Let’s examine the main themes and story line of the progressive consensus. According to this story line, America has a long history of racism that was especially virulent in the South. Although Republicans may have played an important role in ending slavery, the South basically created new institutions of racism in the postbellum period. This southern oppression is epitomized by the Black Codes, segregation, lynching, and the Ku Klux Klan.
Who—the progressive story line continues—fought to end this oppression? The progressive Democrats! It was a Supreme Court dominated by progressives that ended segregation beginning with Brown v. Board of Education. The Democratic Party took Martin Luther King’s lead and championed the cause of civil rights, first for blacks, and then for women and other minorities. A Democratic president, Lyndon Johnson, pushed through the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Johnson administration also convinced a Democratic Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fair Housing Bill of 1968.
Meanwhile, according to the progressive story line, conservatives and Republicans have proven themselves the consistent enemy of civil rights. The Republican South, in particular, is the home of American racism. No wonder blacks and other minorities vote for Democrats in overwhelming numbers. African Americans and other persons of color aren’t stupid; they know who their friends are. Here, in sum, is the fund of moral superiority that Hillary Clinton drew on when she gave it to Senator Brooke.
The central issue, therefore, is which is the party of racism and which is the party of civil rights? This question cannot be answered simply by invoking the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. That movement was itself parasitic on an earlier civil rights movement that took place a century earlier.
Didn’t know there were two civil rights movements? That’s because the progressives don’t say much about it. They focus on the later movement and pass over the earlier one. The earlier civil rights revolution is downplayed today because it has become politically problematic. It disrupts the progressive party line. Even in the second civil rights revolution, however, the roots of the first one are clearly apparent.