I just posted an item on Bruce Bartlett‘s essay on his exile from the Republican party. But there’s one section of his piece in the American Conservative that at best is naive and at worse is disingenuous.
Among the ideas he emphasizes to save the GOP from its lemming-like march over the cliff (not just the fiscal one): Have today’s Republicans appeal to the black community.
The best way to get Republicans to read a book about reaching out for the black vote, I thought, was to detail the Democratic Party’s long history of maltreatment of blacks. After all, the party was based in the South for 100 years after the war, and all of the ugly racism we associate with that region was enacted and enforced by Democratic politicians. …
I thought knowing the Democratic Party’s pre-1964 history of racism, which is indisputable, would give Republicans a story to tell when they went before black groups to solicit votes. I thought it would also make Republicans more sympathetic to the problems of the black community, many of which are historical in their origins.
How do I break this to him?
Yes, the pre-1964 Democratic Party was full of racists. Republicans were far more tolerant. Democratic congressmen from the South were the among the vilest bigots on the planet, and Republicans were hated in that region because of Abraham Lincoln’s Northern War of Aggression (Yeah, that’s what they call it down there, and they still hold a grudge).
But in 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson, a Democrat and a Texan, got the Civil Rights Act through Congress. It passed because of Republican votes; southern Democrats were against it. No senator from the South voted for it. Tennessee Sen. Al Gore Sr., father of you-know-who, voted against it.
“According to Congressional Quarterly, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed the House 290-130, and Republican support for the bill was much stronger than Democratic: 61 percent (152-96) of the Democrats supported the legislation while 80 percent (138-34) of the Republicans backed it. These numbers were similar in the Senate — 69 percent of Democrats (46-21), backed the bill along with 82 percent of Republicans (27-6).”
Then in 1965, Johnson pushed through the Voting Rights Act, and he gave this speech before Congress:
He also said:
But even if we pass this bill, the battle will not be over. What happened in Selma is part of a far larger movement which reaches into every section and State of America. It is the effort of American Negroes to secure for themselves the full blessings of American life.
Their cause must be our cause too. Because it is not just Negroes, but really it is all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome.
“We shall overcome,” the rallying cry of the civil-rights movement. That made southern Democrats apoplectic.
But here’s the important part. In 1968, southern Democrats swarmed like locusts to Richard Nixon. Then they gradually changed parties and became Republicans. It’s all documented in Rick Pearlstein‘s book “Nixonland.”
Don’t believe it? Quick: Name a white southern Democrat currently in Congress? (No, John Yarmuth in Louisville doesn’t count, because as much as the state’s residents hate to admit it, Kentucky was with the Union during the Civil War.)
There’s only one from the Deep South. John Barrow in Georgia. And he voted against Obamacare.
As we all saw at the 2012 GOP convention, at the Romney campaign party on election night and on the blog White People Mourning Romney, the GOP isn’t exactly a party of inclusion. In fact, its Southern strategy since the days of Nixon was based on racial antagonism. Here’s a link back to the Lee Atwater interview posted a few days ago.
I have to think Bartlett knows all this. I can’t figure out if he’s being naive or intentionally deceptive on the idea of the GOP appealing to blacks. And then, there’s this quote in his article:
I thought that blacks and Latinos were natural political and economic competitors, and I saw in poll data that blacks were receptive to a hardline position on illegal immigration.
That’s pretty dickish, right? Make the party stronger by playing on racial animosity.
Look, I remember when older black people were Republicans, because that was the party that ended slavery. Eisenhower got something like 40 percent of the black vote when he was re-elected president in 1956.
But that was almost 60 years ago. The evil southern Democrats of that era are all dead, and when they were alive, black people saw they were eagerly joining the Republican Party. And in 1980, when Ronald Reagan campaigned in Philadelphia, Mississippi (the place were three civil-rights activists were brutally murdered in June 1964) and talked about “states’ rights” (the term used in Southern states to justify every racial abuse they committed), the bigot baton was officially handed off to the Republicans from the southern Democrats.
Anyone who makes the argument that today’s Republicans aren’t the progeny of that era’s Democrats … well, I have to use a quote that appeared in the comment section of the Bartlett article:
“I don’t mind that you lie to me half as much as I mind that you apparently think I’m stupid.”