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Tilting at Windmills

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May 21, 2010

THE PARTY OF CIVIL RIGHTS.... Given the new-found electoral relevance of the Civil Rights Act, I suppose this was inevitable.

The GOP went there. In an email sent to reporters in the height of the Rand Paul firestorm yesterday, the NRSC defended its Senate nominee in Kentucky by pointing out that it wasn't Republicans who were the most vocal opponents of the 1964 Civil Rights Act when it was in Congress.

"As a side note, I would point out the irony - which seems to have been lost in some of the news coverage -- that the same party seeking to manufacture this issue today, is in fact the same political party which led the filibuster against the Civil Rights Act in 1964," NRSC spokesperson Brian Walsh wrote.

This comes up from time to time, whenever Republicans are feeling particularly defensive about the civil rights issues. But in light of the party's confusion, it's probably time for a quick refresher.

The Democratic Party, in the first half of the 20th century, was home to competing constituencies -- southern whites with abhorrent views on race, and white progressives and African Americans in the north, who sought to advance the cause of civil rights. The party struggled, ultimately siding with an inclusive, liberal agenda.

As the party shifted, the Democratic mainstream embraced its new role. Republicans, meanwhile, also changed. In the wake of Democratic President Lyndon Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act, the Republican Party welcomed the white supremacists who no longer felt comfortable in the Democratic Party. Indeed, in 1964, Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater boasted of his opposition to the Civil Rights Act, and made it part of his platform. It was right around this time when figures like Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond made the transition -- leaving the Democratic Party for the GOP.

In the ensuing years, Democrats embraced their role as the party of diversity, inclusion, and civil rights. Republicans became the party of the "Southern Strategy," opposition to affirmative action, campaigns based on race-baiting, vote-caging, discriminatory voter-ID laws, and politicians like Helms and Thurmond.

Indeed, as the chairman of the Republican National Committee recently conceded, his party deliberately used racial division for electoral gain for the last four decades.

Just a minor detail, which seems to have been lost in some of the news coverage, and which the NRSC might have forgotten.

Update: For the record, 46 Democrats and 27 Republicans voted for the Civil Rights Act, while 21 Democrats and 6 Republicans opposed.

Steve Benen 1:50 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (33)

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Comments

Why wouldn't they go there? No one's going to call them on it, are they?

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on May 21, 2010 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

Yada yada yada. This is the standard liberal narrative whenever democrats want to smear the Party of Lincoln.

Posted by: Al on May 21, 2010 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

We donn' need no stinkin' FACTS...

Posted by: efgoldman on May 21, 2010 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

And there is always the Sen. Byrd canard, which Rand Paul brought up in his "criticism of foreign corporation BP is un-American" interview GMA today (via TPM):

Continuing his defense of his comments about the Civil Rights Act, Paul blamed it on Democrats who are "way behind in Kentucky" and "make up a lot of stuff" to gain ground.

He reiterated that he's against repealing the act, but added that the controversy is just a "red herring."

"If you want to bring up 40-year-old legislation," Paul said, "why don't you bring me on with Senator Byrd, we'll talk about how he filibustered the Civil Rights Act."

Posted by: meander on May 21, 2010 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

The vetting process for choosing whomever gets to be "Al" has clearly become perfunctory, and its results are an embarrassment to the entire troll community.

The alternative is outsourcing the entire operation to a boiler room in Chennai, and the middle of a recession is no time to be sending jobs overseas.

Standards, people, standards.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on May 21, 2010 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

Citing Lincoln is the standard conservative narrative whenever republicans get caught smearing the Democrats.

It's pretty hard to believe Lincoln would be allowed in "The Party of Lincoln" anymore, though. He wasn't very big on that whole "States Rights" argument the GOP keeps pushing.

Posted by: Jon on May 21, 2010 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

I didn't know the Democratic Party had 67-33 majority in the Senate in 1964. Wow.

Posted by: Brock on May 21, 2010 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

"Criticism of BP is un-American"

Rand Paul thought that the BP was Biloxi Petrolium. Who knew?

Posted by: John R on May 21, 2010 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

"Criticism of BP is un-American"

All oil is ours. BP is just borrowing it, as are those various lesser breeds without the law out there in not-America under whose land the oil keeps turning out to have been mislaid.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on May 21, 2010 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

yada yada yada - standard narrative when modern republicans want to claim that one republican of a former era somehow makes up for the rest of them.

Posted by: yada yada on May 21, 2010 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

"If you want to bring up 40-year-old legislation," Paul said, "why don't you bring me on with Senator Byrd, we'll talk about how he filibustered the Civil Rights Act."

I think underscoring the differences between Paul and Senator Byrd would be highly educative. Senator Byrd has long since disavowed his segregationist past, declined to switch to the Republican Party under their "Southern Strategy," and for the past 30 years embraced a progressive, pro-civil rights agenda. Rand Paul hasn't. Byrd would hand this guy his ass on a platter.

