Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Fables, Continued

Kevin Williamson responded to his many critics with a long post over the weekend, conceding virtually nothing but one factual error (my post on it here; Alex Pareene has a good post and links to several of the critics here)

Williamson more or less correctly categorizes three different strands of criticism. One, what I focused on, is that Williamson treats "the Democratic Party" as a unified group, unified in their opposition to civil rights, right up to 1964 -- thus ignoring the clear split within the party between Southern segregationist Democrats and the rest of the party, a split that began yielding victories for the civil rights Democrats by the 1948 convention. The second, which Jonathan Chait focused on, is the Republican Party had a split, too -- and that the conservatives, who had a mixed-at-best record on civil rights, were the complete and total winners of that fight. The third is about black voters, and how Williamson accounts for their complete shift to the Democratic Party in the face of his version of history.

I'll start with the point about northern Democrats. Here's all that he has to say about that:
Second theme: It wasn’t a Republican/Democrat dispute, it was a North/South dispute. There is something to that, but it is far from the entire story. As I pointed out, John F. Kennedy, who I am sure never tasted grits, opposed critical civil-rights reforms backed by Republicans. 
He here ducks the chance to acknowledge the actual history of the Democratic Party in the first six decades of the 20th century, which is in fact complex, with plenty -- plenty -- of room for very legitimate criticism, but also quite a lot to praise for supporters of civil rights. I have no idea what exactly he's referring to on JFK. It is certainly the case that civil rights supporters during the Kennedy Administration were frustrated at the pace of legislation -- as liberals were with the pace of the entire liberal agenda -- and it's probably true that those for whom civil rights was the key issue would have been more likely to support Humphrey in 1960, but there's simply no question at all that the Kennedy/Johnson ticket in 1960 ran on a civil rights platform, both literally and symbolically. If you want to read something fun about that, including the famous call to Coretta King, I came across a nice oral history interview with Harris Wofford. Obviously there are books and books and books written about this stuff, which Williamson is either unfamiliar with or ignoring. Look: it is more complicated than just North/South, and a fair amount of that complication is about internal Democratic Party politics. But to dismiss JFK like Williamson does here is just plain wrong; to ignore, as he did in his original article, the entire history of the civil rights movement within the Democratic Party is to totally butcher the history.

Second point: The Republican Party. Williamson's argument is that the Republican Party was in favor of civil rights throughout, from Lincoln to now. His critics argue that he's ignoring the old liberal/conservative split within the GOP, and that it's dodgy to credit current Republicans for what liberal Republicans did back then -- when those liberal Republicans were essentially read out of the party long ago.

Williamson's response? He complains a bit about the usage of "conservative" in places it doesn't apply, a complaint I think is often well-taken -- but that doesn't apply here at all. Williamson attempts to reclaim civil rights Republicans by noting that they were in favor of integrating black Americans within the market economy, which (he appears to assume) only conservatives support. But of course that's not true at all; virtually all Americans, and certainly all mainstream political movements, support a market economy. He says, "a lot of those so-called liberals from the northeast who supported civil rights look pretty good by today’s Republican standards: sober, free-enterprise, small-government guys." The larger point? There's simply no question that folks such as Jacob Javits, Hugh Scott, and Clifford Case could not be nominated in today's Republican Party; that everyone at the time considered that wing of the party "liberal", and that everyone at the time considered the Goldwater wing of the party "conservative," and that it was the Goldwater wing which opposed civil rights. The bottom line: a Republican Party which actually treated people like Javits, Scott, and Case as "pretty good" would be a completely, totally different party from the one we actually have.

What's more, Williamson wants to think very narrowly -- too narrowly -- about what counts as civil rights. He's correct that some mistakenly want to count any issue that African Americans supports as axiomatically part of civil rights, but he goes way too far in the other direction, explicitly excluding affirmative action as a civil rights issue. Similarly, Williamson entirely ignores voting access issues. There's no question but that the liberal, civil rights Republicans of the past would oppose what today's Republican Party is up to on voting.

