Democrats do not much care for being reminded of their party’s history of frank and energetic racism. They insist that that was, in fact, another party, and that the Democrats and Republicans “changed places” on the matter of civil rights for African Americans. Professor Kevin Kruse of Princeton, a reliable peddler of this kind of thing, offered the usual dodge:

That is, of course, false. Conservatives largely opposed the New Deal, while segregationist Democrats were critical to making it happen. Most of the segregationist Democrats of the FDR–LBJ era were committed New Dealers and, by most criteria, progressives. They largely supported welfare spending, public-works programs, the creation of the major entitlement programs, and, to a lesser extent, labor reform. They did work to ensure that African Americans were effectively excluded from many of the benefits of these programs, but they provided much of the political horsepower that carried forward the progressive project from the Great Depression on. This should not be terribly surprising: Many of the Democrats who were instrumental in the reforms of the Wilson years, the golden age of American progressivism, were virulent racists, prominent among them Woodrow Wilson himself. Given such figures as Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt, one might as easily write that progressives of both parties were racists.

Plus a cameo appearance by “my former Atlantic colleague Ta-Nehisi Coates on the curious case of Theodore Bilbo.”

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