Claim about GOP ignores half century

info@islandpacket.comMarch 18, 2013 

A letter writer claimed that blacks think it was the Democrats who advanced civil rights, but it was really the Republican Party. The writer seems unaware of the past 50 years of U.S. political history.

Most conservative Southern Democrats who opposed to the civil rights movement became Republicans during the 1960s or soon thereafter. The national Democratic Party supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which led President Lyndon Johnson to say, "I think we just delivered the South to the Republican Party for a long time to come."

Following passage of the Civil Rights Act, Strom Thurmond became one of the first Southern Democrats to switch to the Republican Party, which had become the party of opposition to civil rights. President Richard Nixon later formalized the Republican appeal to Southern whites opposed to integration with an initiative known as "the Southern strategy."

As whites responded to the Southern strategy and switched to the Republican Party, blacks seeking full civil rights moved to the Democratic Party.

The chronic use of racial stereotyping by Republican candidates has justifiably alienated most blacks from the party (Ronald Reagan's "welfare queens," George H.W. Bush's Willie Horton, Mitt Romney's "47 percent").

In 2005, Ken Mehlman, then chairman of the Republican National Committee, acknowledged the Southern strategy and admitted that "Republican candidates often have prospered by ignoring black voters and even by exploiting racial tensions." Mehlman was hoping to change that, but as the Republican base moves further right, there appears to be little hope of doing so.

Thomas Wilson

Port Royal

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