Republicans and their amen corner in the right-wing media are trying to perpetuate yet another hoax on the American people. In a nutshell, they claim that history ended in 1865 or, at the latest, 1965. But sadly for them, three of their leading lights past and present—Cindy Hyde-Smith, Trent Lott and Strom Thurmond–already gave the game away.
The unabridged version of this grotesque GOP fraud goes like this. Solid majorities of the American people support both the cause of the Black Lives Matter protests and the call to consign Confederate hagiography in the Capitol to the dustbin of history. But with stoking white racial grievance a central Republican electoral strategy for over 50 years, Republicans must be opposed. To escape their political dilemma, the GOP must, well, whitewash America’s recent past to pretend their current villainy is instead heroic and just. In this conservative mythology, because the Democrats were once the party of slavery, secession, the Confederacy and Jim Crow, they therefore still are.
Of course, this scam requires the likes of Texas GOP Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, Congressmen Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) and Louie Gohmert (R-TX) and, most of all, Dinesh D’Souza to pretend that the Great Party Switch which began in the mid-1960’s never happened. As Princeton historian Kevin Kruse among others has documented at length, the Democrats’ embrace of the civil rights movement triggered the exodus of Southern white conservatives and Southern white voters into the welcoming arms of the Party of Lincoln. Over time, most of the Southern Democrats who voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 migrated to the Republican Party. The resulting transformation of the American electoral map is as clear and red and blue.
But you don’t have to take my word for it. Listen to these three Republicans explain the Great Party Switch instead.
For starters, take Mississippi Republican Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith. During her run for the Senate, voters learned that she had attended a segregated private academy and posed for a photo with a rifle while wearing a Confederate soldier’s hat. But when she was attacked by fellow Republican Chris McDaniel for having been a Democrat as recently as 2008, Hyde-Smith offered a little history lesson. As the Jackson Free Press reported:
“You have people that say, ‘She used to be a Democrat,’” Hyde-Smith tells the crowd. “Anybody in Mississippi 40 years old or older has voted for a Democrat. I’ve got news for you. Many years ago, everybody was. Trent Lott started out as a Democrat. Ronald Reagan started out as a Democrat.”
Indeed, most white Mississippians did vote for Democrats 40 years ago because the realignment of the Democratic and Republican parties was not yet complete in Mississippi.
Which is exactly right.