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tv   History of the Democratic Party  CSPAN  April 14, 2022 12:05pm-1:07pm EDT

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theirs. >> you'll also hear some blunt talk. >> jim? >> yes, sir? >> i want a report of the number of people assigned to kennedy on mean the day he died and the number assigned to me now and if mine are not less i want them less right quick. >> yes, sir. >> and if i can't ever go to the bathroom, i won't go. i promise i won't go anywhere. i'll stay right behind these black gates. >> presidential recordings. find it on the c-span now mobile app or wherever you get your podcast. welcome to "the washington times" and this he soaped of "history as it happens" a podcast for people who want to think of current events, his historically. i'm martin di caro and with us michael kazin. >> a pandemic handshake. i'm tired of zoom.
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a book out march 1st, what it took to win the history of the democratic party. you've been a prolific scholar for decades now writing about leftist political and social movements. what brought you to write your magnum opus maybe, the whole thing in one smallish volume. >> i've been involved as a canvasser, campaigner, arguer for the democratic party. i came to my little town outside of new york city. >> handing out leaflets. i got away from the party for a while. i was a radical in late 1960s, early 70s and felt the democratic party was corrupt party because they were prosecuting the war in vietnam.
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but in the end, we have a two party system, and one of the two parties is going to win, and i was certainly on the side of the democratic party winning. so i gravitated toward the democratic party and as a historian i noticed an unusual lack, historians wrote about all kind of subjects politically in america but very few write about the history of the major parties. maybe write about it for one election or one president or two presidents or one controversy surrounding a party but there's very few books on the whole history of either the republican or the democratic party. historians like to write about things people haven't written about before. obviously we use lots of books and documents for people who have written about it before so this is an attempt to sort of sum up the whole history of the party, what it stood for and as the title has it, when it was successful and why. that was the theme. >> when i saw your title, "what it took to win," i thought of
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james carville. turns out you quote him in the book, political parties exist to win elections. that's a debate going on, that the democratic party needs to get its act together, eventually we'll get to current events but by your admission, a selective history, a smallish volume, nothing wrong with that, does not have to be a 1,200 page book on, you know -- >> i like to write books that people can read. >> exactly, right, but it's a lot of material to get into one volume. the party is basically, history of the democratic party is essentially a history of american politics. so when you say selective, what do you mean? >> i try into understand how the democratic party put together a winning coalition based on interests, based on ideas, based on social movements, based on policy, of course, and how that coalition won at certain times, how it disintegrated, how democrats built back a different kind of coalition often and how those coalitions, those ideas,
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those policies track larger themes in american history as well, you know, the expansion of the electorate, the industrialization, post industrialization, ethnicity, race relations, racial conflict, class conflict, so in many ways, democratic party, really, history of the democratic party can say this is history of american politics, in half. >> it's a history of parties, as you mention, disintegration twice, almost permanently ruptured managed to come back together after the civil wars, civil rights revolution, we'll get to all that but whenever i prepare for a podcast interview, i try to see if i have anything in common with my guest and this is a stunning coincidence, we were both born in new york city, imagine that. >> a small town, you know. >> yeah, small town, both from
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that. you're a baby boomer, sorry, i'm generation x, great note to start off talking how old you are. baby boomer, you already mentioned you came of age politically in the '60s handing out leaflets for kennedy, how did you come about being a political scholar? who has been writing about this issue, multiple books for decades. >> a lot of historians write about the distant past, other countries, the ones they're from. for me the main motivation writing books for history and articles as well is to find out something happening politically in the present so i've written about biography of james brian, we'll probably get to, democrat ran for president three times. democratic nominee, but i wanted to understand what it was like when the leader of the democratic party was evangelical protestant who believed every truth of the bible, books about the american left, when the
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american left was in trouble during the bush administration, beginning of the bush administration. so every book i've been sort of a way to understand the roots of a current political question i want answered. >> so you say in your book, to be sure, my commitment to the democrats is an ambivalent one, with regret and caution, the party history is rife with missteps and outrages yet for all their, for all our faults. where's the scholarly detachment, michael kazin? >> i'm detached in the sense that i can explain why the party went wrong, often very wrong, before i was born and times i was alive as well, but that doesn't mean i believe there's another vehicle for progressive change in this country as large and powerful as the democratic party because there isn't. >> i believe you're correct about that.
