Several years ago I read this book on women who joined the Ku Klux Klan. The author, a liberal, was surprised that some of the elderly women she interviewed viewed their participation in the Klan as part of their idealism, along with pacifism and other progressive causes. I didn’t bother my head too much about why they felt this way, but just chalked it up as another reason for believing that the left’s history is far more convoluted than today’s leftists want to admit.
Anyway, this post by Stacy McCain gives a little bit of a clue. He points out that the Democrats in places like Indiana (which is where the author of the book at the link focused much of her research) were telling people that all the blacks, Jews, and new immigrants were going to destroy the American way of life. If so, and given that the left back then was not as anti-American as it is now, then it’s easy enough to see that people could see the Klan as a progressive force.