Strom Thurmond: Prolouge to more menacing post

A warning: after that last post about the 1948 presidential run of Henry Wallace, my next post is going to be about the 1948 presidential run of Strom Thurmond. Heck — maybe I’ll expand this venture of looking at third party runs for president in American history. Anyone up for Eugen McCarthy in 1976?

To put Strom Thurmond’s run in context: unlike what you have heard, Thrmond’s bolt from the Democratic ticket of Truman over Civil Rights (scratch that: federal interference in state rights… riiiight!!) is not the beginning of the split into what would eventually consolidate into Nixon’s “Southern Strategy”. (Probably borne out of simply noting that Goldwater won some southern states, disgruntled as they were with Lyndon Johnson’s stand for Civil Rights.

Go back to 1928. The biggest battles of the Democratic Party platform involve the KKK, and involve Prohibition. The winner of the Democratic nomination, a Catholic named Al Smith — the son of immigrants whose most loyal constituency in New York State are immigrants — has an understandable “against stand” against the KKK (who, in their resurgance through the 1920s, split their time terrorizing blacks and terrorizing Catholics.) The most notable name against Al Smith who stopped Al Smith’s nomination in 1924 (and died in 1925), whom anyone remembers these days (what? You know who McAdoo was?) is William Jennings Bryan. And he comes out swinging for Prohibition, and for the KKK. The complicated political legacy of William Jennings Bryan in full force, and Eugene Debs looks more or less correct: “[Bryan] grew more and more conservative until finally he stood before the country as a champion of everything reactionary in our political and social life.”

There’s a rural — urban split here. And Hoover took advantage of the split, and for the first time a Republican cracked into the “Solid South”. Anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant Bigotry. Some neo-“Know Nothing” sentiment.

FDR comes to power — the majority faction of Dixiecrats in a previously minority party becomes the minority faction of a majority party — and it has been thus ever since. They lose clout within the Democratic Party pretty quickly. But the revolt is on. In 1938, as Southern Conservative Democrats are making alliances with the Republican Party, Franklin Roosevelt campaigned to purge some conservative Democrats with “New Dealers”. He was pretty sharply rebuked.

Strom Thurmond’s 1948 presidential campaign looks pretty undistiguishable in many respects to George Wallace’s 1968 campaign. It’s kind of funny. And we run over the same ground onward and onward.

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