David Barton: Strom Thurmond Became A Republican Because He ‘Had A Change Of Heart’ On Race Issues

On his “WallBuilders Live” radio program today, GOP operative and Religious Right pseudo-historian David Barton addressed a question from a listener wondering why African American voters tend to overwhelmingly vote Democratic despite the fact that “the Democrats have raped, lynched and brutally killed many of their ancestors.”

Barton responded by disputing the notion that the Democratic and Republican parties essentially changed sides on the issue of minority rights during the civil rights era and sought to prove his point by insisting that the late Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, an infamous segregationist, left the Democratic Party and became a Republican after having a “change of heart” on race issues.

Thurmond broke with the Democratic Party because of President Harry Truman’s support for civil rights and launched his own presidential campaign in 1948 as a “Dixiecrat.” He was eventually elected to the U.S. Senate as a Democrat in 1954, but switched parties in 1964 in opposition to Democratic support for the civil rights movement. Many other civil rights opponents similarly joined the GOP.

But that is not how Barton tells it, as he spread more revisionist history by insisting that out of the thousands of southern legislators elected between Reconstruction and the civil rights era, nobody can even find “10 racist Democrats that became racist Republicans,” not even Thurmond.

“They can’t even show me Strom Thurmond, who ran on the Democrat side to support segregation, et cetera, but then he became a Republican,” Barton said. “And what did he do? He became the first southern U.S. senator to appoint blacks to high positions in his Senate office. He had a change of heart as a Republican.”