Ku Klux Klan

Don’t Know Much About History

Excellent takedown from Jonah Goldberg of an excruciating bit of historical illiteracy written by Kevin Boyle.  Boyle had written a review in the Times of a couple of books about the Klan, and led with this laugher:

Imagine a political movement created in a moment of terrible anxiety, its origins shrouded in a peculiar combination of manipulation and grass-roots mobilization, its ranks dominated by Christian conservatives and self-proclaimed patriots, its agenda driven by its members’ fervent embrace of nationalism, nativism and moral regeneration, with more than a whiff of racism wafting through it.

No, not that movement. The one from the 1920s, with the sheets and the flaming crosses and the ludicrous name meant to evoke a heroic past. The Invisible Empire of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, they called it. And for a few years it burned across the nation, a fearsome thing to ­behold.

There’s a lot more silliness, including a whopper of a closing paragraph that both Jonah and Daniel Foster rightfully mock.  At any rate, Jonah responds:

The average reader with no specialized knowledge and an unhealthy faith in the wisdom and accuracy of the New York Times might find in all of this reinforcement of the conventional liberal tale of the KKK as a quirky and extremist conservative organization.

But that’s simply not the story of the second Klan. I don’t expect Kevin Boyle to hammer home the Klan’s progressive and Democratic ties. But he manages to make them all sound conventionally conservative. He doesn’t acknowledge that Woodrow Wilson was Birth of a Nation’s most famous booster. Nor does he mention that World War One was the Progressives’ war and that “100% Americanism” was touted and promoted by Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson — our two progressive presidents. He doesn’t mention that evil spirits of World War One were orchestrated by progressive wordsmiths, activists, and artists.

The Klan of the 1920s and 30s would have had more sympathy for the populist sentimentality of the Occupy Wall Street crowd than with the tea parties.  Like the OWS group, they thought the reforms instituted by the Democrat in the White House to be not radical enough.  But acknowledging as much would derail an “academic” with an ideological axe to gore.

 

The Klan and Progressivism

(Guest post by Paul Zummo, the Cranky Conservative.  This post orignally appeared here at Cranky Conservative.)

Michael Zak does what all too many on the left fail to do:  crack open some history books and take a real look at the history of the Ku Klux Klan.  Zak correctly notes that when the Klan was at its zenith during the 1920s, it was a terrorist wing of the Democratic party, and that since its inception, Republicans were at the forefront in trying to take it down.

It would have been far more truthful for the congresswoman to have admitted the fact that all those who wore sheets a long time ago lifted them to wear Democratic Party clothing.  Yes, the Ku Klux Klan was established by the Democratic Party.  Yes, the Ku Klux Klan murdered thousands of Republicans — African-American and white – in the years following the Civil War.  Yes, the Republican Party and a Republican President, Ulysses Grant, destroyed the KKK with their Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871.

How did the Ku Klux Klan re-emerge in the 20th century?  For that, the Democratic Party is to blame.

It was a racist Democrat President, Woodrow Wilson, who premiered Birth of a Nation in the White House.  That racist movie was based on a racist book written by one of Wilson’s racist friends from college.  In 1915, the movie spawned the modern-day Klan, with its burning crosses and white sheets.

Inspired by the movie, some Georgia Democrats revived the Klan.  Soon, the Ku Klux Klan again became a powerful force within the Democratic Party.  The KKK so dominated the 1924 Democratic Convention that Republicans, speaking truth to power, called it the Klanbake.  In the 1930s, a Democrat President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, appointed a Klansman, Senator Hugo Black (D-AL), to the U.S. Supreme Court.  In the 1950s, the Klansmen against whom the civil rights movement struggled were Democrats.  The notorious police commissioner Bull Connor, who attacked African-Americans with dogs and clubs and fire hoses, was both a Klansman and the Democratic Party’s National Committeeman for Alabama.  Starting in the 1980s, the Democratic Party elevated a recruiter for the Ku Klux Klan, Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV), to third-in-line for the presidency.

I have one quibble with all this.  It focuses too much on the partisan aspect of the KKK and not enough on its ideological drive.  After all, modern day Democrats could just claim that the Klan represented the conservative wing of the Democratic party.  This would be an error.

While most members of the Klan held what would be termed conservative views on social issues, they were hardly purveyors of Burkean conservative values.  In fact the Klan typified the Progressive/Populist movement to a tee: “conservative” socially but decidedly left-wing economically and politically.  They supported government intrusion into the economy and were backers of the New Deal.  Jesse Walker explains some of the areas of overlap between the Progressive movement and the Klan: →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

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