Sunday, August 25, 2013

GOP fought hard for civil rights bills in 1960s

GOP establishment was supportive of Civil Rights Legislation:

"I favor the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and it must be enforced at the point of a bayonet,  if necessary."
--Ronald Reagan, Los Angeles Times, October 20, 1965

The Civil Rights Act -- which is best known for barring discrimination in public accommodations -- passed the House on Feb. 10, 1964 by a margin of 290-130. When broken down by party, 61 percent of Democratic lawmakers voted for the bill (152 yeas and 96 nays), and a full 80 percent of the Republican caucus supported it (138 yeas and 34 nays). When the Senate passed the measure on June 19, 1964, -- nine days after supporters mustered enough votes to end the longest filibuster in Senate history -- the margin was 73-27.

Better than two-thirds of Senate Democrats supported the measure on final passage (46 yeas, 21 nays), but an even stronger 82 percent of Republicans supported it (27 yeas, 6 nays). The primary reason that Republican support was higher than Democratic support -- even though the legislation was pushed hard by a Democratic president, Lyndon B. Johnson -- is that the opposition to the bill primarily came from Southern lawmakers.

 In the mid 1960s, the South was overwhelmingly Democratic -- a legacy of the Civil War and Reconstruction, when the Republican Party was the leading force against slavery and its legacy. Because of this history, the Democratic Party in the 1960s was divided between Southern Democrats, most of whom opposed civil rights legislation, and Democrats from outside the South who more often than not supported it.