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Great-grandpa was a "staunch Democrat" but what does that mean?

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OnionPatch Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Mar-29-10 08:25 AM
Original message
Great-grandpa was a "staunch Democrat" but what does that mean?
If he lived today, I would applaud him, but he was born in 1853. My mother remembers in the thirties and forties, when he was very old, that her father and uncles used to try to waylay their father (great-grandpa) on election day so he wouldn't get to the polls and vote Democratic. Great-grandpa, according to her, was a jolly, friendly, lovable man that everyone was crazy about. The only point of contention was that he was a Democrat in a fairly Republican family. But what does it mean to have been a Democrat in the early 20th century? The family was/is from western PA, so (thankfully) he wasn't one of those "southern Democrats". I know his father fought for the Union in the Civil War. Great-grandpa was an architect and lived in Cuba for several years in the early 1900s, building resort homes there. His sons owned a hardware store and were Republicans. I just don't know history enough to understand what it meant to be a Democrat or Republican in those days. Anyone? :shrug:
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NOLALady Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Mar-29-10 10:58 AM
Response to Original message
1. Records
that I've found for my black ancestors c. 1900 and before showed they were Republicans. One of them was killed in 1876 for being a "radical Republican" who was urging the community to vote. He was described as "a strong, influential and tolerant partisan of the Republican party, and was especially obnoxious to resident Democrats on the Island."


http://files.usgwarchives.org/la/state/newspapers/afria... This may give you and idea.

An excerpt:
The Ouachita Telegraph
Friday, December 1, 1876
Page 2, Column 5
GOOD REPUBLICAN EVIDENCE
We give below a sample of the Radical testimony presented before the
Returning Board relative to the late canvass. Both of the witnesses are
negroes, but swear with the endorsement of their white leaders. The report
is copied from the New Orleans Democrat, that in the Republican is tenfold
more virulent:

Wells announced that the Ouachita case would be taken up. The
Democratic Committee protested on the ground that it had been agreed that East Baton
Rouge should be the first contested parish considered. Wells declared the
ruling of the board changed. The witnesses were ordered to be brought in.
Frank Morey, of the Republican State Committee, said that it was the
intention of the Republican counsel to prove intimidation by the Democrats;
that negroes were threatened with death if they did not vote the Democratic
ticket; that the white Republican leaders were murdered; that the citizens
massed at the different boxes, and that the negroes were intimidated into
voting Democratic.

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OnionPatch Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Mar-29-10 12:08 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. It does seem that the Republicans were the progressives of the day
in the later half of the 1800s.....at least I think. Certainly Lincoln was nearly the opposite of the Republicans you witness today. But if that's so, when did things change so that the Democrats were the party of FDR in the thirties? I know great-grandpa voted for FDR.

I definitely need to read up on some political history.

Too bad your ancestor had to die for his beliefs. :( I hereby offer my apologies for any ass-holish ancestors I had that may have caused yours troubles. At least they were on the right (or should I say 'correct') side of the Civil War.
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NOLALady Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Mar-29-10 12:29 PM
Response to Reply #2
3. Actually,
He was an elder brother of my direct ancestor. My direct ancestor (along with the wife and daughter of the victim) was sent to New Orleans for safety after the shooting.

No apologies necessary. I have ancestors who fought on both sides.
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sybylla Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-31-10 08:14 AM
Response to Reply #2
4. If I recall my history well enough
the transition in philosophies between the two parties took place at the end of the 1800's at the instigation of Teddy Roosevelt. The fallout over protecting corporate fat cats (the robber barons) and their representative corporate entities cleaved the progressives from the Republican party, who tried to establish their own party and then ended up inside the Democratic party by 1910.

That said, I have a Democratic friend who grew up in Florida as a staunch Republican, even working for a Republican legislator there in the early 70's. He says that in the south, the Republican party at that point was considered the progressive party as they had fought for abolition and civil rights. The southern Dems had fought against civil rights.

So, what being a staunch Democrat means depends on a lot of things. But in the era of your ancestor, it probably meant they supported the old "states rights" question in regard to slavery and probably passed through the Civil War in support of secession.
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dgibby Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-29-10 11:05 AM
Response to Reply #2
6. Not my Virginia Republican ancestors!
Lots of adjectives to define them, but "progressive" certainly wasn't one of them!

My great grandfather and several of my paternal grandmother's uncles fought for the South, and my great grandmother was a charter member of the UDC in their county.

