Last month, I wrote a comment on the Internet Movie Database’s discussion boards about Steven Spielberg’s recent film Lincoln (2012), which, as anyone reading this probably knows, is a drama about the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the amendment that ended legal slavery. On a discussion thread titled “WHY: Lincoln and Repubs Free Blacks: Blacks Vote Demo?,” a contributor, who was clearly conservative, wondered why African Americans voted more consistently for the Democratic Party, rather than Republican Party, the political party that did the most to end slavery in the 1860s. That discussion quickly got off topic. So, I thought that I would write, adopting as politically neutral a tone as possible, to answer the original poster’s question. Here is what I banged out on my keyboard:
For the record, the “modern” Democratic Party began shaping its philosophy with Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal in the 1930s, so you can’t genuinely equate pre-FDR Dems to today’s (just as you can’t genuinely equate the pre-Reagan GOP to today’s). And the Democrats fought the hardest for civil rights in the 1960s. Although there were important exceptions (Dwight Eisenhower forcibly integrating schools in Little Rock, Arkansas, for example), the most action against segregation came from the FDR-transformed Democrats, culminating in Lyndon Johnson’s Voting Rights Act of 1965. As a direct result of Democratic Party zeal on civil rights, the “Dixiecrats” — the pro-segregation Democrats, most of whom were from the South — had switched allegiance to the Republican Party by the mid-1970s. So, you could say that between the time of Lincoln and the 1960s, the Democrats and the Republicans had traded places.
But despite all this, into the 1960s and beyond, many elderly African Americans were said to have voted for the Republican Party anyway because, as they said, it was “the party of Lincoln.”
The thread’s originator replied to my post, saying, “I still see the Republican party as the party to champion freedom for all Americans, regardless of color.” She continued her new post by bringing up, for the first time on the thread, the issue of abortion, which she clearly opposed. “I suppose the Dixiecrats of today have jumped back into the Democrat [sic] party to push for partial abortions….” It’s obvious that the Deep South is both solidly Republican and perhaps the most anti-abortion region of the country. Her illogical and irrelevant reply told me that there wasn’t a reasonable mind on the other end of the conversation. So, I didn’t bother responding to her.