Mikey noted how peasant unions and peoples ‘groups clashed with state and national democratic parties on major economic issues, including farmers’ debt relief and control of trade. What is more, “a colorful farmer’s alliance also grew rapidly and held the potential for heterosexual coalition formation.” This possibility became reality in states like Alabama, Georgia, and North Carolina, where populists joined the majority black Republican Party to support the general list of candidates in the “fusion” deal against the elitist and white supremacist Democratic Party. The people and Republicans achieved their greatest victory in North Carolina during that era, where they occupied the state legislature and governor’s mansion, as well as local and county offices.
Democrats, large landowners among them, and “New South” industrialists responded to the violence. Democratic paramilitary organizations – known as “red shirts” – attacked people and Republican voters by suppressing votes across the state. In Republican-controlled Wilmington, N.C., Mikey writes, “Democratic notables launched a wave of violence and killings to bring Republicans and their supporters, black and white, the largest city in the state; hundreds have fled for good.”
This key pattern repeats itself in the South for decades to come. Working through the Democratic Party, conservative Democrats “inflicted on the people, seized control of the state, and effectively eliminated credible partisan competition.” They rewrote state constitutions to end the vote for blacks, as well as to restrict it sufficiently for most whites. They crush states to protect the political power of large landowners, convert local electoral offices to state-level controlled positions, “and overrule state judiciaries from popular input.” It could be stopped, but the North was tired of the divisional conflict, and the court was not interested in the rights of blacks or anyone else at the base of democracy.
The Southern Democratic Party does not just control all offices and effectively employs the state bureaucracy. It was the gateway to all political participation. An aspiring politician could not be a candidate for office, much less win and participate in the government, without leaving it behind. “What is the state?” Ask Jim Crow, a prominent lawyer during Louisiana’s 1898 convention of the Constitution, appropriately captured the dynamic in the work, “This Democratic Party” “belonged to the nationality party, wrote Mikey,” and the betrayal of state betrayal money “.
Southern conservatives have backed populism and hereditary democracy in order to form a one-party state and to ensure cheap labor, low taxes, white supremacy and a unequal distribution of wealth. It took two decades of catastrophe – the Great Depression, the Great Migration and World War II – to even make the change possible, and another decade of intense fighting to bring democracy back to the South.
It is not that we cannot learn from the experiences of other countries, but our past provides a powerful point of comparison. From the powerful influence of the elite in the reactionary business to a major political party, many of the same elements are playing to ensure its singular legitimacy. A party that has already undermined our democracy in order to protect its power, and which should show every sign of advancing further. A party that stands by the lawless president and protects the government from accountability while extending his personal will to the government.