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Kevin M. Kruse @KevinMKruse
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Usually, the popular debate over the partisan realignment over civil rights focuses on southern Democrats, but it's just as instructive to look at the first wave of southern Republicans.
If you missed it, I covered the larger shift in the Democratic Party here:
And as I noted in this follow-up thread below, Democrats led the way on all the major civil rights legislation of the 1960s, but with Republicans serving as a vitally important junior partner in every step of the way:
Because the parties were ideologically diverse, with liberals and conservatives in both the GOP & Dems, there were votes both for and against all these civil rights bills in both parties.

But if you look at things in regional terms, the important difference is clear:
Today, partisans often look back at the northern and western GOP votes for the CRA to argue that today's (conservative) GOP is linked to those votes.

But as this thread shows, conservatives back then *despised* those liberal and moderate Republicans:
Notably, when Republicans first started winning in the South, they were *not* like those liberal and moderate Republicans who backed the Civil Rights Act.

Instead, as that 0-11 vote on the CRA showed, they were quite like the conservative southern Democrats who had opposed it.
In the House, the first handful of Southern Republicans to be elected since Reconstruction regularly joined Democrats in resisting civil rights changes in the 1950s.

Two signed the Southern Manifesto. Four petitioned Eisenhower to pull federal troops out of Little Rock.
In Senate, the same trend held. John Tower (R-TX) won a special election in 1961 to replace LBJ, becoming the first GOP senator in the modern South.

He spoke out against civil rights, joined with S. Dems to filibuster, and voted against the Civil Rights Act & Voting Rights Act.
After the 1962 midterms, when segregationist Republicans made notable inroads across the South, nearly winning some more Senate seats and taking more House spots, a new path for the GOP seemed clear.

Pundits, like Joe Alsop here, increasingly called it "the Southern Strategy."
Moderate and liberal Republicans outside the South -- the faction that *did* vote for the Civil Rights Act in 1964 -- resisted the approach.

But when Barry Goldwater -- who voted against it -- took control of the party, the liberal/moderate wing found itself marginalized.
While Goldwater lost in a landslide defeat to LBJ that fall, he did succeed in winning five states in the Deep South.

Unlike previous Republicans who cracked the Solid South, Goldwater won by appealing not to moderate whites and African Americans, but to white conservatives.
Goldwater didn't win the presidency, of course, but his campaign -- coupled with Strom Thurmond's party switch -- ensured that the Southern Strategy would take hold.

A new generation of House Republicans won election in 1964, indicative of what was to come:
Rep. Bo Callaway (R-GA) abandoned the Democrats over civil rights and won a spot as the first Republican congressman from Georgia since Reconstruction.

A staunch segregationist, Callaway promised to repeal the Civil Rights Act & then voted against the Voting Rights Act.
Rep. James D. Martin (R-AL), originally a Democrat, joined the GOP in 1962 & won a House race in 1964.

During the 1965 Selma protests, he denounced MLK Jr. as a "rabble-rouser who has put on the sheep's clothing of non-violence while he pits race against race, man against law."
Rep. Bill Dickinson (R-AL), who joined Martin as the new face of the Alabama GOP in 1964, likewise made headlines during the Selma-to-Montgomery march.

He insisted, from the floor of the House, that the civil rights marchers were actually a radical group engaged in wild orgies.
Three other new Alabama Republicans (Jack Edwards, A. Glenn Andrews and John Buchanan) weren't as ugly in their rhetoric as those two.

But when the Voting Rights Act of 1965 came up, all five Alabama Republicans voted the same way as the state's Democrats: against it.
In the same vein, Rep. Prentiss Walker (R-MS) -- the first modern Republican congressman from Mississippi -- was also an outspoken opponent of civil rights measures.

He too voted against the Voting Rights Act, and in 1966 claimed civil rights workers were worse than the Klan.
Meanwhile, in South Carolina -- where Sen. Strom Thurmond, the original Dixiecrat, had just bolted to the GOP -- a congressman did the same.

Segregationist Democrat Rep. Albert Watson publicly backed Goldwater in 1964. In retaliation, House Dems stripped him of his seniority.
So Rep. Watson resigned from Congress in 1965 (after voting against the VRA), became a Republican, and retook his old seat in a special election.

After he won, he called for investigations into "subversive" civil rights groups.
These were just the ones who won in 1964. Others tried to follow the same path, but fell short.

Here's an ad from George H.W. Bush's unsuccessful 1964 campaign against liberal Democratic Sen. Ralph Yarborough of Texas.
Now, again, the point here isn't that Southern Republicans were worse than Southern Democrats on civil rights; it's that they were virtually the same.

On racial issues, the white South stayed constant, even as it changed its party choices over the coming decades.
This first waves of southern Republicans -- especially this 1964 crop, and the ones that soon followed -- made it perfectly clear that they would stand against civil rights organizations and vote against civil rights laws just as reliably as the old Dixiecrats had.
With no difference on civil rights, white southern conservatives were now free to follow their natural connections (on low taxes, limited government, social values) to an increasingly conservative Republican Party. And they did!
So, again, it's important to follow the path that Southern Democrats took out of the party.

But it's also worth watching how Southern Republicans made their way in.
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