Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Rewriting History

"Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice....Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."

Barry Goldwater
Acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention
San Fransisco, summer 1964

What a difference forty-six years makes, huh? Back in 1964 Goldwater's campaign slogan was, "In your heart you know he's right". The Democrats has a snappy comeback for that one: "In your guts you know he's nuts." During that long ago campaign against Lyndon Johnson, he had actually proposed the idea of introducing low-level nuclear weapons into the Vietnam conflict. He had even identified himself as a staunch opponent of LBJ's proposed civil rights bill. So extreme did Goldwater appear to most Americans all those decades ago, the very thought of him serving so-much-as-a-single-day as commander-in-chief was enough to give every thinking person the dry heaves.

To quote the Monkees: "That was then, this is now."

Truth be told, Goldwater - when compared to his present day, ideological heirs - is starting to look pretty good in hindsight. 1964 was the year that the kooks and fools began to take hold of the "party of Lincoln". He had to take a lot of positions during that campaign that he privately abhorred - his militant stance against e
qual rights for African Americans being one of them. As his post-campaign career would prove, he turned out to be a fairly decent senator in a lot of respects. He would end his life as a strong proponent of equal rights for gay people and Native Americans. Were Barry Goldwater to run as a Republican in 2010, he couldn't get nominated as Toilet Cleaner for Yuma County Arizona.

As conservative as old Barry undoubtedly was, at the end of his life he was disgusted and alarmed at the direction his party appeared to be headed. At the time of his death on May 29, 1998, he was collaborating with John Dean on a book that decried the state of the modern-day GOP. Dean eventually completed the book a few years ago. It was called, "Conservatives Without Conscience". Maybe it's a blessing that Goldwater did not live to see Sarah Palin.

One of t
he newest (and most amusing) GOP talking points is that - way back when - it was the Democrats who were the enemies of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and that it never would have been passed without the Republicans. This is partially true. It was the southern Democrats who were rabidly opposed to basic human rights for people of color that is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. But what is undeniable is the fact that the right wing spin doctors have been engaging recently in a cynical bit of revisionist history. Let me begin my explanation by posing two basic questions:

QUESTION NUMBER ONE: "Were" the Republicans at least partially responsible for the success of LBJ's Civil Rights Act in 1964?

ANSWER: Absolutely they were

QUESTION NUMBER TWO: "Are" the Republicans entitled to take credit for that fact in 2010?

ANSWER: Absolutely not.

You see, a half-century ago the Republican party was virtually nonexistent south of the Mason Dixon line. Oh, sure, there were a few people in that region of the country who identified themselves as Republicans, but the majority of them were black - and not allowed to
vote! In the former Confederacy, white people were almost exclusively registered with the Democratic party. Why, you ask? Because none of these jackasses could bring themselves to register with the party of Republican Abraham Lincoln, "that nigger-lovin' bastard that freed the slaves." Let's face it, a grudge is a grudge - even a century after the fact. That all changed in the mid-nineteen-sixties.

When President Johnson signed into being the Civil rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, it marked the end of the "solid south" for the Democratic party. At the time, Johnson told his two aides Jack Valenti and Bill Moyers, "We've lost the south for a generation." It turned out to be an optimistic prediction.


In 1968
, the Nixon campaign, sensing the outrage and resentment of nearly all white southern Democrats, devised a strategy to win over the hearts and minds of the nitwits who controlled that party in Dixie. Exploiting the riots that had occurred in cities all across America in the aftermath of the murder of Martin Luther King, Tricky Dick ran a campaign that emphasized, "Law and Order". He didn't actually come out and say, "I'm going to protect you good people from those nasty, filthy Negroes!" He didn't have to. All the Trickster needed to do was rely on code words. It worked. When he was reelected in 1972, the descendants of the old confederacy had already fled - like frightened rats - to the Republican party, which, by the way, was no longer the party of Abraham Lincoln, but the party of Richard Milhaus Nixon.

Southern trees bear a strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees

-Billie Holiday

Now they are trying to get us to swallow the fantasy that the mass exodus of Dixiecrats to the GOP forty years ago had absolutely nothing to do with race. It was all about economics, they tell us. Bullshit. It had everything to do with race. I was born very early in the morning, but it wasn't this morning.

What happened, quite simply, was a fusion of the economic plutocrats in the Republican north, with the racial bigots in the Democratic south. Had it not been for Nixon's southern strategy in 1968, that coalition would never have come into existence. Had it not been for the south's reaction to the civil rights movement, this country never would have elected a feeble-minded old reactionary like Ronald Reagan thirty years ago this November. Indeed, Reagan would launch his campaign from the town of Philadelphia, Mississippi,
an unremarkable tiny stain on the map whose only claim to fame prior to 1980 was the brutal murder there of three civil rights workers in the summer of 1964....