Third point: Williamson complains about cherry-picking by those who have (a bit too gleefully, I'll agree) played gotcha over William F. Buckley's opposition to civil rights up to 1964. But is it really cherry-picking to talk about Buckley, surely a leading conservative voice of the time, and Barry Goldwater, the leading conservative politician of the time? And while it is also true that the new Southern Republicans were, in general, not nearly as bigoted as the Southern Democrats had been, they were hardly (as Williamson implies) supporters of civil rights when it counted: on the 1964 bill, the ten Southern Members of the House and the lone Southern Senator voted unanimously against it. Yet another point that you would not know from reading Williamson's article.

I'm going to get to the other topic, about black voters, in another post.

Williamson's history was and remains one that ignores the Humphrey Democrats, ignoring that they became the dominant voice of the party by 1948; and one that ignores the very mixed at best record of movement conservative Republicans, the Strom Thurmand and Jesse Helms -- and Barry Goldwater -- Republicans, on civil rights. It is true that the legacy of the Democratic Party, including outside of the South, is also mixed (that is: horrible within the South, mixed in the rest of the nation); it is also true that Republicans up through 1965 had a long history of supporting civil rights.

And I'll close by repeating what I said above and in the previous post. What I'd suggest is that the first step Republicans could take if they really want to be the party of Lincoln and the party whose liberal wing strongly supported civil rights would be to support the position of civil rights leaders on voting, right now, and give up on the various schemes Republicans have been pushing that will have the effect of reducing African American voting participation. I think it's pretty clear which way Hubert Humphrey and Hugh Scott, and Jesse Helms and  (segregationist Democrat) Harry Byrd, would have come down on this one.


39 comments:

  1. I'm curious to read what you have to say about Williamson's treatment of black voters. To me, he robs them of their agency in his attempt to prove a (mistaken) point.

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  2. Hell, by the ends of the careers, Javits and Case couldn't even get nominated by their own Republican parties. That's how their careers ended!

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  3. I find it fascinating that Williamson is only digging in his heels after so many people have pointed out his glaring factual errors. It's kinda sad that conservatives like Williamson really have gotten to this point that they are even throwing basic historiography out of the window in purist of some kinda of "mega-narrative" where the GOP is always right and Dems are always wrong. I think its a great example of the "perverse incentives" that have emerged in the conservative movement, that is Williamson is willing to throw red meat to the base and get paid to write things rather than adhere to even the most basic professional standards. I mean its one thing to dispute how big a role Joan of Arc played in the Hundred Years' War (historians argue about this to this day) its another say women played no role in the war at all and ignore her completely.

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    1. Look at who he's writing for. The comments contain nothing but nodding agreement. NRO has its constituency. Goldberg's upside-down version of history has thousands of enthusiastic believers. The magazine is bankrolled by billionaires. Why would Williamson acknowledge any errors?

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  4. Perhaps Williamson could, as an encore, give readers a tour of National Review's civil rights advicacy over the years.

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  5. "I have no idea what exactly he's referring to on JFK."

    My guess is the 1957 cra. JFK supported it, is the mainstream liberal conclsion. After all, he voted "Y".

    But it is behind scenes, in the obscure procedural votes, where Segregationist enablers would practice their evil. Cloture is only the most famous example.

    For example, JFK voted to send the bill to James Eastland's notorious Senate Judiciary Committee. This is what you do when you want civil rights to die (or want to water it down) but don't want to say so.

    Eastland, Dem from Mississippi and one of the most vicious racists of the group, takes notice and becomes an early supporter of Kennedy's Presidential campaign. Eastland vouches for the seemingly pro-civil rights Senator and, other than some unfaithful electors, the racist Southern vote goes to the Catholic. Nixon does not stand a chance.

    Ironically, Thurmond would play a similar role for Nixon years later. There is no name for the Southern Strategy Liberal Dems practiced during the Jim Crow era. But needless to say, without the segregationist vote, there is no JFK presidency.

