-By Warner Todd Huston
CNN took the time just ahead of the Democrat National Convention to put together a little primer on the history of the party and, while they do mention slavery as a prime issue in the party's early days, no mention is made of its support of Jim Crow, Japanese Internment, or the Ku Klux Klan.
The CNN Explains video only lasts a few minutes, so it is impossible to do a comprehensive history of anything in such a short time, certainly. Even so, the video had a few serious omissions and at least one misleading factoid.
The video begins properly relating the fact that the first President to call himself a Democrat, Andrew Jackson, was a "fierce" supporter of slavery and worked tirelessly to keep the government in Washington out of the people's business in order to assure the rights of slave owners.
While it was quite right for CNN to note that the Democrat Party began as one chiefly interested in protecting slavery, the video somehow forgets to mention that the Democrats were also responsible for starting the Civil War -- the first shots were fired by Confederate forces, after all. Additionally, the video forgets to mention that even after the civil war the Democrat Party sponsored such racist attacks on fellow citizens as Jim Crow, poll taxes to suppress minority voting rights, Japanese internment during WWII, not to mention creation and support of the Ku Klux Klan.
Support of the Klan was so strong in the Democrat Party that the party's longest serving and most respected Senator, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, was a Klan official for much of his early life.
All of these facts were papered over as CNN video presented the Democrat Party as the party of "civil rights" and the party of the "common man."
As for the one misleading factoid, the video attempted to explain that Democrat's donkey was a symbol created during the presidency of Andrew Jackson. This, however, is not exactly right. Yes, Andrew Jackson was taunted in the press as a "jack ass" and some early political cartoons showed him as a donkey. But it wasn't until the 1870s that the Democrats began to be commonly represented by the donkey symbol, and then only in the press. The Party itself did not embrace the donkey symbol until closer to our era.
In fact, in the early 20th century, the Democrats preferred the rooster as its symbol. This bird was taken as the symbol of the James Cox campaign in 1920, for instance. Cox, who had chosen Franklin Roosevelt for his VP candidate, lost that campaign.
It is difficult to convey the nearly 200 some year history of a party in just a few minutes, it can be agreed. But this video is less an unbiased history and more a film serving the interests of the Democrat Party.