather shameful. The democrat history is slavery, eugenics, segregation, Jim Crow, civil rights filibusters, to welfare ghettoization of minorities.
Might want to have your history even a little correct.

Thomas DeMichele on

I am not promoting myth as fact.

Slavery = Southern Democrats of the solid south Dixie states; the ones who fly the rebel flag today being their decedents. The Ossoffs and Gores of the world being the modern Democrats who oppose them.

Eugenics = A platform embraced by neolibreals, neocons, progressive Democrats and Republicans, Southern conservatives, and more than you even want to probably think about. No one is safe in the Eugenics conversation. Do feel free to go there and research it.

Segregation = On the plantation in the South in the 1800’s, that is southern democrats. In the cities in any era, that is everyone. So, the Civil War type, that is on the Southern Democrats, but I mean, look at any major city today, that type is on all our backs like eugenics. That speaks a bit more toward groups like the Know-Nothings, the elites, racism in the working class, and the general struggle of the Proletariat and Pauper to not be a the bottom of the totem poll (“hey look, that block is worse, lets not bus them to our schools”; “everyone, let’s ban the X type of immigrant because we are real Americans!”).

Jim Crow = The policy of southern democrats that progressives and liberals tolerated (or embraced to some degree along with much of the rest of the country). As the Democratic party became more progressive there was a strange union there (that had been there since 1776). That is the populist right socially conservative southern democrat who wanted social progress, as long as it was for whites only voting alongside the progressives and liberals who were pro-social justice. That coalition won the FDR era, but after WWII tensions mounted. Then a split occurred in those LBJ / Goldwater years (although cracks can be seen leading up to that with states’ rights parties).

Civil Rights filibusters = Yeah, Southern democrats again. They have a pretty bad record on the race issue, and the liberal democrats often took issue with them. That said, they are just as real then as they were today. Only difference is today they team up with those populist right conservative Know-Nothings. They never would back when, but “the neoliberal nightmare” and “big government” progressivism (which teams up against them) has obviously driven them past their breaking point to the extent that they have switched parties (one of the main points of this page).

Welfare and Ghettoization: One of the nasty side effects of social liberalism in a federalist nation (and social liberalism in a capitalist nation… and to be fair, social liberalism in general). The north and cities are like 10 years ahead on civil rights in any era, and so they are always creating this more progressive place to live. So the refugees fleeing the southern democrat social conservative south go to the major cities (great migrations). There experince though is essentially like that of any immigrant (shoved in low-income areas together). What they find there is probably better than what they had, but it isn’t perfect. They get “a New Deal” offered by progressive democrats and republicans, but they also get inequality of cities, a large working class, immigrants, poor neighborhoods, and northern city politics. When Marx complained about the Bourgeoisie he wasn’t talking about southern social conservatives oppressing based on skin color, he was talking about classism. The problem of ghettos stretches back past the race issue and speaks more to the socioeconomic issue (and even just economic issue). The problem of the ghetto is one of more than just skin color and it is a problem of both parties. Consider just the issue of Busin’, ain’t no one got a good record on the Busin’ issue, democrat or Republican.

PRO TIP: the movie gangs of New York is about the Know-Nothing socially conservative anti-immigrant (nativist nationalist) sometimes Republicans who opposed the Democratic party and their immigrant supporters in New York in the pre-Civil War era. In other words, northern ghettoes were a thing before slavery was even outlawed. Its a city issue, a capitalist issue, a human issue… not just an African American issue.

Still, through all of this, the progressive social liberal (the populist base of the Democratic party of today; but often found in both parties in the past) has had a pretty good track record…. except that time when they teamed up with social conservatives for like 250 years (well the ones in the Democratic Party at least; the ones in the Republican party teamed up with Know-Nothings and Tories, which is historically also just as questionable… or I guess if you are on the other side of this, then teaming up with progressives is the questionable part.. hmm).

Anyway, point being, I know my history, and the key to knowing yours is understanding those key changes that started at key points in history like 1860, 1912, 1964, and 1994 (and now 2009 and 2016; something strange is a’ brewin’, not sure what it is, history is easy, modern politics is way more complex to parse when it is happening).

At the end of the day, only one party flies a Confederate Flag today, and it sure isn’t the Democrats in Occupy marching alongside BLM and demanding single payer… nor is it their neoliberal allies like Clinton or Gore (the types of stayed in the party and had previously refused to sign the southern manifesto).

Just look at the “D”s and “R”s next to the names of these conservative Democrats of 1956. Like some of the images and documents I provided above, it tells the whole story in a quick snapshot. Then figures like GoldWater tell the rest.

John Sparkman (D-Alabama)
Lister Hill (D-Alabama)
William Fulbright (D-Arkansas)[1]
John L. McClellan (D-Arkansas)
George A. Smathers (D-Florida)
Spessard Holland (D-Florida)
Walter F. George (D-Georgia)
Richard B. Russell (D-Georgia)
Allen J. Ellender (D-Louisiana)
Russell B. Long (D-Louisiana)
James O. Eastland (D-Mississippi)
John Stennis (D-Mississippi)
Samuel Ervin (D-North Carolina)
W. Kerr Scott (D-North Carolina)
Strom Thurmond (D-South Carolina) <—- I am one of the "switchers" (an emblem of what does switch, but not the whole story)
Olin D. Johnston (D-South Carolina)
Price Daniel (D-Texas)
Harry F. Byrd (D-Virginia) <—- Later I reform to join LBJ and Gore (and join in this case means “not switch parties”).
A. Willis Robertson (D-Virginia)

Albert Gore, Sr. (D-Tennessee) <—- My son ironically loses the southern vote to a liberal Yankee from Connecticut pretending to be from the South.
Estes Kefauver (D-Tennessee)
Lyndon B. Johnson (D-Texas) <—– Around this time I start to favor progressives

Michele DeThomas on
Doesn't beleive this myth.

If we had any justice in this nation, you would be hanged for this sort of shameless propaganda.

Over half the sources you cite already have your conclusion built in, by the way.

Thomas DeMichele on

I would be lynched… by who? The modern solid south conservative Republicans who used to be Democrats who used to lynch people?

Is that what you are saying?

Bad joke?

But seriously, my main citation is history as it happened, looking at a voting map, and reading the written words of past political figures and platforms and looking at who voted on what legislation. The rest of the documents just add flavor and help offer the reader different views.

I can’t look at the map of the country during the Civil War and think, that big group in the south is now the North and the North east where I liberally grew up was the south.

Saying I would be hanged is not cool obviously, but it is also not a valid counter-point… See our page on argument types.

Cite away, offer counterpoints, and even name call, but lets avoid the threats. We have the first Amendment, I have every right to use it without the threat of violence.

Christopher L waw on

This is the comment someone made by the name of “Michele DeThomas on July 12, 2017
Doesn’t beleive this myth.” “If we had any justice in this nation, you would be hanged for this sort of shameless propaganda.

Over half the sources you cite already have your conclusion built in, by the way.” Then you responded with: I would be lynched… by who? The modern solid south conservative Republicans who used to be Democrats who used to lynch people? This is what you believe. You believe “All” Republicans today are the old “Democrats”. You don’t flat out say it though. But you did in this reply. That[‘s the fact for the basis of your belief. You don’t seem to grasp the fact that “Conservatives” voted out the racist Democrats. That didn’t make them Democrats turned Republican. That made them Republican getting rid of Democrats. The party of racism, and still to this day the same party. You can’t prove otherwise, yet you like to try, but fail at every point. Why do you think there is so much opposition? Because you are wrong in your evaluation of facts, and opinions. It’s great that your putting all this effort into finding the truth, but the truth is something obvious. Occam’s razor should have told you long ago. You just refuse to accept the obvious.

Thomas DeMichele on

I don’t think all Republicans of yesterday are the Democrats of today. Far from it. The only two notable factions who changed are conservative southern Democrats went from Democrats to Republicans and liberal “bourgeoisie” progressive federalists types like Teddy and Henry A. Wallace essentially shifted toward the Democratic Party and away from the Republican party.

Probably also notable is that the Jeffersonian and Free soil classical liberals tend to favor libertarian and Republican parties today.

Of course, we are talking intergenerational switches over time. Not one person hanging up their hat and declaring “I switch.”

Otherwise the parties are very much the same in many ways (some factions in both parties are consistent in history and so are some values and ideology).

Democrats were historically the anti-federalist party of the south and Republicans the elite federalists of northern big government. Today enough have changed so its almost the opposite… but its not fully the opposite! The essay really tries to make this point.

The reformer and bourbon liberal types and many factions with their roots in immigration are still Democrats along with Unions. The know-nothing and Tory types are still Republicans. Not everything changed. But, when we ask “did the parties change” the answer is yes, because these factions and corresponding platform changes really changed things.

Again, best proof is that electoral map where you can see voter bases flip from 1896 to 1996 (or at least around that time).

With all due respect, I think it is you who are not accepting the obvious, that is, the conservative south switched from Democrat to GOP over time with a major catalyst being 1964 and 1965 when LBJ passed the Kennedy inspired Civil Rights and Voting Rights.

To the idea that Republicans voted out racist Democrats in the south and that is why the map changed… I guess that is one theory, but to me it seems like a stretch. I mean, we still have a ton of liberal progressive Democrats in the south and the conservative ones tend to be the ones called racsit and they are in the Republican party.

The mainstream thinker looks at Bannon, Trump, Sessions, and says “Ok that is one group” and then they look at Bernie, the Clintons, Obama, and southern progressives and say “Ok, that is the other group.” Clearly the group charged with wanting to restrict easy access to voting, restrict social programs, restrict immigration, and gets all excited over dixie flags, muslim bans, and walls is not the party who wants to expand social welfare and justice and open up bathrooms and such.

Like, I don’t see why we are having trouble telling the liberals and conservatives apart, and I don’t see why we would think that the Republican party isn’t the party of the socially conservative south… If we want to call our fellow Americans racist, then most of us are talking about the socially conservative Muslim and Mexican banning right-wing, not talking about how expanding welfare is secretly racist. I get that is your charge, but you are really missing the point.

The KKK wasn’t walking around during reconstruction calling for Medicaid expansion, the factions who wanted to expand government are a different sort. They have always been found in both parties, but if we are talking specfically about the factions who comprised the Confederates… I mean, that was Southern Democrats then and those same people roughly vote Republican now. That just is what it is.

Don’t get why we are so ashamed of ourselves here. If you are going to fly the Dixie flag, have some respect for what it means.

Democrats have enough to grapple with with the history of Communism. Don’t try to ask them to deal with the Confederacy and the NAZIs too. Some things really are socially conservative issues that belong with the party that champion those sorts of issues today. Big government social liberalism, that is on Democrats. Nativist Nationalist Dixie flag waving, look to the folks watching NASCAR. Come on. We all know this is true. No need to hang the messenger or point out the Michele in his last name 😉

Sebastian on

The only thing I can see is that your country has a serious problem with the South and reading the comments, the moment you get rid of those religious fundamentalists you’ll get better as a nation.

Wayne on

Add the European historical narrative and its effects on the parties.