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    1. Yep. And JFK paid him back by dragging his feet in allowing oppression of blacks to continue for 2 1/2 years, until the assassination brought in a President who actually cared about black people.

      ANYONE can talk about civil rights. But the people who talked about it and didn't do anything were the villains, not the heroes.

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  6. "everyone at the time considered that wing of the party "liberal", and that everyone at the time considered the Goldwater wing of the party "conservative,"

    This is very misleading. Liberal Republicans were to the right of Conservative Democrats, including the White Supremacists. See here:

    http://voteview.com/images/polar_senate_means.jpg

    That's DW-Nominate. I assure you, this is a genuine Academic study. The authors are not Rightwingers and you can find Nate Silver and Paul Krugman hailing them.

    The above chart carves out Civil Rights because, as the authors state:

    "During most of the period treated in this book, a single liberal-conservative dimension does an excellent job of accounting for how members vote be it on minimum wages or the shopping list of issues represented by the Contract with America or a Clinton State of the Union….

    However, there is one issue area that clearly did not fit the standard liberal-conservative pattern –civil rights for African-Americans. For much of the post-WWII era, the voting coalitions on racial issues were noticeably distinct from those on the other issues."

    --"Polarized America: The Dance of Ideology and Unequal Riches,” by Nolan McCarty of Princeton University, Keith Poole of the University of California, San Diego, and Howard Rosenthal of New York University. (ch. 2)

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    1. So once you exclude the set of issues where liberal Republicans were the most liberal, and where conservative southern Democrats were the most conservative, it turns out that conservative Democrats were more liberal than liberal Republicans? That seems close to tautological.

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    2. John,

      If you simply assume that an anti-CR stand is a conservative one, you end up with a self-fulfilling prophecy. In this scheme, of course liberals are going to appear better on civil rights, since the mere fact that you are pro-CR makes you more liberal.

      Future generations could then assign Clinton's economic record to Conservatism, since balancing the budget is a conservative principle. But this would not only be ahistorical, it would be a tautology.

      To say liberals were more pro Civil Rights because being pro-civil rights is Liberal, is to go around in circles. DW-Nominate is very helpful to the ideology debate because it avoids this logical fallacy. It should be noted that civil rights isn't simply segregated for the sake of debate. Their algorhtym demands the exclusion of this subject.

      This is too wonky to explain in a blog comment, and quite frankly its above my paygrade anyway, but basically these scholars mine every roll-call vote (including the all important procedural ones) in order to discern a right-left pattern. Civil Rights legislation does not present any such pattern. In other words, many very conservative folks (like say Dirksen) were very pro civil rights. And many liberal folks (like say Gore, were anti). In fact, even if you were to exclude the South, you will find many liberal folks on the anti-civil rights side of the equation.

      The last point is important. Those opponents usually didn't express their racism in the final vote of a CRA, but rather in the hidden procedural ones. Case in point, Carl Hayden...a CR villain who voted "Yes" on the final bill but voted "No" on cloture. Gore and Byrd unused a similar tactic on the 65 and 68 cra respectively. DW Nominate catches these assholes and frankly I was thrilled to see them finally get their comeuppance.

      **also, civil rights isn't neglected. It just get spun out into another dimension. I'll post that data later.

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    3. Just a point of AZ pride: I believe it is the case that Hayden had a thing about voting for cloture based on AZ history or something, but that he was available if needed...I seem to recall he then did vote for cloture on the Voting Rights Act, but I could be wrong about that.

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    4. "I seem to recall he then did vote for cloture on the Voting Rights Act, but I could be wrong about that."
      -------
      TO INVOKE CLOTURE AND END DEBATE ON S. 1564, THE VOTING RIGHTS ACT OF 1965.

      Nay D Hayden, Carl AZ

      http://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes/89-1965/s67

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  7. "And while it is also true that the new Southern Republicans were, in general, not nearly as bigoted as the Southern Democrats had been, they were hardly (as Williamson implies) supporters of civil rights when it counted: on the 1964 bill, the ten Southern Members of the House and the lone Southern Senator voted unanimously against it. Yet another point that you would not know from reading Williamson's article."

