August 6, 2012

Robert Byrd and a History of Poltical Racism in America

By Glenn

“Byrd, who died in June 2010 at age 92, had sought the FBI intelligence while suspecting that communists and subversives were guiding the civil rights cause, the records show.”

Now that a child of the Civil Rights movement is President and he is accused of the same thing. Weird how that works. Same lie. Different decade.

When I posted this brief comment on Facebook, I was asked if I were “trying to distract folks from the fact that Byrd was a Democrat?”  Here is my Response.


Oh no. He was a Democratic, but a conservative Democrat. Robert Byrd made a courageous choice soon after. Southern Democrats traced their roots back to their opposition to reconstruction. The Republicans under Lincoln oversaw the greatest expansion of Federal power since the transition from the Articles of Confederation to the US Constitution. Each of the Reconstruction Amendments increased Federal authority and reduced the ability of states to abuse their own inhabitants.

For example, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

The Southern Democrats resented this restriction of “their rights.” They remained bitter until the Great Depression.

The Great Depression hit rural America hard. It had languished well behind the North East and Midwest as industrialization, urbanization and electrification transformed multi-ethnic cities. FDR understood that agriculture need fewer workers and sought to remake the South. For example rural electrification brought cheap electricity to the South and allowed for the growth of industry. This much needed Federal intervention was welcomed as “Liberals” redistributed NE and Mid Western wealth from the richest part of the country to the poorest. Southern Democrats got on board.

Once the Civil Rights movement started the political landscape began to change. The first Dixiecrat revolt was lead by Strom Thurmond. In 1948 he ran against President Truman who had recently desegregated the army and use the Federal government to end southern poll taxes and lynchings. Obviously he failed, but the Conservative democratic revolt had begun. In 1964, the south rallied around conservative Barry Goldwater who promised to be a champion of State’s Rights. The only state outside the deep south that voted for him was his own state of Arizona. In 1968, however, the Dixiecrats tried again with George Wallace. This time, the Democratic split helped Richard Nixon win the White House.

Nixon’s team realized this fact and created the Republican Southern Strategy. Kevin Philips, a conservative campaign strategist, explained it publicly. “From now on, the Republicans are never going to get more than 10 to 20 percent of the Negro vote and they don’t need any more than that… but Republicans would be shortsighted if they weakened enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That’s where the votes are. Without that prodding from the blacks, the whites will backslide into their old comfortable arrangement with the local Democrats.”

It is at this time the politicians like Robert Byrd faced a choice. Become a Republican and fight for “State’s Rights” or accept Modern America. Byrd realized that the New Deal and Civil Rights movements were part of a package. You can’t improve rural white America without improving the multi ethnic urban American. His realized this is the United States of American.

So while politicians like Strom Thurmond and Trent Loot abandoned the Democratic Party. Robert Byrd chose to stay. He turned his back on his racist past and embraced the future. A future based on liberty, justice and prosperity for all.



“Senate Republican leader Trent Lott of Mississippi has provoked criticism by saying the United States would have been better off if then-segregationist candidate Strom Thurmond had won the presidency in 1948.”



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