Segregationist Strom Thurmond didn’t become a Republican on accident
There is only one group of Americans that deserves credit for the advancement of civil rights in this country — and that’s people of color. The civil rights movement happened because of what can only be called organized grace in the face of what Carol Anderson describes as White Rage.
This true Resistance convinced the major party that historically been the home of the most virulent segregationists to become the party that championed, signed and defended a series of landmark civil rights bills passed in the 1960s. This didn’t cure this party or America of racism or occasional lapses into dog whistling — not even close (see: mass incarceration) — but one party generally embraced defending civil rights victories through legislation and judicial appointments.
The other… did not.
In the 1960s, the Republican Party, which had been the party of Emancipation and Radical Reconstruction, set about in a half-century effort to hollow or reverse these efforts, succeeding most notably in gutting the Voting Rights Act, a victory that has allowed the most historically racist regions of this nation to elect “more conservative legislators that are also less likely to cosponsor legislation related to civil rights issues,” according to a new study by James Szewczyk of Emory University.
You may have noticed that conservatives — as they tend to do when their party breaks into fits of obvious racism — are making the claim that the parties never “switched” on civil rights. They’re arguing that well over 90 percent of black voters have been fooled into voting for the wrong party for generations. They claim “The Southern Strategy,” which the Republican National Committee Chair once apologized for pursuing, is imaginary.
The obvious racism of this gaslighting aside, you probably get that black voters are not the audience these Republicans are speaking to. This strategy — like Richard Nixon’s strategy in 1968 of winning over the South for the GOP — is all about white people.
This is pure dog whistle politics: It outwardly insults people of color while giving white Americans permission to embrace Trump and the GOP’s blatant race baiting — race baiting that becomes obvious whenever a guy who only became a Republican hero because he was willing to spread racist conspiracy theories spreads another racist conspiracy theory.
The audacity of this pretty stunning, if you haven’t been paying attention to the constantly stunning audacity of the right.
Conservatives not only want to “target African Americans with almost surgical precision” to take away their votes, they want credit for the civil rights policies they oppose today.
Kevin M. Kruse, a professor of history at Princeton, has nobly spent his summer producing receipts to prove that the argument that the parties never switched is bunk. But this propaganda for a racist agenda is spreading to millions through YouTube videos propagated by PragerU and books and movies by Dinesh D’Souza.
Kevin joined us for a recent episode of the GOTMFV podcast. He explained how that of the two major parties, both terrible on race once Reconstruction ended, the one that was worse — Democrats — somewhat got its act together on civil rights.
This is a historical argument that isn’t about the past, which was why we asked Kevin’s permission to tried to spread his answer to this question as much as possible. He agreed and if you think it’s as valuable as we do, please share it, too.