It’s been nauseating watching liberal media members patting one another on the back for the past few months in this, the year of the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, when it’s Republicans who deserve 95% of the credit for African-American civil rights advances.
In liberals’ fantasy world, Democrats spearheaded the push for civil rights while dragging along reluctant Republicans; and President Johnson did the morally right thing even though he knew Southern Democrats would switch parties and become Republicans.
In fact, Republicans had been pushing civil rights legislation throughout the 1950s, trying to get recalcitrant Democrats to cooperate. And the long transformation of the South from Democratic to Republican began in the 1920s, wasn’t complete until the 2000s, and had nothing to do with race.
Until the mid-20th century, Democrats were the party of slavery, secession, Jim Crow, lynching, the KKK, and segregation. (Someone ought to tell Hank Aaron.)
Throughout the 1950s, Republicans were integrating schoolhouses against the violent opposition of Southern Democratic governors. President Truman signed an executive order desegregating the military in 1948, but dragged his heels and never followed through on implementation except in South Korea, where he needed additional troop strength. It was Republican President Eisenhower who pushed to complete the task and disbanded the last segregated regiment in 1954.
In the late 1950s, Congressional Republicans passed several civil rights laws that never once received a majority of Democratic support—most notably the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960. One-hundred percent of Republican Senators and 90% of Republican Representatives voted for the GOP-sponsored bills, compared to a measly 52% to 70% for Democrats.
The first civil rights bill that a majority of Democrats supported was the Civil Rights Act of 1964—so naturally it’s the only one the liberal media will talk about today. Even so, Republicans supported it in far greater percentages than Democrats in both House and Senate. Republicans supported the act 82% in the Senate and 80% in the House, compared to Democrats’ 69% and 61%. Republicans also voted 94% and 82% for the 1965 Voting Rights Act, compared to Democrats’ 75% and 78%. For the 1968 Fair Housing Act, it was 91% and 86% vs. 71% and 71%.
But, you might object, all that was 50 years ago. Didn’t racist Southern Democrats switch parties and become Republicans?
After the dissolution of the Dixiecrat Party in 1948, 23 of the 26 Congressional and gubernatorial Dixiecrats returned to being lifelong Democrats. Only three became Republicans: Strom Thurmond, Jesse Helms, and Miles E. Godwin, Jr., the first two of whom you hear about endlessly.
Those Dixiecrats who went back to being Democrats for the rest of their lives included Senators Robert C. Byrd (Democrats’ “Conscience of the Senate”), Thomas Pryor Gore (Al Gore’s father), and Sam Ervin (chair of the Watergate Committee).
Only 1 of the 97 Democrats who signed the Southern Manifesto in 1956 opposing enforcement of Brown v. Board of Education switched to the Republican Party and kept his seat—Strom Thurmond again. (Thanks, Strom!)
How about Southern Democrats who were disenchanted with the 1964 Civil Rights Act? Weren’t they ripe recruits for Republican nominee Richard Nixon?
According to the legend of Nixon’s Southern Strategy, Barry Goldwater voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and won the four southern states that went for the Dixiecrat Party in 1948, plus Georgia. Though Goldwater did win those states, he was not opposed to civil rights: he had voted for the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960, was a longtime NAACP member, had long since voluntarily racially integrated his own businesses, and had funded a major anti-discrimination lawsuit in the 1950s. As a strict libertarian, Goldwater opposed (like Rand Paul today) one of the ten titles of the Civil Rights Act, the one giving the federal government the power to interfere with private hiring decisions. While many Dixiecrats supported Goldwater because of his opposition to the act, Goldwater inarguably did not appeal to their racism to get their votes.
In enacting the apocryphal Southern Strategy in 1968, Nixon supposedly appealed to racist Southern Democrats so he could win the Dixiecrat-Goldwater states. However, Nixon won only one of the five states his diabolical strategy had allegedly poised him to take: South Carolina. All four of the other states (plus Arkansas) went to segregationist former Alabama Governor George Wallace, who ran for President as a third-party candidate in 1968, but as a Democrat in 1964 and 1972.
So Nixon didn’t turn the Dixiecrat-Goldwater states Republican—he didn’t even win most of them himself. Republicans didn’t start winning even a majority of these five states until 1992—by which time most of the Dixiecrats had died off—with the exceptions of (uninformative) landslide elections in 1972, 1980, 1984, and 1988. In 1976, Republicans won precisely 0 of the 5 Dixiecrat-Goldwater states.
The Southern Strategy is a perversely, willfully perpetuated myth concocted to explain away Democrats’ racist past by attributing it to innocent Republicans. There is no evidence that it was consciously planned, much evidence that it wasn’t, and solid electoral proof that it yielded nil results.
Yet the left-leaning media continue to use ignorance about the history of civil rights to cultivate support for insane policies such as opposition to voter ID laws.
To take one example, New York Times columnist Charles Blow recently wrote, “Republicans are leveraging the deep pockets of anti-Obama billionaires and sinister voter suppression tactics that harken back to Jim Crow to wrest power from the hands of docile Democrats.”
Note the crafty, deceptive construction of that sentence: to uninformed readers, it would sound as though Jim Crow had been used “to wrest power from the hands of docile Democrats,” when in fact the wresting refers to something mentioned before the Jim Crow reference.
But I’m sure Blow doesn’t mind if uninformed readers misinterpret his meaning, not if it gins up opposition to voter ID laws.
And I’m sure liberal journalists with even an inkling of Republicans’ dominant role in pushing civil rights legislation throughout the 20th century will continue to conspire to keep their historically ignorant audiences in the dark.
- The Blaze quotes Michael Zak about Back to Basics for the Republican Party and the 1964 Civil Rights Act (grandoldpartisan.typepad.com)
- Conservatives owe much to Goldwater’s presidential bid (usatoday.com)
- President Obama Praises Racist Lyndon Johnson For Republican Civil Rights Act (thedaleygator.wordpress.com)
- White liberals tell black lies about civil rights (wnd.com)
- Democratic Party Crimes Against Black Americans ~ A Gruesome History (dailypaul.com)