I can remember being scolded by my dad's sisters for using the term, "Civil War". They told me in no uncertain terms that there was nothing "civil" about it, and heretofore, I was to refer to it as either the "The Late Unpleasantness" or the "War of Northern Agression". They also referred to my mother as "that Yankee Carpetbagger Robert married"! (Did I mention they hated the North?)

My mother's people were living in the part of Va. that later became WVA, and my great grandfather fought for the Union. In fact, I have letters he and my great grandmother wrote to each other. One in particular stood out as they were so happy when WVA gained statehood! They were also Republicans. Go figure!

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yellerpup Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-04-10 04:38 PM
Response to Original message
5. Remembrance of my Yeller Dawg Grandpa
This is a 'picture' of the one I knew, it seems to me that the most staunch Democrats of the past were the ones who lived through the Great Depression...(written during the pResidency of GWB)


YELLOW DOG DEMOCRAT


My grandfather was the most loyal Democrat that I ever met. He was born in Indian Territory in 1907 a few weeks before it became the state of Oklahoma. He stayed on during the Dust Bowl years. He and my grandmother raised two sons and one daughter through the Great Depression. Too young to serve in WWI, Grandpa lost three fingers in two separate oil field accidents that made him ineligible to serve in WWII. To aid the war effort, both he and my grandmother went to work for Douglas Aircraft. Grandma was a riveter. I dont know exactly what Grandpa did, but a copy of Rodins statue The Thinker awarded to Edgar Gipson for outstanding innovation in the field of aircraft mechanics graced the gate-leg table in Grandmas living room until she died a few months short of her ninety-ninth birthday.

If Grandpa ever had any other political affiliation besides Democrat, I never heard about it. He always said, If it come down to votin for a yellow dog or a gol-danged Republican, Id take the yellow dog every time.

He was an avid admirer of Thomas Jefferson. He sized him up this way: Smartest sumbitch who ever lived. A Democrat. He wrote the U.S. Constitution. Then, he asked me, You know what it says?

I, about eight at the time, admitted that I wasnt exactly sure what the Constitution was, much less what was in it.

He said, Well, you can read, cant you? Find out what it says and tell me if Im wrong.

I went to the library and the librarian helped me find a copy of the Constitution. I struggled with it, but I managed to get through the Preamble. I had to admit; it was downright impressive. I told Grandpa as much. Then, he says, Now, how about Herbert Hoover?

By now I was a little weak in the knees, afraid that I was going to have to read another Constitution that Herbert Hoover wrote.

I rolled my eyes and heaved a sigh. I said, Grandpa, I dont know anything about Herbert Hoover.

He said, He was a Republican. The sorriest sumbitch who ever lived.

You see, to Grandpa everyone was a sumbitch of some kind. There were good sumbitches and smart sumbitches, and on the other side, there were ignorant, lazy, or sorry sumbitches. Everyone was a sumbitch in one way or another, so I never learned it as a perjorative term except by its modifier. I apologize for the cussin, but I cant tell a story about Grandpa without it.

If Grandpa was still alive today, hed change his mind about who is the sorriest sumbitch who ever lived. Hed be kicking like a donkey to get that lyin sumbitch we got in there now out of office. If things keep going the way theyve been going since GWB took office, the U.S. Constitution will be degraded until it is no longer recognizable. We need to act now to save it.

I know what Grandpa would say about that. Hed say, Git to work, gal, and put your back into it.
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lazarus Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-29-10 11:39 AM
Response to Original message
7. something to keep in mind
for the longest time, each party had liberal and conservative wings. Most legislation that passed wasn't party line, but all the liberals from each party joining together, or the conservatives. (This actually held true up until Reagan; that's how the Civil Rights stuff passed.)

But most Republicans were progressives, and most Dems conservative. TR really pushed the progressive stuff, and there was a backlash amongst Republicans when he tried to push it too far. That started the switch of party positions that was solidified by FDR, but the liberal/conservative wing model held true until the Nixon/Reagan years. Nixon started to solidify partisanship with his "Southern Strategy" which swayed a lot of conservative Democrats over to the Republican party, making it even more conservative. Liberals ended up shifting to the Democratic party by default. It's gotten much worse lately, though, with the partisan lock-step approach by the Pubs.

For fun, last year I read a biography of every president in order. You get a nice sense of the sweeping changes in history from something like that.

That said, my memory of this stuff is a bit fuzzy, so I may be off a bit. :hi:
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