Wednesday, January 25, 2017

From the Saturday Evening Post: The Civil Rights Act vs. States’ Rights

A look at the tension between the two.

- Click here for the article.

Goldwater recognized that the Civil Rights Act would split the liberal and conservative wings of the Democratic Party. For years, the Democrats had been able to hold these two warring factions together, but as the liberal wing began supporting the growing civil rights movement, many white, conservative Democrats began withdrawing their support of the party their families had supported for generations.
The day would come, Goldwater predicted in a 1963 Post article, “The G.O.P. Invades the South,” when the region would vote solidly Republican. He noted that Republican candidates were already winning elections in Florida, North Carolina, and Georgia. The South would shift its party allegiance, he said, because of “a profound evolution of political thinking and acting.”
It had nothing to do, he asserted, with white voters being angry with liberal Democrats’ support of integration. Southerners were leaving the party, he said, because they believed in “state’s rights,” and limiting the role of the federal government. They viewed the Civil Rights Act as an intrusion that, Goldwater argued, would eventually lead to “the creation of a police state.”
Civil rights were important, Goldwater believed, but they were “resolved more safely and soundly on the state or local level.”
But the local level, as Anthony Lewis wrote, was precisely where the problem lay. (“Goldwater Is Wrong On Civil Right” September 26, 1964) The law in southern states and towns was vigorously enforcing racist policies, using intimidation and violence to deprive African Americans of their rights.
The U.S. Government had tried Goldwater’s approach for nearly a century, Lewis argued. When states were left on their own to handle race relations, “the result was massive inequality, injustice, and cruelty that shocked the conscience of this nation…The law has been cynically manipulated to maintain white supremacy, in defiance of the most elementary rights of a citizen.”
Federal intervention was necessary, he said, to prevent state officials from enforcing racist politics

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