I am tired to hear Republicans make baseless comments about how the Democratic Party “perpetuated the prevalent racism in the past.” When accusations of racism enter into any political debate, conservatives invariably regurgitate those previously mentioned bullet points from the recurring, well-rehearsed Republican comedy routine.
What Republicans fail to mention, however, is that the party to which they refer to no longer exists. The only thing that remains of the original Republican Party is the name. And how the Grand Ole Party transformed itself from the party of Lincoln into the current version — a white, Southern party rife with racial resentment — has become a forgotten tale that takes advantage of America’s lack of historical knowledge and abundance of short-term memory when it comes to race.
In 1963, John F. Kennedy, a Democrat, federalized the Alabama National Guard and forced the desegregation at the University of Alabama. Then came the breaking point that would basically change the party affiliation of Southern voters. Shortly before the election of 1964, Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act.
Republicans would like you to believe that Republicans supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Democrats opposed it, which is not true. To understand the change in both parties’ ideology, all one has to do is count the votes.
• There were 94 Southern Democrats in the House of Representatives. Seven voted for the bill.
• There were 10 Southern Republicans in the House of Representatives. Zero voted for the bill.
• Northern House Democrats voted in favor of the bill 145-9.
• Northern House Republicans favored the bill 138-24.
• Of the 21 Southern Senators (Democrat or Republican), only one voted in favor of the Civil Rights Act (a Texas Democrat).
As you can see, it wasn’t the Democrats who opposed the Civil Rights Act and the Republicans who favored it. Everyone supported the Civil Rights Act except the South. It was Southern politicians from both parties who voted against the legislation. The reason Republicans say they supported the bill is that there weren’t very many Southern Republicans in Congress in 1964.
The Civil Rights Act was signed on July 2, 1964. In the presidential election that year, 94 percent of nonwhite voters voted for Johnson, boosting him to a win over Barry Goldwater. But Goldwater, a Republican, managed to win five Southern states in that election, which was unheard of for a Republican. How did Goldwater do that? He won those states by opposing de Civil Rights Act.
Republican Party has become the party of small government and conservatism. In 2016, 73 percent of white voters in the South voted Republican.
It is now the party of the alt-right. It is the party of the Willie Horton and birtherism. It is the party of Donald Trump, the “Muslim ban,” the border wall, David Duke, and all the other white supremacists running for election on the Republican ticket in the midterm elections.
Republican leaders appeal to Islamophobia and to its anti-immigrant base by repeating rhetoric that has no basis in fact. They rally right-wing support under the guise of “patriotism” and “American values.”
That is how the Republican Party became the party of racism.