    Thats a fair point. But it's worth noting that Strom Thurmond’s monumental ’64 switch has drowned out an narrative in the Southern realignment. Many of the early (late 60’s, early 70’s) Republican gains in the South knocked out Segregationists who were still being supported by Democrats.

    Winthrop Rockefeller replacing Orville Faubus as Governor of AR in ’67 was massive civil rights victory. He became the only governor of one the 11 former confederate states to publicly mourn the death of MLK. The rest were Democrats.

    Howard Baker of TN fit this mode too. He won in ‘67 while being married to Dirksen’s wife! Thats a name populist southerners hate more than Winthrop.

    Linwood Holton of VA was a rather extraordinary figure (for a white southerner) as well. He became Gov in 1970 and voluntarily sent his kids to a Af-Am school…during a time when busing was the major contentious issue.

    The otherwise goofy Spiro Agnew of MD also took the Govenors mansion on a pro-civil rights platform. (MD is a borderline confederate state, like WV) while running against an anti-civil rights Dem.

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  8. "Howard Baker of TN fit this mode too. He won in ‘67 while being married to Dirksen’s wife!"

    Errrr...that should be "Dirksen's daughter", not "wife". These guys weren't that Libertarian.

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  9. The Republican Party was, and remains, the party of civil rights, meaning equal treatment under the law for all.

    The Democratic Party was, and remains, the party of racial spoils systems, be that Tammany Hall, Jim Crow or Affirmative Action. The current leadership may try and market their current scheme as somehow being about "civil rights," but most people are far too jaded to fall for it.

    And so you get mad at Kevin Williamson. It's the rage of Caliban seeing his face in a glass.

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    1. Right, that's why Goldwater won Mississippi in 1964: outrage over the murders of Chaney, Goodwin, and Schwerner.

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    2. God Anon has spoken. There can be no more discussion about petty details. Go home.

      Now, in the real world: To the other commenters, thanks for bringing your knowledge of history. This was been a great learning opportunity for me. Too bad it isn't for Williamson and his apologists.

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  10. "explicitly excluding affirmative action as a civil rights issue"

    Affirmative action doesn't affect liberal pundits negatively and does directly shaft the wrong kind of whites and Asians. This is why it's so great for the Bernsteins and Yglesiases of the world.

    The problem that employers have is that they can't find enough remotely qualified blacks (and now "Hispanics") so they are forced to hire terrible people or be sued for not complying with this:

    http://uniformguidelines.com/uniformguidelines.html

    Similar problems in colleges.

    Even if they win, they still get called "racist" a million times and are forced to buy new Hummers for their lawyers.

    Meanwhile, Center for American Progress hires almost no AAs (with none in management) and liberals can't tell why normal whites see things so differently.

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    1. I don't think that you are going to convert very many readers of this blog to your droolingly racist ideology.

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    2. It's a serious policy question that Yglesias recently pointed to:

      http://mobile.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2012/05/majority_minority_america_will_more_hispanics_and_asians_become_white_.html

      Obviously, most of those who were pro affirmative action had great reasons, but the concept has reached peak insanity (one hopes) when Warren and Yglesias both count as underpriveleged minorities and the liberal proponents are (seemingly) fully insulated from the consequences of an expensive and destructive policy.

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    3. With any discussion of affirmative action, it's worth keeping in mind (I think) that the largest group of beneficiaries of affirmative action over the past 40-50 years has been white women.

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    4. massappeal,

      I've heard that's true. But I don't see it as an argument for it. H.R. depts. exist to handle the effects of the uniform guidelines and all of that work goes into appeasing people with guns instead of making products and services. Legislation that was supposed to give AAs an entrance to a racist workplace has changed.

