On This 50th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, Its GOP Origins Must Be Honored

“Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.”  —Abraham Lincoln, First Republican President of the United States


The Voting Rights Act of 1965 Is Fifty

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is half a century old this month.  It was the capstone of the civil rights laws of the 1960s.  And black Americans are now voting freely in all areas of the country.  But there is a history of voting rights—indeed, of civil rights in general—in America that is all but invisible nowadays, due to media dishonesty and the lack of honest teaching in our schools and universities with regard to the subject matter.  This would be the history of civil rights with respect to how the Republican Party created the first civil rights and voting rights laws in America, immediately after the American Civil War, only to see the Democrats eventually repeal all of them after the election of 1892.

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Celebrating the Capstone

When the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, 65% of Democrats voted for the legislation under pressure from LBJ.  80% of Republicans, on the other hand, voted for the law.  (But what most people are not aware of is that the Republicans opposing the act only opposed it due to their disagreement with some specific provisions they did not believe should be included in the bill).  Senator Robert Byrd, a Democrat and an ex-Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan, actually filibustered the bill in a memorable act of Democrat defiance.

Civil Rights Act 50When the Voting Rights Act of 1965 passed, it was with a great deal of help by Republican leaders.  It saw 94% of the GOP support the act by voting for it, but only 71% of Democrats voted in the affirmative.  Finally, Republicans could celebrate the restoration of the voting rights that they had originally approved for blacks a century earlier.  The 1965 law was, indeed, the capstone to putting back all that the Democrats had formerly taken away.  All fair-minded Americans who honored the ideal of civil rights for all could now celebrate this achievement together.


Flashback to Lincoln’s Advocacy of a Colorblind Society

President Lincoln, the first Republican president, issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863.  In 1865, he secured passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery for all time.  100% of Lincoln Republicans voted for the amendment.  Only 23% of Democrats voted for it, and many of them had to have their arms twisted.


The First Black Voting Rights Were Guaranteed by Republicans Alone

first-black-members-of-congress1In 1868, the 14th Amendment gave African Americans full civil rights, guaranteeing terms of equality that restrained the Democrat-run South from abridging those rights.  Every voting Republican, in the House and in the Senate, voted for this law.  Not one Democrat voted in the affirmative.

The 15th Amendment was passed when many Democrat-run states tried to thwart the 14th Amendment by blocking voting rights.  Once again, every Republican voted for the amendment; every Democrat voted no.


The Great Undoing

Up until 1875, the Republicans in Congress passed and enforced civil rights legislation.  In 1876, however, Democrats won control of the House of Representatives and blocked further Republican reforms.  Democrats took control of not only the House, but of the Senate and the White House as well, in 1892.  Then, the Democrats proceeded to repeal all the civil rights laws the Republicans had passed.  Up until this happened, the GOP thought it was well on the road to bringing about the colorblind society envisioned by Lincoln and the Republican founders of America’s rebirth.

With Democrats in charge, the Southern states began to pass Jim Crow laws without much in the way of federal blowback.  Blacks would now be subjected to literacy tests to qualify for their civil rights and would be subjected to poll taxes unaffordable to most black people at the time.  Racist officials also withheld from blacks the permits needed to carry firearms for self-defense.  How many lynchings might have been prevented, had blacks been allowed to protect themselves?


Democrat Harry Truman Changes Some Minds

President Harry Truman changed the minds of many blacks, when he began the desegregation of the armed forces.  He received 77% of the Black vote, in 1952, and beat Dewey for another four years in office, and he probably would not have won without the help of black voters.

Senator John Kennedy voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1957.  And, after becoming president, Kennedy opposed Dr. King’s 1963 March on Washington.  But Kennedy was assassinated before the end of his term, leaving Johnson, who was predisposed to pass civil rights legislation, as a political move to secure black votes, in charge of the presidency.  It is a fact that LBJ actually made this disparaging comment about black voters: “I’ll have them niggers voting Democrat for the next two hundred years.”


The GOP: Still Colorblind After All These Years

Voting Rights Act 50aTo this day, no matter what criticisms one might harbor of the GOP, one has to admit that Republicans continue to favor colorblind policy-making, which, contrary to liberal propaganda, is the exact opposite of racism.  Indeed, the Party of Lincoln remains committed to freedom from dependency and justice for all, which is, inarguably, not federal policy under the current Democrat administration.

The current state of affairs does not treat every American the same.  Americans of color are actually extended privileges that white people are not allowed to have.  Thus, a racist policy of favoring minorities, rather than treating everyone the same, is en vogue.  What should have happened is this: anyone needing help to qualify for employment positions or educational opportunities should be allowed to get extra help, and none of this help should be based on ethnicity or class.  Helping all Americans, rather than lowering the bar for some Americans, should be the focus, in order to bring everyone up to snuff, together, in one America devoid of government-sponsored separatism.

Instead, what has occurred is a perpetuation of lower expectations for minorities.  As a result, many minority students are allowed to graduate high school who would not be allowed to do so if they were non-minority.  The result is that many minority students attend college unprepared to succeed.  And, when they do fail, they often cry racism.  And they may well be right.

But it is not the professors who are being racist against these minority students.  It is government policy that has set them up for failure, in the first place, solely on the basis of the fact that, being minorities, these students were allowed to enter college with a lowered bar.  It is these lower standards that continue to promote poor outcomes that could have been avoided, if only extra help, rather than lowered standards, had been the official government policy.


The GOP Dream of Colorblindness Continues

The Republican promotion of inclusive civil rights in a colorblind civil society continues to this day.  Indeed, it has been ongoing since the inception of the GOP by Lincoln and others who started the Republican Party on the abolitionist platform of freeing the slaves.  Lincoln would certainly be pleased to see that the Republican Party today continues to promote civil rights and can boast Senator Tim Scott, Congresswoman Mia Love, and many other people of color among their ranks.  It was the election of Lincoln, our first Republican president, that split the nation in two and set the stage for the bloodiest war in American history, fought for the purpose of maintaining the Union and making sure that it would be a Union that guaranteed the original proposition of America’s Founders—that “all men are created equal.”

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by EagleRising.com

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