Thomas DeMichele on

That would be interesting, maybe worth noting on its own page…. although I’m not sure where you are going with this (I’ll have to watch the specific video for clues). The Europeans affected national politics in a few different ways in a few different eras, each story could be at least its own essay (happy to address a specific point if one is made, that said).

As for the video you posted, the one featuring D’Souza and Molyneux on left-wing fascism, with all due respect… is something that hits me the wrong way off the bat.

I have spent countless hours trying to untwist the pretzel of history these fine gentlemen have left us with regarding their myths of fascism as leftwing and the parties not switching (them and Alex Jones, and Crowder, and other like this).

With that said, in the interest of showing all views, happy to let the link stand, but I would caution the reader that I do not generally agree with their viewpoint (I haven’t seen this specific video, but generally strongly disagree with most of what they say, not all of their points, but most of their main theses).

In fact, I found D’Souza’s Hillary’s America to be a very shallow and offensive reading of history and frankly found the film to be a propaganda film written by a person angry at democrats after the lawsuit thrown at him (it is my opinion he let his bias cloud his research and judgement and this had a vast negative effect on America that I’m still trying to clean up with pages like this).

In this respect, these men are the antithesis of everything I’m doing.

That said, I do appreciate different perspectives and having my perspective challenged, and I think that is good for anyone who got this far in the page to consider.

We can let the reader decide, but consider the following pages I’ve created to combat just the basic propaganda being referenced in this one video (not to mention all the other alt-facts our site combats):

So, bottom line, “parties changed and fascism is a right wing evolution of socialism” (not “parties didn’t change and Hitler was a left-wing socialist liberal” like the the alt-right Jones, D’Souza, Crowder, Molyneux etc guys say).

I wish we could talk about what the above meant instead of playing “pin the blame on liberals or conservatives”… but figures like the aforementioned make that difficult with all their spin.

Anyways, I am confident that a close read of the facts and research we present will trump any half-truths presented in the video above. So let the astute reader hear both sides and make up their minds.

With that said, I’m happy to answer any lingering questions and address any counterpoints.

Ivan Beals on

With no factual evidence provided, you posted your opinion.

Thomas DeMichele on

For me things like the electoral map almost flipping from 1896 to 1996 is “factual evidence”.

There is lots of opinion into what that means and how to explain it, but I disagree with your claim that “no factual evidence was provided.” Try giving it another look.

Thomas DeMichele on

You are misreading the legal speak, I explain in the article but let me restate, essentially the section as a whole is only a section of definitions and further is simply denoting any entity incorporated into the United States from a state to an agency like the IRS is referred to as “United States” in the law as written. That is all it means.

So when United States is referred to in that law it means all entities considered to be officially part of the United States from Connecticut to the CIA.

It doesn’t mean the us is a corporation.

It says:

(15) “United States” means—
(A) a Federal corporation;
(B) an agency, department, commission, board, or other entity of the United States; or
(C) an instrumentality of the United States.

R.T. on

Even to this day, it’s known if candidates/parties do no perform then first-time voters, switch voters and voters who have not voted in a very long time show at the polls and vote accordingly. How do you account the mass, Independent vote? It’s nearly as large as both parties combined…

Thomas DeMichele on

It would be very interesting to have data on those types of voters and to see if they are responding to changes in the party, to personal changes in ideology, or to something else.

When I looked at the data I looked mainly at American history in general including major conflicts and bills and who supported which side, votes by state, at politicians themselves, at what parties controlled which regions, demographics that supported parties, and generally at the party leaders and platforms.

Its clear from that that many things have changed, but certainly the exact reasonings and behaviors of specific types of voters are going to tell a more detailed story.

Interesting thoughts.

John Bernhardt on
Supports this as a Fact.

Very impressive. The article shows the complexity of how parties evolve over time.

Patty Larkin on
Doesn't beleive this myth.

This is the Great Lie of DemonKKKrats, the Magical Party Switch LIE I’d right there with the DemonRats Magical Bullet LIE. This Opinion Piece of this Author is a JOKE. He also praises LBJ’s Great Society Scam that got Blacks back on the DemonKKKrats Plantation. LBJ boasted of; “by signing this Bill into Law, I’ll have them Dumb ni@#$#s voting Democrat for the next 200 years.” LBJ and ARAB AmeriCON Man Obama Bin Lying we’re by far and away the most RACIST and Worst Crookiticians in history. Read Blood Power and Money along with Who Killed Kennedy The Case and Evidence Against LBJ. Then read Enemy Obama’s Audiobigraphy Dreams From My Father written by Weather Underground Terrorist and self described Communist Bill Ayers in which he named his Mentors and just like his Communist loving Mom Stanley Dunham who hated America so much she permently moved from it at 22 and became a Citizen of Indonesia, all of Obama’s Mentor’s Hated America with a passion.

Thomas DeMichele on

Right, so this is the archetypical sort of social conservative person whose viewpoints we are combating with the facts, and opinions on what the facts mean, above.

Where D’Souza and the commenter see things one way, from a populist alt right conspiracy minded lens which twists history to make liberals racist Nazis while getting giddy over a travel ban and wall, I see things a little differently.

Another example of this disconnect between the Alex jones fan and the modern liberal (progressive or centered) can be found on the page where we myth bust the D’Souza, infowars, crowder theory that Hitler was a social liberal left winger. See here where we debunk that argument in long essay form (ie in the style above):

In all cases, the populist social conservative right wing wall builder, that other banning nativist nationalist know nothing, is slandering the modern liberal, pointing a finger at the liberal that in reality should and must point no where but at themself.

But hey, free country, free internet, you are free to comment with your insight and reading suggestions.

That said, considering dropping the insanely divisive and rather childish “Demokkkrats” or whatever. It diminishes your argument.

The bottom line here is that the southern conservative solid south was and still is itself despite the allegiance switch, just as is the nativist know nothing north is itself despite a lack of switching, in any era…. this is what it is.

Now, if you want to tell me the switch was over big government and not race, we can talk. But don’t go twisting history into a preztle with one hand, flinging insults with the other, and then expect a left or right of center pat on the back. We can all agree on Eisenhower or Washington, and we can argue over who Lincoln would have liked best, but to those who think Lincoln was a tyrant and soros is evil and modern liberals are confederate Nazis… I just don’t have much patience.

chris on

Give any proof Fascism is right wing ideology.

A political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition. Sounds like the Democrat party. Prove your statement that it is right wing. A way of organizing a society in which a government ruled by a dictator controls the lives of the people and in which people are not allowed to disagree with the government. Sounds like Liberalism 100%. Your a ducking shill.

Thomas DeMichele on

So first off, I am not a shill for anyone or anything (especially if that insult is meant to imply someone is giving me money)… trust me, that isn’t a thing.

Fascism is a socially conservative right wing populist ideology, classically speaking a timocracy. It is about small group (right), nationalist (right), nativist (right), militarism (right). The highest good is the state for this odd left-right mix that we call right-wing.

It is the classical timocracy, like Sparta. Oddly, but to our point, Sparta was both fascist and Communist. These two militant timocratic ideologies, focused on the state and nation, one right and one left, are hard to discuss became of their odd mix of planks. But by seeing the small group ideology of fascism as right, and the eglatirain big group ideology of communism left we can better understand how two different groups of jerks almost destroyed the world in WW2. This is much more useful than just blaming the left for the worlds problems.

Sure, we could call every populist movement left-wing, populist, left, that works. But then are we really going to call Trump, the Tea Party, America first, Know-Nothings, Confederates, NAZIs, etc all left-wing?! So what, right-wing is only aristocrats? Or, even more confusingly, only modern American Republicans who like the free-market?

History does not bend to the will of a modern Republican, if anything modern Republicans are making everyone else’s life a bear by trying to bend history. The result being the confusion we all have to clear up on this page.

The best way to think about it is, classical liberal left and classical conservative right are like patriots vs. red coats. Social liberal left and social conservative right are like Bernie all the way to Stalin vs. Rand Paul and Bannon all the way to Hitler. I can draw some parallels between Bannon and Stalin and Bernie and Hitler, but I really have to stretch to do this. Better we just see the populist left and right for what they are, the classical for what they are, the non-authoritative social for what they are, the elite left and right for what they are, etc.

So in summary of every comment you made: The modern right-wing propagandist likes to paint modern Democrats as confederates and modern Democrats as NAZIs, and then say all those groups are left… but that misses the complexities of political philosophy and sort of just shifts every negative event in history onto the Democrats. History is way more complex than that, and we should at the least see the folly of the populist and elite, left and right, liberal and conservative, in our history so we can know what we are up against. The different ideologies are meant to temper each other, no matter what odd mix they appear as, it is fully incorrect to see all the bad ones as one ideology and all the good ones as another… and then to paint a modern liberal democrat as being representative of all the bad ones. Especially with the whole waving a dixie battle flag while calling for a ban and a wall (which is sort of this nativist nationalist populist right wing mentality common to confederates and nazis, just as the push for egalitarianism is common to the leftist marxist).

Er, what I mean is. You are transferring all the negative qualities of conservatism in any form onto Democrats instead of owning up to the flaws of your own ideology that have tyrannized mankind since time immemorial. Liberals can admit Communism is bad and own up to the fact that it is left. What is with the America right and their inability to see why we call them fascists? It is a purposeful insult, but it doesn’t come from nowhere.

Anyway, I think I make the argument well enough here:

Chris on

You state that MLK was a Democrat. Why are you being blatantly false? No voter registration exists, and no voting record other than what he himself was public about exists, so the only proof anyone has to go on is his own writings, and the comments by his family and the King Center of Atlanta. In the July 12, 2008 edition of the National Journal Magazine, Steve Klein, the communications director for the King Center in Atlanta (started by Coretta Scott King) said that he wasn’t a republican, and didn’t endorse any party. Why would you say he was a Democrat when the obvious is true. The fact of the matter is, there were no black Democrats in the South during the Civil Rights era. The Democrats were the ones that were dressing in white hoods and killing them, burning crosses in their yards and burning their churches. They were fighting against the Democrats, their racist policies and their party.

Thomas DeMichele on

I didn’t say MLK was a Democrat. I said he was an independent who supported the liberal and progressive Democrats (but certainly not the Dixiecrats who fought his agenda tooth and nail; a few progressive Dixies like Gore and LBJ being the exception) in the Civil Rights era. He would have I’m sure voted Republican before the switch, which he is a central figure in the story of, but during and after the push for Civil Rights he was (despite being independent) generally supporting the progressive and liberal Democrats trying to push back against the socially conservative southern wing of the party.

Yes, those socially conservative southern Democrats used to burn crosses, and no this didn’t stop the liberal Democrats of old from allying with them under Jefferson, WJ Bryan, Wilson, FDR, or LBJ (with Wilson being an example of a half liberal, half progressive, half dixie leader). That is the history democrats have to deal with and do. Modern Democrats however should not be taking credit for the modern south…. because they have been voting GOP for all of the 2000s.

