On the urgent issue of civil rights, Senator Goldwater represents a philosophy that is morally indefensible and politically and socially suicidal.
-Martin Luther King, Jr. on the nomination of Barry Goldwater as GOP candidate for president.
Over the weekend, far right conservative filmmaker and pundit Dinesh D’Souza inflamed Twitter by claiming that Rep. John Lewis (“John Lewis is not a “legend”–he was a minor player in the civil rights movement who became a nasty, bitter old man”) and Rosa Parks (“So Rosa Parks wouldn’t sit in the back of the bus–that’s all she did, so what’s the big fuss?”) were minor civil rights figures. The response was appropriately swift and severe.
This might be the most historically ignorant thing you’ve ever written, and that’s saying quite a lot. https://t.co/ha51yoUxKP
— Kevin M. Kruse (@KevinMKruse) January 14, 2017
Like D’Souza, his supporters cast Democrats as the party of racism since Democrats in the South were opposed, in large measure, to the 13-15th Amendments.
Today, D’Souza continues to defy the facts about race and political party:
When the South was deeply racist it was a one-party Democratic region; now that it’s largely non-racist, it is also largely Republican
— Dinesh D’Souza (@DineshDSouza) January 16, 2017
D’Souza’s formulations fail to take into account the factors which have made African-American support for the Democrat party so strong. These are not hard. Goldwater as a GOP presidential candidate opposed civil rights legislation. When Democrats were moving toward civil rights, high profile conservative Democrats in the South switched to the GOP (e.g., Strom Thurmond, Jesse Helms) and championed segregationist policies. Even though Ronald Reagan signed MKL Day into law, nearly half of GOP members opposed the day, whereas 95% of Dems supported it.
It would be easy to go on and on to provide reasons why African-Americans provide a voting bloc for Democrats. Trump received 8% of the African-American vote in the last election. This was a two point improvement over Romney in 2012 but should indicate to any reasonable observer that the vast majority of African-American voters don’t like what the GOP is doing and saying now. What happened pre-Harry Truman is interesting historically speaking but it doesn’t have much of an impact on what is going on now.