Friday, June 19, 2009

Moe Better Facts

The civil rights conversation that got me defriended by Moe continued after my ejection. (Thanks to the Graceland Correspondent for catching me up. It should be noted that Moe made sure everyone in the thread knew I would no longer be commenting on his posts. I was not told we were no longer friends, which is proof enough I have not actually lost a friend, though Moe has.) Among the evidence offered to prove Republicans’ superior civil rights record was Everett Dirksen’s work to break the “Democratic” filibuster that almost derailed the Civil Rights Act.

The Democrats who filibustered that vote were also known as Dixiecrats. They were only Democrats because the South had always been Democratic, mainly because Republicans freed the slaves and forced Reconstruction down their throats. They no more reflected the mainstream of 20th Century Democratic thought than Everett Dirksen reflects current Republican philosophy. (All of us old enough to remember them can take a minute to ponder how Dirksen or Nelson Rockefeller would fare in today’s GOP.) Evidence of the Dixiecrats separation from the mainstream can be found by the wholesale defections to the Republican Party after the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts were enacted, thus creating the South as a Republican bastion that is only now showing signs of strain.

Orval Faubus was used as en example of Democratic racism in Moe’s discussion; a reasonable person could assume they tar George Wallace with the same, well-deserved brush. Remember, though, that Wallace had to run for president as an Independent, as he couldn’t get enough traction with Democratic primary voters outside of the South to get close to their nomination.

Republicans have built much of their political base over the past forty years by their virtually monolithic support in the South. This monopoly was created largely from the racist attitudes that drove southern Democrats away from the party as civil rights gained momentum. For a current conservative Republican to claim credit for Everett Dirksen while scorning Strom Thurmond is like arguing against using taxes to “redistribute wealth” after spending thirty years lowering the rates of the highest earners while raising the real rates of those who could already least afford it. (Social Security and Medicare tax rates are higher than thirty years ago; graduated income tax rates are lower on the highest bracket. You can look it up here. And here.)

Of course, they’ve done that, too.

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