It is strange that the Gilded age Tories decided to team up with the populist socially conservative south, meanwhile it makes sense they still team up with the modern America first know-nothings. Then their odd marriage with the new religious right, well it is single voter issue socially conservative factions like these that make up the big tent we find today. And i guess, it really isn’t that odd. after-all winning elections takes warm bodies and no one is going to vote for classical conservative austerity tax breaks for the elite oligarchs without that message being shrouded in confederate, know-nothing, and relgious right populism. I guess. Something like that.

Anyway, so MLK is no party, but would have voted Republican before the switch, but was working on supporting the liberal and progressive left-wing of the Democratic party in the mid-1960s as the Hippies, and LBJS, and Humphreys of the world were moving forward with a big government progressive agenda that lost the party the southern populist socially conservative vote. Don’t know how else to say this.

Chris on

Do you explain to those who view that your a Liberal disguised as “In the middle” Donald Trump has a lot in Common With Tyrants, Classically Speaking “fact”. Sure buddy. Keep on posting “False” information. Exposure is everything.

Thomas DeMichele on

I am not a liberal disguised as “in the middle,” I am a centrist with liberal and conservative views who generally votes for the Democratic party. I’m my own person, very progressive on social issues, a capitalist generally, concerned about the budget, have some empathy for populists. Etc. My liberal friends call me conservative, my conservative friends rarely call me (joke). The point is, I get to say who I am, not you.

As for the Trump being a bit like a classical tyrant. Yeah, I fully stand by that. If you read the article I don’t say his actions are tyrannical, I say his rhetoric, story, and whole thing in general is just a lot like the tyrant from Hayek or Plato.

Trump is the classical strong man, he looks up to strong men, the classical strong man is essentially the figure that becomes the classical tyrant. Trump is a bit like a Mussolini or Caesar… a strong man populist with right wing qualities who rallies support of a frustrated plebeian class by blaming the elites, senate, and star gazers.

Literally this is the story from Plato’s Republic on his chapter on tyranny, a book that Mussolini read and was inspired by in creating his fascism. It is clear as day Trump studied strong men to become a better business person, I can see clearly. But hey, I could be wrong.

“The people have always some champion whom they set over them and nurse into greatness. This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs; when he first appears above ground he is a protector.” – Plato, on Tyranny Book 8 of the Republic (read Chapter 8 and 9 and tell me the Oligarch become champion of the people become tyrant isn’t just a bit like Trump).

Lee on
Doesn't beleive this myth.

There are too many false narratives, pushed by the Left, in this article to make it true (or help with this myth).

One instance is where you say that Republicans are against “immigration.”
The face of the matter is that they are against ‘Illegal Immigration”‘
Left media slowly dropped the word illegal, and now they are converting that to ‘Mexican’ or ‘brown’.

I do not think you even listened to your videos, especially Mark Levin’s.

Thomas DeMichele on

I appreciate the comment, but respectfully disagree with the idea that this article is somehow injected with false narratives of the left.

I didn’t say “Republicans are against immigration.” It is a long article, but generally I imply: “Know-Nothings and their ilk tended toward anti immigrant sentiment and Democrats tended to be the pro immigrant party in most of history (but certainly not all of it in every respect).”

Thus when I say, the stance of the Republican party in terms of immigration was a thing that did not change (at least not to the degree that other stances did), I am referring to this. Nationalism and nativism just happen to be stances that are often found in Republican factions in history. True for the Federalists, the Whigs, and the later iterations despite other changes.

One could view Confederates as nationalist nativists, but that is only partly correct. They were nationalist in an odd way, and honestly didn’t seem to find much common ground with the anti-immigrant know-nothings in their day either.

As for the modern media’s take on what I’d call the modern “America-first nativist nationalism” but you might call “a tough but fair stance on illegal immigration” (which the Wall and Muslim ban does not invoke for me… but hey, to each their own 😉 )… that is almost irrelevant to this whole thing.

The America first know-nothing anti-immigrant sentiment, whatever form it takes, has historically been found in a faction of Republicans in any era. It’s like one of the only things that didn’t change, so it for me is a bit odd as the thing to bring up in any respect other than “see Tom, that is one example of what didn’t change” (to which I would agree).

Consider, the Movie Gangs of New York is about William Poole (AKA Bill the Butcher) an America first know-nothing from the pre-Civil War era, a spiritual descendent of the Anti-Mason Federalists. He was worried all the Catholic immigrants coming to NYC were going to “take their jobs” and “make America not great”… you know, stuff like that. The know-nothings were a faction of Whigs who broke of and formed their own party, they were against the Tammany Hall Democrats of the day.

As for Mark Levin, I dislike him personally (I find his rhetoric predatory, as in, I think he preys on conservatives for ratings and profit like Alex Jones, some politicians, and Mega churches do), but the video is there to make sure everyone who finds the page can hear all sides of the argument (so let me address it).

Comments on Mark’s video for you in chronological order:

– Yes, less Democrats voted for Civil Rights… because the Solid South used to be Democrat in those days. The point of the page. That is, there is only one conservative south, it was and is in any era. The party affiliation changes, the politics shift, but the region does not. I know, I was just there, it is still there, still got secession billboards up next to the cotton fields. Its a thing.

– Byrd, Gore, LBJ, = Progressive Dixies. Bad track record initially, got better. Some in the south went to the GOP, mostly the conservatives of the conservative coalition. Some stayed with the Democrats. Most liberals are happy to have Clintons, Byrds, Gores, and such given their voting records post-Civil Rights era.

– Goldwater. Other way around, started off a strong supporter of Civil Rights, then went downhill after he teamed up with solid south and Nixonians over a small government message. A Goldwater and Rothbard, those types of Free soilers ended up siding with the small government party like the South did. Makes perfect sense, but only makes sense if we say it outloud and don’t instead try to twist history into a pretzel so we can pretend like a wall builder is exactly the same as a civil rights advocate taking a knee to protest police violence.

– Southern manifesto. Wicked document. Gore and LBJ didn’t sign. We see all those 1950s state rights dixie democrats sign this document, we can see clearly this group of southern conservatives. Then we can see these more progressive dixies who didn’t sign. Later, when liberal democrats and progressives ally with the dixies left, it is no surprise the ones that don’t sign are the ones who don’t switch over time and are the ones who are still respected today. If you think Jeff Sessions would have been GOP in the mid 1950s… you are not looking at the history of the south close enough.

– They don’t switch in 1964, it takes until about 2000s (fun fact, political colors didn’t start until 2000, it comes from major news stations). The oversimplified idea that everyone magically switched in 1965 when the clock struck voting rights (or however the story goes) is doing an injustice the the actual story.

– GOP didn’t become a “racist party,” elite Tories and America first Republicans (already “racist”) just teamed up with already racist Solid South and [somewhat bigoted] Religious Rights over a small government message (they all share a “small government when it suits me” message, but for different reasons). Well small government message and giant indoctrination campaign backed by the free-market federalists against progressivism (where the southern arm of the campaign pushed by figures like Goldwater, Nixon, Reagan, and Trump is called “the southern strategy”).

Bottomline: Progressives and liberals are clearly the social justice, civil rights, and if it means big government so-be-it party today. Levin offers the same half-baked arguments we debunk. I know Republicans want to identify as the party of Lincoln, just like they want to tell me the Muslim ban and wall are really very virtuous and not racist, and how the boys taking a knee on the field should listen to their owners, but only out of respect for the flag… stuff like that right, little dog whistles with clever excuses that sound like nails on a chalk board to progressives… but there is a reason the left gets the votes of the demographics they do. The GOP can fool themselves and their base into thinking that the Tories, Know-Nothings, and Solid South didn’t team up (where the whole thing is about avoiding being associated with the south… which is like, I mean, pretty mean to do to the south; anyway, that aside)… and they can point to the odd neoliberal who would have stood with Byrd, Gore, and LBJ back in the day…. and they can throw a ton of legitimate criticism at welfare state policies and big government… but I mean grow up and embrace your own history.

Clearly the southern conservative base votes Republican today. Clearly, a modern progressive was not a confederate. Clearly a wall builder then is the same as a wall builder now, and clearly a southern conservative then is one now. Meanwhile a liberal and progressive, same thing. Factions and voter bases changed parties, the basics archetypes of people did not change.

Histories of the parties are what they are, but histories of factions are too!

Again, I’m shocked that actual conservative southerners vote GOP and don’t go off and form their own states’ rights parties today.

I get why a southern conservative would not like me, it is just unclear to me how they tolerate being pandered to by a know-nothing in golden tower in NYC? Strange stuff.

Well not THAT strange, I assume it is for the same reason progressives vote with neoliberals today and voted with the solid south in the past… that is, we have a two party system and we need to win seats to make changes. So we compromise.

Still, yeah, party of the Muslim ban and the Wall is today dominated by Know-Nothings and Tories and have lost those Roosevelt Republicans. Meanwhile, chalk it up to big government progressivism, Reagan, or being racist, the Southern conservative votes with the GOP and the progressive votes with the Democrats today.

Clearly. How is this not clear? Again, you all really need to own up to your history and stop watching Alex Jones and other mind melting propagandists who tell you what you want to hear. Alternative media is supposed to be alternative to the mainstream, not the truth.

I don’t lose sleep over Byrd, LBJ, Gore, or the history of the Democratic party… I don’t get why it is such an issue to admit the GOP’s southern strategy worked and that the solid south is now solidly GOP? I mean, its the conservative south, not chopped liver. They are people with a history (which I know you know, as the GOP just marched with the South in Charlottesville in support of a Confederate flag and statue).

All that said (sorry for the rant), although I’ve went off on race and immigration a few times here… I’m open to the discussion of economics and big government / small government as the main factors that explain the change… I just can not and will not listen to arguments that try to tell me that the voting map didn’t flip as the solid south conservative based started voting Republican (especially in the Reagan and Bush eras; but spurred on in the Civil Rights era). That clearly did happen, literally can see it on a map.

That said, the reason I keep coming back to know-nothings and Tories is, I just want to make sure we are all pointing a finger at the factions who didn’t switch, but who are spreading the lies about party history trying to smear the modern liberal and progressive Democrats. The myth was not “created by Democrats” the myth was created by Tories and Know-nothings who don’t even have the respect for the conservative south to admit they are friends in real life. That I think is the takeaway here.

TIP: Tories = I’m insulting the ruling class of the Republican party (who can’t win elections on their own without the backing of socially conservative factions) by equating them with the conservative party in Britain (which they historically should be equated to, but in modern days are hard to tell apart from know-nothings).

TIP: Neoliberals = The ruling class of the Democratic Party (also can’t win elections on their own, require the support of progressives).

TIP: Know-Nothings = the America first anti-immigrant party of the pre-Civil War era. America first = American NAZIs from Trump’s father’s era.

TIP: Progressives = well intentioned chaps who one could criticize for being too dependent on state power… a debate we may be able to have in the future if and when we can agree on the fact that the conservative south is the conservative south and not some flexible fairy tale that magically conforms to whatever the GOP happen to think about themselves in the moment.

USVet on
Doesn't beleive this myth.

