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Free Citizen

This writer espouses individual liberty, free markets, and limited government.

Location: Jackson, Mississippi, United States

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The Twisting of History

This letter appeared in The Clarion-Ledger on January 6, 2008.

That famous expert on the Republican Party, Richard Dortch, has delivered another comic book analysis of the GOP ("North, South Republicans may be set for breakup," Dec. 9 Clarion-Ledger).

He alludes to the fact that a higher percentage of congressional Republicans than Democrats supported the civil rights proposals of the 1950s and 1960s. It was, to be sure, Southern Democrats who filibustered those measures. And a Republican president, Ronald Reagan, authorized the Martin Luther King Holiday and the 25-year extension of the Voting Rights Act.

The GOP cracked the "Solid South" in the 1928 presidential election, when Herbert Hoover carried four Southern states: Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. In 1952, Dwight Eisenhower won in Virginia, Florida, Tennessee, and Texas. Four years later, Ike again carried those four states and added Louisiana as well (this was the first time a Deep South state voted Republican for president).

In 1972, the South was solidly Republican, as part of President Richard Nixon's 49-state landslide victory.

Dortch says the GOP is "best united by a leader who is neither Northern nor Southern, like Reagan..." Some in Illinois, where Reagan was born, grew up, and attended college, will likely disagree with that description. And it was the Gipper's ideas that attracted Southerners to him. Running in 1980 against a Southern Democratic president, Reagan won every Southern state but Georgia. In 1984, he carried every state in the nation except Minnesota.

A previous Dortch column ("Will Bush heed words of other GOP leaders?," Oct. 22, 2004) featured a series of quotes from Republican presidents. One of these quotes was from James Madison, who in fact belonged to the party founded by his fellow Virginian Thomas Jefferson, which is today's Democratic Party. Madison died in 1836, 18 years before the modern Republican Party was born.


Anonymous WB said...

You might want to guard against being a revisionist historian yourself by studying Reagan’s political career. From 1964 when he campaigned for Barry Goldwater and became a national political figure he was seen by all but a few as a southern Californian rather than a northern or even mid-western Illinoisan. His carefully crafted image was pure western much the same as Ohio-born Roy Rogers.

Also, Reagan’s “authorizing” of the Martin Luther King Holiday came only after overwhelming support in Congress and amongst organized labor. He had opposed the establishment of the holiday ever since it had been sought following Dr. King’s assassination in 1968.

Mon Jan 07, 12:09:00 PM CST  
Blogger Steve Rankin said...

Reagan spent the first 21 or 22 years of his life in Illinois, leaving there after graduating from college in the early 1930s. He was of course identified with southern California, since he lived there and worked as an actor. By the time he ran for governor, it was 30-plus years since he had left Illinois.

The fact is that Reagan signed the King Holiday into law, when he could have vetoed it. A group of black leaders flanked him at the signing ceremony. Reagan also signed the 25-year extension of the Voting Rights Act in 1982.

Contrast that with President Clinton, who twice vetoed welfare reform before signing the third bill in the 1996 election year. Clinton's friend and political mentor was Sen. J. William Fulbright, an arch-segregationist who fought every single civil rights bill.

It's worth noting, too, that civil rights leaders Joseph Lowery and Hosea Williams endorsed Reagan's candidacy.

A few of my previous posts on Reagan are here, here, and here.

Thanks for the comment, my anonymous, condescending friend.

Sun Jan 13, 05:42:00 PM CST  

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