This Is The Racism Behind Our Current Political Parties
While Democratic President LBJ shepherded the 1964 Civil Rights Act to passage, 80 percent of Republicans in the House voted aye against 61 percent of Democrats. In the Senate, 82 percent of Republicans favored the law, but only 69 percent of Democrats. What the hell happened?
Republican Barry Goldwater was the 1964 GOP presidential candidate. He opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 while at the same time pushing to desegregate the Arizona National Guard, and as a founding member of the NAACP in Arizona.
On the other hand, Democrats Al Gore Sr. (father of the vice president and Democratic nominee for president in 2000), Robert Byrd (Klansman and Senator from West Virginia forever), and J. William Fulbright (the scholarship guy) not only all voted against it, but Fulbright was one of the 19 senators who signed the “Southern manifesto” defending segregation.
In the 1948 presidential election, Truman firmly committed the national Democratic party to supporting civil rights. He was, after all, the President who integrated the armed forces over the opposition of many of the military leaders including General Omar Bradley (the nation’s last 5 star general). Though he was gone from the military by then, Eisenhower never gave his full-throated support for desegregation either.
The transition from the days when the Republicans had the black vote and the Democrats were segregationist was long and difficult, covering the years 1932 to 1960. But by 1961, the Democrats as the Presidential party were more supportive of civil rights legislation nationally than the Republicans.
Democrats controlled Congress throughout the period, and you’ll find Manny Celler’s fingerprints on the ’57 and ’60 Civil Rights bills along with Jacob Javits. You’ll also find that more Dem Representatives and Senators voted for the Civil Rights Bills than did the Republicans (i.e., absolute numbers). But when I write “nationally” I maybe should have said the “Presidential party”, because scholars have recognized the distinction between the Presidential party and the Congressional. I checked, and a large majority of blacks have voted for the Democrat in every Presidential election after 1932.
Republicans have always been the party of business evidenced by Main Street business interests and Wall Street always voting primarily Republican since 1856. Saying Republicans have always been the party of civil rights ignores the fact blacks have been voting for Dem presidential candidates since the 1930’s.
The Nature of Political Parties
When I refer to a “National Party”, I am not talking about the conglomeration of state and local parties or interest groups. I’m talking about the people who have the power to select the presidential candidate and shape the policies on which he or she will run.
For example, in the Republican party of the 21st century, the Tea Party is a significant component. But for the national/presidential Republican party the Tea Party doesn’t count for much.
The national Republican party is more moderate than its most dedicated and vocal adherents. H.W. and W Bush, Dole, McCain, and Romney all come from this national party, the more moderate wing if you like. In fact, every single Republican Party candidate post FDR have been moderates with the exceptions of Goldwater and Reagan. The moderates assume that the Tea Party/social conservatives will support them and try to appeal to the center.
That’s the logic which has characterized our history: one party takes the opposition or support of some groups for granted and tries to appeal to groups they think they can attract. The (presidential/national) Republicans took the backing of blacks for granted from the days of Reconstruction; the (presidential/national) Democrats assumed the opposition of blacks until the 1930’s.
When FDR demonstrated that blacks could be attracted, the (presidential/national) Democrats started trying for their support. The ’48 split solidified the strategy, and thereafter the majority of Democrats in Congress supported civil rights legislation.