According to Yellow Dog History, “A Yellow Dog Democrat [YDD] is a staunch loyalist to the Democratic Party.” It goes on to explain that
The term, Yellow Dog Democrat, blossomed during all of the Hoopla which surrounded the 1928 elections, when Al Smith ran for President against Herbert Hoover. During that campaign, Senator Tom Heflin, of Alabama, declined to back his fellow Democrat, Al Smith the Governor of NY. In fact it was much worse than that, Senator Heflin decided to back Herbert Hoover, who would then go on to become President- a Republican President no less.
“It was reporter Frederick William Wile who made the oft-repeated observation that Smith was defeated by ‘the three P’s: Prohibition, Prejudice and Prosperity'” from a wikipedia article on Al Smith. Smith was a different sort of Democrat in that time and it seems, in a strange twist, that Alabama Senator Tom Heflin didn’t care for his politics and chose to support a Republican.
The Democratic Party prejudicial? The platform for the Democratic Party in 1852 reads “Resolved, That the Democratic Party will resist all attempts at renewing, in Congress or out of it, the agitation of the slavery question, under whatever shape or color the attempt may be made.” Sen. Stephen A. Douglas (D., Ill.), Presidential nominee of the Democratic Party in 1860 said “I hold that a Negro is not and never ought to be a citizen of the United States. I hold that this government was made on the white basis; made by the white men, for the benefit of white men and their posterity forever, and should be administered by white men and none others.” This is just one of numerous quotes holding the same attitude by prominent Democrats.
It wasn’t just Black Americans that the Democratic Party held much prejudice for. In 1908, the platform for the Democrats was “We are opposed to the admission of Asiatic immigrants who can not be amalgamated with our population, or whose presence among us would raise a race issue and involve us in diplomatic controversies with Oriental powers.”
In 1923, William Jennings Bryan, who was the Democrat’s Presidential nominee for several years, says “Slavery among the whites was an improvement over independence in Africa. The very progress that the blacks have made, when–and only when–brought into contact with the whites, ought to be a sufficient argument in support of white supremacy–it ought to be sufficient to convince even the blacks themselves.”
In a New York Times editorial from 1900, this was written:
“It has of late become the custom of the men of the South to speak with entire candor of the settled and deliberate policy of suppressing the negro vote. They have been forced to choose between a policy of manifest injustice toward the blacks and the horrors of negro rule. They chose to disfranchise the negroes. That was manifestly the lesser of two evils. . . . The Republican Party committed a great public crime when it gave the right of suffrage to the blacks. . . . So long as the Fifteenth Amendment stands, the menace of the rule of the blacks will impend, and the safeguards against it must be maintained.”
So, what does the history of racism in the Democratic Party have to do with being a “Yellow Dog Democrat”? Many Democrats were vehemently upset with Senator Heflin’s support of a non-Democrat and the saying “I’d vote for a yellow dog if he ran on the Democratic ticket” is in reference to Heflin’s “betrayal”. The point that they would support any Democrat, no matter what his principles or integrity might say, is the basis for the title. So, is it any surprise that Democrat Hugo Black, “widely regarded as one of the most influential Supreme Court justices in the 20th century”, accepted life membership in the Ku Klux Klan in 1926 after being elected to the US Senate and stating that he wouldn’t have been elected “without the support of the members of [the KKK]”. Robert C. Byrd, Democratic Senator from West Virginia, past Senate Majority Leader and Senate President Pro Tempore, was a staunch supporter and recruiter for the KKK. Mississippi Governor and US Senator James K. Vardaman (D) “advocated a policy of racism against African-Americans, even to the point of supporting lynching in order to maintain his vision of white supremacy.” Just some meager examples of Democrats that would be supported, no matter what, by a YDD.
The Democratic Party started changing it’s tactics when it realized it was losing ground. For example, in 1957, then Senator Lyndon B. Johnson stated “These Negroes, they’re getting pretty uppity these days and that’s a problem for us since they’ve got something now they never had before, the political pull to back up their uppityness. Now we’ve got to do something about this, we’ve got to give them a little something, just enough to quiet them down, not enough to make a difference. For if we don’t move at all, then their allies will line up against us and there’ll be no way of stopping them, we’ll lose the filibuster and there’ll be no way of putting a brake on all sorts of wild legislation. It’ll be Reconstruction all over again.”
It’s a strange dichotomy that such strong support is given to the Democrats from minorities when the Democrats are largely responsible for the hindrance of their rightful progression as US citizens. It’s not lost on many:
From 1876 until 1960, Democrats successfully blocked all progress in civil rights. Prior to that, from 1860 to 1876, Republicans were singularly responsible for all black civil-rights accomplishments despite fierce opposition by Democrats.
Much is made of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision striking down state segregated education. What is never mentioned is that the Supreme Court ruling was a reinstating of what Republicans had done nearly 75 years earlier in their 1875 civil-rights bill, which was overturned by Democrats in 1880.
Liberal Democrats, aided by the true “house slaves,” railed against Trent Lott, R-Miss., for his jocund comments celebrating the late Strom Thurmond’s 100th birthday. While Thurmond was at one time a segregationist Democrat, it receives little notice that he switched parties in 1964, denounced his prior leanings and was the first Southern senator to hire a black in his senate office – something no Southern Democrat had ever done.
Yet there is nothing mentioned by liberals per Christopher Dodd’s, D-Conn., superlatives about the racist Klansman, Robert Byrd, D-W.V. His comments that Byrd “would have been right for the Civil War” were accurate in his Democrat mind.
It was the Republican Party that was formed in 1854 expressly to combat slavery and secure civil rights for blacks. The Democrats were responsible for the Dred Scott decision declaring blacks were not persons – but property – and as such had no rights.
With the Mississippi Democratic Party fully supporting YDDs and asking members to join the YDD club, the embracing of a title born from a racial past is very interesting if not insulting especially in Mississippi, where support of the Confederate Battle Flag is seen as a racist move by many in the Democratic Party. In the 1960s, several Mississippians, both black and white, formed the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party because only whites were allowed in the Mississippi Democratic Party. The MFDP worked to increase voter rolls in the Democratic Party as part of work with the national Democratic Party to get seated at their convention, but eventually “many Civil Rights Movement activists felt betrayed by Johnson, Humphrey, and the liberal establishment. The movement had been promised that if they concentrated on voter registration rather than protests they would be supported by the Federal government and the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. Instead, at the decisive moment, black civil rights and justice itself had been sacrificed for the political interests of white politicians.”
It has been constantly hinted in reports that the changeover from a southern Democratic state to a Republican state has somehow been a bad thing. With the history of the Democratic Party, the YDDs and racism so intertwined how can it be that the Republican Party is held to be somehow socially inferior than that of it’s more prejudicial equal? Spin. The favorite tool of the Democratic Party.