The Party of Obama...

Speaking to Tom in today's second hour, Stanford historian David Kennedy noted that few would have predicted that the Democrats would nominate the nation's first African-American president. The Democrats only "came over" on civil rights in the 1960s.

The party of slavery before the Civil War, the Democrats espoused white supremacy after. Not one Democrat in either house of Congress voted for a single civil rights bill from 1870 to 1900.

Last week, while browsing The Papers of Woodrow Wilson, I came across a casual remark that reveals everything about the treatment of blacks by the first "progressive " Democratic administration. It came in a press conference in reply to a reporter's question about the tolls charged U.S. shipping for passing through the Panama Canal.

"I will have to tell you another story, " Wilson began, alluding to an earlier anecdote. "A friend of mine...was chairman of the local campaign committee on one of the Oranges in New Jersey, and on election day an old colored man came in and stood, and shifted, and shifted, and finally my friend looked up and the man said: ' Is you de chairman of de Republican committee?' Yes, what do you want? 'Well, I think dar is a whole lot ob dese n-----s agoin' to vote de Democratic ticket. If I had about two dollars apiece for dem n-----s, I could fix 'em..."

A "darky" story, with accent, at a presidential press conference.

President-elect Barack Obama in Chicago's Grant Park on election night, Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2008.

Turn the clock ahead to 1962. Sammy Davis Jr. and Mai Britt, his Swedish actress-wife, are invited to the White House. Or rather Sammy was invited. When the couple showed up, President Kennedy told Mrs. Kennedy that she must not be seen standing near them during the affair. She burst into tears and refused to go down stairs.

Rub your eyes in wonder that the "Democracy" of Jefferson and Jackson, both slave holders, is now the party of President-elect Barack Obama.

This program aired on November 5, 2008. The audio for this program is not available.


More from On Point

Listen Live