Monday, January 19, 2004

The Politics Below the History

In the great pageant of liberal historiography, liberal/progressive presidents continually rout the forces of reaction. Jefferson's Democrats defeat Adams and the Federalists, Wilson defeats the Republicans, and FDR dominates politics for a generation.

What is seldom noted is that all these decisive "progressive victories" were entirely dependent on slavery and Jim Crow.

In 1800 Jefferson would have lost to Adams if the Electoral College tally reflected the free population of the states. The Virginian won because of the extra votes the southern states for for their slave population.

In 1916, Wilson won re-election with a margin of 23 in the Electoral College. Were it not for the votes of the Jim Crow South, he would have lost.

In the 1942 election, Republicans won 20 out of 25 Senate seats out the South. The Democrats held the House by a slim margin of 222-209. Nearly half of those seats came from the land of poll taxes, literacy tests, and voter intimidation.

FDR ushered in near total Democratic control of the Congress from 1933 until 1981. (They were the majority for 44 out of 48 years in both houses). But this dominance was not the result of a popular mandate for liberalism; it was entirely a function of Jim Crow elections. Outside the South, Republicans won a majority of House seats at least eight times in thirteen elections between 1938-1962.

Think i'll send this to OTB's Beltway Traffic Jam.

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