Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Why I Am a Democrat

The Civil Rights Act introduced to Congress by President Kennedy in 1963 and signed into law by President Johnson in 1964 dramatically changed both the Democratic and the Republican Parties. When the bill came up for debate in the Senate in March of '64 Democratic Senator Richard Russell of Georgia said, "We will resist to the bitter end any measure or any movement which would have a tendency to bring about social equality and intermingling and amalgamation of the races in our (Southern) states." He then led a filibuster by Southern Democrats that lasted 57 days culminated by a speech given by Senator Robert Byrd, Democrat from West Virginia, that lasted 14 hours and 13 minutes. After a compromise was reached the legislation finally passed the Senate 73-27 with almost all Southern Democrats voting nay. When President Johnson signed this historic document on July 2, 1964, he put down his pen and said to an aide, "We (meaning we Democrats) have lost the South for a generation."

The Southern Strategy was the brain-child of Nixon's strategist Kevin Phillips. Here is what he told the New York Times in an interview in 1970:

"From now on, the Republicans are never going to get more than 10 to 20 percent of the Negro vote and they don't need any more than that... but Republicans would be shortsighted if they weakened enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That's where the votes are. Without that prodding from the blacks, the whites will backslide into their old comfortable arrangement with the local Democrats."

The Republicans have used this Southern Strategy to win elections ever since. In 1980 Ronald Reagan gave a speech in Philadelphia, Mississippi promising to restore "State's Rights" and telling a crowd of whites at a County Fair that he, as President, would return control of education and all programs that affected local entities to state and local control. Philadelphia, Mississippi was the scene of the June 21, 1964 murder of civil rights workers James Chancy, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner. Reagan was cheered with a standing ovation. He went on to carry Mississippi and the entire South except for Georgia in 1980 and every Southern state in 1984.

Today the entire South is Republican. A vast majority of the governors of Southern states are Republican and almost all legislative bodies in the South are in Republican hands. And racism is the reason. I'm not inferring that every Republican is a racist only that the party has used racist politics to gain and hold on to political power.

The Democratic Party doesn't exactly have clean hands when it comes to using racism to gain and hold on to political power. Before the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Democrats held on to what was called the Solid South in every Presidential election since the end of the Civil War. The so called Jim Crow laws were enacted by Democratic controlled Southern Legislators and signed into law by Democratic governors. Some of the most racist Congressmen and Senators in Washington used to be Democrats. Thankfully they've all either died off, reformed or switched to the Republican Party.

If you have read the last two posts to this blog it should be as obvious to you as it is to me that we have been vicariously re-fighting the Civil War for 140 years every four years in the voting booth. This is undoubtedly the most salient fact that is considered "too hot to handle" by the mainstream media in this country. No media outlet dares to talk about this obvious, all important salient fact but the New York Times and the Washington Post and when they do they get hammered for being too liberal, elitist and out of touch with mainstream American values.

Before November of this year Republicans will be working hard to shore up their base which used to be based on the high ideals of holding our nation together and enfranchising all of our citizens but has changed recently to catering to the three or more r's of radical religiosity, racism and reducing taxes (which translates to reaming the poor to reward the rich) and reducing spending which translates into less funding for social programs that help those of us Americans who are less fortunate to gain a foothold to better ourselves or even provide ourselves and our children adequate nutrition, education and health care.

It has only been since the 2000 elections that the mainstream media has begun to talk about Red States and Blue States. We ought to be truthful with ourselves and keep the blue states blue and change the red states to gray. Go look at the last two posts of this blog to see what I mean.

No comments: