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Know Nothing

WATCH: CNN's Bash fact-checks incoming VA Lt Gov Sears multiple times about Covid-19 and vaccines
6 min read
fairly difficult
On Sunday morning's CNN "State of the Union," host Dana Bash was twice forced to fact-check incoming Virginia Lt. Gov. Winsome Sears (R) after she tried to muddy the waters over Covid-19 protocols and vaccines and then lied about President Joe Biden's stance on vaccinations.While Bash allowed the n...
It seems that everyone on the right, from crackpot filmmaker Dinesh D'Souza to The Federalist, enjoys pointing out that the Democratic Party used to be the main political vehicle for white supremacism in the United States. They assume their readers will pretend not to notice that decades ago Democrats and Republicans "switched sides" (at least on the issue of race), since that would cancel out this attempted "gotcha." In fact, the Democratic and Republican parties did not assume their current identities as "liberal" and "conservative," respectively — and as we understand those terms today — until partway through the 20th century, and neither party stands for what it once did, especially but not exclusively on racial issues.

Three presidential elections play key roles in this story: Those of 1912, 1932 and 1964.

The modern two-party system began to take shape in the 1850s, with the demise of the Whig Party and the birth of the Republicans (from the anti-slavery faction of the Whigs, more or less). But in the decades after the Civil War, neither party much resembled its latter-day version. As the party of Abraham Lincoln, Republicans theoretically supported citizenship rights for Black people (at least up to a point), along with other vaguely "liberal" policies like a more centralized approach to economic policymaking, expanding the post-Civil War veteran pension system to create what some scholars argue was an early welfare state, and lavishing government support on America's burgeoning industries. Democrats like Grover Cleveland — the only Democratic president of the later 19th century, and something of a libertarian by modern standards — thought those ideas were wasteful and dangerous.

But the Democrats of the time, incoherent heirs to the populist tradition of Andrew Jackson, were a chaotic mixture of ingredients: Big-city political bosses and urban white immigrants, agrarian populists like William Jennings Bryan (some of whose proposals would be "liberal" or…
Tom Boggioni
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