Posted by: jonas on May 21, 2010 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

The problem is, people in the South will believe the Republicans. I know lots of people there who don't think it's polite to talk politics. All they know is that Christians vote Republican, so anything the Republicans say, they'll believe.

Speaking about not talking politics,my dear mother-in-law, 84 years old, is a thinking, caring Democrat. She wouldn't dare talk politics in a social setting, but she and I have had several talks. She asked me once why the South was no longer Democratic. I had to explain it to her.

Posted by: pol on May 21, 2010 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

I think underscoring the differences between Paul and Senator Byrd would be highly educative.

But who in the "liberal media" is going to do that?

Posted by: pol on May 21, 2010 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

Opposition to civil rights back in the 50s and 60s wasn't the domain of either party exclusively, it was the domain of CONSERVATIVES. It was they, regardless of party affiliation, who bristled at the notion of overturning the prevelant social order and granting equality to all. In those days, there was actually an active liberal wing of the GOP that lasted up to the disgrace of Nixon. Now, of course, the GOP moderates are clearly, fatally, endangered.

Once the acts passed, the current political landscape sorted itself out. The Dixiecrats bolted to the GOP leading, as LBJ perdicted, the loss of the south to the Dems for a generation. Imagine how principled and brave a stand that was. Now, it's still only the conservatives bemoaning civil rights, it's just that the vast majority of them are repugs, and soon the GOP will be made up of nothing but them.

Posted by: BillFromPA on May 21, 2010 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

as someone smarter than me wrote: "there have been three parties in america since the civil war: the republican party, the democratic party and the southern party."

the southern party simply shifted which of the others it identified with...

and while the regional cleansing has taken longer, the southern reaction to the civil rights act passing caused a new england counter-reaction...that's why the concept of "yankee republican" has become extinct

Posted by: dj spellchecka on May 21, 2010 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

"If you want to bring up 40-year-old legislation," Paul said, "why don't you bring me on with Senator Byrd, we'll talk about how he filibustered the Civil Rights Act."

Because Byrd publicly repented his racism decades ago while you walk around in 20-fucking-10 thinking people should be able to kick brown, female or gay folk out of their public accommodations? It's not just your haircut that's a big old anachronism, fella.

Posted by: shortstop on May 21, 2010 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

This is all relevant information to keep in mind the next time we vote in the 1964 elections.

Posted by: doubtful on May 21, 2010 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

I really want to keep sniping on this: Okay, so if the Republicans support the Civil Rights Act so much, then why won't they support the Employment Nondiscrimination Act?-- which rather than "40-year-old legislation", as Dr. Paul calls it when he wants to change the subject, is a bill before Congress right this instant. ENDA would extend one tiny little sliver of the Civil Rights Act protections to gays, lesbians and the transgendered. The bill is likely to pass eventually but so far has struggled to round up enough votes to put it over the top amidst massive Republican opposition. But if the Republicans are so gung ho about the CRA then they should be enthusiastic about extending it by passing ENDA? Right? ...Right?!?!?

Posted by: mcc on May 21, 2010 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

It's all so confusing. Just to be safe, everyone should always vote for Democrats.

Posted by: apm on May 21, 2010 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

This is all relevant information to keep in mind the next time we vote in the 1964 elections.

Doubtful gets "Post o' the Day!"

Posted by: chrenson on May 21, 2010 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

They're just hoping people don't know their history. And based on their hatred of 'intellectuals' and disdain for book learnin' (including active pursuit of textbook revisions toward a more, shall we say, Southern white slant), they're doing all that they can to make history obsolete. They invent their own history. And their own reality. In rational discourse and normal circles, that'd be padded-cell territory--but today, it's around 30% of the populace. And that's scary as all hell.

Posted by: terraformer on May 21, 2010 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

while 21 Democrats and 6 Republicans opposed.

How many of those 21 became Republicans before they retired?

Posted by: Shalimar on May 21, 2010 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

It's appallingly simple. The South voted Democratic until the sixties - because Lincoln was a Republican. During the sixties they switched to voting Republican - because Lyndon Johnson was a Democrat.

There really is not much more to it than that.

Posted by: Roddy McCorley on May 21, 2010 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

Steve, you need to look a bit farther back to show the Democratic Party's evolution on civil rights. In 1948, the party's national convention adopted a platform for civil rights, following an empassioned speech by then-Minneapolis Mayor Hubert Humphrey. Southern objections to this were expressed by then-South Carolina Gov. Strom Thurmond, who then left the party to launch an independent presidential campaign as the candidate of the Dixiecrats. After that time, Thurmond was increasingly identified with the GOP. Following 1964, the GOP began adopting what has become known as the "Southern strategy."

