Bill Clinton said something a little odd

Former President Bill Clinton has sharply criticized the Republican presidential frontrunners for snubbing an African-American voter forum this week.

“This says more about the evolution of the Republican party than anything,” Clinton told Tavis Smiley on his Public Radio International show, which will air this Friday. “Keep in mind that Abraham Lincoln was the first Republican president and Theodore Roosevelt invited Booker T. Washington to the White House. And after Theodore Roosevelt, the parties began to switch places.”

It is interesting to look back and see how black Americans and civil rights figured into the two political parties through the ages, and here we ask the question of how we have come to the post-Civil War point where the vast majority of black Americans, or those who were not disenfranchised via Jim Crowe, voted for the Republican party to the point where the vast majority vote for the Democratic Party.  I am tempted to list the diverging point, on the national level — aka the election of presidents– as the 1924 election.

The problem with Bill Clinton’s statement on “parties began to switch places” is that rolling into the 1912 election, various black leaders (W E B DuBois) getting a little angry at the diminishing level of return in supporting the Republicans — and DuBois generally thinking that Booker T Washington was making himself a patronage king within that party and not advancing anything– gambled by endorsing Woodrow Wilson.  Woodrow Wilson’s presidency was probably the low point in terms of civil rights in the post-Civil War.  Rolling into the 1920 election, the Democratic candidate — desparate– degenerated into a lot of race-baiting.  So, on that score, we can count out a 12 year interugum between Theodore Roosevelt and 1924’s John Davis (and a strange convention debate over the KKK) as the shaking of the two parties in terms of the black vote — where the interests of the black vote collided with the interests of the traditional democratic admittedly machine-controlled urban immigrant (Catholic) vote.  Followed by another intergum of 40 years, up to 1964 and the Voting Rights Act and Barry Goldwater — within which the Democrats slid forward and backward in advancing civil rights.

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