a heavily revisionist history of American politics, in which the GOP never wavered in its commitment to black rights, and the Democratic Party embraced its role as a haven for segregationists. In this telling of history, black support for Democrats is a function of liberal demagoguery and crude identity politics. If African Americans truly understood their interests, the argument goes, they’d have never left the Republican Party.Williamson's focus this time is on a specific episode in Barry Goldwater's career. I have no idea whether Williamson is correct or not about it...it doesn't really matter. The point is that Williamson uses his anecdote in defense of, once again, his totally bizarre version of party history.
Bouie does an excellent job of briefly reviewing the real party history that Williamson, somehow or another, manages to ignore. Basically, Williamson still wants us to think that the Democratic Party was (and still is, but in disguise) nothing but George Wallace, and that the GOP was and still is nothing but Jacob Javits. He somehow or another manages to miss the epic battle between the segregationists and liberals within the Democrats -- and also misses the part in which civil rights Republicans were driven from their party.
Now, Williamson is trying to make Goldwater into a hero of civil rights, despite his vote against the Civil Rights Act. The point is that it really doesn't matter whether Goldwater was personally a bigot, or even a champion of civil rights on particular circumstances, or not. What matters is that the people who actually cared about civil rights supported legislation that Goldwater opposed -- and what matters far more is that over time the people who opposed civil rights lost their battle within the Democratic Party, but beginning with Strom Thurmond they found a home in the GOP. That's not to say that the GOP became a segregationist party; that would be taking it too far. But it's not only true that by the 1980s most opponents of the civil rights agenda wound up in the Republican Party, but also that the heirs of the civil rights Republicans really just aren't welcome in the today's GOP.
Seriously, it's as if Williamson just thinks that belief in the existence of Hubert Humphrey, Adam Clayton Powell, and other civil rights Democrats is sort of like believing in UFOs. He also seems to believe that it's necessary to recover the well-known facts about the old segregationist Democrats. As I've said before: it's perfectly reasonable to investigate the complicity of such figures as Adlai Stevenson and Franklin Roosevelt in that story. It just has very little to do with what was happening within the Democratic Party by 1964, and absolutely nothing to do with the Democratic Party by the 1980s, let alone the 2010s.