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you say democrats remain the only electoral institution in 21st century america able and willing to help solve the serious problems facing the united states. so the history of the democratic party in one volume, why don't we start at the beginning, but that's even difficult to do. for a long time thomas jefferson, would have been surprised to hear this, was considered the founder of the democratic party, this thing called jeffersonian democracy, probably a construction he did not use. but you say that rested on a couple myths, you say, he shouldn't be considered the found earp of the democratic party. why do you say that? >> like most, all founding fathers, jefferson didn't like the idea of competitive parties. he believed in what we call small arm republicanism, education, property, who understood the virtues of the commonwealth, should get together and make the laws and
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shouldn't have these factual disagreements, obviously had disagreements with hamilton and john adams, went against each other for president but when jefferson became president in 1801 said enough with the partisan party stuff, said we are all republicans, all federalists by which he meant we don't have parties anymore and in effect, we're all republicans. >> yeah, stop criticizing me. >> exactly. and this was not a mass party, even when he had a party. it was a collection of notables, i think i call it. i'm trying to remember the exact number who voted in the 1800s, you know, 50,000. there's more people in the suburb of bethesda, north of washington, d.c., twice as many as there were voting for president, both candidates then. >> electorate was tiny, even those who could vote most didn't bother voting in national elections. the federal government was a distant thing. >> most didn't vote, you had to have property, be a white man and of course, over 21. >> yeah.
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so sean wentz, a historian, you're familiar with, when it comes to jefferson as found earp of a party, i think you're right, it wasn't a party. but when it comes to small d jeffersonian democracy he argues that in a sense jefferson was this founder against con de against condescention he rallied the mass of citizens in effect laying the ground work for the democratic reform for jackson and van buren and others, do you agree with that? >> i think that's true, there's a big except there, the big except, african americans, most were slaves. but certainly true, jefferson said equal rights for all, special privileges for none, he was opposed to a large central government, not for the reasons today are, but he thought a strong central government, would
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always be run by the landed elite, people like himself and thought small farmers, small white farmers should be the heart and soul of the country and was in favor of expanding the electorate to people without property though it didn't happen in his own time. >> when we have autocracies to appeal to public opinion, mobilize publics, campaign rallies, party organization, but in the 1820s if we want to date the formation of what was called the democracy at that time, took a while to develop even then once the democrat party started to become a mass political party, right? >> yeah, to be a mass party you have to have a lot of the resources and elements we take for granted again, democrats the first mass party in the world to have a press dedicated to the party, not just in one city, but every major town and city in the country.
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e. >> newspapers everywhere. >> they had regular convention to nominate candidates, a machine as people turn out to vote. they had agendas and policy agendas that they tried discipline their elected officials to carry out and also able to raise enough money so that their candidates would not have to dig into their pockets to pay for their own campaigns. all these things we take for granted but the democrats the first political party in the world to institute all these changes, and, also of course, the fact the electorate was growing and by the 1830s, a large majority of white men whether they had property or not could vote. >> constituencies were forming. people wanted more of a say in the decisions taking place and when we say people we're still talking about white men here in the 1820s, but immigrants were a
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major constituency, as early as the 1820s and the 1830s, the irish coming to the united states, just to name one group, right? >> that's one thing democrats were known for in the early days and still are, one of the continuities in the early history, were very open to immigrants coming. they believed the united states should be what tom payne called an asylum for all mankind, believed it was important to welcome as many people as possible. free white people, to the united states, and that includes the irish, and also the fact that democrats tended to be more tolerant towards different religious groups mattered too because most of the irish who came especially during the famine generation were catholic, of course, and democrats were often seen in 19th century as the more pro-catholic party compared to wigs or republicans. >> and they were the first, not merely to acquiesce in the competition, they wanted to
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brawl, but when the democrats are coming alive as a party, as we would define it today, there weren't really other parties. we had the virginia dynasty and kind of a period where national politics, for lack of a better term, seemed dull when you think of a virginia planter, aristocrat wins eight years, eight years, but soon enough were competitive parties, saw what the democrats were doing, competing all over the country as you say, had newspapers all over the country, trying to win over new voters all over the country. was it the wigs the first main competitors here? >> democrats began this mass part in 1820s, first of all the jackson party because andrew jackson was there, the charismatic leader. but they also called themselves the democracy, as you mentioned, the people's party from demos. the wigs began in the 1830s as the anti-jackson party, they called themselves the wigs because the wigs in great britain had been the faction in
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the britt, house of commons which opposed the absolute powers of the king. so the wigs said, well, this guy jackson, he's throwing his weight around. he thinks he's better than everyone else. taking on powers. he's king andrew the first. we'll be the wigs to oppose king andrew the first, so the wigs also imitate a lot of the initiatives, innovations in politics the democrats had begun, had their own press, their own rallies with torch lights, their own barbecues, give out free liquor and so forth. so the two-party system as we know it was born in the 1830s. >> the candidates themselves probably weren't campaigning in person at this point, right? >> oh, no, they were. not the presidential candidates because george washington didn't campaign for himself, that was the father of the country, greatest american so to speak, you didn't want to do something he didn't do, the office was supposed to seek
