Republican House Member Misrepresents History On Civil Rights Legislation

Republican House member (from North Carolina) Virginia Foxx, it is pretty safe to say, has never met a fact she could not challenge.  This morning, Rep. Foxx launched an attack on what she calls “revisionist history” about which political party should get the credit for passing historic  civil rights legislation in the 1960s….. by engaging in her own revisionist history — which was immediately challenged by an outraged Dennis Cardoza (D-CA):

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Rep. Foxx is only the most recent Republican to push what is at best a distortion of the truth about which political party is responsible for getting civil rights laws like the Voting Rights Act of 1965 through Congress. TP’s Matt Corley, author of this piece, debunks the myth once again:

To support the claim that Republicans were actually the architects of civil rights, conservatives often point out that a “higher percentage of Republicans than Democrats supported the civil-rights bill.” But this ignores the “distinct split between Northern and Southern politicians” on the issue. When this is taken into account, the facts show that “in both the North and the South, Democrats supported the 1964 Civil Rights Act at a higher rate than the Republicans.”

The first of those two links in the above paragraph goes to a 2003 post by John Fonte at National Review Online. Here are the money grafs (emphasis is mine):

The civil-rights bill of 1964 was enacted with strong bipartisan and bi-ideological (conservative and liberal) support. But, the credit for the civil-rights victory has gone almost exclusively to liberals and Democrats, particularly to Senator Hubert Humphrey (D, Minn.) in Congress, and to Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. However, much of the hard work of advancing the legislation was done by congressional Republicans — conservative stalwarts including Everett McKinley Dirksen of Illinois, Charles Halleck of Indiana, William McCulloch of Ohio, Robert Griffin of Michigan, Robert Taft Jr. of Ohio, Clarence Brown of Ohio, Roman Hruska of Nebraska, and moderates such as Thomas Kuchel of California, Kenneth Keating of New York, and Clark MacGregor of Minnesota. All of these Republicans served as major leaders of the pro-civil-rights coalition either as floor managers or captains for different sections of the bill.

Although the Democrats controlled both houses of the Congress at the time, a much-higher percentage of Republicans than Democrats supported the civil-rights bill. For example, in the House, Republicans voted for civil rights by a margin of 79 percent to 21 percent, 136-35. The Democrats’ margin was 153-91 or 63 percent to 37 percent.

Anything jump out at you about the states these lawmakers come from?

Yeah. That’s right. They are all Northern states.

Now let’s jump over to the second link in that paragraph I quoted from Think Progress. That link goes to a June 1999 piece, originally published in the Washington Times, called “Voting and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.” (Emphasis is mine.)

… On the surface it would indeed appear that the Republicans, and not the Democrats as commonly assumed, were the champions of civil rights in the 1960s.

However, a slightly more careful analysis of the Civil Rights Act voting record shows a distinct split between Northern and Southern politicians. Among the southern states (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia), Senate Democrats voted 1-21 against the bill (5%) while Republicans voted 0-1 (0%). In the House, southern Democrats voted 7-87 (7%) while southern Republicans voted 0-10 (0%). Among the remaining states, Democrats voted 145-9 in favor of the bill (94%) while Republicans voted 138-24 for the bill (85%). In both the North and the South, Democrats supported the 1964 Civil Rights Act at a higher rate than the Republicans.

The marriage within the Democratic Party of the northern liberals and the southern Dixiecrats had always been a strange one based more upon a common enemy (the Republican Party) than upon common ideals. In fact, when the 1948 Democratic platform came out strongly in favor of civil rights, delegates from 13 southern states held their own convention shortly after the adjournment of the Democratic National Convention and nominated Strom Thurmond to run for president on their own “States Rights Democrats” ticket.

While Mr. Davis is clearly correct in his assertion that Southern Democrats were staunch foes of civil rights in the 1960s, Southern Republicans, though fewer in number, were equally adamant in their opposition to civil rights legislation.

The modern Democratic Party owes its current character far more to the Northern liberals than to the Dixiecrats. If the old Southern Democrats are to be labeled as racist, then Al Gore and Bill Clinton are Southern Democrats in name only as their defense of civil rights places them solidly among the Northern Democrats and not with the Dixiecrats of old.

In the two decades following the 1960s, the now-notorious “Southern Strategy” begun by Richard Nixon and continued by Ronald Reagan led to an exodus of Southern Democrats to the Republican Party. Those were the Democrats who voted against the emancipating legislation of the civil rights era: the racist, white supremacist Dixiecrat Democrats — not the ones who form the Democratic Party today.

         

Author: KATHY KATTENBURG

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38 Comments

  1. Partisan bickering about today's issues is bad enough, but partisan bickering about a vote that happened 44 years ago is a waste of time, especially since the bickering is about meaningless small-percentage differences on a bill that had wide and deep bipartisan support. I would think our representatives in Congress would have more important things to do.

  2. This brings to mind a line from a Janet Jackson song, “What have you done for me lately?”

    So…. what has the GOP done for civil rights lately?

  3. I'm old enough to find it viscerally disturbing when I witness: A. outright distortions of history (whether due to ignorance or lying) and B. when people act as though history is unimportant, which in effect is a pitch for further ignorance. What A and B have in common is a disdain for meaningful standards.

  4. First off I agree that battling over 40 plus year old votes is silly.

    But if you are going to blame the GOP for Congresswoman Fox (from the South) then how can you excuse the Democrats for their Southern members ?

  5. The southern states become Republican after Democratic President Lyndon Johnson convinced Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

    The South has never forgiven Democrats for supporting the African-American Civil Rights Movement and that's the dirty history of Republicans and racism.

  6. But if you are going to blame the GOP for Congresswoman Fox (from the South) then how can you excuse the Democrats for their Southern members ?

    I'm not sure I understand your meaning here. Where did you get the idea that I “excuse” Southern Democrats? My point is that the Dixiecrat Democrats in the South are not, factually speaking, the same party as the Democratic Party of today. It's not a matter of changing opinions — that political party does not exist anymore. It absorbed into the Republican Party in the 1970s and 1980s.

  7. Well, as a general observation, Americans are not fond of history. Americans as a people are not real good at understanding or accepting history. We're much better at forgetting — or not even knowing in the first place. The United States of Amnesia.

  8. “The southern states become Republican after Democratic President Lyndon Johnson convinced Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

    There was an intermediate step: The Independent Party, which ran Alabama Governor George Wallace for President in '68 and did much better than Ross Perot.

  9. Then we should by all means be talking about the parties in power during the Civil War (and its lead up), as well.

  10. Clearly it's time to fire up the wayback machine. Maybe if we start in the early 15th century?

    Seriously though, people like Virginia Foxx appear to be in need of remedial history lessons. It wouldn't matter quite as much if she wasn't a member of congress.

  11. Kathy – “The United States of Amnesia.”

    There's that Gore Vidal quote again, but a good one. We do ignore history, and in this case many of its nuances. Consider:
    1. A number of the R's who supported Civil Rights legislation then would be considered RINO's today.
    2. A number of D's who opposed Civil Rights legislation, left and became R's, Strom Thurmond being the most salient example.
    3. Civil Rights caused a realignment of the parties as southern conservatives left the D's, making the D's more liberal nationally and the R's more conservative nationally, helping to create the partisan divide that now plagues our system.
    4. We should not forget the impact of the Supreme Court, Brown v. Board of Education (1954) in forcing the issue to the forefront, nor the impact of of a new media, television, showing dogs and firehoses and batons used on people seeking equality and justice, nor the impact of Eisenhower sending federal troops to uphold Supreme Court decisions, nor the impact of a courageous US Attorney General named Robert F. Kennedy and his committment to the cause combined with a willingness to stand up to the likes of J. Edgar Hoover who tried to brand civil rights leaders as communist agitators, nor the brave people who put their lives and freedom on the line in the streets and on the buses and in the churches and at the lunch counters and the polling places…they were more heroic than even the greatest of the political leaders and there are the graves and still missing bodies to stand in testimony to their courage.

    History is worth remembering. There were heros, and villains, on both sides of the aisle. The heros prevailed, and we are better for their efforts.

  12. You have to remember…. Southern democrats were against civil rights legislation. They then became republicans shortly thereafter. Before that time….. The GOP was the less “racist” of both parties. Even Martin Luther King Jr. was Republican.

    In my own time, however, I've noticed one thing about race and civil rights progression during my life.

    Republicans don't care what color your skin is, as long as they can get some corporate work out of you.
    Democrats care very much what color your skin is when they can get you to vote a certain way.

    Of course, that's not true for everyone (as I'm sure someone would say that I'm implying that).

    But civil rights legislation history has bullet points within both parties. It started under a republican congress leading up to 1962 (the GOP held both houses from 1954 to 1962). It was signed into law under a democratic President. It was actually enforced under LBJ and Nixon.

    No single party can claim responsibility. That is an absolute FACT.

  13. “My point is that the Dixiecrat Democrats in the South are not, factually speaking, the same party as the Democratic Party of today.”

    Thank goodness for that! If my beliefs were as humanistic as those of Pelosi and Reid, I'd have to go ahead and swallow a bullet. We “Southern democrats” are actually proud that we aren't like the scumbag “democrats of today” in DC.

    That's the nicest thing you've said, Kathy.
    :P

  14. “Americans as a people are not real good at understanding or accepting history. We're much better at forgetting”

    But when the nation was more socially conservative, history was embraced. As we grow more liberal, we grow more willing to forget, and more willing to drop God and embrace humanism.

  15. “Americans as a people are not real good at understanding or accepting history. We're much better at forgetting”

    And at simply believing or doing what they're told, in the case many of you, but many of us Americans are not.

  16. “but partisan bickering about a vote that happened 44 years ago is a waste of time”

    Well, there is nothing good being achieved and many setbacks for lefties currently, so they have to find something else to comment about instead, it seems. Hence the elevation not only of things like this but of obscession with and attacks on, for example, Sarah Palin in importance to them. (I'm not the first to have spotted and remarked about the number of Palin threads recently on this lefty Web site.)

  17. Its easier to understand the history of the civil rights movement by looking at regionalism- not partisanship. Whoever came to power in the South had to curry favor from the racist white majority- it didn't much matter whether they were Democrats or Republicans. The reason the South was heavily Democrat was because the Republicans were the party of Lincoln and the party of reconstructionism- both bitterly hated by southerners. They saw integration as the last straw and any politician worth his salt had to stand against it to the bitter end.
    IMO, it just highlights the courage of LBJ. Kennedy may have mouthed the words of racial equality, but Johnson took on the bigots in his own party- men that he had served in the Senate with and had drinks with. He severed those ties in order to do the right thing by minorities, knowing that he would be vastly unpopular in his own area of the country. Johnson may have made terrible mistakes in Vietnam, but he has my undying respect for going to bat for African-Americans.

    BTW,it was a lot easier for Republicans to back civil rights because most of them held office in the North and West, where integration was not a hot button issue. Having said that, more Democrats in the Senate still voted for LBJ's landmark civil rights legislation than Republicans. When they saw their opening the Republicans capitalized on Johnson's isolation from his fellow southerners and moved into the region. This hasn't changed in 45 years.

  18. “So…. what has the GOP done for civil rights lately?”

    Does Michael Steele count?
    :)

  19. Oh, Lord. here we go again with the infantile whining about how TMV with its slightly right of center overall bent is a “lefty Web site”. The only conclusion that can be objectively drawn is that those who consider TMV to be left wing wouldn't know a real lefty if they got bit in the neck by one.

  20. “But if you are going to blame the GOP for Congresswoman Fox (from the South) then how can you excuse the Democrats for their Southern members ?”

    “Then we should by all means be talking about the parties in power during the Civil War (and its lead up), as well.” **

    The problem with these statements is the assumption that because Republicans (at least Foxx — but I've seen it many times) are trying to paint themselves as the now and forever torch-bearers of civil rights that Democrats are trying to do the same. Criticizing the statement made by Foxx in no way implies anything about what Democrats have been historically. At least those of us who know enough history to rebutt Foxx also know that having a D in front of your name has, at many times in American history, meant fighting *against* civil rights.

    It would certainly, however, be fair to say that *today's* Democratic Party is much more focused on upholding civil rights than the *today's* Republican Party.

    **Polimom — Perhaps I'm misinterpreting your statement; if so, my apologies.

  21. Mmm…lefty neck biters…I'm gettin' all hot and bothered by that thought! :)

  22. Roro- this is only true of southern Democrats– and nationally neither party had a good civil rights record prior to 1964.

  23. Fair enough, kritt; my statement was too strong — being a Democrat never guaranteed either way whether a person was for civil rights or against, but at many times it was the Democrats who were most furvently fighting against them. I guess it's also fair to say that being a Democrat today doesn't necessarily mean that one is interested in civil rights. It's just a much better indicator today than being a Republican.

