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Why the Civil Rights Act couldn’t pass today
July 2, 2014 7:47 AM   Subscribe

"Although the Civil Rights Act passed the Senate by 73-27, with 27 out of 33 Republican votes, one of the six Republicans who voted against it was Barry Goldwater of Arizona, who weeks later became the GOP’s presidential standard-bearer and started the long process by which the Party of Lincoln became the party of white backlash, especially in the South. Today, Republicans hold complete legislative control in all 11 states of the Old Confederacy for only the second time since Reconstruction."

Clarion-Ledger: "It was on the very day that [Medgar] Evers was laid in the ground that President Kennedy sent his civil rights legislation to Congress, leveraging whatever empathy that moment inspired to make good on his promise from the week before."

The Daily Beast: "Johnson had asked the networks for airtime at 7 p.m. Their executives had said they preferred 6:45, and Johnson had acceded to their wishes rather than force them to alter their prime time, evening schedules."

ColorLines: "Kai Wright cites a study that reveals segregation in high-wage construction and other industrial jobs: 45 percent of white men, compared to 15 percent black men and very few women at all, and with white men earning approximately double what the black men do."

CBS News: "We had nothing to celebrate. Remember what we were getting was the act, not the execution of the act. Nobody had gotten hired. Nobody was able to sit at the lunch counter yet."

NYTimes: "This grass-roots mobilization was multiracial, from the integrated legion of Freedom Riders, to the young activists in the Freedom Summer in Mississippi, to the more than 250,000 demonstrators in the March on Washington, a quarter of whom were white."

President Lyndon Johnson - Remarks on Signing the Civil Rights Act
posted by roomthreeseventeen (19 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
You would need an LBJ to pass the Civil Rights Act. JFK was hopeless at setting the stage for getting legislation passed, and had no idea about the in's and out's of the process, and, arrogantly, didn't want to know.

But, besides his tremendous political capital with southern conservatives, LBJ knew the process inside and out.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:53 AM on July 2 [7 favorites]


It troubles me that there seems to be no way to break the deadlock and get the parties reaching across the aisles. With a few exceptions, most politicians have lost sight of the fact that they were elected to serve their constituents' best interests even if their constituents will punish them at the polls for it.
posted by arcticseal at 8:24 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]




"You would need an LBJ to pass the Civil Rights Act."

Two-thirds control of the House and Senate plus an absence of party polarization on the issue certainly didn't hurt.
posted by Rhaomi at 8:51 AM on July 2 [4 favorites]


Yeah, but LBJ was fighting against powerful interests within his own party who could use various procedural tools to kill the bill and make LBJ look like a fool. He also had the tremendous moral authority of an assassinated president.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:54 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]


LBJ couldn't be LBJ today. And Kennedy certainly wasn't "hopless" at setting the stage for getting the legislation passed, as he did, in fact, set the stage for getting the legislation passed. His death, turned into a martyrdom, then accelerated the process. But that's neither to LBJ's credit or JFK's demerit.

"Camelot" was certainly the focus of far too many gushing hagiographies, but the historical revisionism swings way too far in the other direction. Kennedy wasn't a bungler, LBJ wasn't a saint, and Nixon wasn't a stealth liberal.
posted by spaltavian at 8:56 AM on July 2 [12 favorites]


Nixon wasn't a stealth liberal

Although today he would be drummed out as a RINO after a teabagger primary, along with Historical Reagan (as opposed to Mythical GOP Daddy Reagan, Ender of The Cold War And Also Taxes).

And the Civil Rights Act couldn't pass today because nothing can pass today except naming Post Offices, where one party has unilaterally decided to shut down Congress entirely, and only reluctantly allowed the Federal Government to continue operating at all.
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:02 AM on July 2 [17 favorites]


as he did, in fact, set the stage for getting the legislation passed.

Caro suggests that JFK was looking at a massive rout though.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:04 AM on July 2


When one party claims that government doesn't work and then does everything in their power to prove it, it's a wonder that anything works at all.

John Rogers's classic post I Miss Republicans is almost ten years old now, and the current batch of the GOP is even worse than the examples given.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 9:46 AM on July 2 [5 favorites]


Caro suggests that JFK was looking at a massive rout though.

I've not read the books, but are you saying that Caro suggests Kennedy would have been routed in '64 by Goldwater? Or does he think another Republican would have landed the nomination had Kennedy not been killed? (Because despite the tumult of the era and people's disappointment with his first 1000 days, I can't imagine the hard right wing element would have been strong enough by '64 to unseat the still very popular Kennedy.)
posted by Atom Eyes at 11:31 AM on July 2


arcticseal: With a few exceptions, most politicians have lost sight of the fact that they were elected to serve their constituents' best interests even if their constituents will punish them at the polls for it.

While I'll agree that they ought to act that way, I see no proof whatsoever than any politician was elected to do anything except what their constituents wanted.

"You seem reasonable; go to Washington and make up your own mind on issue X" was said by no voter ever.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:43 AM on July 2


>but are you saying that Caro suggests Kennedy would have been routed in '64 by Goldwater?

The passage of Civil Rights had nothing to do with Goldwater. The bill passed through Senate committee by January 1964 - well ahead of the election campaign - in exchange for some horse trading by LBJ featuring tax cuts.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:44 PM on July 2


Well they passed a law in '64
To give those who ain't got a little more
But it only goes so far
Because the law don't change another's mind
When all it sees at the hiring time
Is the line on the color bar, no, no, no


Come on come on
I see no changes. Wake up in the morning and I ask myself,
"Is life worth living? Should I blast myself?"
I'm tired of bein' poor and even worse I'm black.
My stomach hurts, so I'm lookin' for a purse to snatch.
Cops give a damn about a negro? Pull the trigger, kill a nigga, he's a hero.
Give the crack to the kids who the hell cares? One less hungry mouth on the welfare.


We still have a long way to go.
posted by Talez at 12:45 PM on July 2 [3 favorites]


It troubles me that there seems to be no way to break the deadlock and get the parties reaching across the aisles.

Ok, personally, I genuinely disdain the Democratic Party, but I don't feel that this is in any way accurate. National Democrats reach across the aisle all the time. And the Republican Party bites their arms off like a hundred starving piranhas.
posted by threeants at 1:28 PM on July 2 [7 favorites]


Charlie Brown : Lucy w/football :: Democrats : Republicans

I am so scared for your country, you guys.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:36 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


The passage of Civil Rights had nothing to do with Goldwater.

Ah, yes. I misread you.

It does seem that without that historic (and tragic) sequence of events, Civil Rights legislation would never have achieved enough traction to pass until the late 1960s, at the earliest.
posted by Atom Eyes at 2:51 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


Well, count on employers to seek all kinds of exemptions now thanks to the Hobby Lobby ruling. A bunch of companies are already suing now for exemptions to new federal guidance on LGBT discrimination in hiring. Little family companies like Walmart may be too religiously minded to tolerate certain kinds of sinful behavior among their workforce now.
posted by saulgoodman at 3:24 PM on July 2


Following up on saulgoodman, from the Hobby Lobby thread:
"Hobby Lobby is Already Creating New Religious Demands on Obama"
posted by GrammarMoses at 4:23 PM on July 2




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