Jewish World Review Dec. 20, 2002 / 15 Teves, 5763

Jack Kelly

Jack Kelly
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Time to tell the truth: The great movement of blacks to the Democratic Party took place for economic reasons, not because of civil rights


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | "It was Inauguration Day. Washington rang with happy Rebel Yells, while bands all over town played 'Dixie.' An associate of the new president warned that since the South ran the nation, Negroes should expect to be treated as a servile race."

This is not fanciful speculation about what things might have been like had Strom Thurmond's Dixiecrats prevailed in 1948. It is historian Lawrence Friedman's description of the inauguration of Woodrow Wilson in 1913. Wilson. Intellectual. Pacifist idealist. Democrat. Bigot.

In the old South, support for segregation spanned the ideological spectrum. Some segregationists, like Thurmond and John Stennis of Mississippi, were conservatives. Others, like William Fulbright of Arkansas and Albert Gore Sr. of Tennessee, were liberals. But every segregationist who ever served in Congress was a Democrat. It's important to keep this mind as calumny is heaped on the Republican Party because of the indefensible remark of soon to be ex-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott.

Northern Democrats deserve commendation for supporting civil rights. But rarely did that support extend to political discomfort. The Dixiecrats were welcomed back into the Democratic fold with open arms. Democrats never denied a segregationist a committee chairmanship or a leadership position because of his noxious views on race. No Democrat has ever been punished for making a racist remark. Lott, who is about to lose his job, probably wishes he were still a Democrat.

The great movement of blacks to the Democratic Party took place for economic reasons, not because of civil rights. Harry Truman deserves praise for standing by the platform plank that caused the Dixiecrats to walk out, and for integrating the Armed Forces. But it clearly was Republican Tom Dewey who had the most "progressive" views on race. That mattered less to most black voters that year than New Deal programs.

About a third of blacks voted for Richard Nixon in 1960. But another migration took place after Sen. Barry Goldwater, the Republican nominee for president that year, voted against the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. A founder of the NAACP in Arizona, Goldwater was a vehement foe of segregation. But he was also an ardent libertarian. He thought two of the seven major provisions of the bill - on housing and public accomodation - were unwarranted and unconstitutional intrusions by the federal government into private affairs.

The speed and relative ease with which these provisions were implemented indicate Goldwater was wrong. But the bill's sponsor, Sen. Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota, also was wrong when he said they would not lead to racial quotas and reverse discrimination.

Liberal commentators like to overlook the fact that Goldwater's position was a distinct minority within the GOP. More than 80 percent of Republicans in the House and Senate voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

After Goldwater's vote, Strom Thurmond crossed the aisle. But he was the only prominent Dixiecrat in Congress to do so. The others remained Democrats in good standing.

Thurmond was joining the Republicans. The Republicans weren't joining him. And while Thurmond the Democrat had a detestable record on race, that of Thurmond the Republican is pretty good. He was among the first of Southern senators to hire blacks for his staff. He supported blacks for judgeships. He voted for extension of the Voting Rights Act.

A principal difference between Republicans and Democrats is that Republicans see people as individuals, while Democrats view them chiefly as members of groups. Republicans stand for equal justice under law, and oppose all forms of racism. The benign racism of racial quotas is much less pernicious than the malign racism of segregation. But it's still racism.

The Democratic Party, the party of slavery and segregation, has a guilty past. The Republican Party, which was founded explicitly to fight slavery, and which has remained true to its founding principles, does not.

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10/22/02: The squealing in the Pentagon is a proof of Rummy's effectiveness
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10/01/02: Gore's calculated risk may well get him the Dems' nomination
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07/30/02: State Dept.'s anti-American actions
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07/23/02: Iran's is on the verge of a social and political explosion. So why is media ignoring it?
07/17/02: FBI isn't supposed to stand for Foolish, Blind and Incompetent
07/12/02: The ICC tramples on rights Americans take for granted
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06/28/02: Muslim link in Oklahoma City bombing revisited
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06/12/02: Bush saw them and raised them, and he's holding the aces
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03/19/02: It's time pols and gov bureaucrats be held to the same standard of accountability we insist for corporate execs
03/15/02: Khaki Throat
03/12/02: Making foreign cheaters pay
03/08/02: Timidity and indecision by senior American commanders
03/04/02: Why 9-11? Ex-CIA officials come clean
02/25/02: Don't rule out a quick victory --- even if prez says otherwise
02/21/02: Saving our military from itself
02/19/02: Front Page fiction
02/15/02: Our European allies are like the fat kid who wants to play quarterback
02/13/02: Is the Army in danger of becoming "irrelevant"?
02/11/02: So, I "propagate hatred"
02/06/02: Bush whacking the media
02/04/02: Why serious folks disregard the European Union --- and why Bush must, too
01/30/02: Give economy pneumonia in order to protect it from a cold
01/28/02: Media is its own worst enemy
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01/23/02: Toward a stronger defense at a lower cost
01/21/02: How Bush could be Generations X and Y's Kennedy ... and guarantee a GOP victory in the midterm elections

© 2002, Jack Kelly