  24. It was the same alignment, Polimom. The Democratic Party was the party of white slaveholding and/or slavery supporting Southerners. The Republican Party was the party of Lincoln, the North, and abolition. That's why black Americans continued to support the Republican Party in large numbers until FDR, and Southern white racists continued to find a home in the Democratic Party. Obviously, these neat divisions aren't 100 percent reflective of reality — plenty of Republicans opposed civil rights; and even in the South there were whites who supported civil rights. But those were the broad outlines.

  25. Yeah, I don't think anyone in either party really takes her too seriously. She's someone to laugh at, whenever she steps up to the mike. Unfortunately, though, her views, though usually expressed in a very comically foolish way, do reflect the overall views of this contemporary Republican Party.

  26. Beautifully expressed, Tidbits. Amen to every word.

  27. You have to remember…. Southern democrats were against civil rights legislation. They then became republicans shortly thereafter. Before that time….. The GOP was the less “racist” of both parties.

    Really, JD. I do have to remember that. Maybe I'll say that in a post someday.

    Even Martin Luther King Jr. was Republican.

    MLK, Jr. supported the presidencies of JFK and LBJ. I don't know what it is you're talking about here, but that's nothing new.

  28. No worse than the democrats referring to themselves as the party of Jefferson. Thomas Jefferson would puke at what the democratic party has become.

  29. KK: “My point is that the Dixiecrat Democrats in the South are not, factually speaking, the same party as the Democratic Party of today.”

    JD: “Thank goodness for that! If my beliefs were as humanistic as those of Pelosi and Reid, I'd have to go ahead and swallow a bullet. We 'Southern democrats' are actually proud that we aren't like the scumbag 'democrats of today' in DC.”

    KK: Self-awareness is a beautiful thing. As contradictory as it may seem, though, it's possible to be self-aware and truthful, and not be aware of the implications of one's own self-awareness or truthfulness at the same time. You are living proof.

    JD: “That's the nicest thing you've said, Kathy.”

    And likewise for me, of course. But if you ever decide you prefer contemporary humanistic Democratic values to the Southern Dixiecrat values of the pre-civil rights Old South, you will be welcomed.

  30. But when the nation was more socially conservative, history was embraced.

    When was that? Give me the date range.

  31. I actually believe that it was MLK's father that was a Republican. MLK actually tried to work with whichever party he thought would advance the movement at the moment he needed them to. He had too much at stake to be rigidly ideological.
    Both prominent Democrats and Republicans avoided committing themselves to him, until the 1960's when they could no longer pretend that they couldn't see the ugliness in the every day life of African-Americans. The reason that he and his followers (who used Gandhi as their inspiration) kept getting arrested during protests was to keep a high profile, so that the D's and R's would have to take a stand of some sort. This was especially true of JFK, who avoided doing anything politically risky until advised to by his brother Bobby in the early 60's.

  32. “MLK, Jr. supported the presidencies of JFK and LBJ. I don't know what it is you're talking about here, but that's nothing new”.

    I stated that Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Republican who happened to be the BIGGEST CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER IN US HISTORY!.

    “And likewise for me, of course. But if you ever decide you prefer contemporary humanistic Democratic values to the Southern Dixiecrat values of the pre-civil rights Old South, you will be welcomed.”

    Southern “Dixiecrats” became Republicans, Kathy. Meanwhile, the rest of the Democratic party in the 60's were still God-fearing people who thought that running the country was “for the people”. YOUR people hijacked the party shortly thereafter with a complete agenda to:

    1). Promote homosexuality.
    2). Remove God from ever fiber of American culture.
    3). Make pagan/humanist living the “norm”.
    4). Revise Constitutional intent and legislate through the courts.

    We ORIGINAL democrats believe in serving the person and not the corporation (as it should be).
    We ORIGINAL democrats believe in God, and in His guidance of our nation.
    We ORGINAL democrats believe in helping out those that cannot help themselves.

    Your brand of Democrat is a Godless and visionless herd of humanists.

    No thanks.

    Apparently, that little detail doesn't interest you in reference to the subject of this post.

  33. “I actually believe that it was MLK's father that was a Republican.”

    Martin Luther King, Jr. was a registered Republican.
    This is important because Kathy, with her rant against Republican Virginia Foxx, supports that the Democratic Party is the primary player in the history of civil rights.

    The only Republicans who stood against civil rights (for the most part) were the democrats that switched to the GOP after the democrats announced support. Prior to that moment, both parties supported civil rights. Abraham Lincoln (another “worthless” Republican) is another example of an early Republican civil rights leader.

