In the hackiest of all hacky articles, Sam Tanenhaus, the man responsible for ruining The New York Times Book Review, has written a cover story in The New Republic, titled: “Original Sin: Why the GOP is and will continue to be the party of white people.”
MSNBC has been howling this cliche for a decade — or, as MSNBC’s Chris Matthews said of Tanenhaus’ article, “a bold headline”!
Being interviewed by a giddy Matthews — who has no black friends, employees or neighbors — Tanenhaus announced the startling fact that once, long ago, some Republicans supported civil rights!
“In the 1950s, as I say in the piece you read, Republicans looked pretty good on civil rights under Eisenhower. We had the Brown decision, the Central High in Little Rock, where he did the tough thing and sent the troops in, and we had the first modern civil rights act.”
It wasn’t a “tough” decision for Eisenhower to send troops to Little Rock in 1957.
In the presidential campaign the year before, the Republican platform had expressly endorsed the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education. The Democratic platform did not.
To the contrary, that year, 99 members of Congress signed the “Southern Manifesto” denouncing the court’s ruling in Brown. Two were Republicans. Ninety-seven were Democrats.
As president, Eisenhower pushed through the 1957 Civil Rights Act and the 1960 Civil Rights Act. He established the Civil Rights Commission. It was Eisenhower, not Truman, who fully desegregated the military.
Meanwhile, the Brown decision was being openly defied by the Democratic governor of Arkansas (and Bill Clinton pal), Orval Faubus, who refused to admit black students to Little Rock Central High School.
Liberals act as if Eisenhower’s sending federal troops to Little Rock was like Nixon going to China. No, it was like Nixon going to California.
Only someone who knows no history could proclaim, as Tanenhaus did, that the 1957 act “wasn’t great, it wasn’t what LBJ gave us, but it was something.”
If Eisenhower’s 1957 civil rights bill was weak, it was because of one man: Lyndon B. Johnson. As Robert Caro explains in his book, “Master of the Senate: The Years of Lyndon Johnson,” it was LBJ who stripped the bill of its enforcement provisions. Even after that, the bill was still opposed by 18 senators — all of them Democrats.
To the easily astounded Chris Matthews, Tanenhaus breathlessly remarked, “Not one Republican voted against that bill!” — as if the 1957 Civil Right Act was a Democratic idea and they were delighted to get any Republican support at all.
Imagine a modern German historian saying: “Remember — it wasn’t just Germans who opposed the Holocaust. The English and Americans did too!” Such a historian would be beaten bloody, quite rightly so.
The 1957 bill was sent to Congress by Eisenhower, passed with the intervention of Vice President Richard Nixon, and opposed exclusively by Democrats. Not “Southern Democrats,” not “conservative Democrats,” but Democrats, such as Wayne Morse of Oregon, Warren Magnuson of Washington, James Murray of Montana, Mike Mansfield of Montana and Joseph O’Mahoney of Wyoming.