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the man, but not true for people running for congress, state legislature, mayor, coroner, so forth. they campaigned for themselves. >> you mention jackson, i feel we should bounce back, past and present, we don't need to stick to a straight chronology, right, that might be difficult in a relatively short conversation. we've barely made it out of the 1820s. you mention jackson. he and jefferson are, how shall we say, somewhat falling out of favor with the modern democratic party, insofar as honoring them, i don't know if they call the jefferson/jackson dinner that anymore. jefferson's statue was taken down inside the new york city council chambers because of his history of slave owning and all. you make a reference to prevatism, start to research your book when donald trump won the election and sent democrats no a state of disarray. what are your thoughts on how the democratic party is -- well, let's start with the
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jackson/jefferson thing. these are two figures in the party's history, if you will, who are out of favor. i guess that's not all that surprising. >> no, because more and more historians and americans are realizing how essential slavery is to american history. you can argue about 1619 project, whether they're correct about that or not. but clearly we had the most important event in american history, some would karg, the civil war, which, of course, was about whether a part of the country could break away to preserve slafrpy. so it's not surprising that two presidents who were incredibly popular figures at the time when they were president, when they were alive but also were major slave-owners and defended slavery, in fact jackson's case wanted to expand it into western territories, take from mexico, it's not surprising that present day democrats in this multiracial, multicultural party are not going to be very happy about celebrating jackson and jefferson.
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>> i want to return to that point but briefly about you starting your research and trump wins and democrats are in a state of disarray. how did the president's influence, if at all, the way you approached this book? >> you know, partly, i think, i wanted to write the book because i wanted to understand how we got to this point, you know, as i mentioned before, start with a present question. but also, democrats have always been a party that has to put together different constituencies whether class, or ethnicity or more recent decades race, and that's -- >> to win. >> to win. and the republicans, i think it's fair to say, have usually been much more homogeneus and sometimes that makes it easier to know what you stand for, who to appeal for, what policies to pursue, whereas with democrats it's more difficult. one of the things, i was on a
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conference, sort of what you call, not exactly podcast with tom perez when he was chair of the democratic national committee in 2017 -- >> dnc chair. >> and i asked tom paras, what do democrats stand for? he talked about values. we have good organizations. i said, but that's not really telling me what the democrats stand for, whereas republicans, under former president trump or others, usually a much easier time saying that. this is not because democrats aren't very good or smart or not good at politics but because it's harder for democrats to say what they stand for because they are such a heterogenous party. >> it's difficult to keep those kind of coalitions together when you have people saying they disagree on social issues like abortion but may see eye-to-eye
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on labor issues or other issues. about jackson and jefferson on slavery, what are the major arguments in your book, these competing tendencies that tell the story of the history of this party. you say the idea of liberty for african americans posed a threat to his ambition, that would be jackson's, of creating a party that could win majority in every region or is that van buren, i am quoting your book and i forget. this idea that white liberty rested upon a lack of liberty and equality for african americans. that was one of the ugly aspects of the party's history for quite a while. >> yeah, it's a good example how difficult it was for democrats to stay united for very long. remained one party but often different factions in one party battling with one another, for example, in the 1840s and 1850s
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when democrats were the majority party in america, majority party because they could put together votes of most white southerners, and newly arrived irish catholic immigrants who came with nothing, who went with nothing only but the clothes on their back, escaping famine, escaping death from hunger. the fact you had this mixture, both jefferson, davis and walt whitman, devout democrats in the 1840s, for example. we don't think of them as the good and the confederacy. so they did agree that people call them the money power, power of big banks, wall street, was something evil. a money monopoly trying to have its way with ordinary americans, picking and choosing who they would invest in, the bank of the
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united states was a big issue there. the democrat party opposed that. that was one way they were able to unify. so they were a national party which was a good thing but also a national party that had elements of fragments in them. >> you use the term moral capitalism when discussing the xeing competing tendencies. and that is anti-monopoly and pro-labor when we get to 20th century. the progressive movement in the early 20th century and on to the new deal. what is moral capitalalism and why does it matter to democrats? >> that's a term i use i borrow from a friend, liz cohen, wrote a book about the new deal. basically it means democratic party when successful was known for standing for the economic interests of ordinary americans, which meant in 19th century, small business people, small farmers, it was capitalalism because most americans did not
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want to get away from the market system, believed if all things are equal, everyone has equal chance to rise, what we later on call the american dream should be reality but felt that certain elite interests were standing in the way. economic populism, if you will. so pretty successful in the 19th century, different times, more capitalism and different proposals to critique like inflating money supply to bring interest rates down, more money in circulation. because they felt the government before, you know, the government had more power to want it help its friends and as elite people in the government want to help their friends so democrats opposed to a large-standing bureaucracy,
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opposed to government picking winners and losers, as we say today. whereas in the 20th century -- do you want me to get into that now? the labor movement begins to grow. in world war i it has 20% of the labor force. by world war ii, it was 35% of all wage earners are in labor unions. >> 10% of the private sector. >> and so the movement puts pressure on democrats who had been more in favor in general terms of wage earners than the republicans had. but that often was just more rhetoric than anything else and the labor movement said if you want our votes you have to help us to get unions recognize. you have to support a minimum wage, maximum hours, protection for workers on the job and so forth. >> funny how we're still fighting over those things today. >> we are. >> we have a minimum wage but it hasn't gone up much.