  34. Exactly right, kritt. Thank you for pointing this out.

  35. Southern “Dixiecrats” became Republicans, Kathy. Meanwhile, the rest of the Democratic party in the 60's were still God-fearing people who thought that running the country was “for the people”.

    Obviously, I know that Southern Dixiecrats became Republicans, since I'm the one who said in this post.They did so in response to a political decision made by Nixon and, after him, Reagan, to appeal Southern white racism and position themselves as the party where Southern white anger at civil rights legislation and the end of Jim Crow segregation could find a sympathetic hearing.

    Southern Dixiecrats took their white supremacist racism with them into the Republican Party, and although that racism has mellowed and gotten a lot subtler for the most part, it still significantly governs and underlies Republican thinking and Republican philosophy and policies.

  36. “Obviously, I know that Southern Dixiecrats became Republicans, since I'm the one who pointed that out in this post.”

    Which is why Virginia Foxx had a point in that BOTH parties Republican and Democrat had a share in the civil rights movement and the ensuing legislation. You are the one dogging her for being a revisionist. That's simply not the case. Thus, your assertion is false.

    “They did so in response to a political decision made by Nixon and, after him, Reagan, to appeal to Southern white racism “

    Are you trying to tell me that you know that Republicans voted for civil rights legislation for political reasons only, and the omnipotent Democratic Party did it just because it was the right thing to do?
    Come on, Kat.

  37. Which is why Virginia Foxx had a point in that BOTH parties Republican and Democrat had a share in the civil rights movement and the ensuing legislation. You are the one dogging her for being a revisionist. That's simply not the case. Thus, your assertion is false.

    That's not what Foxx said. She did not say that “BOTH parties Republican and Democrat had a share in the civil rights movement and the ensuing legislation.” She said that “we [Republicans] were the ones who passed the civil rights bills back in the sixties without very much help from our colleagues across the aisle, they love to engage in revisionist history.”

    Are you trying to tell me that you know that Republicans voted for civil rights legislation for political reasons only, and the omnipotent Democratic Party did it just because it was the right thing to do?

    No — huh? and lol. I am saying that the Republican Party, during the Nixon and then during the Reagan campaigns for the Presidency, devised a strategy now called the “Southern strategy,” which was intended to draw, or lure, Southern white Democrats (Dixiecrats) into the Republican Party by appealing to their racist feeling and their anger at the civil rights gains that black Americans had made as a result of the civil rights movement. It worked. The Southern Democrats (Dixiecrats) all (or mostly) became Republicans.

    The Southern Strategy happened AFTER the civil rights movement and all the historic legislation had been passed, JD. After. Understand?

    I'm going to switch gears now, leave my comments about the Southern Strategy, and go back to the civil rights era now — so this part that I'm about to say is not about the Southern Strategy, it's about before that, during the civil rights era, when the civil rights legislation was being passed:

    Talking about the sixties, and the passage of civil rights legislation now, I did not say that Republicans “voted for civil rights legislation for political reasons only and the omnipotent Democratic Party did it just because it was the right thing to do.” Here is what I said, and here is what I will say again: Republican support for historic civil rights legislation came from Republicans in Northern states. Those were almost all Northern Republicans who voted FOR civil rights legislation. They did not vote that way for political reasons; they voted that way because they believed in civil rights. But they were *Northern Republicans.* They were also part of a segment of the Republican Party that doesn't exist anymore: moderate Republicans.

    In the South, most Southern whites were Democrats (and those were the Democrats who later left the Democratic Party for the Republican Party because the Republican Party positioned itself as the party of disaffected white Southern racists) but there were some white Republicans too, and in the South most white lawmakers, both Democrats AND Republicans, voted AGAINST civil rights legislation.

    I've tried to make this as clear as possible, so that there is no possibility of misunderstanding, and so that you can disagree with what I actually said and not with what I did not say. I hope it works, but I'm not very optimistic at this point.

  38. Perhaps I did misunderstand you.

    But with a statement like “Rep. Foxx is only the most recent Republican to push what is at best a distortion of the truth about which political party is responsible for getting civil rights laws like the Voting Rights Act of 1965 through Congress.”, you should see why I may have thought that you meant that Republicans did not have a hand in the Civil Rights Act of 1965.

    You said, “which political party is responsible”….
    That infers that you agree that Democrats are “responsible” for it.

    It's your writing. I'm not a “loyal” democrat, Kat. I know both parties have good people in them. I also know that most on both sides are corrupt, self-serving, jerks.

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