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Posted by on Nov 20, 2009 in Places, Politics, Society | 38 comments

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):

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.