Republicans Weren’t Always Bad; Your Point?

Voting Rights Act - The Nightly Show

Although I think that The Nightly Show is good and getting better, Larry Wilmore still annoys me a lot. I’m not sure if he and his staff are ignorant about certain things or if they are just pandering. I think it is the latter. Regardless, I don’t like it. On Monday night’s show, he briefly discussed the fact that by and large, the Republicans were a no-show at the Selma 50th anniversary celebration last weekend. And he got around to presenting the statistic above: the Republicans were more supportive of the Civil Rights Act than Democrats were. Wilmore was making the point that since the Republicans were a major part of the constituency that pushed for civil rights, they ought to be part of the celebrations.

The statistic he picked was a bit of a deceptive choice, given that he was talking about the Voting Rights Act, not the Civil Right Act. And I know the reason why: Democrats voted for the Voting Rights Act at roughly the same rate as the Republicans: 78% to 85%. And it was only that far apart because of the Senate; in the House it was even closer. But I take the point: in the early and middle 60s the Republicans were the party of civil rights. As I’ve discussed before, Martin Luther King Sr was a Republican at that time. So okay, the Republicans were better at that time.

But that’s not true anymore. Those 40% of Congressional Democrats who voted against the Civil Rights Act? They are now in the Republican Party. In 1960, 32% of African Americans voted for Richard Nixon. But just four years later, only 6% voted for Goldwater. The arc of history may be long, but Republicans were bending toward white identify politics really fast. And modern Republicans like Mitch McConnell and John Boehner know this. They know that African Americans are not going to vote for them in sizable numbers and they don’t care about it.

I always find it amusing that Republicans hearken back to the days when they stood for things that they most clearly don’t stand for now. Political Parties change. The Democrats used to be a terrible, racist party. Even after the Democrats stopped being a terrible party, they remained a racist party for a long time. But that doesn’t mean that modern day Democrats are racist. And it doesn’t mean that modern day Republicans support civil rights just because historically they did.

And what is especially bad is that the Republican Party has become so dependent upon their bigot base that now they can’t even risk being hypocritical. Just 24 Congressional Republicans went to Selma this weekend. As I discussed that day, that represented just 8% of the Republican caucus. That is in comparison to at least 32% of the Democratic caucus going. I don’t especially like the question, “What have you done for me lately?” But in this case, it is fair to ask, “What have the Republicans done for civil rights over the last fifty years?” And the answer is that the Republican Party has done everything it can to make things worse. And now they aren’t willing to even fix the Voting Rights Act, which ought to tell you all you need to know about how today’s Republicans would have voted on the law if they had been around fifty years ago.

Larry Wilmore seems intent on not pushing these issues very far. And interestingly, most of that show was about the Apple Watch and not Selma. It allowed Daymond John to come on and provide some apologetics about his support for sweatshop labor. Racism in America was originally and explicitly about economics. So it all tied together — not that The Nightly Show even tried to do that. But the power elite and the Republican Party can’t be too upset with what the show is doing.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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