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The Democrats Are The Party Of Civil Rights

The right wing media creates an alternative reality for Republicans that leads to many odd and simply false talking points. One of the more curious talking points generated by the right wing media is that the GOP is the party of civil rights. The Republicans like to point to the final vote on the 1964 Civil Rights Act since more Republicans than Democrats voted for the bill. However, that talking point overlooks a lot of history at that time and the history of the fight over voting rights since the mid-1960s.

In 1964, there was a large moderate wing in the GOP — that is now extinct. Moreover, many of the Democrats who opposed the 1964 Civil Rights Act were from the South and later switched to the GOP. At the same time, the leaders of the conservative wing of the GOP opposed the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Both Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan opposed the Civil Rights Act based upon their fealty to states’ rights and the rights of churches and business owners.

The GOP’s claim to be the party of civil rights is further undermined by how they have exploited racial resentment to win elections since the 1966 election cycle. Beginning in the late 1960s, the GOP implemented Richard Nixon’s infamous “Southern Strategy.” Nixon made coded references to race with his calls for “law and order” during his 1968 Presidential campaign. In 1980, Ronald Reagan called for “states’ rights” in a speech in Tuscumbia, Alabama — which was located about seven miles from Philadelphia, Mississippi where civil rights workers were killed in 1964.

Other Republican nominees followed suit. In 1988, George H.W. Bush was elected in part due to numerous references he and other Republicans made to the infamous Willie Horton case. Moreover, references to the Reverend Jeremiah Wright by Sarah Palin in 2008 clearly played upon racial fears and resentment. Subsequently, Donald Trump was one of the most prominent purveyors of the theory that President Obama was born in Kenya. Moreover, in 2012, the Romney campaign falsely alleged that the Obama Administration had rescinded the work requirements in the 1996 Welfare Reform Act.

Trump doubled down on the GOP’s exploitation of racial animus for political advantage by running the most openly racist presidential campaign since George Wallace in 1968. What made Trump so outrageous and controversial was that he didn’t rely upon the usual code words and winks and nods. He took off the mask and removed all of the usual artifice.

The modern Republican Party’s hostility to civil rights can be seen in its false allegation that there is an epidemic of voter fraud in the U.S. Based upon this false narrative, the GOP has passed a wave of voter identification and suppression laws in 31 states. The Republicans who have supported these laws have openly admitted that they were passed to depress Democratic turnout and help Republicans win elections. A federal court threw out North Carolina’s voter suppression law and held that the provisions “targeted African Americans with almost surgical precision.”

The reality is that voter fraud is virtually non-existent. The Bush Administration conducted a five year investigation of alleged voter fraud and found virtually no evidence of any efforts to influence elections. A 2014 study by Loyola Law School found only 31 incidents of in-person voter fraud since 2000 out of 1 billion ballots cast. In the just completed 2016 election cycle, there were only four reported cases of in-person voter fraud out of 135 million ballots cast.

Despite the overwhelming evidence that voter fraud isn’t a problem, Senator John Murante has proposed a constitutional amendment that would require voters to show photo identification before voting at the polls. This amendment would require a vote of the people before it became law.

Senator Adam Morfeld came out in opposition to Murante’s proposal saying: “The purpose of the constitution is to enumerate rights and protect rights, particularly minority rights. My concern with putting in a specific provision that requires qualifications to exercise a certain right is very concerning to me, particularly when we have found in other states that those qualifications are discriminatory against certain classes of individuals.” Morfeld correctly pointed out that a voter identification law would make it harder to vote for people who are minorities, low income, or have disabilities.

Murante and the Republican Party’s continued pursuit of voter suppression laws against all of the evidence clearly indicates that the GOP isn’t the party of civil rights. Moreover, this also proves that the GOP isn’t the party of limited government and the Constitution. Murante’s proposal is big government run amuck and a violation of the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Conservatives’ so-called limited government philosophy only applies to corporations, the wealthy and gun owners. Everybody else is subject to the GOP’s big government over reach and trampling of the Constitution.

We Democrats should be proud of our record on civil rights. We passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 at great political cost. Lyndon Johnson was right when he prognosticated we would lose the South for a generation. We should reaffirm our commitment to civil rights for all Americans by calling our state senators and urging them to oppose Murante’s unnecessary and unconstitutional voter suppression proposal. We have successfully defeated these proposals in previous legislative sessions. We can do it again!

I’m a trial lawyer, a Democratic activist and a sports fan.

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