Unfortunately Because I Have To: Who Passed Civil Rights?
Now that Deflategate is a thing of the past, as we embark upon electing another President, we have to address the past, When responding to the lack of diversity in the party, and policies that seem to work against people of color, Republicans often reflexively respond that they are the party of civil rights. This is just not true and Princeton Historian Kevin Kruse outlines why.
Democrats Passed The Civil Rights Act of 1964
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was advanced by two Democratic presidents, and led through both the House and Senate by Democratic leaders. The congressional GOP didn’t pass it, and only 1/3 of the yes votes in the Senate came from the GOP. Less than half of the yes votes in the House came from the GOP. The 1964 GOP presidential candidate that year, Barry Goldwater, voted against it and took the Deep South away from the Democrats.
Culmination and Not Change
I disagree with Kruse that the vote on the Civil Rights Act and the 1964 presidential race represented a sea of change in how voters understood the two parties’ stances on civil rights. He points to 1962 polls asking which party “more likely to see to it that Negroes get fair treatment in jobs & housing” having an even split in opinion being followed by polls in 1964 saying the Democrats were more in favor of Civil Rights with only 7 percent saying Republicans did. When asked which party was more likely to support school integration, 56 percent pointed to the Democrats while 7 percent did so for the Republicans. I have contended this change had begun 30 years prior with FDR and went through Truman when Democrats controlled the Congress.
Nixon and The GOP Ran Away From Civil Rights
Richard Nixon certainly made favorable comments about the Civil Rights Act, but then spent the next several years furiously backtracking to win the GOP nomination. Furthermore, Strom Thurmond, who bolted the Democrats over the Civil Rights Act to join the GOP, was absolutely pivotal in getting Nixon the Republican nomination in 1968. He got Nixon the nomination through rallying votes of southern delegations by specifically promising them he’d relax on enforcing civil rights. Nixon’s running mate was Spiro Agnew, the Maryland governor who gained fame blaming black ministers for the Baltimore riots of ’68.
Civil Rights was completely absent from the 1968 GOP presidential platform. Nixon’s sole reference to civil rights in his acceptance speech was a call for law and order. Loyal Black Republicans like Jackie Robinson, my grandparents and millions of others officially switched to the Democratic Party though they had been voting that way for quite some time.