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we're going to bounce back and forth a bit. i think that's okay. you mentioned before the dispute over slavery. of course that was the most important dispute in the antebellum united states by the 1850s. of course 1860 the country starts to split, maybe even before that. but the wigs and the democrats, to a great degree, wanted to keep slavery out of national politics so they could deal with other issues because of slavery reared its ugly head again. it would, well, potentially cause the fissure of the country. when civil rights was shunted aside to form consensus over fighting the cold war. you are the historian. object when you go awry. >> the cold war was actually ironically, perhaps, an impetus to civil rights. the soviet union and its allies kept saying the americans talk about freedom and democracy but look what's happening in montgomery, alabama.
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birmingham, alabama. so, in effect, really the civil rights movement used the term freedom, let's have real freedom so we don't look so bad abroad in competition with the soviet union. >> thank you for that correction. i am not a historian and i don't play one on my podcast. about the many issues they were grappling with the fight over the second bank of the united states i think is a really telling episode, to your argument, about what did the democratic party stand for early on, this form of moral capitalism. let's start with the direct correction, why did king andrew want to get rid of the second bank of the united states? >> the second bank of the united states was a very powerful institution. we don't have anything like it. it was the central bank like the banks in europe, it was run by a private board of executives
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chosen pretty much by the head of the bank. >> it wasn't a government entity? >> no. it was chartered by the government but the government did not run it. it picked winners and losers, decided to invest in this shoe factory in massachusetts, maybe, you're not going to invest in another factory in the upper united states. the government printed money, the bank of the united states printed the currency most people in the eastern part of the united states at least used when they used paper money. it was sort of a political enterprise unto itself, unelected, appointed by people who ran the bank and jackson believed this was against the principles of democracy, as he understood it, also the fact it was in philadelphia in a wealthy neighborhood. he was a poor boy from the carolinas who made his way up and he didn't like the cultural
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antagonism to the bank. >> he held grudges, i heard, jackson. >> often with a weapon in hand, yes. and so when the congress, which was controlled by people who became wigs later on, voted to recharter the second bank, it had to be rechartered every 20 years, he vetoed that and they could not muster the two-thirds to override his veto. he said to van buren the bank wants to kill me. i will kill the bank. so you can see the rhetoric was pretty raw. >> unlike today where we've kind of forgotten that it's not the poor people who are the takers. men like jackson worried it was the wealthy and the powerful who were going to erode the foundations of democracy by taking from the lower classes or
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the concentration by wealth and power in an institution like the second bank of the united states was a threat to democracy. >> and that really continues into the late 19th century, early 20th century, the monopoly movement, the antitrust movement, which is both parties. democrats are probably strongest in that because they're not really the big business party. which is a fear a lot of americans have that the government will be used to help private interest. when there's debates happening in congress at least right now about whether congress people should be barred from making stock trades, that they use their inside knowledge about what's going on in the economy to make money for themselves. >> i thought of elizabeth warren reading that section of your book who campaigned on breaking up potentially or reining in the power of large institutions, banks, big tech, social media
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platforms. she would have fit right in -- she may have had trouble as a woman running for office in the 1840s. >> she couldn't vote. >> she would have fit right in with jackson's. >> definitely. >> this is a threat to the common person. we can talk about the reagan revolution later on in the conversation and its challenge to the new deal coalition but kind of this almost mean-spirited approach to the poor, almost blaming them from taking from welfare queens. they're taking advantage of the system instead of looking at the powerful. >> an ongoing debate inside the democratic party, outside as well whether poor people -- most poor people are poor because they just don't organize themselves well, they don't work hard. they don't get married, have babies without getting married, get drunk too much or whether even if their behavior is like
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that, whether the structures of inequality in society make it difficult for people to get out of poverty. and we continue to have those debates today and will continue probably as long as we have a republic. >> thank you for saving me. the structural problem, my poorly worded -- that wasn't even really a question. just a word salad that you made sense of. second bank of the united states goes down. there are other issues that were important as well. in addition to slavery. we're focused in 2022 about the role of slavery in the american past. of course it was important, but low tariffs, free immigration -- taking from your book here -- an end to prison for debtors, sympathized with early labor unions against courts. some of these issues don't pertain. we don't have debtors prisons though people are in debt their entire lives. elizabeth warren wants to do something about that as well to use her example again. a fear of statism coupled with
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the creed of white supremacy. also led northern democrats, you argue, to condemn abolitionists as dangerous property owners. maybe a good time to start transitioning into the antebellum period here and those convulsions within the democratic party. >> abolitionism was a very radical idea when it began. abolitionist movement including blacks and whites. you think people like william garrison and john brown, others who were white. black abolitionists were very active in it. democrats who, as i said, almost completely the white party and the party that even people like van buren who didn't want to abolish slavery, who didn't want to abolish slavery was critical of slavery expansion but he was not an abolitionist. and democrats tended, again, to call abolitionists and people wanted women to vote.
