I am frequently at cocktail parties, private get together’s and so forth where my fellow republicans are mystified regarding the almost total domination of the African American voting block by the Democratic Party. Most people have only a partial history of the dedication because it is far more complicated than one can conceive and as such it is at many times ,contradictory. The fact that we have an African American president aside, the Democrats virtually own the African American voting bloc and the true reasons run very deep. The intentions are full of good intentions, bad intentions, misconceptions, racism and betrayal. The following is a brief synopsis, tomorrow we will tackle the political strategies that were used to achieve the almost total alienation of this voting block which were perpetuated by politicians long gone and have had a lasting effect on the politics of today. We will also discuss the things that can be done to elicit some change for the future.
The term “Solid South” describes the total domination that the Democratic Party had of the southern states from 1877 to 1964. During this period the vast majority of office holders in the federal, state and local levels of government were Democrats. The Republican Party was virtually non-existent. And why was this the case? Because of the the Republican Party’s stance in favor of political rights for blacks during reconstruction and economic factors that were viewed as favoring the Northern industrial interests at the expense of the agricultural interests of the South.
The “Solid South” is defined as the eleven states of the old Confederacy plus Kentucky, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Missouri. Missouri was the first to break and vote Republican.
In order to understand the almost complete absorption of the African American voting block by the Democratic Party it is necessary to go back in history to the following events:
-The change in the Democrat party was ushered in following the civil rights plank of the Democratic Campaign in 1948; triggering the formation of the Dixiecrat.
During the 1948 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia (July 12-14), liberal Democrats (campaigning with a platform that included advances in civil rights) won by a close vote. In a dramatic exhibition of many Southerners’ deep-held discriminatory beliefs, every member of the Mississippi delegation and half of the Alabama delegation walked out of the convention. This event would soon lead to the formation of the States’ Rights party, members of whom have often been referred to as “Dixiecrats.” was a short-lived segregationist political party in the United States. It originated as a breakaway faction of the Democratic party, determined to protect what they portrayed as the” southern way of life”. Supporters assumed control of the state Democratic parties in part or in full in several Southern states. The States’ Rights Democratic Party opposed racial integration and wanted to retain Jim Crow laws and white supremacy in the face of possible federal intervention. Members of this group of Democrats referred to themselves as Dixiecrats. The greatest long term effect that the Dixiecrats had on the Democrat party was that it weakened the Democratic hold on the south, referred to as the “Solid South”. The party did not run local or state candidates, and after the 1948 election its leaders generally returned to the Democratic Party.
Watch video: http://www.pbs.org/now/politics/dixiecrats.html
-Civil Rights The Movement
On July 26,1948 Truman, a Democrat, signs Executive Order 9981, which states, “It is hereby declared to be the policy of the President that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin.” From 1948 to 1984 the Southern states, traditionally a stronghold for the Democrats, became key swing states, providing the popular vote margins in the 1960, 1968 and 1976 elections. During this era, several Republican candidates expressed support for states’ rights, which some critics claim was a “codeword” of opposition to federal enforcement of civil rights for blacks and intervention on their behalf, including passage of legislation to protect the franchise .
-Passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Pub.L. 88–352, 78 Stat. 241, enacted July 2, 1964) was a landmark piece of legislation in the United States that outlawed major forms of discrimination against racial, ethnic, national and religious minorities, and women. It ended unequal application of voter registration requirements and racial segregation in schools, at the workplace and by facilities that served the general public (“public accommodations”).
Powers given to enforce the act were initially weak, but were supplemented during later years. Congress asserted its authority to legislate under several different parts of the United States Constitution, principally its power to regulate interstate commerce under Article One (section 8), its duty to guarantee all citizens equal protection of the laws under the Fourteenth Amendment and its duty to protect voting rights under the Fifteenth Amendment. The Act was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, who would later sign the landmark Voting Rights Act into law.
