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Kevin M. Kruse @KevinMKruse
, 23 tweets, 7 min read Read on Twitter
I keep seeing this talking point in my mentions so, sure, let's address it.
First of all, the central point in the original tweet stands.

If you have to go back to the 1860s or even the 1960s to claim the "party of civil rights" mantle -- while ignoring legislative votes and executive actions taken in *this* decade -- you're clearly grasping at straws.
Second, this fact -- that GOP votes were needed to overcome the opposition of Southerners in Congress (Democrats *and* Republicans) -- is weirdly trotted out as if it's a hidden secret and not, you know, a central part of historians' narrative of the civil rights era.
This is a constant thing with D'Souza, by the way, claiming "historians won't tell you this" or "they don't lecture about that" when, in fact, we do constantly.

It's a fairly big tell that he hasn't read much in the field and probably never even took a class in US history.
Anyway, let's dig in to the talking point.

Yes, a higher proportion of Republicans *did* vote for the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act. Yes, their votes were crucial to passage of each.

But they were junior partners in the process, and soon marginalized in their party.
Worth remembering how Congress looked:

In 1964, Dems had nearly a 2-to-1 margin in the House (258 D, 176 R); in 1965, more than a 2-to-1 margin (295 D, 140 R).

In 1964, Dems had nearly a 2-to-1 margin in the Senate (64 D, 36 R); in 1965, more than a 2-to-1 margin (68 D, 32 R).
Democrats were the dominant party, but had become increasingly divided over civil rights, with northern white liberals and African-Americans steadily gaining on the southern conservative segregationists who had long controlled the party.

Detailed here:
Because Democrats had such overwhelming margins in Congress but were divided internally on civil rights, the fight over the CRA and VRA were at heart fights *within* the Democratic Party.

Liberal Dems fought for these bills; conservative Dems worked to stop them.
Look at the history behind both bills, before the final votes.

Both were introduced by Democratic presidents, ushered through Congress by Democratic committee chairs and leaders, given more votes in the end by Democrats than the GOP, and then signed by Democratic president.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964: proposed by JFK, passed by Democratic-led House (152 Dem votes for, 138 Rep votes for) and Democratic-led Senate (46 Dem votes for, 27 Rep votes for). LBJ signed it with MLK at his side.

Here's JFK calling for the bill:
The Voting Rights Act of 1965: advanced by LBJ and passed by Democratic-led House (221 Dem votes for, 112 Rep votes for) and Democratic-led Senate (49 Dem votes for, 30 Rep votes for), LBJ signed it.

Here's LBJ calling for the bill after Selma:
In comparison, Senator Barry Goldwater -- the conservative GOP presidential candidate who ran against LBJ in 1964 -- voted against the Civil Rights Act and campaigned on the vote.

Conservatives in both parties *hated* the civil rights bill, denounced as "socialist" in this ad:
Back up and look at those vote totals for the bills. You can see Democrats and Republicans on both sides.

Yes, Southern Democrats in the Senate filibustered the CRA. But the only Southern Republican senator filibustered too, and the filibuster's leader soon switched to the GOP.
As I showed in great detail in this thread, the new Southern Republicans in the House and Senate in the 1960s were basically indistinguishable from old Southern Democrats on matters of civil rights and segregation:
On the flip side, yes, liberal and moderate Republicans did side with the majority of Democrats to pass the bills, after Dem leaders recruited them.

Again, though, the real distinction is region, not party. Southern conservatives in both parties resisted it. Here's the CRA vote:
All right, now we get to the heart of the matter:

D'Souza and those like him point to the yes votes of liberal & moderate Republicans -- deliberately ignoring the no votes of conservatives like Goldwater -- to claim that today's *conservative* GOP is the party of civil rights.
This is ludicrous.

At the time, conservatives were engaged in civil war with these liberals and moderates, trying to drive them out of the Republican Party.

At the 1964 RNC, Nelson Rockefeller called out extremists in the GOP and was roundly booed:
Moreover, as noted in this thread, National Review -- which still has D'Souza on its masthead -- led the charge against these liberal and moderate Republicans over the course of the 1960s.

Over time, conservatives succeeded in cementing a new identity for the GOP, with civil rights increasingly becoming a major distinction.

This was evident in public polling at the time.

In 1964, only 7% saw the GOP as better on civil rights. SEVEN. PERCENT.

(from @edsall)
The change was equally clear in the GOP platforms:

In 1960, a lengthy, detailed section on civil rights.
In 1964, only a few lines.
In 1968, not a *single* mention of civil rights

Here, read them yourself:
presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?p…
presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?p…
presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?p…
So, no, the GOP was not "the party of civil rights" in the 1960s.

There were, to be sure, moderates in the GOP like Romney and Rockefeller who stood up for civil rights. But Goldwater Republicans fought them for control of the party and ultimately won:
In the end, it's insane that conservatives now try to reach back to reclaim votes of moderate and liberal Republicans -- whom conservatives *hated* at the time -- to provide cover for today's conservative GOP.

Sorry, you didn't want them then. You don't get to claim them now.
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