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people wanted the prohibition of alcohol. they had a common term for them. they called them fanatics. a wonderful story i quote by nathaniel hawthorne, a great democrat, who wrote a biography of pierce before he was elected. >> did anyone read it? >> well, democrats did. about sort of a story where all these people gather in the countryside and throw all these traditions into a bonfire. including bibles and lots of other things and democrats believe that you wanted poor folks democracy, yes, but you didn't want to disrupt the whole social order to get it. in fact, they often had a sense of golden age thinking that before when everybody was sort of gregarian and things were
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better. abolitionists were evangelical protestants, most of them. that meant the refirmation hadn't really ended. they were opposed to catholics. catholics, irish catholics, said, well, if you don't like us, we don't like you either. that meant the democrats if they were going to be the party of irish catholics were going to be opposed to abolitionism. again, the democrats were very hard headed. also, they said how are we going to win? how are we going to keep winning? we're not going to win if we divide ourselves on the issue of slavery. we're not going to win if we throw over the white south or for that matter if we throw over people in the north who don't have slaves, don't want slaves, but are afraid if you abolish slavery more will come north and compete with the white workers. they wanted things to be
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racially stay where they were. >> northern democrats 1850s lead up to the civil war, the antebellum united states. every time i pronounce it anti i want to kick myself. antebellum united states. northern democrats, when you say they were anti-slavery or simply just were doe faces -- >> they were split. that's the point. there was a split. they were the northern democrats, a name better known who sponsored a resolution in congress, saying that any lands that were conquered from mexico during the mexican war would -- slavery would not be able to be the law in those territories which later become states whereas presidents like pierce, buchanan, two democrats elected in the 1850s, said, well, you know, if people want slavery in those territories it's probably okay and we don't want to split the party up. the famous dred scott decision,
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1857, which argued plaque people could not be citizens. democrats who were afraid of the power of the slave owners who weren't necessarily in favor of abolishing slavery but the slave power, that is the idea that pro-slavery democrats were going to empower in the courts, in the congress, in the presidency, would do the bidding of big slave owners in the south and they would take over the whole government and do what they want with it and that drove lots of northern democrats to oppose the expansion of slavery and a lot became republicans. >> old wigs because slavery destroyed the wigs. often today you'll hear democrats were the party of slavery and that was true by the civil war. the party, at least the southern part, was basically dedicated to preserving jefferson davis as a senator, preserving this institution of slavery.
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after the war, and you mentioned this quite a bit in your book and, of course this is a present issue today, the promise of the civil war, the promise of liberty was contradicted, was -- the promise was reneged on because of how southern democrats treated free people. not immediately. there was the reconstruction had some impressive -- that was the work of the radical republicans. >> which democrats did not go along with. >> they fought it tooth and nail. we had the first ku klux klan -- >> not one voted for the 14th or 15th amendment. >> not one? >> not one. >> they fought it. we had the ku klux klan, and the party doesn't get over this for 100 years. it's hard to reconcile that, isn't it? >> i would argue most people don't realize that the democrats begin to get over it in the 1930s. >> that's when black people started voting for democrats. >> 1936 the first election, the first presidential election when most black voters vote for the
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democrats. even then most black people in the south could not vote because they were disenfranchised. what begins to happen a couple things. the northern democratic party under woodrow wilson segregationist but under franklin roosevelt, liberal intellectuals who often sympathize with the left, sometimes former socialists as well. and they are brought up in an environment in cities like new york much more friendly towards bi-racial culture, bi-racial institutions, public schools where people go to school, of course racial lines and so forth. very important is the union movement in the 1930s. the cio, the congress of industrial organizations, the federation formed out of the older american federation of labor, is dedicated to signing up members regardless of race.
