John Andrulis: Blame Democrats, not GOP, for nation’s Jim Crow era
NORTHAMPTON — Last Saturday, the Gazette ran a political cartoon depicting a Republican elephant dreaming wistfully of a “whites only” voting booth. Anyone who has not lived through the civil rights struggles of the 1950s and 1960s might be deceived into believing that it was the Republicans of those decades who supported the “Jim Crow” laws which effectively disenfranchised black citizens in the South.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
In 1956, Arkansas Gov. Orville Faubus (a Democrat) called out the Arkansas National Guard to prevent six little girls from integrating a “whites only” school in Little Rock. A Republican president (Eisenhower), federalized the Guard and sent in the 82nd Airborne Division to escort those students into class.
Gov. George Wallace (a Democrat from Alabama) personally stood in the doorway of a school to prevent integration, until he was removed by U.S. marshals. In Mississippi, a similar scenario occurred when the Democratic governor tried to prevent a black Air Force veteran from enrolling at the University of Mississippi.
In Georgia, Gov. Lester Maddox (a Democrat) handed out axe handles to rednecks. All the southern governors, since the end of Reconstruction in 1877, were Democrats; all vigorously supported Jim Crow laws which not only disenfranchised blacks, but mandated separate schools, drinking fountains and rest rooms and also “back-of-the-bus” seating.
In the House of Representatives, the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed by a vote of 290-130. Eighty percent of Republicans voted “aye,” while only 61 percent of Democrats voted for it. Although the Democrats had a large majority (248 members versus 172 Republicans), they could muster only 152 affirmative votes of the 218 needed for passage. Without the 138 Republican votes, the bill never would have gone to the Senate.
In the Senate, the results were similar: Eighty-two percent of Republicans supported the bill; only 59 percent of the 73 Democrats did so. As in the lower house, despite a clear majority in membership, the Democrats could muster only 46 votes. Without the 27 Republican votes (out of 33 Republican senators), the bill would never have gone to LBJ for signature.
It should also be noted that in 1860, Abraham Lincoln, who opposed expansion of slavery into the territories, received not a single electoral vote from the slave states: these went to one of the three Democrats running, all supporting slavery. Further, the 1864 Republican platform called for adoption of the constitutional amendment. The Republican Party, which was founded to oppose slavery, has been historically opposed to laws restricting enfranchisement on the basis of race. It is the Democrats who have a record of which to be ashamed.
John Andrulis lives in Leeds.