A gathering of misinformation and complete fabrications in order to try and rewrite history… When comparing the founding fathers to the two parties of today the lib/progressives are so far away from the founders it’s clear who they are and it’s not what is claimed here. Today’s lib/progressives are Marxist leftist that abhor the constitution and the law in favor of lawlessness and perversion while doing all they can to diminish the rights of citizens in favor of illegals for the sake of votes.

Tom on

First off, based on your moniker, thank you for your service.

With that said, with all due respect to you and your opinion, I disagree with just about every word you said. Let me explain my point of view:

The story told above is not an attempt to rewrite history, it is an attempt to tell history as it happened.

That is, there were federalists and anti-federalists in the early days, and even though the anti-federalists and then democrats were the party of Jackson, Jefferson, and Calhoun, the party of the more radical small government classical liberals and the south, the parties changed a good deal as the populist progressives became a larger force in that party with WJ Bryan in the late 1800s (in this time Marx’s works were already published BTW).

Then the GOP changed considerably when Teddy (who they didn’t really want so much in the first place) left the Republicans party. This shifted that party to the right (as did Hoover and the wars and the growing progressivism of the Democratic Party).

Then in the 60s the south started to switch out due to the continued growing “big government” progressivness of the Democratic party.

The events noted are just some of the major events that changed which factions were in which parties. The factions changing was a response to the changing parties, and the factions changed the parties when they entered (for example, the southern strategy and southern conservative fundamentally changed the GOP… at least in message AND the New Deal populist progressives and unions and immigrants really helped to push the Democratic Party to the left).

Now, as for the idea that the modern Democrat is in favor of lawlessness and perversion and favors illegally present immigrants due to votes. That is the part I disagree with most, but of course, it is opinion based on what you seem to perceive as fact, but it is not itself fact.

It is an opinion that one must assume is based on the assumption that immigrants who aren’t legally present are voting in states that swing the election in enough force to swing it … I don’t think there is any evidence of that, even that rouge report on illegal immigrant voting from JustFacts pointing out that about 25% of immigrants who aren’t legally present favor the Republican party, especially the Mexican demographic… because they tend to have strong religious views (and thus side with the GOP over issues of abortion and such). I’m sure the number would be higher if it wasn’t for the vicious rhetoric and wall building. I was frankly surprised it was so high myself. All that said, point is, even if immigrants not legally present were voting, 25% would be voting GOP.

Moving on, a Marxist leftist is just a slightly insulting (depending on your tastes) name for a progressive social liberal. They have been a main force of the Democratic party since the late 1800s (if not longer), it is what the Solid South solidly switched over (after allying with them for like century), and it was the Powell coalition of conservatives and Kochs has been at ideological war with (the right wing strategy against feminists, educators, liberals, progressives, etc that Hillary tried to warn us of but everyone laughed at; its clearly a thing, its essentially documented and groups like the Federalist Society and John Birch Society are fairly open about their intent).

In truth, the progressive “Marxists” (as you lovingly put it) aren’t that far away from some of the Democrats and Republicans of specific factions in history. They are a bit like the Reformers of the early 1800s, a bit like Gouverneur morris a Federalist, its a lot like Rousseau who was a classical liberal in every sense going as far to be a defining force of liberalism.

Today the GOP has decided they are classical liberal… but they are only this in some ways, and only when it suits them (which was also true for the social conservative confederate southern democrats, “states’ rights to own slaves, states’ rights not to expand Medicaid; same stuff, different parties, different centuries). Yes, they are a bit liberal in that sense, but they are also classically conservative (especially the Tory ruling factions of the party; you know, the ones Bannon wants to War with) and often very socially conservative (like most of their wall builder anti-muslim base; not their fiscally conservative folks like my dad and maybe even you base, but the ones who get stoked over the wall).

That said, not much changed outside their embracing of a few new factions and a few changes in platform to represent that.

For example of a change, the GOP are today embracing populist sentiment (as I pointed out, the south really has fundamentally changed them)… but this change has also secured them the religious right and as noted the conservative south while maintaining the America first know nothing populist base (who has always been there).

I could speak Ill about those factions, and I could wish for the days of Eisenhower and Washington and true Federalists who had principals rather than pandered for Citizens United dollars, but why throw insults around? It isn’t the point.

If this was meant to weave tales and insult, I would just be doing what D’Souza did. That is, spin a fabricated story that was actually meant to fill people’s heads with lies.

I am not trying to paint one party as good and the other bad… and I’m not trying to spin things to make the Democratic Party look good (historically speaking that might even be harder than making the GOP look good!) Rather,
I’d submit that both parties have pros and cons. Still, the history is what it is… and I can’t say it doesn’t annoy me to have the correct version of the story dismissed in favor of the D’Souza and rightwing lie that tries to act like the Democratic Party wasn’t the party of the south.

Also, as I’ve noted before, this partly annoys me because it assumes the conservative south is something to be ashamed of, for, what other reason is there to use it as slander against the Modern Dems?… It is strange. The modern GOP who comes to this page and bashes my work, for all their waving a Dixie Flag at the alt-right rally, don’t seem to get it… that is, the myth version of the story D’Souza tells, its main thesis is “Democrats bad because South bad”.

The GOP say they are an ally, but at least our story respects the actual history of the south and doesn’t treat them like chopped liver. That is, Democrats own their history, while Republicans are the ones literally re-writing it. Any historic text will essentially prove me right, as will the electoral map, as will speeches of politicians. Really, if you know history, it is impossible to say that the general story we are trying to tell above is wrong. You can disagree with my take on what things mean, but like the Confederates broke away from the Democrats and went to war with the Republicans, literally the story of the Civil War. Think about it… and try make sense of that if nothing changed? Try making sense of federalists and anti-federalists if nothing changed?

John on

You are extraordinarily delusional. LBJ blocked every single attempt at human rights and civil rights legislation while he was president pro tempore of the Senate, and then again as VP.

You are either trolling or high on a bad batch of crystal meth, again.

—President Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas was lauded by four successor presidents as a Lincoln-esque groundbreaker for civil rights, but President Barack Obama also noted that Johnson also had long opposed civil rights proposals.

“Now, like any of us, he was not a perfect man,” Obama said in his April 10, 2014, speech at the Civil Rights Summit at the LBJ Presidential Library. “His experiences in rural Texas may have stretched his moral imagination. But he was ambitious, very ambitious, a young man in a hurry to plot his own escape from poverty and to chart his own political career. And in the Jim Crow South, that meant not challenging convention.

“During his first 20 years in Congress,” Obama said, “he opposed every civil rights bill that came up for a vote, once calling the push for federal legislation a farce and a shame.”

—from “Means of Ascent”, the second volume of Robert Caro’s books on Johnson.

The introduction to the book says that as Johnson became president in 1963, some civil rights leaders were not convinced of Johnson’s good faith, due to his voting record. “He had been a congressman, beginning in 1937, for eleven years, and for eleven years he had voted against every civil rights bill – against not only legislation aimed at ending the poll tax and segregation in the armed services but even against legislation aimed at ending lynching: a one hundred percent record,” Caro wrote. “Running for the Senate in 1948, he had assailed President” Harry “Truman’s entire civil rights program

Thomas DeMichele on

Yes, if you pay attention to the long essay (and no one is knocking you for not; it is LONG) we note how LBJ’s record improved over the years. Essentially I would submit exactly what Obama does. He was a solid south Democrat, early in his career he legislated as one, but over time he ended up being an ally to the liberal Democrats. Ultimately, despite all his flaws, he stood with the liberal Democrats and MLK and ensured Civil Rights and Voting rights. When someone steps up to the plate, you tend to be more forgiving on their past (if they went to bat for you). Likewise, I think his moves were seen as the ultimate betrayal by the solid south who switched (and this is why 64 and 65 are key dates and Goldwater had so much pull).

So I mean, I don’t think I’m delusional. I think I’m presenting historically accurate accounts of history even when they are uncomfortable.

With that said, I want to note: I appreciate conservatives and generally those who disagree taking the time to submit their arguments and present a challenge (as opposed to saying nothing or just saying I’m wrong). It gives me a chance to offer my insight based on all the research I did. For me this story isn’t about GOP is bad or Democrats are bad or Solid South is bad… it is about factions with different ideologies coming together in a representative republic to ally on platforms and how that has changed over time. It is about respecting our history as it occurred.

Those who would try to rewrite history in favor of the left or right may have snappy propaganda, but they don’t have historically accurate facts like we do (as one can’t tell the full story and twist the truth at the same time; to twist truth, one must reframe facts and skip over parts of the story; cough, D’Souza).

Ultimately, at the end of the day, a researcher will be able to verify what we say on this page via their own research… and while they might disagree with some insights into what our history means, they won’t be able to deny the truth of it. This is the case for the story in general and the character of LBJ and his place in history (for better or worse) from his early years until his last day in office.

Alice Tanner on
Doesn't beleive this myth.

All this is to try to relieve the democrats of their guilt of being the party of slavery, the KKK, and all of the horrible confederate war crimes! I don’t blame you for trying to give your history to the Republicans. It’s just not that simple, because Republicans do not accept it nor will we ever. We are much more moral than Democrats! So suck it up move on!

Thomas DeMichele on

Your argument is the socially conservative south with its confederates, kkk, and states’ rights anti-civil right is bad. So the Democratic party is bad.

I am saying, the south is the south and the conservative south’s history is its history (party names are secondary). Meanwhile, the solid south conservative voter block switched parties (which is why the electors map looks the way it does over time).

You are, in other words, insulting a faction of modern republicans to try to slander the modern Democrats.

That is my main problem with d’souza’s work. It misconnects the dots, confuses history, and insults the conservative south while trying to insult liberals and progressives.

Do you see the problem here? If it is that the conservative south is bad, then that problem remains and is now a Republican problem. If it is that we should move forward, then why are you going on about “DemoKKKrats?”

The real question to ask, once you get your history straight, is “why did liberal and progressive democrats ally with the south in the first place?”

The answer is “votes” and “because they are all against the classical conservative Tory right conservative-liberals who have always ruled the federalist, Whig, and Republican Party.”

Oddly, that group used to ally with northern elite liberals and progressives (think Teddy and Lincoln) and know-nothings (think America first nativists).

The Democrats were the small government party in those days (days of Jefferson, Jackson, and VanBuren), so it made sense for the south, liberals, and progressive reformers to ally on the Democratic left. They all agreed on no banks and free trade, unlike the protectionist and often elitist right.

Today things have changed considerably, the progressives and neoliberals have alienated the small government south with their social policies, the republicans have pandered to them with their rhetoric.

The history of the parties is a complicated mix of truths. You can’t draw a straight line with many issues (like we all seem to want to do).

The fact is, the south really changed the GOP in-message (If not often in-action). As the GOP pandered to the south with its southern strategy, they picked up new planks that are actually at odds with what the ruling class of the party wants. This has created an odd tension between your old timers and the newer wings of the party. You can see it in the difference between McCain, Bannon, Sessions, say Richard Spencer and David Duke, and Roy Moore. These are very different types of Republicans, some always with the party, and some that would have been Democrats in the past.