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for practical reasons because autoworkers, steelworkers, meat packing workers, longshoremen, tobacco pickers are both black and white. and if you only take the whites, the black people can strike. they believe in it partly because of their back ground of organizing the left, i think, the multiracial left. and as the cio grows and labor as a whole quintuples its membership, it puts pressure on the democrats to accept black people not just as well. they're voting for you because they get jobs but to argue that racism is wrong and the legacy of the democratic party in terms of race should be abandoned. >> woodrow wilson was a progressive. so was teddy roosevelt. woodrow wilson was also a little white supremacist. it's not unfair to call him that. >> his father was a confederate
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minister. >> he was a racist. he did not hide that. franklin roosevelt didn't do much for civil rights either. that's another theme, as i mentioned, in your book, this tension. it does start to break because there were other progressive developments in the country that, i guess these things help each other, right? the labor movement as you mentioned started to include blacks and others, but by the time we reached the 1960s, we still have many southern democrats who -- that's the hill they're going to die on. how does the democratic party with lyndon johnson as president finally get past that? >> well, one could argue they never did get past it. only got past it because most -- >> at least passed a couple pieces of legislation in '64 and '65. >> huge majorities in both houses of congress. '64 there were only, i'm trying
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to remember, i think 30 republican senators, something like that. >> it helps. >> but also northern republicans, a majority of northern republicans in the house and the senate vote for the civil rights act. >> there was bipartisan support. >> which they often point out a high percentage of republicans voted for those two bills, the landmark civil rights bills. so many were from the south. those bills, lyndon johnson said after the civil rights act was passed, i think we lost the south for a generation and he was more than one generation. >> that took time for it to become a solid south. it took time. >> it's not quite as solid as it had been for the democrats. >> bill clinton as a democrat won several southern states. >> jimmy carter. >> he was a conservative democrat, wouldn't you say? >> he was for the civil rights movement. he had more black appointees than any president in history before him, for example.
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so i think what happened is once the democrats were perceived by a lot of white voters who were ambivalent about civil rights or maybe antagonistic to it, not just the south. it wasn't just a southern problem. well, the democratic party is more for black people than it is for us and they began to feel maybe these liberals really, you know, mostly a black party now or a party for minorities, and so they began -- we keep voting for democrats at the local level in the south for a long time and for presidential elections they would vote for republican. nixon and then reagan and both bushes. >> lbj had the big majorities but he had to break a filibuster for voting rights? >> both of them actually.
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hubert humphrey actually who was in the senate in '64 and then was vice president by '65 instrumental, too. >> i'm glad you brought up hubert humphrey. >> very few people do. >> good man. >> hubert. >> so the two huge convulsions or fissures the democratic party split before the civil war. they ran two candidates in that presidential contest 1860. there were four candidates, a constitutional union party in the south. >> the former wigs. >> yes, the former wigs, with lincoln who wasn't -- that was a rigged election. lincoln was not on the ballot. the 1948 dixie-crat election. they walk out or they form their own -- i guess there was a walkout in the '60s. in '48 they formed their own convention with strom thurmond. you can find this speech on youtube, this screeching white supremacist oration. i mentioned hubert humphrey in
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'48, paraphrasing, to walk out of the shadow of states' rights and into the sun light of human rights. what a moment. >> and that's why they walk out because he was giving a talk, the mayor of minneapolis, giving a talk at that convention in 1948 to support a minority plank from the platform committee supporting the civil rights bill. and the speech was so powerful and enough liberals, especially labor liberals, got behind it that the party as a whole adopted it. as soon as they adopted it the southern democrats saw the handwriting on the wall and walked out. >> lbj and his majorities, fdr, i don't know if he had to overcome any filibusters. i don't know if it was used that often in the 1930s. you look at the senate majorities during the new deal years and you wonder how did fdr get this program through, 65, 70. to get them passed black people
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were excluded. >> not specifically but it was domestic and agriculture workers both from the labor relations act, how the government helped recognize unions when workers wanted it and the social security act, too. everybody except those people. >> would you say the new deal is really the greatest moment in the democratic party's history? >> probably because it's the moment the democratic party is more powerful, is really the majority party and no one really doubts it. and also was able to get in the major bills to create limited but real welfare state we still have. >> moral capitalism, the word you used. >> yes, in that sense. some people said, well, roosevelt saved capitalism because, you know, after all, fascism was gaining in europe. italy, spain, germany, and, of
