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Saturday, March 05, 2016

American crossroads: Reagan, Trump and the devil down south | US news | The Guardian

Please read this article. Most otherwise educated Americans are unaware of 20th Century American history because it is not emphasized in the schools and if you live in the South it is rarely taught at all. 
"The year 1948 was a flash that led to a slow burn, a simmering fuse that wouldn’t erupt again for 16 years. The flash was the breakaway States’ Rights Democratic party, aka the Dixiecrats (motto: “segregation forever”), who recoiled from the regular Democrats’ spasm of conscience and put forward their own candidate for president, South Carolina governor Strom Thurmond. Thurmond campaigned on a platform that decried civil rights as “infamous and iniquitous”, “totalitarian” and an attempt by the federal government to impose “a police nation” on the land of the free. That fall, the Dixiecrats took four deep south states and 39 electoral votes from Harry Truman, a rippling of racist muscle that kept the Democratic party’s egalitarian impulse in check throughout the 1950s.
That decade was the slow burn, but it was coming. Occasional aberrations aside, the south stayed solid for the Democrats after Truman, though the devil felt the cracks under his feet, roamed uneasy over the land. Brown v Board of Education was a tremblor. Montgomery, Little Rock, more tremblors. At the Democrats’ 1960 convention, African American delegates walked out in protest over John F Kennedy’s concessions to the southern segs, this at a time when the Republican party, the party of Lincoln and emancipation – and thus a 90lb weakling in most of the south – was welcoming civil rights advocates to its convention. Devil stamped his feet, sniffed the air.
Across the south people were marching and sometimes dying for civil rights, though you didn’t have to march or even reach the age of majority to qualify for murder, as shown by the 1963 bombing deaths of four young African American girls, at church, in Birmingham. After Kennedy’s assassination, Lyndon Johnson, Democrat of Texas and a son of the hardscrabble south, seized JFK’s cautious civil rights agenda and turned it into a juggernaut. “If you get in my way I’m going to run you down,” he told his old Senate mentor, Richard Russell of Georgia, and it’s surely one of the great mysteries not just of American politics but of human nature in general that Lyndon Johnson, a man born and formed in one of America’s most enduring tar pits of xenophobia, would be the crucial force multiplier for civil rights.
He knew better than anyone the political risk. “I think we just gave the south to the Republicans,” he told his staff after ramming the Civil Rights Act of 1964 through Congress. His aide Bill Moyers recalled the moment in more drastic terms: Johnson feared he had delivered the south to Republicans “for your lifetime and mine”, a prediction whose proof, while not yet conclusive – we are happy that Mr Moyers is still with us – has trended ever since toward prophecy. The first hard evidence came in the presidential election that fall, when Johnson’s landslide victory over Barry Goldwater saw only Arizona (Goldwater’s home state) and the old Dixiecrat states, plus Georgia, go Republican. Goldwater had been one of only a handful of Republican senators to vote against the Civil Rights Act, and his nominating convention turned into a raucous revolt against the party’s eastern establishment. Nelson Rockefeller, millionaire governor of New York and the avatar of what’s now known as a country club Republican, was roundly booed, hooted and dissed. Goldwater delegates berated and shook their fists at the press, and African American delegates were “shoved, pushed, spat on and cursed with a liberal sprinkling of racial epithets”. Something new and nasty was afoot; Republicans were acting like a bunch of Dixiecrats. One black delegate had his suit jacket set on fire. The Southern Caucus at the convention named its hotel headquarters “Fort Sumter” after the starting point of the civil war. Jackie Robinson spent several “unbelievable hours” on the convention floor, and summed up his experience thus: “I now believe I know how it felt to be a Jew in Hitler’s Germany.”


American crossroads: Reagan, Trump and the devil down south | US news | The Guardian

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