All that said, the point is: today the conservative south votes republican, but in the past that voter block was an important part of the Democratic Party…. and who knows, maybe they will be again in the future? Probably more likely though they will go third party again since both parties have a history of insulting them and not actually following through with policy that will benefit them 😉

Thomas DeMichele on

In other words: you say “those horrible Confederates.” Try saying that to the face of a southern conservative Republican and see what happens.

You saw what happened when the modern left tried to tear down their statue.

But you won’t see me trying to stop you though. I strongly support modern Republicans continuing to make fun of the south, it makes it easier for progressives and liberals to win elections. The progressive left has won over large swaths of the south with their pro-worker message before, you shouldn’t take their vote for granted by spreading this d’souza venom.

Half joking. But hopefully you get my point.

D. Luis Otero on

Try reading “The Congressional Record”, instead of someone’s take on what someone else heard, from someone else who read, what someone else thought. Genuine sources are far more reliable.

Thomas DeMichele on

I fully agree. I try to go back to speeches of politicians, old party platforms, old congressional records, etc.

Looking at the documents and arguments from the 1770s – 1850s – 1960s – today we can get a very clear sense of the history of the two major voting factions / parties.

Check this out:

You can scroll down to the the first session from December 5, 1859 to June 25, 1860 and get a pretty clear sense of where the country was at and which party and region was fighting for slavery and which party and region was fighting against it.

Then we can go to 1960 for example and see the same thing:

Then we can look at Roy Moore and ask ourselves, do we really think he would have been fighting for the Union or for Civil Rights? I don’t think so.

We can’t change the past, but like we can change the message we are running on for 2018 at the very least.

Jon B on
Doesn't beleive this myth.

You should all into Stefan Molyneux’s Free Domain Radio show and arrange a debate about this subject. It would be fascinating to watch!

Thomas DeMichele on

Stefan Molyneux is more toward the D’souza end of the spectrum. He is a smart guy though, certainly respect tenacity, intelligence, and depth of research.

Although I disagree with almost every single one of his perspectives, I appreciate that he seeks out facts. It seems as those he believes what he believes in earnest, I respect that.

That said, I think if you compare Molyneux’s theories to my own, not just this one but others on the site, it just shows the strength of my arguments. Thus, I also encourage this.

Good to hear all the sides, I try to summarize the counter arguments here, but just as well to hear them from the mouth of someone who believes that narrative.

dupres on
Doesn't beleive this myth.

Well written but misguided. You put too much emphasis on “civil rights” (which depend on whose rights you are talking about) and the size of the government (which depends on who is benefiting); and not enough emphasis on who controls the means of production (emotionally charged term for sure; think of it as, very broadly, the economy).

Actually, the two dominant parties have not changed as much as is commonly supposed. At their core, they have remained the same since their beginnings. Going back to Hamilton, the Republicans (originally, Federalists) have always been the party of bankers and businessmen; meanwhile, the Democrats (originally, Anti Federalists), starting with Thomas Jefferson, have been the party of the individual and individual rights.

It has been a tug of war between the relationship of business to government (the business of government is to promote business, that’s Hamilton, the founder of the philosophy that evolved into today’s Republicans) versus the relationship between the individual and government (government’s job is to protect the rights of the individual, including the right to pursue happiness, that’s Jefferson, the founder of what eventually became today’s Democrats).

WHAT CHANGED was society’s definition of “individual” and, concomitantly, how the government related to the “individual” (and that change was the due to a change in the means of production).

The Constitution (as originally proposed- the Bill of Rights being an “addition’ originally proposed to ensure enough states would ratify the Constitution) defined the rules of business and property, with as little attention as possible paid to those individuals who were not white, male, and property owners. Over time, what changed were the rules governing business and property as well as what constitutes an individual.
Jefferson, Jackson, FDR, LBJ- but not Lincoln, were all Democrats, believing that government’s main purpose was to protect the the individual, as defined in their time, from the rich and powerful, while Lincoln held the Union intact for the benefit of the emergent northern industrialist class and their financial backers.

I will give one illustrative example.
Remember, originally, legally, slaves were not truly “individuals”, they were more akin to “property”. By the mid 19th century, the dominant means of production was changing from agricultural to manufacturing and finance. The Republicans saw slavery as a wedge issue to be used to wrestle power from the large agriculturalists (mostly southern and slave owning) who had largely dominated federal government up to then. The Democrats defended the individual’s right to own (or not own) slaves (personal property). Following the Civil War, things got murky as the definition of “individual rights” underwent a prolonged evolution (a result of the change in the dominant economic driving force). In the south, the original Jeffersonian idea of the individual as a white male still held, but in the north it was changing to include former slaves, immigrants and even women. Big business saw such a widening of the definition as potentially dangerous for their interests.
The 1896 election was pivotal. The Republicans ran on a pro-business platform (financed, for the first time, by large contributions from bankers and industrialists); they argued that government’s job was to make things good for business and everything else would be fine. To the Democrats the election was a fight for the working man against the rich (the ol’ Jeffersonian/Jackson idea, updated with a much broader definition of “individual”). The election came down to big business versus the individual. Big business won.
Of course, things weren’t quite that simple. It never is during such times. A change in the means of production does not take place immediately or smoothly- ever. And neither did the change in the definition of individual rights. There were people in both parties who favored the ideas of the other party. And many who wanted a different party entirely. There was no general consensus (either between or within party lines) as to just what constituted “individual rights” or what was the government’s role in the business/individual equation. Terms such as “populist” and “progressive” were tossed around without a generally agreed upon understanding of the terms. There were members of both parties claiming to be one or the other (or both). Perhaps the best illustration of this confused time was Teddy Roosevelt’s claim that “progressivism” and “conservatism” where one in the same.
Things largely clarified during the next generation, as people moved from one side to the other, based on which side of the economic equation they fell on. And the debate over “race” (as opposed to “slavery”) became a dominant political football- and a key to redefining once again the “individual”.
Yet, throughout this period (and, of course, continuing to this day) the two major parties have remained true to their basic philosophies, the Hamiltonian idea that government’s role was to promote commerce versus the Jeffersonian idea that government’s primary job was to ensure the rights of the individual. Of course, neither party has ever actually believed in these things. They a have both always been led by people what had their own class interests at heart. Which leads us to today- but that’s another story.

Thomas DeMichele on

I don’t disagree with your take. The anti-federalists were the peoples’ party and the federalists were the more elite party of business. We can sort of trace that line though almost any era (if not literally all the eras). I think there is a lot that changed and switched regardless, but I’ve explained my take above. Very much appreciate the well thought out counterpoint. There is certainly an argument to made here.

I think one problem we have is that we are so divided politically we want to see one party as good and the other as bad, one party as always right in any era, and one party as always wrong. We want the parties of yesterday to represent us today, and we want to cherry pick our heroes to fit our modern ideology. I think though we are better off realizing that they are both our parents of sorts and we all inherited qualities of each and each represent aspects of who we are (to speak somewhat metaphorically).

NW on
Doesn't beleive this myth.

I can’t believe someone actually read this crud. I only skim read it and saw things like Abraham Lincoln was a democrat, or it’s a myth that republicans freed slaves. Are you kidding me? Its no wonder people believe a so called switch, they’re so brainwashed it’s spewing out of their ears. How can a party switch yet keep the same name, and platform agenda? If you had two car companies, that claimed to switched but kept the same name, you would call that hogwash. But you can be a socialist/communist party who thrived on racism, slavery, pharmaceutical to keep people depressed and drugged, welfare to keep people lazy and poor…that’s socialism folks. Democrats have pooled the biggest hat trick in history and people still fall for it. Republicans of old had Christian values, and Democrats now have all but outlawed Christianity and pulled in secularism and pagan cults. I’m not even an historian as you claim and I know all this.

Thomas DeMichele on

You must have really really skimmed. I mean skimmed so hard you missed the words that were actually said… I would never say Lincoln was a Democrat or that it is a Myth that the Republican party was the party of the Union that won the war and pushed for the Constitutional amendments that resulted in the abolishment of slavery. If I said that it would be false, if it was false the page would likely not rank well (as one must speak core truths to be considered a source of information by any standard).

Now, with this said, I feel like there is only so much I can say to your comment without going into another essay. But suffice to say, we don’t have a lot of Lincoln and Teddy types in the modern GOP, and we don’t have a lot of John C. Calhoun types in the modern Democratic Party. That is the gist of the page.

Eric on

If your idea of proof is that the parties switched because southern states started voting Republican, you’re dead wrong. The southern states started voting Republican, because the new generation of people don’t hold on to the racist beliefs of their predecessors. It’s not because the racists started voting Republican. In fact, you will often hear a Black person from the south say they experienced more racism when they went to visit a blue state like Illinois or California than they do in the south. So there is a direct correlation between the south of today being far less racist than it used to be and the south now voting more and more Republican. Today the Democratic Party is still the party that uses racial fears to divide people.

Thomas DeMichele on

Glad we agree on the switch, not surprised we don’t agree on the details.

Here is my stance. The solid south voting block never was on board with the progressive planks of social programs being expanded to everyone (hence the tension from wilson’s Era to LBJ’s era), and when that faction left the Democratic Party and stared voting republican they took their more socially conservative platform with them and that even changed the Republican Party as they pandered to it (southern strategy for example).

The faction that was the confederates and Dixiecrats that we all scoff at today has its roots in the conservative south. Neoliberals, liberals, and progressives were in the Democratic Party at the same time the conservative southern factions were (hence dominating elections, they had more voters for a while). Over the last half of the 1900s the conservative southern base switched out as you see and this “changed the parties and the platforms.”

We see that lbjs, gores, Clinton’s all stayed. We know there is still a liberal and progressive south. And heck there are elitist and working class racists in both parties. But that isn’t reflected in policies and planks (as most of the base is liberals and progressive and pretty hung up on fighting for equality to a fault).

So whatever we want to say about that is one thing, but when the right tries to present the whole demokkkrats narrative they just make themselves look bad as they are talking about the history of the conservative southerners who changed as they may be, are now republicans.

Trust me, unicorn progressive lefties from California are not today nor have they ever been confederate good old boys in white hoods. That has to be logically obvious. Meanwhile, the neoliberal ruling class of both parties could care less about race anyways. They care about money while everyone else bickers. Those policies aren’t racist, they are classist. Used to be racist and progressive populists would team up, sometimes, now they don’t and they run Bernie and trump against each other. But like, ultimately the neoliberals still win. Just today you say drain the swamp and not darn carpetbaggers.

That said, at least Bernie is actuallya populist. Trump is, his good points aside, an oligarch from a golden tower in New York.

Thomas DeMichele on

Also, please note that the reason this page is long is because I try to explain everything that changed in each party system. The southern bloc and its own changes and history only tells one part of the story. Also, no modern people are the same as their ancestors and that should partly dispel everyone’s talking points in terms of the idea of blaming modern democrats or southerners for the 1860s or 1960s.