....and shame
on us if we ever forget their names:

Andrew Goodman
aged twenty

James Cheney
aged twenty-one

Michael Schwerner
aged twenty-four

In 1980 Ronald Reagan had a message for the sons and daughters of Dixie who still flew the Confederate flag on their front lawns (and probably still do): "Jim Crow's gonna be given the red carpet treatment in my White House". And for the most part, that was the case. The slow-but-steady gains that black people in America had seen since that afternoon in December of 1955 - when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus to a white man, thus launching the civil rights revolution - began to falter when Reagan entered the White House in January of 1981. In Dixieland he took his stand....

The very idea of the modern-day Republican party staking a claim in the successes of the civil rights movement of the fifties and sixties is (and I'm being charitable here) disingenuous at best. (Come to think about it, I'm not feeling all that charitable this morning): It's a goddammed lie. (Much better).

So let's all take a deep breath, shall we? These silly Republicans (in their present incarnation anyway) are about as much responsible for the gains of the civil rights era as I am for the invention of Cheese Doodles. Get a grip.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


Conservatives Without Conscience
by John Dean

by Barry Goldwater and Jack Casserly


Strange Fruit
by Billie Holiday

For more recent postings on this site, please go to the link below:

"The Rant" by Tom Degan

Progressive political commentary and satire from an amused American.


At 10:11 AM, Blogger Rain Trueax said...

To say we are living in a very disappointing time politically is to put it mildly. What I feel is much as the leaders of the Republican party, the candidates they are nominating, are disgusting, the fact that they are being voted into office is worse. What I want to know is who are half of all Americans? And where is this country headed? I am old enough that I may not see the worst of it, but I worry for my family. It is extremely upsetting.

At 10:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congressional votes on Civil Rights Act of 1964:
Repubs 80% in favor
Dems 60% in favor

The Democratic party has been more than willing to accept the Yellow Dog Dems and all the votes and support they’ve received from bigots over the past decades.

At 3:21 PM, Blogger Bill_in_DE said...

Tom should thank you for proving his point, Harley. Yes in fact, if you had read the whole post (or had better reading comprehension), not only was the GOP almost non-existent in the south, meaning they were less likely to suffer at the polls for backing the Civil Rights Act, but the Democratic Party was heavily invested in the south, and knew they'd pay dearly for backing it.

The fact that the GOP at the time had almost nothing to lose politically doesn't entitle them to now to claim credit for its passing.

The Democratic Party leadership at the time knew to an absolute certainty they would lose what for them was a guaranteed block of votes, and they passed the Civil Rights Act anyway, because it was the right thing to do.

Since its passing, and especially since Nixon's southern strategy was implemented, how many Republican politicians have stated openly that all the ills of our country can be traced back to the 'mistake' of the Civil Rights Act?

Once again, the right wing is borrowing from '1984' :
"He who controls the past controls the future. he who controls the present controls the past."

At 5:15 PM, Blogger holojojo said...

Orwell was a great writer and a fine political thinker and satirist, but not even he could have foreseen the Internet, and the wealth of information available essentially as long as the Net itself exists. And the existence of people like Tom, who do the research for some of us sloppier thinkers out here, who collate enormous amounts of information and provoke their readers to think and maybe, just maybe, be a bit more politically active than they might have been proves the point. Lets face it, by the time we have a Government that even tries to cut off Net access we're screwed anyway, aren't we?

It will take a bit more than a bit of revisionism to make the Republicans look like the progressive nice-guys, every time one of them opens his/her mouth the mask falls off. And Bill's right, it must have been vastly harder to hand the Republicans real concrete political power in the South for (optimistically) a generation for what was, essentially, simply the right thing to do. Don't knock it, it doesn't happen very often in politics, anywhere, anywhen.

At 5:15 PM, Blogger holojojo said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 1:56 AM, Blogger Bill_in_DE said...

The sad thing is, with their audience of idiots whose only source of 'news' is Fox, the right can pretty much say any stupid thing it wants, and they'll be believed.

At 7:50 AM, Blogger Cosmic Navel Lint said...