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  11. All you really need to do is divide up the House and Senate of '64 into four groups: Northern Dems, Southern Dems, Northern Reps, and Southern Reps. Look how they voted on the CRA. You can certainly have more fun with those numbers than just the vote totals - like average age and average time occupying the seat -- but those numbers alone largely tell the story. Northern Reps lead on the CRA in Congress, working with LBJ and against Goldwater's position, and now most of those seats are Dem. Northern Dems still voted in a majority for the CRA, but did not match their Northern colleagues across the aisle. Southern Dems were pretty terrible, and since have been largely unseated by Reps. Southern Reps were the worst of all, and represented the emerging powerhouse of the GOP: the post-Civil Rights South, whose most prominent contribution to the Senate in 2010 was Rand Paul, who *still* questions the CRA on the same libertarian angle Goldwater worked.

    The GOP isn't the party of racism or slavery. It's just the party of reliance on a fairly invidious lost cause legacy.

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    1. @Anonymous; "Southern Dems were pretty terrible, and since have been largely unseated by Reps. Southern Reps were the worst of all, and represented the emerging powerhouse of the GOP"
      -----
      20 Southern Dems, including Strom Thurmond but excluding Robert Byrd (borderline state) voted against the 64cra. Here is a handy list of these assholes:

      AL Nay Hill, Joseph [D]
      AL Nay Sparkman, John [D]
      AR Nay Fulbright, James [D]
      AR Nay McClellan, John [D]
      FL Nay Holland, Spessard [D]
      FL Nay Smathers, George [D]
      GA Nay Talmadge, Herman [D]
      GA Nay Russell, Richard [D]
      LA Nay Ellender, Allen [D]
      LA Nay Long, Russell [D]
      MS Nay Eastland, James [D]
      MS Nay Stennis, John [D]
      NC Nay Ervin, Samuel [D]
      NC Nay Jordan, Benjamin [D]
      SC Nay Johnston, Olin [D]
      SC Nay Thurmond, J. [D]
      TN Nay Walters, Herbert [D]
      TN Nay Gore, Albert [D]
      VA Nay Robertson, Absalom [D]
      VA Nay Byrd, Harry [D]

      Going off the 1991cra, here is what those same seats looked like then:

      AL Aye Heflin, Howell [D]
      AL Aye Shelby, Richard [D]
      AR Aye Bumpers, Dale [D]
      AR Aye Pryor, David [D]
      FL Aye Graham, Bob [D]
      FL Aye Mack, Connie [R]
      GA Aye Fowler, Wyche [D]
      GA Aye Nunn, Samuel [D]
      LA Aye Breaux, John [D]
      LA Aye Johnston, John [D]
      MS Aye Cochran, Thad [R]
      MS Aye Lott, Trent [R]
      NC Aye Sanford, James [D]
      NC Nay Helms, Jesse [R]
      SC Aye Hollings, Ernest [D]
      SC Aye Thurmond, J. [R]
      TN Aye Gore, Albert [D]
      TN Aye Sasser, James [D]
      VA Aye Robb, Charles [D]
      VA Aye Warner, John [R]

      Dems are still in control, 14-6.

      Liberals often use incumbency as an excuse, but there is not a single 64 Dem on the 91 list (Gore is Sr to Jr). But they all voted for the CRA, you say (Helms is the only Asshole). OK, fast forward to the 2006 Voting Rights Act:

      AL Aye Sessions, Jefferson [R]
      AL Aye Shelby, Richard [R]
      AR Aye Lincoln, Blanche [D]
      AR Aye Pryor, Mark [D]
      FL Aye Martinez, Mel [R]
      FL Aye Nelson, Bill [D]
      GA Aye Chambliss, Saxby [R]
      GA Aye Isakson, John [R]
      LA Aye Landrieu, Mary [D]
      LA Aye Vitter, David [R]
      MS Aye Cochran, Thad [R]
      MS Aye Lott, Trent [R]
      NC Aye Burr, Richard [R]
      NC Aye Dole, Elizabeth [R]
      SC Aye DeMint, Jim [R]
      SC Aye Graham, Lindsey [R]
      TN Aye Alexander, Lamar [R]
      TN Aye Frist, William [R]
      VA Aye Warner, John [R]
      VA Aye Allen, George [R]

      Now the Republicans are actually in control, 16-4. But (ironically) for the first time in history, those seats that voted "Nay" in 64 voted unanimously for "Aye" on a CRA.