Pat Bryan on

What a horrid incoherent mish-mosh. Robert Byrd very carefully explained this, please check your history.
Abraham Lincoln was a Republican. He said, “You may no longer own Black people.” So all of the White Supremacist South became Democrats, a very special kind of Democrat that was called ‘Dixiecrat’. LBJ was a Democrat. In 1964 he said, “No we were serious, you may not own Black people.” And Barry Goldwater ran for president as a Republican in 1964. He said, “Elect us and we will let you own all the Black people you want.” That’s when the whole South turn Republican just to keep White Supremacy.
Abortion policy follows. Before 1979, The Right and Evangelicals had no interest in abortion. The Evangelicals kind of liked it, because they always had a teen pregnancy problem.
Mississippi had a problem. They wanted a tax-exemption for Whites-only private schools. Jimmy Carter would not give it to them. They figured Reagan would. So they made a propaganda issue of abortion, using Catholic derivative theology to get Baptists all stirred up against Carter even though there are no anti-abortion references in the Bible. But Reagan wouldn’t give them the tax exemption either. But now the Evangelicals were stuck. You can’t invest that much energy in phony derivative theology and then just drop it after you told everybody that God told it to you. So that’s why every Right Wingnut politician has to pander to Evangelicals about who is Pro-Lifier-than-Thou, because Jimmy Carter would not give a tax exemption to racist White Supremacists.
Remember, White Supremacy is a corporate philosophy handed down to poor Whites so they won’t join with poor Blacks to unionize the South

Thomas DeMichele on

All good to points to make -ish (NOTE: I don’t fully agree with the way you framed some of that, like Goldwater never literally says “ya’ll can own black people”… he simply pandered to the solid south Nixon style after LBJ ran with Kennedy and the liberal / progressive civil rights programs, thus making headway toward the coalition of libertarian, classical conservative, and social conservative under the Republican banner… a coalition which includes the solid south and religious right voter in the spirit of folks like Rothbard and to the ends of folks like Powell).

Anyway, this exchange and the page itself all speak to the same concept: it is hard to fit ALL the points needed to be made into one easy to read internet snippet. Thus, I get how you could call what I presented a mish-mash… I prefer to think of it as an attempt to tell the full story where brevity is sacrificed for truth. But hey, I’m not perfect, it has become a bit of a monster of an essay. Cheers to the future person who takes my work and runs with it to present the whole story in a more streamlined way. Maybe that person will be me, who knows.

Freedom Fan (@TheFreedomFan) on
Doesn't beleive this myth.

When were Democrats ever the party of small government? When they were fighting the Republicans to keep their slaves? Coolidge (R) was the smallest of small government Republicans and resulted in the Roaring 20’s. FDR (D) launched the biggest of big government programs, The New Deal, which prolonged the Great Depression by 7 years, according to a UCLA study. This whole article is silly.

Thomas DeMichele on

Well when the solid south was a major faction in the Democratic party, so for much of the 1800s and early 1900s for example, the dems wanted free market and states rights (AKA small government). So like, over a century is your answer. Also, in the 1900s Coolidge was a small government type, this is an era when the Republican party started changing, no surprise right before this you find Teddy leave and then FDR become President. Things they were-a-changin’. It is why I say we shouldn’t start the story of changes at 1960’s civil rights and voting rights.

Thomas DeMichele on

Also the claim that the New Deal prolonged the depression is essentially a right wing talking point. One could just as easily argue Republican small government policy created the depression and the New Deal bailed us out. I would be willing to examine the issue and explore both positions, but I roll my eyes rather hard at the narrative that the Republican party was always small government and the New Deal is what prolonged the great depression.

Kyle on
Supports this as a Fact.

A very interesting read albeit very time consuming. I got confused as it seems you jumped around a little bit from topic to topic and then back.

I do agree that the parties switched platforms to some degree. Yes it’s clear the South underwent a change from “Democrat” to “Republican” I use these labels loosely as they are not all encompassing.

The biggest issue people take with this “Big Switch” is whether all the racists that supported the “Democrats” switched over to the “Republican” party. This Switch is commonly used by the modern day Democrats to claim that Republicans are a racist party and the Democrats are not. This is where people really take offense with the idea of the Big Switch is that it was use in modern political campaigning to claim that Republicans were all racists (which I like when you said “claiming all Republicans are racists is oversimplification at best”.

It’s clear the parties switch and you made that perfectly clear and I agree there was a switch. However, the “Big Switch” is not what the majority of people think it is. It’s most notably attributed to racism in which case neither party can be claimed as racist (although the Anti-White mentality popping up from 2016 to today is alarming claiming white people today should be ashamed of themselves because of what their ancesters did.)

I truly believe racism is not a big issue today as people like to think. The media fuels this racism and the people claiming things are racist when they really are not. What we are seeing today is the modern Democratic party being hijacked by the socialists. We see it as a Bernie Sanders socialist unseated Jim Crowley in the primary who was a long term running Democrat. We are seeing the Democratic party shift further to the left and to socialism.

What we are seeing today is this:

Republicans – Want small government, lower taxes, supports religious right, anti-abortion, pro-gun.
Democrats – Want big centralized government, higher taxes (which happen under Socialism), anti-religion in some cases (evidenced by the Southern Poverty Law Center and Freedom From Religion Foundation) and want to ban gun.

The south that we see today is not a hub of racism as it was in the past. The modern Democrats try to pain the south as hubs of racism but in reality they are not. The reason they support the Republican party of today is the fact that they are by and large descended from farmers and hunters who were always pro gun and the south has always been very religious and that’s what today’s Republican party supports.

I really would love to hear from you as I know I would enjoy a debate with someone very educated on the topic.

Thomas DeMichele on

Thanks for the feedback, the page got a bit unwieldy over time as I added sections to it and tried to refine things. Now it is like a bunch of different essays stitched together. Lots of info, but ideally needs to be reworked for a more fluid read (something I hesitate to do to a live and ranking web page at this point).

Anyway, to your point.

I think you have a fair outlook. We clearly have what appears to be the same set facts (which is refreshing), but maybe some slightly different views on what they mean. I would make the following points to illustrate some of my thoughts (feel free to add more to the conversation or respond to any of these):

1. It is unfair to paint the Republican party as “the racist party.” It is too simple and lets us dismiss countless ideas from countless millions with a single word. There are clearly some factions (fringe or not), like the one David Duke is a part of, who are bigoted and are also generally Republican, and when those factions aren’t clearly rejected it doesn’t look great. Likewise, when we see policies like travel bans and walls, it does call into question some things. However, I think we can give most Republicans the benefit of the doubt and accept at face value that they don’t identify as racist, don’t consider their policies racist, and have logical reasons behind their actions which they don’t interpret as racist (unlike in the past where there were legitimately racist factions; know nothings on the “right” and parts of the conservative south on the “left” for example). I might look at what Jeff Sessions does and say “clearly a racist southerner who would have been a Democrat; damn traitors”… but if I give him the respect of hearing him out and really thinking on the position and the nuance, I get that a lot of complexities come into play and I could debate that whole stance (plus, having that attitude about your countrymen really makes it hard to work together; so its not productive).

2. The South itself has changed, so just because social conservatives from the south are still a group, doesn’t mean we should directly equate a social conservative from the south today with one from the mid-1800s or even mid-1960s. That is just basic logic. Assuming anything about a whole group of people based on preconceived notions is… kind of BS.

3. I think racism is still a very real issue, especially for groups who have been historically oppressed, but there is no way it is as big of an issue as it was. We have made great strides in society toward tolerance as a whole. However, I can’t fully speak on that as I’m not from a oppressed group so I only have an outside view of the issue. Just speaking logically.

4. Guns, racism, etc as valid issues as they are, are also wedge issues meant to divide us into red team and blue team to spur on fundraising and voting. It’s not fully nefarious, but I’ll put it this way… I bet if you sat reasonable normal people who didn’t have to earn votes or fundraise or answer to anyone down in a room and asked them to solve the gun issues, abortion issue, healthcare, etc they would walk out an hour later with all the issues settled. Half joking, but… sort of not.

5. The push back against “socialism” is a major issue. It helps explain why the parties “switch” under the Roosevelt’s and Kennedy/LBJ (essentially all pushed progressive policies). If you ignore the racist element of the 1960s, you are only left with expanding social programs as the reason for changing factions. That said, the South just helped elect Trump on a “populist” platform where he promised healthcare for everybody and coal jobs etc. The whole worker rights populist thing is essentially a form of socialism. Also, terms like “socialist” get used to dismiss the left just like “racist” gets used to dismiss the right. Maybe socialist is more fair in the case of Bernie Sanders for example, but they are similar issues.

7. I generally agree with your breakdown of the parties, but Republicans tend to want big government on certain issues (military, abortion rights, gun rights, etc) and although they say “lower taxes” they in practice tend to give cuts to corporations first and individuals a distant second (while the liberals tax, but offer social programs for the spend). So agree with the gist, but think the pros and cons need to be balanced a bit more.

Bottomline: Once we accept our history, we have to give all normal people in the US the benefit of the doubt and assume they are mostly well intentioned and not bigoted (if they don’t consider themselves to be bigoted). Sure a right winger sees tax and government assistance as Communist, and a left winger sees the wall as racist, but neither side sees their own policies this way (and that is important to note). To an extent, although there is tons of valid criticism and a need to debate policies and ideas, a lot of it boils down to divisive politics. Pro-guns and pro-God Southern voters get labeled racist for what their ancestors did, or for voting for Trump, and it becomes an easy way to group a ton of people together and reject and dismiss them them (and the right does this to the left all the time using their own range of tactics). The South as a whole is a group, it contains liberals and conservatives, it contains farmers and intellectuals (and intellectual farmers), it contains rich and poor, etc. Can’t paint it with too broad a brush.

Franklin Zelch on
Doesn't beleive this myth.

I’ll agree it is far more accurate to say the “platforms change” but to go so far as to say the “Parties Switched”, as if someone flipped a coin, is a fallacy . If we look at each “Party” as a physical building that contains individual people, as each party does, the only thing over time that would actually change are the individual people, their thoughts and platform, not the actual Building which remains the ‘party’. The old ‘party members’ would of course die out and new ‘party members’ would replace them, but the actual “Party” itself remains that same “party”. Therefor the racist history of the Democrat Party is not a myth. The Republican Party was founded on anti-slavery and it remains the anti-slavery (to government) today.

Thomas DeMichele on

Don’t disagree with what you say at all (nice metaphor).

Once we understand the nuances of history we can say the anti-federalist line became the Democratic party and that party was the party of the Solid South. This is true to the point that the Democratic party disbanded during the Civil War because they were trying to become their own nation (I mean the war is essentially between Northern Liberals and Conservatives AKA the Republicans of the time vs. the populist social conservative south AKA the Democrats of the time; that really tells you everything you need to know, that is, Democrats used to be the party of the conservative South and Republicans used to have a stronghold in the citied North).

In this sense, it is absolutely not a myth that the Democratic Party was the party of slavery and the Confederate South (Democracy, as in, states rights and don’t tell me what to do… even if that is the state telling me I can’t own slaves; Republican, as in elected aristocrats represent the people and protect individual rights via a more orderly system; same implication as anti-federalist and federalist).

