In a letter, Raymond Martin cited numbers that represented the Democratic and Republican vote total for passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The numbers gave the assumption that the Republicans were largely responsible for passage of the bill. Although his numbers are accurate, Mr. Martin fails to tell the complete story.
The bill was passed in the Senate by a vote of 73-27 and in the House 290-130. Of the 27 senators who voted against the bill, 21 were Democrats. Of the 21, 20 represented states that had been part the Confederacy. One of the six Republicans that opposed the bill was Barry Goldwater who would be the 1964 Republican presidential nominee. The same pattern played out in the House vote. Of the 130 that opposed the bill, 96 were Democrats, of those 96 house member, 87 were Southerners.
The Democratic Party in 1964 was in reality two parties in one. There was Northeastern, Midwest, and far West liberal wing of the party, and the southern more conservative (also known as Dixiecrats) segment. Of course, the reasoning behind the Civil Rights legislation was to rid the nation of the insidious brand of racism that was practiced in the South and that was supported by southern Democrats.
For decades the northern members of the Democratic Party, in order to secure the southern votes needed for passage of their various legislative agendas, turned a blind eye to the discrimination and brutal form of racism that was part of southern culture. However at the signing of the 1964 Civil Rights bill, President Lyndon Johnson stated, “We’ve lost the South forever.” A statement that became a reality within a few years as the Republicans would mount what became known as their “Southern Strategy” transforming the South into a solid Republican stronghold.
Today the roles are reversed; it’s the Republican Party that has to tolerate racism and bigotry to maintain an significant part of their base. Of course not all Republican are racists, however those individuals who practice and support a form of discriminatory racial ideology have found a home in the Republican Party.