-Passage of the Voting Rights Act
Echoing the language of the 15th Amendment, the Act prohibits states from imposing any “voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure … to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.” Specifically, Congress intended the Act to outlaw the practice of requiring otherwise qualified voters to pass literacy tests in order to register to vote, a principal means by which Southern states had prevented African Americans from exercising the franchise. The Act was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, who had earlier signed the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law.[
Desegregation is the process of ending the separation of two groups usually referring to races. In 1948, President Harry S. Truman’s Executive Order 9981 ordered the integration of the armed forces shortly after World War II, a major advance in civil rights. Using the Executive Order (E.O.) meant that Truman could bypass Congress. Representatives of the Solid South, all white Democrats, would likely have stonewalled related legislation.
Although these initiatives, movements and laws started quite a bit earlier than many imagine, it was to be an ongoing and uphill battle with the political parties intertwined in more ways than one.
After the Democrat George Wallace was elected as Governor of Alabama, he helped link the concept of states’ rights and segregation, both in speeches and by creating crises to provoke Federal intervention. He opposed integration at the University of Alabama, and collaborated with the Ku Klux Klan in disrupting court-ordered integration of public schools in Birmingham in 1963.
1964 Presidential candidate Barry Goldwater won his home state of Arizona and five states in the Deep South. The Southern states, traditionally Democratic up to that time, voted Republican primarily as a statement of opposition to the Civil Rights Act which had been passed by Johnson and the Democrats in Congress earlier that year. Capturing 61.1% of the popular vote and 486 electors, Johnson won in a landslide. Note that Texas went to Johnson due to him being the favorite son.
Many of the states rights Democrats were attracted to the 1984 presidential campaign of Republican Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona. Goldwater was notably more conservative than previous Republican nominees, such as Dwight D. Eisenhower. Goldwater’s principal opponent in the primary election. Governor Nelson Rockefeller of New York, was widely seen as representing the more moderate (and pro-Civil Rights) Northern wing of the party .
In the 1964 presidential campaign, Goldwater ran a conservative campaign which broadly opposed strong action by the federal government. Although he had supported all previous federal civil rights legislation, Goldwater made the decision to oppose the Civil Rights Act of 1964. His stance was based on his view that the act was an intrusion of the federal government into the affairs of states and, second, that the Act interfered with the rights of private persons to do business, or not, with whomever they chose, even if the choice is based on racial discrimination.
All this appealed to white Southern Democrats, and Goldwater was the first Republican to win the electoral votes of the Deep South states (Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and South Carolina) since Reconstruction. However, Goldwater’s vote on the Civil Rights Act proved devastating to his campaign everywhere outside the South (other than the South, Goldwater only won in Arizona, his home state), contributing to his landslide defeat in 1964. A Lyndon B. Johnson ad called “Confessions of a Republican,” which ran in the North, associated Goldwater with the Ku Klux Klan. At the same time, Johnson’s campaign in the Dep South publicized Goldwater’s full history on civil rights. In the end, Johnson swept the election.
Goldwater’s position was at odds with most of the prominent members of the Republican Party, dominated by so-called Eastern Establishment and Midwestern Progressives. A higher percentage of the Republican Party supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964than did the Democratic Party, as they had on all previous Civil Rights legislation. The Southern Democrats mostly opposed their Northern Party mates — and their presidents (Kennedy and Johnson) on civil rights issues.
In some Republican circles, the election after the 1964 Civil Rights Act was termed, “The Great Betrayal”. Even though some Republicans paid a price with white voters — in some cases losing seats — black voters did not return to the Republican fold. Indeed, in some cases, notably the re-election of Senator Al Gore Sr., a majority of black voters cast their votes for a man who voted against the Civil Rights Act.
As you can see, the history is a bit more involved that simply the Republicans supporting civil rights. Tomorrow we will look more deeply into the political strategies that solidified the support by African Americans for the Democrat party.
CLICK HERE TO GO TO ANGELA’S PAGE AND JOIN THE DISCUSSION:
- Angela West “The African American trend of voting for Democrats can be traced back to the 1930s” (allenwestrepublic.com)
- Dr. Angela West “Democrats and the Culture of “Cool” (allenwestrepublic.com)