Before union thugs, environmental extremists, Black Lives Matter, and Occupy Wall Street held sway over the Democratic Party, from nearly its earliest days the party was controlled by corrupt oligarchs and those who viewed violence as a legitimate form of political activism.
This is a featured aspect of a new book by frequent Capital Research Center contributor Fred Lucas. The book, “Tainted by Suspicion: The Secret Deals and Electoral Chaos of Disputed Presidential Elections,” is about controversial presidential election results – primarily those settled by another branch of government. Available as an eBook right now and hitting bookstores in June, it also details how Democrats relied on the corrupt Tammany Hall in New York and the Ku Klux Klan in the South to win elections.
The modern Democratic Party claims its heritage dates back to Thomas Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican Party. That’s questionable. But a corrupt political machine that was a core part of the Democratic Party for more than a century was started by Jefferson’s disloyal 1800 running mate, Aaron Burr.
From Tainted by Suspicion:
Burr also recognized a gem in a social club known as the Society of St. Tammany, which he helped turn into the first political machine in getting out the vote for Democratic-Republican legislative candidates by holding out the promises of government goodies and jobs on the other side as payback for delivering the vote. After demonstrating the power of New York politicos, it stopped being a social club and became the powerful political force known as Tammany Hall, which defined the New York state Democratic Party well into the 20th Century, with immense clout in the national Democratic Party.
Not all Democrats genuflected to the organization. Samuel Tilden gained stardom and eventually the 1876 Democratic presidential nomination for tackling his own party establishment.
Tilden became a star battling the corrupt Tammany Hall when serving as the party chairman. Tilden opposed the machine less on moral grounds than thinking the graft William Marcy “Boss” Tweed was pushing in New York City was harming the Democratic Party. By 1871 Tilden openly called for Tammany Hall ring to be exposed and its members to be ousted from public office. That year, the Tilden-backed reform candidates defeated Tammany candidates in city elections. Tweed himself was charged with forgery and grand larceny in 1873 and Tilden testified against him at the trial, which ended in a hung jury. But Tweed was convicted in a second trial. It turned Tilden into a political hero in the state and garnered national attention.
He lost the Electoral College vote. Tilden carried the popular vote in 1876, but it’s not likely he would have if not for the violent voter suppression tactics used against enfranchised African Americans and white Republicans.
From the book:
Despite laws being enforced, the Ku Klux Klan still carried out acts of violence on Election Day in order to try to ensure a Democratic victory. There were three Reconstruction amendments to the Constitution: The Thirteenth that abolished slavery; the Fourteenth providing equal protection under the law and the Fifteenth, regarding voting. Each created angst among stubborn southerners. It was the Fifteenth Amendment, ratified in 1870, that created the controversy that ensued around the 1876 election.
The Ku Klux Klan, which Columbia University historian Eric Foner called, “a military force serving the interests of the Democratic Party,” and University of North Carolina historian Allen Trelease called the “terrorist arm of the Democratic Party,” had already been carrying out violence throughout the South against blacks and the carpetbagger Republican governments installed through military occupation directly after the Civil War.
To reinforce the intimidation tactics, the Klan would hold public burnings of Republican ballots in southern states. The result in several elections was that turnout in the Union strongholds of many southern states dropped dramatically.
After the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment, the Ku Klux Klan swept in to prevent blacks from voting. This forced President Ulysses S. Grant to push bills through a sometimes reluctant Congress, including what became known as the Ku Klux Klan Act, that would require federal supervision of election. The Ku Klux Klan Act made it a crime to conspire to prevent people from voting, holding office or having other basic equal protections of the law. Grant signed it in April 1871, and the bill succeeded in at least reducing Klan violence, though not stopping it.
This book is an excellent reminder that the party that proclaims itself as a defender of good government and voting rights is in fact steeped in tradition and practice of opposing both.