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course, the soviet union was powerful in eastern europe. and so the idea of democracy surviving, for democracy to survive we have to make sure it serves the people. >> sorry to interrupt. some people in the united states, some conservatives, some people on the right, wanted fdr to assert near dictatorial powers because of the crisis of the depression was so severe, but he resisted. >> he resisted, and he didn't need to, the democrats had big majorities. >> 98 senators at one point. >> one point i do want to make, if it's okay, martin, one of the hallmarks of new deal policies, the ones that still exist today, were universal. they didn't help one group of workers or one race specifically against another. that's not to say the civil rights bill wasn't necessary, it was, or that the voting rights bill wasn't necessary, it was. but the most popular bills that the democrats have passed historically, the ones that enabled them to build, you know,
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on or create majorities, are ones which help the great majority of americans like social security, like medicare, which no republican would think about trying to appeal today, or they think about it but they'll never get there because so many people benefit from it. >> barry goldwater wanted to get rid of social security. >> and george w. bush wanted to privatize it. it went nowhere. >> the important programs of the new deal are the programs that endured. a lot of the experimentation failed. the new deal didn't end the great depression but that misses the point of the new deal. it established security, predictability, against the vicissitudes, a word that david m. kennedy uses in his book about the new deal, about the vicissitudes of life in a capitalist society, you need a safety net, and that's what endures to this day. to the point of your book, what it took to win, the new deal
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coalition was not a monolith. it was not ideologically pure. >> in fact, the larger the coalition, the more heterogeneous it's going to be. we're a big country. and if you have 65 senators, they're all not going to be -- in the same party, they're not all going to be agree, this is not the bolshevik party. >> then you could wind up in front of a firing squad. >> the major architecture of the tennessee valley authority, this big government program to build dams and provide electricity to people in the lower south, it still operates there, fairly cheap cost to people down there. he was an aggressive racist and antisemite, he talked about on the floor of the congress, i won't say the words, "n" words and "k" words, kind of
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sympathetic to hitler, until the war began. at the same time he wanted to extend electricity to small farmers who were his constituents. >> lyndon johnson as well. >> on the other side there were congress people from california and the state of washington who we now know were probably members of communist party. >> wait, aren't they all communists? >> and of course they were democrats and didn't talk about being communist at the time. when you had someone who was a protofascist on the other hand and maybe a member of the communist party on the other, all members of the democratic party, the republican party had been so discredited by the great depression, and because americans were appealed to as a people, you know, by roosevelt and by other leading democrats. >> my joke about communism, even in fdr's days, with these
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decidedly centrist programs, the social security act is a centrist program, really? >> it's a progressive tax, actually. >> but he faced allegations of socialism, communism, you'll destroy our capitalism. the new deal, the ideas of the left, they do eventually run out of steam, which happens with movements, it's hard to maintain. as an expert on political movements, i don't need to convince you on that one. vietnam, watergate, the dolors of the late 1970s, it appeared the left or the new left was out of ideas and exhausted and that gives way to the reagan revolution which i guess couldn't overturn the new deal by then but was not going to allow any more liberal reforms, liberal pieces of -- that was it, draw the line. and we're kind of still living in that. >> i think that's true, partly because we haven't had a majority party in this country
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really since the early 1970s, 50 years, you know. one party wins for a while, takes over congress, the other takes over the senate, the other takes over the house. this is like a period called the gilded age, 1870s, when the two parties were equal in strength. when that happens, you're not going to have real big sort of forward movements of any great size or importance in policy. more you're going to have tinkering around the edges. as you say, ronald reagan was very popular, last six years or so of his administration, but he didn't roll back social security or medicare. actually he -- >> hostile to civil rights as well. >> there was more of a deficit under him than under carter because he increased the defense budget so much. >> i was going to say, his administration was hostile to civil rights too but they didn't win any big battles there. >> the king holiday begins in 1983, during his time. one thing he did too, this is
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important, to underline, as i did before, he was hostile to labor unions. he had been a leader of a labor union, the screen actors guild in hollywood, but when he broke the union in 1980 for going on strike, he knew that labor unions had been, they were getting weaker from 1980, they were still, the activist core of the democratic party. and so by attacking labor unions and republicans are still doing that, they could really attack the most important constituents and organizations which helped democrats win. so republicans now attack teachers unions partly for that reason. >> no new liberal incursions by the federal government, that's the word i was looking for.
