It’s been nauseating watching members of the liberal media 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 actually Republicans who deserve 95 percent 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 Lyndon B. Johnson did the right thing even though he knew Southern Democrats would switch parties.
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 Harry S. Truman signed an executive order desegregating the military, but dragged his heels and never followed through except in South Korea. It was Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower who pushed to complete the task and disbanded the last segregated regiment in 1954.
In the late 1950s, Republicans passed the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960, neither of which received a majority of Democrats’ votes. One-hundred percent of Republican Senators and 90 percent of Republican Representatives voted for the GOP-sponsored acts, compared to a measly 52 percent to 70 percent, respectively, for Democrats.
The first civil rights bill a majority of Democrats supported was the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — thus it’s the only one the liberal media talks about today. Even so, Republicans supported the act 82 percent in the Senate and 80 percent in the House, compared to Democrats’ 69 percent and 61 percent, respectively. Republicans also voted 94 percent and 82 percent for the 1965 Voting Rights Act, compared to Democrats’ 75 percent and 78 percent. For the 1968 Fair Housing Act, it was 91 percent and 86 percent vs. 71 percent and 71 percent.
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 which you of course hear about endlessly.
Those Dixiecrats who went back to being Democrats included Sens. Robert C. Byrd (W.V.) — Democrats’ “conscience of the Senate” — Thomas Pryor Gore (Okla.) and Sam Ervin (N.C.) — chair of the Senate Watergate Committee.
Only one 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.
But weren’t Southern Democrats who were disenchanted with the 1964 Civil Rights Act ripe recruits for Republican nominee Richard Nixon’s “Southern Strategy”?