Whenever race is brought up in political debate, there are a number of facts that conservatives love to toss about, and, while technically correct, I feel I have to point out that they are rather misleading. For example, it is often pointed out that the Ku Klux Klan was created by, and largely made up of Democrats, or that Republicans freed the slaves. And these are unquestionably true. But in both cases, they overlook two very significant issues. First, the major shift in party identities that took place in the 1890s, and another shift sometime in the 1960s. Second, they also ignore the fact that the South was, until about the 1980s largely a single party region.
Allow me to elaborate a little.
As concerns the parties in the 19th century, when the KKK was founded and Lincoln freed the slaves (well, all the slaves in the rebel held areas at first, but eventually all of them). At that time, Republicans were a very different breed, as were Democrats. Democrats at the time were the party of small government, states' rights, hard currency and limited government, in short, what most think of as conservative today. At the same time, the Republicans were protectionist, favored strong central government, government involvement in things such as the prohibition of alcohol and so on, in short something like a mix of liberals and paleo-cons. So it is a bit misleading to say there is any connection between the parties of those days and the parties of today. Of course, the Republicans of the day had their own issues too, so even if one wants to claim continuity, you have to deal with Republicans being strongly anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic and involved with racist organizations similar to the KKK in the northeast.
But before the left crows about the Democrats who founded the KKK being akin to today's conservatives, let me point out that racist groups existed which were made up of both parties, which is why, in a large part, the KKK being largely or entirely Democrat is a non-issue. In the South, where most were Democrats, the KKK was a Democrat group. In the northeast, which was predominantly Republican, kindred groups arose which were made up of Republicans. In short, the racists of a given region belonged to the same party as did most of the non-racists. Or, to put it briefly, party had little to do with one's view of black people. I will grant, the Republicans definitely did differ from the Democrats of the time in having an anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic bias, but that is the sole correlation between party and bias.
Now, I will grant, in modern times, the segregationist candidates were almost entirely Democrat, but, once again, I would not take too much meaning from that. After all, as I said, until the mid-80s at the earliest, the South was still almost uniformly Democrat, and segregationist candidates were a regional phenomenon. Finding they were all Democrats is no more shocking than finding most merchant seamen in the late 19th century were mostly Republican, coming predominantly from the northeast.
I don't offer any of this to try to argue the modern Democrat party has no issues with race. I have written before that I find a lot of their agenda is condescending and patronizing, and clearly I think their agenda is bad for minorities. Then again, since I think it is bad for everyone, it would inevitably be bad for minorities as well. (Though, in this case, they seem to have programs which are especially harmful for minorities.) All I hope to do here is to stop both conservatives and liberals from using inappropriate historical analogies to make arguments which those facts do not support. If we are going to make our case, let's make it with valid arguments, and not with facile and misleading claims such as "the KKK is a Democrat organization".