"I am playing with myself,
I am playing with the world's soul,
I am the dialogue between myself and el espiritu del mundo.
I change myself, I change the world."

Gloria AnzaldĂșa

01 December, 2007

Yellow Dog Democrat

In an earlier post this week, I identified myself as a yellow dog democrat. Bipolar Lawyer Cook asked what that could be. She is not alone. For some people, including my partner, this is not a well known term.

Melanie, over at Bean Paste, was quick to offer the definition in the comment section, but I wanted to give you a little bit of the history (I'm all about the history, dear readers).

There are competing online versions of the history of the term, and this time, I think that Wikipedia has the more correct of the versions. DO NOT tell my English students about this; they will insist that their desire to cite Wikipedia in academic writings should be honored.

The term, "Yaller Dog Democrat" springs from the post restoration period in the South when white men swarmed to the Democratic party as a response to the restoration.



Wikipedia sites the book, Exit Laughing, with the story of a Kentucky democrat, Theodore Hallam, saying that he would sooner vote for an old yaller dog than a republican.


Another history, at a commercial website, claims that the appellation comes from the 1928 Presidential campaign when many democrats, while they didn't like Al Smith, were loath to vote republican.

When I was a yunggin, my mother told me that a yaller dog democrat was a bad thing: it evoked an ugly, racist past that was better left in the past, and it also spoke of a person who was closed minded. After all, it is possible that a republican might actually be a superior candidate.

Mamma was a wise woman, but I don't think she ever knowingly voted republican in her life.

In recent years, liberal democrats have decided to reclaim (and respell) the term yellow dog democrat. While it still means that we would rather vote for a yellow dog than a republican, it has a different ethos, I think. After all, the voting rights act of 1964 saw to it that most of the racists switched parties. Anyone for a post on the Southern Strategy of the Republican Party?

(Before you ask, the dog at the beginning of this post is mine, the other is just a good looking yaller dog.)

20 comments:

Melanie said...

I would totally vote for your yaller dog. He looks like presidential material.

slouching mom said...

Not that I had heard of the phrase -- but I suppose that I'm a yellow dog Democrat as well!

Julie Pippert said...

Based on your reprisal of the term, I think I qualify as a yellow dog Democrat too. :)

Your yellow dog is handsome; I have to share photos soon of my chocolate dog.

And your partner. I had to click over of course because of art. She's SO TALENTED! Wow!

And I've decided it's okay in general to source cite Wikipedia, so long as I am confident of the information and verified it. Often is IS a good source!

But yes, don't let students get used to it. :)

Julie
Using My Words

anne said...

The second yaller dog looks like THE yaller dog from Old Yeller.

I have to admit, this is the first time I've ever hear this term. Very interesting.

I'm a little bit afraid to see what happens in the Democratic camp - my co-worker, who has never voted a day in her life, said that she will vote in the presidential election JUST to vote against Hillary if she is the Democratic candidate. And I don't think she is the only person who feels this way. So, I guess there are Yellow Dog voters on both sides. (Although I think she would prefer to be called a Wiener Dog voter.)

It should become very interesting.

Kristy said...

Prof J.
I think I left inaccurate info on my site about the recent Blogger changes. In fact, if you're reading this, I definitely did. It looks like all is actually fine. Sorry to raise the alarm like that. My bad. (*retreats to the naughty corner in shame*)

poet with a day job said...

Great post: I often wonder about things like this: taking back language from its rough past to a new, reclaimed present. for many words, i am still not convinced it is a good idea.

Mary Alice said...

hummm interesting term. My husband recently coined his own term...telling someone that he is a California Republican...too liberal and too much of a tree hugger for the rest of the nation's republican party and yet too conservative for california. Well, I thought it was funny. He's a crunchy conservative.

Mrs. G. said...

I am the direct descendant of yellow dog Democrats so I suppose that makes me a yellow-ish dog Democrat.

Jozet at Halushki said...

Seriously....do I get college credits for reading your blog?

Your yellow dog is a beaut!

Professor J said...

Thank you all for noticing how lovely my Dinah is--but I don't think she'd be a good president, Melanie, she's too easily distracted by tennis balls.

Poet, I know what you mean. Some words should not be reclaimed.

Mary Alice, you tell your husband that he's what we used to call a conservative democrat. Of course, there used to be liberal republicans, too. Funny how things have gotten. . .

Jozet, evidently I need to do something silly on the blog. Sorry If I've been too pedantic lately. . .

K. said...

That's a term I'd not heard - thanks for the history. I won't tell anyone that you used WIKIPEDIA - oh sorry. :P

I tell my kids that Wikipedia is an excellent jumping off point for further research. Which is totally how I use it. Most of the time. Honest.

Tui said...

I'd never heard the term, either.

And, yes, I'd like to read a post on the Southern Strategy of the Republican Party. :)

Claire B. said...

If you're keeping track, I qualify as a YDD too!

Jennifer (Jen on the Edge) said...

Southerners know (or damn well should) know the term. As a lifelong Virginian (and descended from many fine YDD's), I certainly do. Thanks for the excellent post.

Organic Mama said...

I tell my kids that Wiki is a decent collection of references, but not to trust the material itself as I know several profs who seed sites with bogus material to catch those who choose to use Wiki's info. Wiki IS a decent starting-off point (am now stealing that).
Politically, I guess I am a YDD as well, although I am about to participate in my first election as an American. I am not enthusiastic about the selection of candidates in the Dems, but I am SO not voting Republican, as I like them less.
Thank you for the explanation; I'm still feeling my way toward a political definition.
Also, I loved your comment about equating "English Teacher" with "Terrorist" over at my place; it's happened to me, too!

Family Adventure said...

Love the history lesson. Without I would have thought YDD was some kind of insult. Now I know you're fighting the good fight!

Heidi

BipolarLawyerCook said...

Well then, I am not only a yellow dog Democrat, but a pink and purple polka-dotted one. Thanks for the explanation!

JCK said...

Being originally, at least for a time, from the South, I am familiar with this term. However, I enjoyed your Wikipedia - Professor J's take. Methinks I am a Yellow Dog as well.

Nice looking dog by the way.

Cheri said...

Sign me up for a collar and leash, size small, lavender with rhinestones. Okay, no rhinestones.

rrichar911 said...

Martin Luther King was a Republican for obvious reasons. Civil rights was a Republican idea. Eisenhower's AG wrote the 57, 58, etc bills, that Democrats watered down at LBJ's request.

Dixiecrats" declared that they would rather vote for a "yellow dog" than vote for a Republican because the Republican Party was know as the party for blacks.

But you folks think racist Democrats jumped ship to join the racist party. 79% of Republicans voted for the 1964 bill, while 63% of Democrats did.

Democrats switched parties becasue of LBJ's socialism.

Try getting an education, it wont kill you.