      Today, those seats are still 16-4. But what is this actually evidence of?

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    2. Conservatism is a CultMay 30, 2012 at 12:24 PM

      "But what is this actually evidence of?"
      It's evidence of this (by Dennis G. who now blogs at "Ballon Juice")-

      Learn the code
      by dengre

      Back then it was all about how slavery had nothing to do with the Civil War. Now it is all about masking racism in vague economic mumbo-jumbo.


      Years ago the Confederate Party maven of code-speaking--Lee Atwater--taught the the gang how to cover up their meaning as they took over the Republican Party:

      In 1981, during the first year of Mr. Reagan’s presidency, the late Lee Atwater gave an interview to a political science professor at Case Western Reserve University, explaining the evolution of the Southern strategy:

      "You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger,’ " said Atwater. "By 1968, you can’t say ‘nigger’ — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things, and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites."

      After America foolishly elected a black man President, the gang had to kick it up a notch. They tried many new ways of screaming 'nigger' from socialist to screaming "I want my country back".

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    3. Conservatism is a CultMay 30, 2012 at 1:51 PM

      The point being that on high-profile race-related legislation, like CRA, Republicans vote the right way. But, on a bunch other issues, where they have plausible deniability, Repubs vote against the interests of AAs and other minority groups (e.g. making voter registation and voting more difficult, going after ACORN, and Planned Parenthood, etc.) Republicans have also used their propaganda machine (like Fox News) to whip up racial anxiety.

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    4. Northern Democrats were in favor of the Civil Rights Act by a significantly higher margin than Northern Republicans (94% vs 85% in the House, 98% vs. 84% in the House). The idea that northern Republicans were more in favor of civil rights than northern Democrats is nonsense, especially when the (non-southern) Republican nominee in 1964 voted against it.

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    5. @John

      Wow, what a ridiculous mistake on my part. Thanks for the correction.

      @Manju

      I'm not really sure what you're saying. I'll only note that it strikes me as relevant that you pick the '91 CRA and the '06 VRA, which suggests that not much civil rights legislation addressing the concerns of black folks was even brought for a vote between '92 and '05.

      Well, and I'll add this: when I read John's post, I decided to do my homework. Here's your voting totals for the House:

      Southern Democrats: 7–87 (7%–93%)
      Southern Republicans: 0–10 (0%–100%)

      Northern Democrats: 145-9 (94%–6%)
      Northern Republicans: 138-24 (85%–15%)

      As I already said, my claim that Northern Republicans were more in favor of the CRA than Northern Democrats is simply wrong. My part in the discussion ends there, because I think that resolves the whole thing. The '64 CRA, the '91 CRA, and the '06 VRA were all passed by Democratic Congresses, the first one was signed by a Democratic president, whereas the Republican Southern delegation was unanimously opposed to it.

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  12. Things seem to be moving backward. As I recall, debates over affirmative action, legacies of racism, the role for public policy, and reckoning with civil rights were more sophisticated back in the 1980s. Charles Murray's first book and its reception by liberals and conservatives looks positively healthy as compared to Williamson's foray and the POV he represents within mainstream conservatism. Sad.

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  13. "The idea that northern Republicans were more in favor of civil rights than northern Democrats is nonsense"

    -----------

    Then explain this:

    http://voteview.com/images/Senate_Party_Means_46-111_2nd.jpg

    and this:

    http://voteview.com/images/House_Party_Means_46-111_2nd.jpg

    What you are looking at is DW_Nominate, 2nd dimension (civil rights) for the Senate and then the House. You can see from this data that Democrats, even with their Southern faction carved out, were more opposed to civil rights than Republicans were.