Posted by: Dan on May 21, 2010 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK

Al, if Lincoln was running for office in the present, he sure has hell wouldn't be a Republican.

Posted by: winddancer on May 21, 2010 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

The way it's worked in American politics going back to the beginning, there have been three parties: the national progressive party, the national conservative party, and the Southernist Party. Generally, the two national parties are pretty evenly divided, so the Southernist party has provided whichever one of the national parties would allow the Southernists to maintain their "peculiar institutions" of white supremacy (originally expressed through slavery, then through just plain old White Supremacy), and militarist expansionism, in the manner of a parasite. Prior to 1964, the Southernist party was content to allow the national progressive party (i.e., the Democrats) to go ahead and do whatever they wanted outside the South, so long as the "peculiar society" was left alone. When the Democrats proved to be "traitors" to the agreement, the Southernists went to the other party. Only this time the parasite decided it had to insure its supremacy, so it took over the national party host. And whenever the parasite attempts to take over the host, the end result is the death of the host. Which we are now seeing.

Posted by: TCinLA on May 21, 2010 at 4:18 PM | PERMALINK

As you pointed out, Steve, if they want to review history, let's remember which party welcomed the defecting Dixiecrats with open arms.

Feh.

Posted by: Gregory on May 21, 2010 at 4:33 PM | PERMALINK
Steve: "For the record, 46 Democrats and 27 Republicans voted for the Civil Rights Act, while 21 Democrats and 6 Republicans opposed."
Gregory: "As you pointed out, Steve, if they want to review history, let's remember which party welcomed the defecting Dixiecrats with open arms."

And given how both parties have evolved subsequently and respectively since 1964, I would offer that if that vote was held today, those GOP numbers would be reversed, whereas 15% or less of Republicans would support the Civil Rights Act, and the remainder would be opposed.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on May 21, 2010 at 5:39 PM | PERMALINK
winddancer: "Al, if Lincoln was running for office in the present, he sure as hell wouldn't be a Republican."

winddancer, if Al had been a voter in 1860, neither would he.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on May 21, 2010 at 5:45 PM | PERMALINK

"It was right around this time when figures like Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond made the transition -- leaving the Democratic Party for the GOP."

It should become better known that Strom Thurmond was encouraged to jump to the GOP--by none other than Barry Goldwater.

George Wallace very nearly did likewise, but was miffed that Thurmond had beaten him to it.

Posted by: Ackroyd on May 21, 2010 at 10:59 PM | PERMALINK

Herr Benen, it must be noted, lives by choice in Vermont, a state with an African-American population of 0.8%. Yes, 0.8%. What a civil rights hero he seems to be.

Posted by: Fred Beloit on May 22, 2010 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

So, it was sainted FDR who really created the much-denounced by self-righteous progressives "Southern Strategy", ie, getting into bed with racist southern whites for political power, but when Nixon and Reagan took advantage of the Democrats' post-McGovern lurch into modern cultural marxism and p.c. leftism, they were somehow playing unfair by apeing the Dems. Ah, principles! All those years of whoring with racism are forgiven after pissing on the Constitution and setting up the welfare state, because after they "struggled, they ultimately sided with an inclusive liberal agenda" Right.

Posted by: A.C. on May 22, 2010 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

Entire delusional rant by A.C. @ 2:36 PM.

So many mistakes, so little time...
1) FDR is NOT "sainted"; that cognomen is reserved for St. Ronnie "Welfare queen" Reagan. You DID get the sneer down, pity it was misplaced.
2) FDR did not create a "Southern Strategy" of reaching out to racist southerners; they were, unfortunately, already part of the Democratic Party and had been since 1876 (some kerfluffle with the Republicans about southerners' consumer rights during the 1860s, I understand).
3) "...post-McGovern lurch into modern cultural marxism and p.c. leftism..." sounds very intellectual and all, but basically means nothing. The only party I know of that requires the equivalent of "cultural marxism" is the present-day Republican/Teabagger axis. But then, those who suffer from psychological problems such as projection rarely realize it.
4) "Ah, principles!" They ARE nice aren't they. Which is why the unprincipled Republicans/Teabaggers aren't very nice people (I do so love it when one's opponent provides the knife!).
5) "All those years of whoring with racism are forgiven after pissing on the Constitution and setting up the welfare state..." Finally you've gotten something right! After Reagan, Bush the Elder and Bush the (very) Minor, the voters decided they'd had enough of the Republican racist and corporate whore-mongering and voted the Democrats into power. It will take some time, but I have no doubt we will be able to clean up your messes.
Oh, and the "pissing on the Constitution" by the Republicans/Teabaggers? Definitely NOT forgiven!

Posted by: Doug on May 22, 2010 at 8:02 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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