The party switch thing is only a myth when we start using the above truisms to imply that because that was true that today the southern social conservative voter bloc has 1. not changed and 2. defines the modern Democratic Party.

If we want to look to find that bloc, we will find it 1. changed and 2. in a coalition with the Republican party.

Today the southern bloc is one of the main forces behind the Republican party and is key to them winning federal elections, so it is certainly not in the Democratic party.

That said, the Democratic Party and the Southern bloc have Civil War, Jim Crowe, etc in their history. I think we should handle it like Germany does Hitler, admit it, talk honestly about it, and focus on “how do we make sure this never happens again.”

If we start twisting the truth into a political pretzel then the younger generations and non-historians can’t learn the lessons that history is attempting to teach us.

NOTE: Saying platforms switched is one way to phrase it. The paragraphs at the top of the page attempt to phrase it in a more complete way saying “as factions changed parties, platforms changed, and as platforms changed, factions changed… etc.”

Britt Hannah on
Doesn't beleive this myth.

This is a wall of garbage. The most important point is that Republicans supported civil rights more strongly than the Democrats and the reason is because of our ideology. Republicans voted more strongly in favor of civil rights than the Democrats. There is no possible way for the parties to switch … it was in the middle of an election period when the vote for civil rights occurred in 1964. Republican ideology has hardly ever changed. READ the party platform documents… again READ THE PARTY PLATFORM DOCUMENTS. Democrats didn’t switch they Fing died out. People don’t live forever and your whole idea is based on same group persisting through time. Republicans didn’t switch anything, it is simply a matter of new people realizing that the Republican ideology was what they believed in and moving towards it over time.

And, your two dimensional chart that puts fascism on the right is BS. Fascism comes from collectives because collectives put the bastard dictators in charge of the government through pure democracy. Then that bastard dictator commits heinous crimes in the name of the collective. A republic is the only way to avoid it because a republic protects the rights of individuals from the mob but, eventually the mob gets control by subversion and muddying the waters like what you are trying to do here. Your idea here is dangerous and will breed more collective authoritarianism and spawn more killer regimes. Anyone that can’t see that the Nazi’s and Mussolini’s movement were large collectives that forced the rest of the population into line IS BLIND and maybe STUPID.

Thomas DeMichele on

If you are going to just ignore all my arguments for the switch and the left-right spectrum and move right onto asserting your views angrily, I don’t see how we can have a conversation.

I would spend time in reiterating my stance in detail, but it is found in the first few paragraphs of this page and our page on left-right politics.


In short, the stance is: 1. the south is still the south, but unlike in the past today the conservative southern bloc dominates the Republican party (which has very much led to changes in the GOP platform); so much more than that though. Still since the main opposition to civil rights was found in the South, it makes little sense to give modern Republicans credit. 2. Fascism and Communism are on the polar ends of a left-right spectrum. Horseshoe theory says these ends actually have more in common with each other than the middle. One a collectivist socialism for all left (generally militaristic), one a collectivist wall building, anti other, nationalist right (almost always militaristic).

If I was being diplomatic I would simply say the country has a history of opposing civil rights and the parties have changed, thus what matters is what we do today, not who did what in the past. If we want to spar and you want to treat Civil Rights and Lincoln as defining the modern GOP, I’ll argue why the ex-southern democrats, know nothings, and tories that dominate the GOP today make that assertion mostly laughable with only a side of truth.

The progressives are responsible for progressive polices in history, the liberals the liberal policies, the capitalists the capitalist, the socialist the socialist, the anti immigrant the anti immigrant, the bible thumpers the bible thumping, etc. Now which party contained which factions who pushed which policies at which times… that is something the essay above scratches the surface of in an effort to show just how much has changed.

Jon on
Doesn't beleive this myth.

the amount of propaganda and myth involved in this article is astounding.
Note the last time this article was updated…. Post Trump.
FACT: Democrats always were and always will be the party of Racism no matter how they claim they aren’t
FACT: The KKK is and always will be a Democrat operation. I live WV and know people who claim to be in the KKK. They are ALL lifelong Democrats

This article is FAKE NEWS

Thomas DeMichele on

Well I can’t act like there couldn’t be a Democrat who was also in the KKK. Also, it is logical that someone would have loyalty to a party for life. If you were a Democrat in 1960, and your family had been Democrats since the 1800s, you maybe keep that loyalty despite the changing times. Still, the voter base and leadership generally changed and many planks that used to be found in the Democratic party are now found in the Republican party.

Just find it hard to imagine this liberal Democrat putting on a hood and then talking about expanding Medicare for All, LGBT Marriage, how the wall is nonsense, how trans women should be able to use women’s bathrooms, etc. You know, this guy buys a pair of Nikes, talks about how brave Kaepernick is, and then starts chanting “white power.” Not impossible, but just doesn’t seem right to me.

The article is well researched and I think we could go point by point and have a debate, not dismissing any counter points or types of people… but also history as it occurred is pretty much written in stone and there are aspects that are hard to argue. One thing hard to argue is the way the solid south’s voter base and leadership changed over time from favoring the Democratic Party to the Republican party. That has a lot of complex related points to discuss. I think I explained it well in the article.

bob on
Doesn't beleive this myth.

Huge myth. The republicans are still the party that freed the slaves, gave women the right to vote and led the civil rights. The democrats are still the party of slavery, the kkk, opposed women voting and opposed the civil rights movements. The democrats are the rich plantation owners who owned slaves and gave them food and shelter in exchange for their labor. Now those same democrats give out food and shelter called welfare to their slaves in exchange for their votes.

Thomas DeMichele on

How do you explain the fact that the voter-base of the Democrats is in cities like San Francisco and NYC, with supporters like Bernie and Soros, while the strongholds of the GOP are in places like the deep south, with supporters like Jeff Sessions?

Are you suggesting Bernie and the LGBT community in the city, the PC pink hat wearing progressives, are the KKK and meanwhile Jeff Sessions and the alt right are progressive Civil Rights activist?

That doesn’t sound right to me.

Why does a voter map look like this?:

Why are the platforms so different today than they were in the past?

Could it be that while the names of parties haven’t changed, and while some factions have never left, that some factions did leave and as times changed platforms changed and so did which parties regional voter-bases favored?

Because I would say it could and is this, and that you friend are spouting off a fallacy spread by people like Dinesh D’Souza.

Welfare and Chattel slavery are very different things. Chattel slavery is more like the prison industrial complex, while welfare is more like the pro-union socialist labor party line.

Now, is there good in both parties today and yesterday, sure. Did some things not change? Sure. Did the south reform? I’ve talked to people who do think this and give me good reasons for their support of the GOP. So, sure, in cases, I’ll buy that.

What I won’t buy is your version of the story. You should research more with an open mind and think about your sources. They are misleading you accidentally at best and maliciously at worst.

The argument for the GOP, south, etc is strongest when history as it was is acknowledged in my humble opinion. Meanwhile, trying to blame liberal democrats and progressives for what the solid conservative south did 100 years ago is, words I can’t say online aside, lame.

Anonymous on
Doesn't beleive this myth.

Democrats have always been racist and you can try and explain it away, however you can’t. All one has to do is look at the Democrat party today and you can easily see and understand they are still racist based on their track record of illegal labor. As long as they stay illegal Democrats and their donors won’t have to pay them a fair wage with benefits. Yes, the same old Cliché, slavery and keeping the poor broke and unable to care for themselves just so they can depend on their master’s, the Democrat Party.

Thomas DeMichele on

First off, I respect your opinion, and thank you for commenting… but, that said, I disagree firmly and will respond in kind.


This is like me saying “the South has always been racist.” It is an over simplification of the truth that puts all the nuance I wrote about above aside to make a slanted and frankly very narrow point.

Do the wealthy tend to exploit the poor? Sure… but that is more like inherited British Colonialism and oligarchy at work. Both parties do this.

So whether it is private prisons (a GOP favorite), union busting and wage suppression (again, GOP planks), exploiting immigrants (can’t act like loose immigration laws don’t have that added benefit; although we are talking about exploitation on farms in many cases, and that again is GOP territory), or whatever… I think what we see is the rich exploiting the poor.

Anyway, I could go onto to talk about labor, immigration, assistance programs, etc. But I suspect in each case I’d argue for how progressive policies (sometimes exploited by the ruling elite) in the Democratic party of today and policies born of social conservative bigotry from the Republican party and from the conservative faction of Democrats (mostly no longer with us today) are not the same thing.

That said, I won’t go on, because I do strongly feel that I have made my point above. The point being that the parties changed over time, especially as the social conservative solid south faction tended toward the Republican party and as that party embraced and Reagan-ized the fundamentalists to create the modern Religious right… while at the same time the progressives and liberals increasingly came to dominate the Democratic party (why one party votes for progressive hope and change and the other to make America great again and build walls).

All that said, I don’t disagree with the reality of things like how loose immigration laws lead to the exploitation of immigrant labor. Is is on my list with mismanaged welfare programs and many other planks I think we could do better at. But those conversations, while we may find we agree on aspects, don’t speak to the reality of the party change or to the fact that you are oversimplifying things so hard it boarders on some neo-confederate propaganda version of history straight from the mind of D’Souza.

J Eddins on
Doesn't beleive this myth.

Wikipedia, really? hahaha!

Thomas DeMichele on

Citing Wikipedia as a secondary resource is completely valid.

Think about a research process in which you really wanted to find out information, wouldn’t you use Wikipedia? Well, I did for one part of the research, and thus I listed it. Not just because I used it, but because it is useful for the reader.

Too often we dismiss an argument because we don’t agree with a source, but this is essentially a type of fallacious logic built on bias.

Wikipedia is chalk full of truths and good information, it gets a bad reputation in some circles for what I consider rather flimsy reasons.

Jim Zieliek on
Doesn't beleive this myth.

Thank you for the article. I can only imagine the amount of time it took to gather the information. I find myself as a centrist as I have strong feelings for issues on both sides. So to say I am not a fan of the 2 party system is an understatement. That being said, I am a fan of pragmatic solutions to difficult problems. This is an issue as you have stated is definitely not an “easy answer” one. I do disagree with the switch on one level that is kind of simplistic and I am sure it is much more elaborate than this. It has been my observation that most (not all) children follow their parent’s political party ideologies. So if this is true, wouldn’t the families of every president (and other politicians) LBJ and previous be in opposite parties of their earlier family members. I have found this to not be true for the majority of the politicians that I researched. I did a minimalistic sample size especially compared to the amount of work that you must have done. Is it not possible that voting Southern Democrats felt betrayed by LBJ and switched parties. Thus the Democrats had to hold the party together by working extremely hard to gain support in other states. I know this is a simplistic view, but I believe that it starts to untangle the knot of confusion.

Once again, great work on the amount of time that you must have spent on the article and I would love to hear your thoughts.

Thomas DeMichele on

Thank you for the kind words.

100% think the southern Democrats felt betrayed that LBJ sided with the liberals and progressives.

Think about it, Kennedy is out, LBJ is in, southern Democrats think they have their man…. then he passes Kennedy’s progressive agenda through anyway.

