Feedback; or, the Real Truth About Democrats

Published:September 5, 2012 by Brendan Wolfe

An anonymous reader has this to say about our entry on the poll tax:

Why do you neglect to mention anything about party affiliations when the Democrats were involved in fighting to keep slavery?

From our entry:

In 1876, the state’s Conservative Party (which soon became the Democratic Party) succeeded in amending the state constitution, for the first time denying the right to vote to men who had not paid the state poll tax.

Our reader continues:

Are you trying to keep everyone in the dark and paint the Republicans (who fought slavery) falsely as racists?

In a word: No. And anyway, it does no good to think of any group as large as the Democratic or Republican parties as, collectively, racist or non-racist. In the mid-nineteenth century, most everyone was racist, at least according to today’s standards, and that includes Lincoln. (I’d argue that John Brown was the rare exception.) Anyway, our reader again:

Why don’t you once mention that they [Republicans] fought slavery and that the party was formed over the fight on the Democrats pro slavery policies and their policies to disenfranchise blacks from civil rights?

From our entry on the Republican Party, which is linked to in the poll tax entry:

Although founded in 1854 in opposition to the spread of slavery, the party did not take hold in Virginia until after the American Civil War (1861–1865) …

The dominant Democrats in 1902 promulgated a new Virginia Constitution whose chief end was to disenfranchise African Americans. The poll tax, literacy test, and other artifices for electoral manipulation enabled local election officers to deny voting rights to large numbers of citizens, including most African Americans and many Republicans, who did not support the ruling party’s conservative policies and organization …

Our reader concludes:

You’re not giving true history you’re glossing over some very important information.

IMAGE: Poll tax brochure, Virginia, 1857