Another great piece Tom - thought you might enjoy this as a rejoinder:

Not satisfied with U.S. history, some conservatives rewrite it

At 9:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, my point was that ALL parties are political by nature and are less idealistic than they are pragmatic. Democrats of yesteryear should have not even accepted the Yellow Dogs among their ranks, but they did. And, there IS some truth to the point the Reps would make about their role in passing CRA of ’64 – though we all know political gain had a lot to do with it as well – and they don’t have to back off of that as Tom argues. The bigotry issue is (and always will be) a personal issue and not a party affiliation issue. There is no (mainstream) party that has bigotry as its platform, no matter how badly you want it to be true. But, I realize ad hominem attacks are the strongest political tool in use today and not about to go away any time soon. Is it because that’s all the general population understands? I fear, rather, that it is all the general politician is capable of. Our two party system is the mother of all false dichotomies – to the detriment of real debate.

“There are many men of principle in both parties in America, but there is no party of principle.” - Tocqueville

At 12:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No matter how many times I see those lynching pictures, their horror is never lessened. Look at all the finely dressed people out for an evening of murder. Disgusting!

At 4:45 PM, Anonymous boltok said...

What was the party affiliation of the klan?

Why don't you dedicate a piece once in a while to the democrats abysmal civil rights history? The credit dems give themselves on civil rights is an exercise in creative selectivity.

btw: Obama is giving 60%+ of the US population the dry heaves.

T - 53 days

At 7:24 PM, Blogger Bill_in_DE said...

You can't equate the post Civil War Klan and the south's hatred of the 'Party of Lincoln', with the post 1964 Civil Rights Act South, when the GOP courted, catered to, and benefited from those opposed to it.

At 8:25 PM, Blogger Leslie Parsley said...

Peace, Tom. Outstanding post. You can't debate lies, which is all the Republicans have these days - loud, hysterical, paranoid lies day in and day out.

The Yellow Dog Democrats of today are fiscal conservatives, a far cry from the Dixiecrats of the Civil Rights era. According to them, the black men were good for lynching and the black women were good for raping.

Goldwater did flirt with the Birchers but partly due to William Buckley, he severed his connections when he decided to run for president. But I agree with you that he turned out to be a decent Senator and statesman after his defeat. This happens when people decide to be true to themselves and break away from "handlers."

At 4:39 AM, Anonymous boltok said...

The photos suggest that goldwater was an advocate of lynching???

A wiki synopsis of the klan with appropriate references to party affiliation:

At 4:45 AM, Blogger Tom Degan said...

I did not mean to even vaguely imply that Senator Goldwater advocated lynching. Just for the record, Billie Holiday, to the best of my knowledge, did not advocate lynching either.

God bless the child that's got his own.


Tom Degan

At 4:07 PM, Blogger PCS said...

Yes, a lot of Democrats voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Northern democratic congressmen voted 141-4 in favor; Southern democratic congressment voted 11-94 in favor. The heroic Republicans that led the bill through the House and Senate were from Ohio and Illinois respectively. I wonder where all those types of moderate Republicans that voted for the act went?

At 5:23 PM, Anonymous Tyrone Witherspoons said...


You are really good at playing the race card. It looks like you and the Dems don't have any traction with any other topic. The Stimulus Bill failed and ObamaCare is not wanted by the majority of Americans.


At 1:46 PM, Blogger Bill_in_DE said...

Tom,another book that might be good for people on both sides to read is Sam Tanenhaus's 'The Death of Conservatism'.

Our trouble now is that the right is becoming so extremist in its views, its 'leaders' aren't trying to be the voice of reason, but are instead outdoing each other in how extreme they can be to get their votes.

It's happened before, but unfortunately so far, the right hasn't produced a moderate intellectual voice of reason. The 60s had people like William F. Buckley, and we're in trouble if someone like him doesn't emerge to bring some rationality to the right.

Here's a link to an interview with Tanenhaus about the book:

At 8:04 PM, Blogger daveawayfromhome said...

" Lets face it, by the time we have a Government that even tries to cut off Net access we're screwed anyway, aren't we? "

This sounds like something that could be done a lot easier with the loss of net neutrality. Rather than just cutting it off altogether, it slowly gets squeezed out of the system.

@ Tyrone: Yeah, there are a lot of people who dont like "Obamacare", but the health care haters fail to note a tiny fact about that: that while some of those people dont like the idea of healthcare for all, another part of those people dont like the half-assed way way it was done and want more.

At 9:26 AM, Blogger Opinionated Gifts said...

Thank you Tom. I have of late engaged in many a "discussion" with Republicans who try this argument. When I throw the historical facts at them they usually shut up.

The modern day Republican seems hell bent on ignoring historical documents, records, YouTube and the like and just say what they want. Sadly, there are still numerous dipshits all too happy to buy buy buy.

