Every presidential cycle we go through this—and it doesn’t matter if it’s Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush, or Donald Trump: the media is horrifically biased against Republicans in general and against conservatives in particular. Every cycle we hear conservatives moan and complain that the media isn’t “fair.” In doing so they fail to understand how today’s “news” media was created, and in fact why it’s “unfair” to expect a leopard to change its spots.
Understanding this requires we grasp who and what the Democrat Party is and how it was founded, for Jesus said, “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.” (Matt. 7:18) The Republican Party was founded on opposition to slavery in the territories—good fruit. What was the Democrat Party founded on, and how is it inexorably linked to a Hoax News media?
In 1824 John Quincy Adams—the former president’s son—won a sharply contested election. Back then, the popular vote meant nothing and virtually everything was decided in “smoke-filled rooms” with delegates known to all. Adams beat his rivals, Andrew Jackson of Tennessee, and Henry Clay of Kentucky. Despite the fact both were men of the “West” (all things are relative over time), Jackson and Clay were bitter enemies. Adams had only 84 electoral votes, while Jackson had 99—but not enough to win outright. Jackson was second, but Clay, who came in third, had 37 electoral votes. In what was called the “Corrupt Bargain” (no proof of which exists), Clay gave his electors to Adams, who promptly named Clay Secretary of State.
All of this infuriated a young New York Congressman named Martin Van Buren, largely one of the most important Americans no one ever knows about. Oddly, he was a slave-owner, having inherited a slave (who ran away) from his father, but he was “personally opposed” to slavery. He also is responsible for the “OK” sign, now thought by some wackadoodle as a “white power” signal. In Kinderhook, New York, where Van Buren lived, there was a prestigious men’s club called “Old Kinderhook.” If you were a member, you were “OK.”
But Van Buren was already concerned, energized, and terrified by a development other than the election of Adams. In 1820 Congress passed the Missouri Compromise. Maine had applied for admittance to the Union as a free state, which would shift the balance of senators/representatives away from the South. To address this, Congress added Missouri (a slave state), but the larger issue remained: all of the Louisiana Purchase lands (that would include future states of Iowa, Minnesota, the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, Wyoming, and Montana) would soon be brought into the union. Henry Clay, who drafted the Compromise, created an imaginary line at the bottom of Missouri (at the “36-degree 30 minute parallel). Any future state admissions above the line would have to be free states; any below could choose to have slaves. Only Arkansas and part of Oklahoma were below the line, meaning the writing was on the wall. Very soon, the balance would shift against the slave states in a powerful way. Sooner, rather than later, the free states would have the votes to abolish slavery.
To Van Buren, this meant civil war. (Thomas Jefferson, an old man at the time of the passage of the Compromise, said it woke him like a “fire bell in the night.”). The South would not peacefully give up its slaves.
No, I haven’t forgotten about the Democrats or the media. Here it comes.
Van Buren designed a brilliant and ultimately destructive solution: he would create a new political party that would completely dampen all discussion or legislation about slavery. At the time of Adams’ election, there was just one political party. (Some would say that’s still the case). It was known as the “Democratic-Republicans.” I kid you not. The Federalists had died out in the 18-teens. Van Buren’s new party would prohibit any discussion of slavery at the policy level, place a “gag rule” on the Congress about any slavery legislation, and, bluntly, protect and preserve slavery forever. His new party was called the Democrats, and his target was the 1828 election. He focused on making Andy Jackson the next president, hence his party also was known as the “Jacksonian Democrats.”
The trick was, how do you keep anti-slave northerners in line? How could you keep them from introducing slavery legislation? His answer was to appeal to their most base instincts with money. Van Buren’s new party would reward people with both party and government jobs if they proved themselves in “getting out the vote.” (While I cannot go into it here, this period corresponded with the rise of nominating conventions and the end of property requirements to vote). So, Sam Snuckle, who is a Jacksonian Democrat activist, gets his precinct to vote for Andrew Jackson: Van Buren rewards him with, say, a local postmaster job. As an individual’s ability to turn out voters for the Democrat Party grew so too did the jobs he might hope to receive. It was not uncommon (then or now) to go from a party apparatus job (say, county chairman—paid!) to a state appointment (say land commissioner) or a federal job such as a postmaster. Believe it or not, the postmaster was a plum political appointment, and there were 8,500 postmaster jobs for a president to give away. (Needless to say, almost no kid today wants to grow up to be a postmaster!)
Bribery was only one component of Van Buren’s plan to keep Democrats from ever raising the issue of slavery. The other was a novel propaganda system that included the creation of the first true “newspapers” in America. Prior to Van Buren, there were very low circulation “broadsides,” but they had to pay for themselves with subscriptions. Generally, they carried local news with a great deal of flowers and flourish.
Van Buren drastically changed this. He recreated newspapers as purely political instruments, funding their startup with party money, hiring their editors, and tell them what to say. One of his editors, asked about his positions on various issues, said: “My positions are exactly the same as those of Andrew Jackson.” In other words, his paper was simply a mouthpiece for Jackson.
One study of newspapers of the day found that some 85% of all papers in America was founded and run by either the Democrats or their soon-to-be opponents, the Whigs. Only a handful could survive on subscriptions (a fact that in the 1980s shocked me when William F. Buckley told me that his National Review couldn’t survive on sales of the magazine alone). They were thoroughly in the pocket of political parties and dependent upon them for subsidies but were at least honest enough to state their bias in the masthead: The Arkansas Democrat, The Richmond Whig.
“News” papers ran full speeches of only Democrat candidates (if they were Van Buren’s papers) and refused to carry any “news” about Whigs (or, later, Republicans). Can you say MSNBC or CNN?
When the Whigs and later, the Republicans were formed to oppose the Democrats, they found themselves trapped on Van Buren’s playing field. They had to either have their own politicized papers or lose. A number of factors I won’t go into here temporarily made “newspapers” more newsy and less propagandist from 1865-1960, but they never lost their biases. As late as the 1960s the Arizona Republican proudly boasted its leanings until finally changing its name to the Arizona Republic.
So, what do we know about the Democrats and the media?
1) The Democrats were formed and founded with one purpose in mind: protecting and preserving slavery. Republicans were founded with the exact opposite purpose in mind, ending it. (“You can’t get good fruit from a bad tree,” namely you can’t get a party that cares about freedom from one born to preserve slavery.
2) The “news” media was never, ever about the news. It was always about advancing the agenda of, first, the Democrat Party then later whichever party owned the local paper. To pretend that they are objective is insanity. Even in their “most objective” era, they always maintained the “editorial page” where they stated their liberal biases. All that has happened today is that the media has reverted to form and looks exactly like the instruments Martin Van Buren designed to preserve slavery. That leopard has never changed its spots. The Hoax News media of today is still funded indirectly by the Democrat Party (Jeff Bezos, George Soros, General Electric) and thus could care less that it has no subscribers or viewers. If you’re waiting on the loss of viewership to take down MSNBC, fuggedaboudit. If they have no viewers the network will still be on the air, subsidized by Soros or other Democratic Party activists.
Neither the Democrat Party nor the Hoax News media can bear any type of good fruit. They were both poisoned from birth.
Larry Schweikart is the co-author of the NYTimes #1 bestseller, A Patriot’s History of The United States with Michael Allen, author of Reagan: The American President, and as “America’s History Teacher” runs the Wild World of History that has a full US and World History curriculum for educators and homeschoolers at www.wildworldofhistory.com.