Free Essay. The Ku Klux Klan Political Influence on the American West From 1863 to the Present

Published: 2023-05-23
Free Essay. The Ku Klux Klan Political Influence on the American West From 1863 to the Present
Type of paper:  Research proposal
Categories:  Racism Violence Slavery American history
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1925 words
17 min read

The use of the word Ku Klux Klan was not in use until 1865 when the group was created by Nathan Bedford Forrest (Cunningham, 2004). The term was used to refer to a far-right extremist group whose influence across the American West was vast. The group had a great impact on the history and politics of the American West. The group was distinguished from other people by the outfit that it adorned. The Ku Klux Klan group was peculiar for its white, hooded outfits, which covered the entire body concealing their identities. The group was notorious for committing atrocities against minority populations. The rise of the group was instigated by the decision of Abraham Lincoln to free slaves through the emancipation proclamation. It sought to disenfranchise these slaves and treated them as lesser beings. The group mistreated the local black population and also held politicians hostage and rigged votes. The group drew a great rift between the white race and the non-white races. It considered the whites as superior to the non-white races and therefore demanded better treatment. The influences of the group have been observed in the American landscape for as early as the 21st century, where non-white people are usually treated with contempt by the whites. The group is responsible for the creation of tension between the whites and the non-whites, a move that seems to pull America back even in the wake of civilization, liberation, respect for human rights, and equality.

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Racism is an issue that has pervaded America for the longest time possible. Since the 1800s, the non-whites have always been mistreated and considered an inferior group that has little impact on the decisions made in America (Whitmore, 2020). The most extreme exposure of this was when the non-whites, especially the blacks, were made slaves. Despite the American Dream of having all Americans treated with dignity, cases of mistreatment based on race seem to pervade America even to date. There have been cases of African-Americans being harassed and falsely accused by the police. Even in schools, there have been reports of African-American children being mistreated. This behavior is a product of the influences of the Ku Klux Klan group, and this makes this topic worth researching.

The other justification for the study is that the Ku Klux Klan group arose as a result of the tensions that existed between America's industrial and agricultural sectors. These tensions still exist to date and continue to shape the decisions made by the Americans. Thus, the influence and impacts of Ku Klux Klan group are visible even to date. The American West has been a pertinent region when it comes to making political decisions ("The Impact," n.d.). Regions such as California making radical decisions about the use of marijuana for recreational purposes. Besides, the American West is a proper region of study due to the composition of people in the region who make political decisions based on various factors. Due to this, the states that fall in West America have different political affiliations, with some favoring the Democratic Party ideologies and other Republican Party ideologies. Turner (1896) stated that West America is a region that wanted to distinguish itself from other regions and this led to the arising of groups such as Ku Klux Klan among others.

Political Influence from 1863 to the Present

Western America is among the regions that had been dominated by the Native Americans before immigration took place. During immigration, most of the Europeans settled in the Western part of America. The influx of immigrants was a concern for the whites since, in a democratic election, the people with the highest number of voters determine the outcome of the elections. Besides, this was among the first regions to witness widespread women suffrage where women were allowed to cast votes in states such as Wyoming and Utah in the 1870s (Hernandez, 2019). In states such as California, there was the introduction the property rights, which defined ownership. The extended granting of rights to minorities and immigrants did not go well with some of the whites, and groups such as the Ku Klux Klan sprung to ensure that the whites are not overtaken. Thus, they sought to meet violence against the minorities and instilled fear in them. Due to the freedom and ruthlessness that the Ku Klux Klan worked with, decisions were quickly hatched and implemented. Perhaps, some of those influences can be seen today, especially regarding the passing of laws such as those involving marijuana.

Today, a majority of Western states have legalized the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Only Uttah and Wyoming have reservations about the legalization of medicinal marijuana (Hernandez, 2019). Most of the states in other parts of the US have not been keen on passing this law. Some other western states such as Montana, Washington, Oregon, and Colorado have legalized physician-assisted suicide. Such moves have been greatly neglected by states in other parts of America. It is to be understood that all these decisions are reached as political processes. The voters in states such as Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Nevada, California, and Alaska have made it legal to use marijuana for recreational purposes.

One of the major political influences of the Ku Klux Klan group is that it sidelined the minority groups in the political arena so that their influence is almost inexistent. Most of the legislative seats in America since 1863 to date have been held by whites (Best, 2003). There is not even a single time that minorities have exceeded the number of whites in the political space. Minorities have been conspicuously missing in the political arena with those who try to vie for high positions, failing to make it through. It was not until 2008 that Barack Obama became the first African-American to be elected and re-elected President of the US (Leamer, 2016). This shows how disadvantaged minorities are in the political space.

