Misunderstanding American history

Editor’s note: Find a cited version of this column at

In his column “No shortage of hypocrites” (Monday, Sept. 4) Butch Mazzuca infers that it is hypocritical of today’s radical left of the Democratic Party to criticize the post-Civil War/Reconstructionist Democratic Party of the South because they are all Democrats.

This illustrates his misunderstanding of American history. In the years following the Civil War, the Republican Party was progressive and liberal and the Democratic Party was regressive and conservative. Today, the reverse is true.

The 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution, passed between 1865 and 1870, freed slaves, made them citizens and granted them voting rights. The ink wasn’t even dry on those Amendments when Southern conservative Democrats began instituting Jim Crow laws reinstating segregation (“The Long Reconstruction: The Post-Civil War South in History; Film and Memory,” Frank J. Wetta and Martin A Novell, 2013).

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Racism, bigotry and the rise of the KKK resulted in the creation of the “Solid South,” a decidedly conservative Democratic political body whose more “reactionary” right-wing zealots developed ways and means to “discourage” blacks and liberals from voting Republican (“The Rise of the Southern Republicans,” Earle and Merle Black, 2002).

So successful were these segregationist zealots in preventing, deterring and eliminating civil rights to southern blacks that many monuments were erected in the South in the late 19th and early 20th century honoring Confederate Civil War generals and politicians.

The purpose of these monuments was to celebrate and perpetuate the heroic, chivalrous and noble deeds these men achieved in order to sustain a mythological, cultural way of life, the foundation of which was based on slavery. To grow up in the South after the Civil War was to be indoctrinated into this perception of history.

Mr. Mazzuca might find the following quote interesting: “It’s difficult, if not impossible, to be reasoned out of something, one has never been reasoned into.” (“Leaving the Surface,” Sydney J. Harris, 1976) Conservative/reactionary Southerners still find it hard to recognize and accept the reality of Margaret Mitchell’s southern saga “Gone With the Wind,” inferring that the antebellum way of life in the South, was, like the wind, gone forever.

By 1948, progress, civil rights and integration — words that were anathema to reactionary southern Democrats — crept into the political platform of the national Democratic Party. Lifelong conservative/reactionary Southern Democrats responded by bolting from the Democratic Party; it was becoming too liberal. So reluctant were they to be associated with the hated Republican Party of Lincoln that they called themselves “Dixiecrats,” a term still used in the South today by registered Democrats who vote Republican (“The Dixiecrat Revolt and the End of the Solid South, 1932-1968,” Karl Frederickson, 2001).

The point is the “Dixiecrats” morphed into the alt right reactionary wing of today’s southern Republican Party (“Leaving the Surface,” Sydney J. Harris, 1976). Now that’s hypocritical, as well as ironic. In the South, once a Democrat, always a Democrat is not supported by historical facts.

I hope Mr. Mazzuca enjoys his hiatus. Perhaps he will find time to take some American history classes to more accurately understand our country’s history. He might also remember another quote. “Never judge the past by the values of today.”

Denny Geraghty


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