An Old Foe
“To those who say, this civil rights program is an infringement on states’ rights, I say this: the time has arrived in America for the Democratic Party to get out of the shadow of states’ rights and walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights!”
As Hubert Humphrey uttered those words on a hot summer night in 1948, it marked a new era in Democratic Party politics, one that would have reverberations for decades to come. Humphrey’s speech at the Democratic Convention was the deal-breaker for those white supremacists like Senator Strom Thurmond (from my home state of South Carolina) who promptly got up and left the assembly. Any semblance of equity for Black Americans was unacceptable and would mark the beginning of the movement of Dixiecrats to the Republican Party. The Voting Rights Act and Civil Rights Act only helped to expedite the process. Around this time, Dixiecrats determined, since the federal government had stopped working only for the cause of white Americans, it had gotten too big, too intrusive.
I have never bought into the opinion that racists gravitated to the Republican Party on the premise of pure ideology. It would be hard to explain how in just two decades, the South went from voting unanimously for large government Democrats to voting for Arizona firebrand Barry Goldwater, in 1964. The same people who cheered the Tennessee Valley Authority now found the mere mention of new taxes a step too far. I find it hard to believe that a whole geographical section of our country could switch so drastically, that quickly, without an ulterior motive. The answer lies in America’s greatest transgression: racism.
Even now, some simply believe the goal was only to have small government, but they leave out the “why”. This is similar to the argument of the South fighting for “states’ right”, with the correct rebuttal being a state’s right to do what? Republicans want minimized federal government because they believe the “smaller government model” prevented others from getting rights. A further destabilization would then render useless any federal apparatus that could be used to protect civil rights, making the restoration of any lost rights that much more difficult.
The hypocritical and downright worrying part is that they don’t mind expanding the powers of the executive, in the meantime, to suit their wants. They have no problem with Donald Trump using agencies to punish his enemies or using the levers of government to attempt to steal an election. They reelect a segment of this country that believes government can only be useful when it works on their behalf and doesn’t exist for those who are not white. They may say they like certain federal benefits… until they find out their Black and brown neighbors across town will get those same ‘said’ benefits.
American history has shown that the fight is twofold, not only is the goal to dilute the federal government’s effectiveness but to also consolidate power within the courts so that states will be allowed to do whatever they please. One obvious example is the Dred Scott Supreme Court case. With the ruling, Justice Taney not only rendered the worst decision in the court’s history, but it upheld slavery and brought the nation closer to civil war. Even after the abolishment of slavery, the federal courts (primarily the Supreme Court) upheld suppression and segregation (Plessy vs Ferguson, Cumming vs Richmond). Only when the Warren Court started to side with civil rights, with rulings such as Brown vs Board of Education, did the newfound conservatives start to turn their focus on regaining power within the judicial system. Their mission was to regain the one branch of government they had relied on for nearly two centuries to protect them from government interference and solidify their status in a white-dominated hierarchy.
What many didn’t realize was that those who lost the war when it came to civil and voting rights did not just go away quietly into the night. They put away their Klan robes in exchange for judicial robes and business suits. They reassembled and were determined to go about rebuilding the Neo confederacy by fortifying their strength in the courts and reclaiming legislative and executive power, thus redirecting power back to the states. What we see today is a culmination of over fifty years of systematically tearing away the gains made in the middle of the 20th century. The goal of the Republicans is to control and bolster the power of the courts while deleting the power of the legislative branch to return power back to states. If they were to regain power, they will want to destabilize the federal government and return us to the time of “states’ rights”. It would fulfill the dreams (our nightmares) of their forefathers, the Jim Crow era supremacists, and lead to the rise of a white supremacist state, allowing rights for only the select few who look like them. This further destabilization could also clear the way for an authoritarian to rise and consolidate the resources of the nation without interference, something that is unprecedented in US history. That scenario should worry more Americans than it already does.
I only felt led to write this article, because I don’t know if enough people understand the methods, the forces of evil are using. This has been a long battle and their end game is laid out plainly, for everyone to see. Combating and safeguarding against the Republican takeover of the legislative and judicial branches must be the sole focus of the Democratic Party. Not since the 60s, has the future of civil rights, voting, and women’s rights been as unsure as it is now. We cannot make the mistake of waiting until the midterms. Leaders must help protect us now because it would be foolish to believe that the “South” doesn’t want to rise again.