Before the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, African-Americans enjoyed great freedom that had been granted by Emancipation Proclamation, which ended slavery. The African-Americans in America at the time were granted citizenship, and African-American men were granted voting rights. Due to this freedom, the political landscape shifted greatly. By the end of 1872, about 1,510 African Americans had been elected in office in southern states. Besides, by 1875, 1,570 African Americans served in the US Congress (Leamer, 2016). Uncomfortable with this political realignment, the Ku Klux Klan was willing to change the status quo by criminalizing African Americans and denying them voting rights.

The idea of secluding minorities from the political space was borne by the Ku Klux Klan group, who felt that the minorities should not lead the whites. World War 1 presented a dilemma for America since they had to use the minorities in the war, and, undoubtedly, the minorities, especially the African-Americans, excelled in the roles that they took during the First World War. Unsure of their future dominance against the African-Americans, there arose the Second Ku Klux Klan group in the middle of the war led by William J. Simmons (Gallagher & Lippard, 2014). At this time, the group advocated for an isolationist economy as well as high and stiff immigration restrictions.

The political influence of Ku Klux Klan group in American politics led to the segregation and suppression of minority groups. A majority of the immigrants from eastern European countries were greatly affected by these restrictions. The Ku Klux Klan was led by the core values that revolved around hatred of minorities as well as political spite. The group felt that the American people would soon lose their values due to the infiltration caused by the immigrants. Besides, it felt that the immigrants were likely to cause moral impurity if they were left to enjoy freedom equal to that of the whites. This segregation of minorities limited them from exercising any political power or being consulted in the making of important decisions. As a result, their influence was not felt in the political arena.

It is also to be noted the American West consisted of Native Americans, whites, and African Americans who came in as immigrants. There were also some other European groups. This led to a steady advance of population, which resulted to clashes and wars as the whites sought to possess the region. Groups such as the Ku Klux Klan were big players in these clashes, and they sought to silence the other groups and force them to rally behind them in all the decisions that they made (Freedman & Jones, 2008). As such, the group treated the minorities as inferior.

The Ku Klux Klan was also key in the creation of political ties. The Second Ku Klux Klan was more widespread than the first, and it entailed the use of clever marketing techniques as most of its members were clever middle-class Americans. By using clever marketing techniques, it was able to gain influence and get a lot of revenue (Turner, 1896). As a result, the number of members shot up in the 1920s. Due to the high numbers and revenue, the group became a populist party, and a majority of the citizens felt the need to join the Ku Klux Klan. The reason for their joining is that this would allow for their voices to be heard. The influence of the group made it possible for it to raise enormous revenues for its leaders, and this was essential in the creation of political ties since the Ku Klux Klan was considered an official organization in the eyes of the government. This meant that the group had a lot of powers to determine the political state of the country.

A study conducted by Freedman and Jones (2008) showed that areas that were dominated by the Ku Klux Klan group voted in a particular pattern. The study looked at five presidential voting outcomes between 1960 and 2000 and concluded that states in which the group had recruited members were likely to vote in a Republican candidate as opposed to areas where there was not the group's influence. Additionally, the study found out that in the 1992 elections, voters and conservative racial attitudes and were not likely to vote in any other candidate but a white candidate under the Republican Party (Freedman & Jones, 2008). Even with this, there have been major swings in the recent past as some states in the American West have been divided in terms of their political allegiance. While states such as Alaska, Wyoming, and Utah being more republican, states such as Washington, New Mexico, California, and Colorado have greatly leaned towards the Democratic Party.

Based on this, it is possible to argue that the Ku Klux Klan was a major factor in the popularization of the Republican Party. The ideologies of the Republican Party and those of the Ku Klux Klan seemed to tally, and that is why the group supported a Republican candidate. In areas such as the South and the West, there existed long-established voting patterns before the 1960s (Heinrichs, 2003). However, with the influence of the Ku Klux Klan growing, such voting patterns were changed. The group sought to link voting behavior to its social agenda in the 1960s. The efforts by the group predicted partisan allegiances decades later. This shows how strong a social movement can be as well as the length of the period its influence can last even after the movement has declined. The influence of the Ku Klux Klan was key in offering a new explanation of political polarization in the US. The racial conflict was one of the major agenda of the Ku Klux Klan (Katz, 1987). The group sought to divide people based on their race.

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