At 4:10 PM, Blogger Jefferson's Guardian said...

Dave (away from home), you're absolutely correct in your response to Tyrone Witherspoons: I'm not a fan of the right's so-called Obamacare, but it's not because, like the right mistakenly presupposes, it's "socialist" or any of the other totally incorrect labels they give to it. I object to it because it is a total give-away to the heath insurance industry (including Big Pharm) and doesn't have, at the very least, a public option.

As far as Mr. Witherspoons' claim that the stimulus bill failed, I'd like to know how he quantifies the word "failed". The stimulus package (the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) reduced unemployment by 0.8 percent -- that's an additional 1.2 million people that would have been laid off without a significant increase in government spending during this past (current?) recession.

Now, don't get me wrong -- I'm not a fan of President Obama. He's too much of a corporatist for my tastes, but he had the right idea when he resorted to Keynesian philosophy to create jobs and spur the economy. He just didn't take it far enough.

At 5:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're right that Obamacare is not socialism per se. However, if you look at the socialist programme of the late 19th and early 20th centuries (primarily in Europe) you find that a forced capitalism was actually the first step in the minds of many of the leading socialist thinkers. So, it could be construed as part of an overall socialist agenda, if you give our current politicians that much credit. I don't necessarily. More likely it is more of a populist move to keep votes. The problem I have with it is it flirts with the 10th ammendment in my opinion - not the Feds business.

At 6:55 PM, Blogger Jefferson's Guardian said...

Harly, I agree with you that our political leaders haven't been setting the stage for some kind of socialist coup d'état. Far from it.

It's not socialism that we have to be concerned about in this country. The real nemesis is fascism -- that dreaded authoritarian nationalist ideology that has a history of permeating a society during difficult economic times. I would think you'd agree that it has been infiltrating our culture, slowly and meticulously, for at least the last thirty years, and has accelerated with less deterrents and more controlling influence since the George "Dubya" Bush years.

To put it simply, The Obama government is just a more palatable version of the Bush regime; still driving toward oppression and government surveillance and secrecy, continued war, more privilege and rights for the elite and wealthy, etc., but still heading in the same direction nonetheless. It's the classic definition of fascism.

To think otherwise is missing the point entirely.

At 5:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

JG – I can’t disagree, though I have a hard time nailing down any one “ism” to describe the thinking of either party. I think most of the nationalism we see is less cultural than it is economic. I don’t see it as quite the sinister version of nationalism the leapt onto the scene in 19th/20th century Europe – it is a more benign form of venting. The drivers are different. Anyway, cultural epistemology is so completely different than it was in those days that a comparison is almost impossible. There can no longer be a propaganda machine to influence us – we eat a steady diet of propaganda 24/7 – it IS our culture.

At 7:00 PM, Blogger Jefferson's Guardian said...

Harley: Exactly! It is our culture -- a culture of consumerism and passivity that has infiltrated our country for a very long time, through constant and unrelenting brainwashing of a Madison Avenue type; complemented by gov-corp propaganda of the highest order. It's not a frenzied nationalism that's got us by the balls, it's corporatism.

I'm not implying that history repeats itself, but in the borrowed words of a great satirist and humorist, it certainly does rhyme.

At 7:07 PM, Blogger Tom Degan said...

"I'm not implying that history repeats itself, but in the borrowed words of a great satirist and humorist, it certainly does rhyme."


Forgive my ignorance but who was that humorous. I love it!


At 10:40 PM, Blogger Jefferson's Guardian said...

Tom, I believe the quotation, "History may not repeat itself, but it sure does rhyme", has been attributed to the legendary Mark Twain.

At 11:41 AM, Blogger TSVDP said...

The Democrats are not the same as 50 years ago either, I listen to Ed Schultz and the old Middle West Democrat party, Democratic Farm Labor of Minnesota, Humphrey, Mondale, McCarthy even was noble and wholesome, the area that produced Bob Dylan, who are these Beatles guys anyway? That Democratic party like ones in other states was not connected like the old DixieCrats were.

But now, the Democrats have wacky ideas, the Media pushed Obama through.

The Democrats now have a lack of compassion for the idea that all are created equal, against the lives of the unborn, Obama voted even a baby could be left to die outside the womb. This is not your grandfather's or father's Democratic party.

No, to the devil with all people's rights, the fat cats are the Unions, the spineless types that give their votes away and lack personal values themselves.

This Blogger, Tom, shows the Democrats only hope is to throw the race card.

And Tea Partiers will save America or at least give it more hope but pass the bong around and read old issues of Ramparts magazine, the Right will continue to be criticized.


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