I understand and applaud the continuing efforts to gain justice in America for Black men and put an end to the killing. But I wonder what effect the Republican tidal wave sweeping over much of the country (including Congress), will have on those calls for justice. Here’s what I’m thinking:
Last spring, as our nation observed the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (April 10), I happened to hear a conversation on public radio in which historians and journalists reflected on what happened that day in 1964. I was surprised to hear that President Lyndon Johnson had turned to his press secretary, Bill Moyers, and lamented that giving Black Americans equal rights, including voting rights, meant that Democrats “have lost the South for a generation.”
I was well aware that the then (1964) deeply Democratic South had since shifted strongly Republican (so long Mary Landrieu, the last of the old guard). But I had never really thought about why that happened. Here’s how it played out:
Based on the conversation I heard last April, Johnson’s signature on the Civil Rights Act sent racist Democrats in search of a political party that would cater to their bigoted views and support their continued commitment to the principle that undergirded the founding of the Ku Klux Klan in 1866: to control freed slaves after the Civil War. Obviously, President Johnson understood that southern racists were still intent on denying Blacks access to American life(and American justice), including the electoral process. And what political party came riding to their rescue? The Republican Party.
I didn’t feel particularly good reaching that conclusion (some of my friends and relatives are Republicans :-), so I took the academic route and consulted the research database at UMaine’s Fogler Library. There I found a paper entitled, “Personality and attitude determinants of voting behavior.” A central finding of that study is: People who voted for Republican Presidential candidates “showed significantly more negative racial attitudes. And those voters, with some possible exceptions, identify themselves as Republicans.”
That study was done in 1972, and you could hope attitudes have changed since then. But other more recent studies support it. And when you become aware of ongoing Republican efforts to deny minorities, including Blacks, the right to vote and the right to a quality education (check out the Koch brothers’ resegregation efforts), you have to wonder if the battle for justice for all Americans will ever be won.