LBJ was a far to the left of the southern democrats, along with Al Gore’s father… but I am fairly certain he really pissed the southern bloc off. Ultimately he was still part of that group even if he was sort of an in between also being somewhat a part of the liberal and progressive groups.

I can’t say for sure, but many signs point to that theory holding weight.

Don Huizenga on
Supports this as a Fact.

This article is as slanted as I’ve seen on FB. It lacks any understanding of national identity politics and social identity systems, north or south, R or D. Politics are defined by their ideologies and we know, despite the emphasis this article places on boundaries, that “maps” do not define “tenets”. Facts are facts. The Democrat ideology of the 1860’s (BTW…the Know Nothings are ENTIRELY mischaracterized in this nonsense article) is FOR slavery. Period. Southern Democrats fought FOR slavery, not against it. The Liberty movement, Republican emergence and subsequent delamination of the Whig party was spurred by ONE thing…freedom for slaves. That was it. Funny how the writer mentions the Civil War and the Republicans but fails to say one thing about the first true Republican favorite, Seward, and his reasons for wanting to be president.

If this alone isn’t enough to prove that the writer of this nonsense is entirely uneducated on the subject, less modern interpretation, than you all can relish in your stupidity.

Thomas DeMichele on

So first off, I appreciate your comment, challenges, and debate.

… moving on …

I honestly don’t think you read the article. Do a “command find” for the words you don’t think I mention and read everything I have to say about them.

That said, I’ll just address a few points here.

Your ideology argument holds some weight, but the problem I have and explain in depth is that the ideology of the parties as a whole is different than the ideology of factions within the parties. One dominiate faction of the Democrats of yesetrday was the social conservtive solid south… but since they left the party, they took their ideology with them. That is a major switch and is what a lot of the words I wrote above are about. Same thing with the GOP, when you drive out figures like Teddy, and open the door to figures like Strom, you change the factions within the party and that shifts your overall ideology.

The ideologies were only constant in some ways, in others the ideologies of the parties changed drastically. In fact, they changed in so many ways I can and did write essays on it.

Honestly, whoever put forth the “ideologies didn’t change” talking point, I challenge them to an open debate, they are a thorn in my side filling peoples head with drivel.

As for Know Nothings, I mean I agree with Lincoln on that one, I don’t think I have mischaracterized them. They were an America first anti-immigrant party who allied with Republicans, but were not themselves Republicans.

As for the Stalwarts (not Sewards) I discuss them at length and use them as an example of what has changed (or in the case of some of the better examples of upstanding conservatives in our era, remained with the party in some respects).

Look, you go from Lincoln and Hamilton to Trump. As the religious right and anything goes Tea Party Fox News / Trumpian politics is embraced, and as the solid south is embraced, it changes the party.

You CANNOT compare Sessions and Trump to Lincoln and Hamilton, you can compare them to Know Nothings and Southern Democrats… because, that is the line they are from.

With all due respect, I suggest you re-read my article and throw your Shapiro and D’souza out the window, as they I promise, are doing you no favors.

Cking on

Just Curious – I’ve read many of the comments and enjoyed your banter on the subject. The South is becoming minority majority:

Has this played a factor in the “switch” or flip (which I don’t really support the idea based on your article)? I think things may have switched more due to changes in population. Look at this map – all the “whites” are in the North:

Thomas DeMichele on

That is a good point, basically you had the great migration where many black Americans “fled to the north to escape the south”

Pair that with voter suppression of the black vote (something that became less true over time), and you get the system of yesterday slowly becoming the system of today

Still, that change matches up with the way I explain it.

The black vote is with the south pre-civil war, because of slavery. The black vote is mostly absent post civil war because of voter suppression. The black vote is with the liberals in the north post civil rights… because the Democrats ultimately passed civil rights and the south migrated away from the party as the party became more progressive in that era (the key here isn’t that all black people are progressive, it is that the progressives and liberal allied with that voter-base).

History is more complex than that (for example the progressives and progressive policy of the Republican party in past eras), but that is the gist.

JPW on
Doesn't beleive this myth.

Where is the wholesale change in party affiliations by elected officials? I can’t imagine there wouldn’t be a lot of shuffling in this regard, but it didn’t happen? Why? The fact is that blacks in general switched from voting republican and became Democrats during FDR’s Admin. This is the basis for the famous quote, “turn Lincoln’s picture to the wall and vote Democrat”. This was because FDR’s new deal benefited blacks in the south greatly.

Thomas DeMichele on

In so many words, there is truth in that. FDR was a big part of what caused the shift in the parties in the 20th century.

Sarah Yarbrough on

This is pure revisionist “history” and I have been for 77 years a Republican and worked for and with Presidents and have been aide to three Representatives and have been asked to run (NOT GONNA HAPPEN) as I also come from a REPUBLICAN Family Judge and Senator…and I am an Abolitionist, Anti Federalist, Jeffersonian REPUBLICAN and Libertarian and was born and raised in Missouri and a history minor in college. This is liberal (not classical) PBS history and the IVY LEAGUES “history” and having lived it from FDR on…and seeing the PROGRESSIVE MARXIST DEMOCRATS grow over the 20th Century…NOPE…I have never changed parties and the RINOs are Progressive “Republicans” they in ideology have LEFT THE PARTY The party still has the came JUDEO-CHRISTIAN foundation that believes in FREEDOM FOR EVERYONE. Therefore, today, I consider myself a LIBERTARIAN REPUBLICAN.

Thomas DeMichele on

Ok well, 77 years ago FDR was president. He was a progressive. The modern shift really starts around that time. Only 20 years later we have the solid south shift. The map and state leadership start to shift in this period as the progressive wing of the party becomes more dominant. The “switch” is really more complex than most people give it credit, and to be fair that is why this page is so long. I’m trying to be right, not succinct.

Here is the thing though, if you are Jeffersonian anti-federalist Republican… then you are drawing spirit from both parties. This is if anything a testament to the way things have switched over time (and not just once in an instant in the 1960s or whatever). So, I don’t think revisionist, I think complex and just long to read.

Appreciate your insight though I can’t and don’t have the direct experience. So thank you for sharing.

Billie on
Doesn't beleive this myth.

To those who read this. Be aware that the writer is not a historian, is not someone who masters the vast canons of history. He is merely a “fact/myth” buster who looks up information on google, wiki and youtube. No factual data has been provided or given other than youtube videos from unknowns, opinion upon opinion. You really want the truth, you need to study history, get into the books and search through the records. Do not look at books that are written now, in the last 20 years, filled with bias. Go to your local library, find the stat books, look up the parties of the area. Since a lot of people are claiming that the dems and repubs switch in the 1960s, a lot of dems were very vocal in keep segregation in the south, vocal in keeping jim crow laws, very vocal on keeping blacks out of government and power. Those of you that read this be aware to a simple fact. Schools have become a place to provide you with misinformation, your generation doesn’t have the stamina to do research, hell, the majority of you don’t even know how to do research without a computer. Everything that is provided to you on google, youtube have been placed there with a slant. Look through your search results, you’ll see that you rarely find counter view of the subject. They are feeding you one view and know you will never question it. Question it all. Dems and Repubs never switched. Repubs always wanted limited government and Dems always wanted more government. Dems control major cities and look at how horrible the cities have become. Those are your Dems, they want to keep you down and dependent on them for power.

Thomas DeMichele on

Yeah you are right, I am only someone who researched the subject and the presented my findings. That said, this is what research is.

I stand by what I say, and think overwhelming and simple to view evidence like the map of party strongholds over time and the party affiliation of state leaders over time make it clear enough that my stance is right.

So while I understand not everyone agrees who knows the facts, I strongly suggest that dismissing my findings is only leading you further from the truth or a good debate.

David on

More like visual proof the South changed. If the south had not changed I don’t believe it would be possible for my Korean Grandmother and my Native American grandfather to there in peace. PS they live in AL

Thomas DeMichele on

It for sure also speaks to the fact that the south has changed. That is true. Although, the parties have changed, and if we were to look for southern conservatives we would find them in the same states in positions of power… just under different party names. So both of these things happened.

Jes on

This commentary, ignores the Jim Crows and Civil Rights era, opting to say Democrats had become “more and more” “progressive” since the 1960s. But okay then.

“Progressive” is a misnomer in today’s definition.

Thomas DeMichele on

Well let’s ask this, which side today gets angry when lefties try to take down a confederate statue? The answer to this question is basically my argument.

Dusty Kramer on

The fact that far more conservative or Republican persons oppose the destruction of old south confederate symbology, does not automatically make those people bigots or racist, which is the real implication so-called progressives are attempting to make. Any “conservative” I know is opposed to this destruction because they believe it is an intellectual attack on our country’s honesty, and should be preserved as an example of a dark period in American history. Would we also advocate the destruction of Dachau to remove the stain of the Nazi period of German history? Isn’t the primary reason we hear progressives trying to make this ‘switched’ argument now because they want to erase from memory the history of the Democrat party’s role in defending and perpetuating slavery?

Tony on

For the Mythical Switch to have ever been made we should have seen more Seats switch than the only 5 or 6 out of 500?

Thomas DeMichele on

If you look at seats that used to be D but now there are R, there are way more than 500. Try comparing the 115th United States Congress under Trump to the 71st United States Congress under Hoover for example.

Thomas DeMichele on There are so many flips here.

71st: Georgia
2. William J. Harris (D)
3. Walter F. George (D)

115th: Georgia
2. David Perdue (R)
3. Johnny Isakson (R)

71st: Mississippi
1. Hubert D. Stephens (D)
2. Pat Harrison (D)

115th: Mississippi
1. Roger Wicker (R)
2. Thad Cochran (R), until April 1, 2018
Cindy Hyde-Smith (R), from April 2, 2018

…. you get the point, they sure did “switch” they just did it slowly over time and not in an overt way. It was a gradual switch, not a bull rush.

Bill Nadeau on
Doesn't beleive this myth.

Usually the term “Democrats and Republican’s Switched Platforms” is used to tar Republican’s as racist and at the same time white wash the Democrats horrible history on race. This article skirts around the issue of race and fails to make a compelling case for a switch other than maybe regional. Racism in American is at an all time low in the US. So low that the majority of racist examples are made up like the Juicy Smollett case. Democrats have come up with a new term “Systemic Racism” that can’t be measured. If you can’t measure it you can’t claim how big it is or if any policy has resolved it.

The big switch is how the Marxist wing and the Fascist wing of the Democrat party have joined forces.

Thomas DeMichele on

As long as we agree there was a switch, how we choose to interpret that is up for debate IMO. I see it as the neo-liberal and progressive wings joining forces for example. But maybe that is just a matter of perspective.

William A. Ernst Sr. on
Supports this as a Fact.

I am 75 years old, have lived in South Carolina since 1968. Born and raised in California. So when I came here, it was a Cultural shock to say the least. I have seen the changes first hand. Thank you for a well written article.

Sigman Floyd on

Total lie and I can prove it! “FACT/MYTH” is a Left leaning site so of course they will say that this is a fact. Democrats are STILL the Party of racists and they prove it every day with the policies and how they speak about certain minority groups.