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>> and obamacare was really the first one since the '60s. >> he had enough of a majority to get that through, then lost it. also trust in institutions damaged by johnson. you mentioned in your book how you couldn't stand hubert humphrey because he waved pom-poms for johnson in the vietnam war. >> dump the hump was the slogan. >> vietnam, watergate, we're still facing, i think, if you take the long view of american history, really since the 1960s, we're suffering from a crisis in trust in our institutions and in our government. that's why it's so hard to hold on to power and have a long-running majority, but with good reason. the government has and our institutions have in many ways failed people. we just got out of afghanistan after 20 years. what are your thoughts? >> you know, maybe we shouldn't have been there in the first place. >> where is the anti-war left? >> american power, both domestically and power abroad,
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was growing from i believe world war i through world war ii into the cold war. and the state was growing too, you know, the military industrial complex was big government, of course, even though a lot of republicans supported it. but i think the loss in vietnam, and it was a loss, the fiscal crisis, stagflation of the 1970s, also was the first time since the great depression when americans began to wonder about the future and there was no big, huge boom that came after it. also inequality, something which people on the left talk about a lot and people around the country talk about too, whether on the left or right these days. the gap between the rich and the poor, the gap between ordinary wage earners and hedge fund managers. jeff bezoses of the world. that's much larger than it was in the '40s and '50s.
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the government talks about helping all americans but it's not doing anything about that. so, who really cares about us kind of question. >> have the democrats, in a sense, and you care deeply about the democratic party, they've lost their way on this issue, at least some have. >> i would argue their policies would actually -- the reason why i'm a democrat, a progressive democrat, i think there are policies that joe biden is in favor of, that the democratic party is in favor of -- >> before biden. >> before biden is somewhat more difficult because democrats, again, are concerned about winning. they felt if ronald reagan and both bushes are winning elections by bashing unions to a degree, by trying to get -- end welfare as we know it, by being opposed to affirmative action and other liberal ideas about race, maybe we should waffle on those issues as well. bill clinton came out of democratic leadership council, a group formed specifically the to
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move the democratic party to the right, not because they were right wingers but because they wanted to win. >> we'll wrap up, i thought we would keep this to about an hour. and boy, that went fast. >> so many things to talk about. >> exactly. we could spend the rest of our lives discussing this. franklin roosevelt is turning in his grave or he would turn in his grave if somebody were to whisper to him how his party lost blue collar labor to donald. how did that happen? >> white blue color labor, important to note that. the working class. the working class is not all white, in fact it's getting less white all the time. >> republicans have made inroads with black voters, a tiny bit. >> and latino voters, a little more. >> which is probably even more concerning to democrats, but for the most part, african americans vote 90 plus percent. white blue collar labor, an important constituency, feels,
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and we can get into this whole debate about how did trump win, racial antagonism, class antagonism, but white blue collar workers who feel abandoned by the party. >> a lot of those workers are churchgoers, a lot of them also are opposed to abortion rights, you know, who are very religious, and that's important, and a lot of them also live away from big metropolitan areas and feel that the democratic party is this party of urban elites or suburban elites, a place like bethesda, i mentioned before, a very democratic and very rich suburb in washington, dc. when unions were -- the private sector, many wage earners were in them, that meant there were places where people of different races, but especially white workers, would sort of get a
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political education. they would, you know, read union newspapers, they would be talked to by their shop stewards about why the democrats are the party for union rights, for medicare, for people getting out of poverty and so forth, and also mobilized people to vote. so people learned their politics from people close to them, i believe. now of course people watch fox or watch msnbc or read "the washington times" or read "the washington post." in the end, who do you trust about political opinions? usually it's people who are your family, your friends, your work community. when so many white workers were in unions, in the midwest especially where unions were very strong in the '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, those workers tended to vote democratic. >> those industries are gone. >> when they left, all of those people moved south to get jobs, places like texas, louisiana, florida, places that never had really strong unions. >> right to work.
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>> that began to change. i don't know if we have time, but i always point to west virginia. west virginia used to -- on election night, through the early 1990s, was one of the first states called for democrats. you know, michael dukakis, 1988, who lost by eight points to george w. bush, nobody's idea of a populist figure, an andrew jackson or franklin roosevelt, pretty awkward guy, he won west virginia by ten points, it was called right away. why? and then now, you know, election night, it's called for republicans, and donald trump won by 45 percentage points by both times. why? because the union of united mineworkers used educate people not just in the coal mine union but outside the union too, why union members should vote for democrats and now the union of mineworkers is a fifth its former size. that makes a big difference. >> you discussed the organizational differences in your party. in your book, "what it took to win: a history of the democratic
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party." michael kazin, this has been fun, you're always welcome on the podcast. since you're local, you know, now we can have you come in in-studio now. >> i can be a weekly guest. >> those would be long podcasts. congrats on your book and thanks for coming. thank you to everyone who has been listening and watching., history while it happens is available wherever you get your podcasts. weekends on c-span2 are an intellectual feast. every saturday, american history tv documents america's story. on sunday, the latest in nonfiction books and authors on book tv. the greatest town on earth is the place you call home. at sparklight, it's our home too. right now we're all facing our greatest challenge. that's why sparklight is working round the clock to keep you
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