    You want to focus on the civil rights era from about 1935 to about 1970’s. Before that, most votes tracked Bimetallism (since they are carving out the regional differences) and after that there were simply were not many civil rights votes (and on the ones that were held, republicans did rather well on).

    **This appears to tell the story that Malcom X told (Dixiecrats and Northern Democrats are in cahoots, we are being bamboozled) as well as the NAACP (they tracked all the procedural votes too). The results do look too good to be true (for the RWing) to me too, so I contacted Professor Poole to clarify.

    I'll elaborate tomorrow and address why the wiki argument (the final vote on the 64cra divided up by region) is ahistorical (hint, a little thing called tantamount ot election) but chew on this for now.

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  14. He here ducks the chance to acknowledge the actual history of the Democratic Party in the first six decades of the 20th century, which is in fact complex, with plenty -- plenty -- of room for very legitimate criticism, but also quite a lot to praise for supporters of civil rights. I have no idea what exactly he's referring to on JFK. It is certainly the case that civil rights supporters during the Kennedy Administration were frustrated at the pace of legislation -- as liberals were with the pace of the entire liberal agenda -- and it's probably true that those for whom civil rights was the key issue would have been more likely to support Humphrey in 1960, but there's simply no question at all that the Kennedy/Johnson ticket in 1960 ran on a civil rights platform, both literally and symbolically.

    And that and 15 cents would get you a cup of coffee at a segregated lunch counter in the South in 1963. Because Kennedy didn't actually, you know, do something about it.

    I agree with your general point-- the Democratic Party's midcentury history included an internecine struggle on civil rights that liberals thankfully won.

    But JFK was one of the villains in that struggle. He certainly understood that he needed to make symbolic gestures to get support civil rights supporters. He also refused to do anything to actually liberate black people, and basically as soon as he was shot laws that went far beyond what he ever supported even rhetorically got quickly enacted.

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    1. As soon as he died lots of laws passed. This is either evidence that (1) the context changed and LBJ had better skills at passing legislation than JFK (and pretty much everyone else); or (2) that JFK was really out to undermine his stated agenda the whole time. Choice one for me, please.

      Not to mention that plenty of Kennedy-era stuff was needed for those victories later on, including the major victory in packing the (House) Rules Committee.

      None of this means that JFK was a zealot for civil rights, and as with virtually all of them then (LBJ most certainly included) he's hardly 100% pure. But there's a huge difference between moderate interest and weak skills vs. being on the wrong side.

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    2. Jonathan,

      On top of Kennedy's willingness to pass laws, you have to consider enforcement.

      According to the Civil Rights Movement Veterans Website*, MLK saw "...the march as a protest of, and challenge to, the administration's shameful civil rights record of inactivity, neglect, and collaboration with Southern segregationists."

      "Collaboration." Strong word.

      Indeed some activists didn't even think the 64cra was necessary. Veterans again:

      "Some, particularly in SNCC and CORE, argue that the 14th Amendment, 100 years of past legislation, and the Supreme's Court's Brown decision are sufficient — IF they are enforced. Their criticism is that Kennedy has not used the powers he already has to enforce the laws and court rulings currently on the books."

      http://www.crmvet.org/tim/tim63b.htm#1963rfk

      The Veterans claim that Kennedy appeased the Segregationists. They say he publicly supported the Movement, but behind the scenes tried to undermine it. They cite 'the "Seditious Conspiracy" case in Americus GA and the "Jury Tampering" Frameup in Albany GA."'

      Read, "Kennedys Appease the Segregationists (August)"

      http://www.crmvet.org/tim/tim63b.htm#1963rfk

      ----------------------
      *This website is of and by Veterans of the Southern Freedom Movement during the years 1951-1968. It is where we tell it like it was, the way we lived it. With a few minor exceptions, everything on this site was written or created by Movement activists who were direct participants in the events they chronicle.

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    3. Hi Dilan, good to see you here after debating this very subject many years ago on Volokh. The more things change....

