Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Note on Something of More than Antiquarian Interest

     More than occasionally, in conversation or in the blogosphere, someone with an agenda will display "surprise" or "dismay" or "confusion" at something that is an enduring fact of our political life: the overwhelming Democratic registration of black voters.  Why, weren't "the Democrats" the party of slavery, and then Jim Crow, and aren't "the Republicans" the Party of Lincoln?  Etc., etc.  This demonstrates either mendacity or a history of never having given the matter a moment's serious thought, or a weird combination thereof.  So, let's remember some things:

     1. Both JFK and LBJ were Democrats.

     2. The majority of Democrats in Congress, and the vast majority of Democrats in Congress from outside of the former rebellious states, voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  The support (then) for these pieces of legislation by most Republicans in Congress wouldn’t have mattered if the party controlling both houses hadn’t had most of its members in favor.

     3. The Republican nominee for the Presidency in 1964 was a United States Senator, Barry Goldwater, who voted against the Civil Rights Act.  The bulk of such electoral votes as he received (47 out of 52) came from among the former rebellious states.  This was at a time - the last time - when that particular electorate would still be overwhelmingly white and Democratic. 

     4. For a generation or more prior to all this, blacks in “the North” had changed their basic political allegiance from Republican to Democratic.

     5. At least some of the above illustrates something American have a hard time wrapping their minds around, which is that we really don’t have national political parties in the way so many European nations do, because we are so big, because we are a federal republic rather than a unitary state, and most importantly because we have presidential/congressional government rather than a parliamentary system.

     6. So, given all this, it is absolutely no mystery at all that millions of newly enfranchised (or finally enfranchised) Black Americans would register almost unanimously Democratic, while at the very same time the resurgent Republicans in “the South” would be lily-white, and fomer Democrats like Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms would be just that, former Democrats.

     There are a lot more things that could be said, but in the interests of peaceable-ness, they won’t be.

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