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    4. As soon as he died lots of laws passed. This is either evidence that (1) the context changed and LBJ had better skills at passing legislation than JFK (and pretty much everyone else); or (2) that JFK was really out to undermine his stated agenda the whole time. Choice one for me, please.

      How about (3) he didn't care.

      Ber in mind, there's SOME evidence of (2). JFK and his brother ordered the tapping of Martin Luther King's phones, which suggests that they at least wanted the CAPABILITY of undermining King if necessary.

      But on the main, he didn't care. He wanted the votes of civil rights supporters, and he wanted the votes of Southerners. So he dragged his feet. And King responded to his feet dragging by holding one of the largest protests in American history in which he SPECIFICALLY called out the administration for dragging its feet.

      (And by the way, if you want to bring up procedural gambits in Congress, Kennedy helped table the Civil Rights Act by having it sent to a segregationist's committee in Congress, which also lends support for the idea that he was actually a bigot. But as I said, I'll still go with (3) he didn't care about black people.)

      LBJ, for whatever reason, decided he cared and was willing to jettison the southern Democrats to do the right thing. Show me a SINGLE piece of evidence that JFK was willing to do THAT. And THAT was what was necessary to liberate black people.

      We are very fortunate that the Kennedy presidency ended and LBJ, a real leader (for all his faults), was able to come in and do the things that JFK didn't give a crap about.

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    5. And read Manju's material. I adverted to the fact that the civil rights leadership hated Kennedy. They really did.

      It's really easy for a white political scientist to claim 50 years later that the people who actually fought the fight were wrong, that those persons of color fighting for simple justice were too naive to understand the constraints that the constrained white knight leader was operating.

      But I believe that the voices of the civil rights leaders were generally reliable and that the voices of those who accomodated segregation were not.

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  15. A bit of self-promotion but I'm a grad student and I've done some research on this topic with two faculty members at the University of Virginia. Our work can be read here:

    http://www.batten.virginia.edu/content/faculty-research/publications/between-reconstructions-congressional-action-civil-rights-1891

    While all of this research documents partisan sorting on civil rights in the years prior to JFK/LBJ, we find support for much of what Jon says above - namely that (a) Republicans had mostly supported civil rights initiatives in Congress up until the 1930s but (b) by the beginning of the 1930s Democrats had begun to win support from black voters by supporting anti-lynching laws, etc. This is not to say that the Democrats were solidly pro-civil rights or that the Republicans were solidly anti-civil rights. Both acted strategically and continued to do so throughout the 1940s (see Risa Golubuff's fantastic book). It's just not right, however, to say that the Republican Party has been "the party of civil rights" since Lincoln.

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  16. William F Buckley's racism is a hobbyhorse of mine. When exactly did he renounce it? Some friends of his in recent decades claim he came around in the late 60s, but I can't find any actual evidence of that - either something written by him at the time, or something written about him at that time.

    The earliest statement I can find by Buckley himself is in 2004. I'd be very surprised to find a similar statement dating back to the 1960s or 1970s.

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    1. That is a very good question, Brian.

      At some point during this convo, I was about to write that Buckley apologized before Byrd. Then it dawned on me that I didn't have the reverse-smoking gun for WF.

      I knew when Byrd publicly repented. 2005 (yes, its true). He claimed then that he changed in 1982 (which is after he became Senate Majority Leader).

      During his apology he used the States Rights argument. So in my book he didn't apologize at all. After all, you don't introduce evidence that black brains are smaller than white ones if your reason for filibustering the 1964cra is States Rights.

      And while its true that he voted for the 68cra, it's false that he supported it (he actually led the opposition). If that sounds Orwellian, allow me to put the debate to rest the easy way: he voted against the 1970 voting rights act.

      Anyway, as far as I know, I'm the only person in America who has documented this* (which makes me uneasy...I prefer to argue the RWing case with references to non-RWing authorities). This also tells me that a lot of historical figures have yet to meet their Robert Caro.

      Buckley may very well be one of them.

      *I'll provide the Byrd smoking guns upon request.

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