Thomas Byrne Edsall with Mary D. Edsall, " A Pivotal Year"
From Chain Reaction: The Impact of Race, Rights, and Taxes on American Politics (1989)
The history of American politics for the past twenty-five years has been defined in part by the political costs of a morally ambitious undertaking. For a century after the Civil War, blacks fought in the courts, the streets, the churches, the unions, at Democratic and Republican conventions, in back-country schoolhouses, in the halls of Congress, on the assembly line, in army barracks, and on the shop floor to force the nation's political and legal system to take up the issue of institutionalized racial inequality.
The civil rights struggle, building momentum with increasingly significant victories, acquired sufficient force by the start of the 196os to dominate the public agenda, and in the process became the single most important factor determining the future of the Democratic and Republican parties. The struggle leading up to this critical turning point in American politics was the longest, most difficult, and most dangerous peacetime effort in the nation's history to force a substantial expansion of the commitment to egalitarian principle. In the legal arena, the NAACP and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund brought case after case to court on behalf of southern black plaintiffs-men and women willing to submit themselves to the gravest personal danger in order to discredit the system of legal segregation. In a strategy carefully implemented over the course of twenty-one years-from 1933 to 1954-the NAACP brought to the Supreme Court a series of cases to lay the groundwork for a direct assault on the legal foundation of segregation, the "separate but equal" principle set out by the Supreme Court in the 1896 decision, Plessy v. Ferguson.
The NAACP, in effect, progressively forced the Supreme Court to acknowledge that segregation inevitably produced inequality, that the Plessy doctrine of "separate but equal" was a contradiction in terms. The sustained legal challenge culminated in the presentation to the Supreme Court of five cases-carefully selected and crafted over six years of preparation, trial, and appeal-to demonstrate the inherent injustice to blacks of the system of formal segregation labeled Jim Crow. In the five cases collectively known as Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas (1954)-Chief justice Earl Warren wrote in a 9-o opinion: "We conclude that in the field of public education the doctrine of 'separate but equal' has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal."'
The legal challenges to the contradictions of segregation in a country founded on egalitarian ideals were reinforced by mounting political pressures. As blacks migrated from southern farms to northern cities--driven by the mechanization of southern agriculture and drawn by an expanding northern manufacturing sector (48o,ooo blacks migrated north in the 1930s, 1-58 million in the 1940s, and 1.6 million in the 1950s)'-newly mobilized blacks acquired the vote, amassed a degree of political power, and established their allegiance to the northern Democratic party.
It was the Democratic party of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal that, in the 193os and 1940s, promised clout to those at the bottom of the economic and social ladder; it was the Democratic party that sought to shift power, wealth, and the protection of the state towards the working classes; and it was a Democratic president who signed the 1941 order prohibiting discrimination in hiring by federal contractors. By 1948, black political muscle, growing opposition to segregation among white liberals, and the increased dependence of northern city political bosses on black votes produced the first Democratic convention platform to include a strong civil rights plank. That same year, Democrat Harry S. Truman issued Executive Order Number 998o, which-even while lacking enforcement authority-prohibited discrimination in all federal employment.
The deepening alliance between the northern wing of the Democratic party and the black civil rights movement was driven by a rapidly evolving social and political order. The network of laws supporting legal segregation in the South-a system of legal discrimination and exclusion stood in sharp contrast not only to the commitment to equality and citizenship rights embodied in the country's origins, but to the violent repudiation, in the wake of the Second World War, of doctrine's of racial inferiority and of German eugenic ideologies. Racial segregation stood in contradiction to an evolving global awareness of human rights and to a burgeoning climate of national liberation and self-determination, a climate favoring successful decolonization movements, by the late 1940s, across Africa and Asia.
By the end of the 1940s, global trends coincided with internal pressures building within the Democratic party, pressures leading inevitably toward a rupture of the post-Civil War tie between the national Democratic party and the segregationist South. In the aftermath of the platform vote at the 1948 Democratic convention-a platform declaring: "The Democratic Party commits itself to continuing efforts to eradicate all racial, religious and economic discrimination," '-Strom Thurmond, then governor of South Carolina, stalked out, taking with him his own state delegation, the entire Mississippi delegation, and half of the Alabama delegation.
Within two weeks of the Democratic convention, the States' Rights Democratic party (the "Dixiecrats") was formed at a gathering in Birmingham, Alabama. Thurmond and Fielding Wright, the governor of Mississippi, were chosen as the new party's presidential and vice-presidential nominees. Thurmond, running on a segregationist platform, won only a twentieth of the24 million votes received by Truman. But Thurmond carried Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Alabama-the heart of the deep South, establishing what sixteen years later would become the southern beachhead of the GOP.
The 1948 Thurmond campaign was of profound importance. It demonstrated the power of the issue of race to break the lock of the national Democratic party on the South, a step of critical consequence in a thirty-two-year long process that would produce a regional realignment in presidential elections by 198o.
By 1964, the political and moral pressure generated by the nonviolent black protest movement and by the violent white southern reaction to it compelled the national Democratic party to sever ties to its southern segregationist wing. A succession of events transformed the political landscape and ultimately forced a racially driven realignment of the two parties, events that began with the 1955 black-led boycott of the segregated bus system in Montgomery, Alabama, and included over the next decade the lynching in Mississippi of Emmett Till; the integration under federal military protection of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas; lunch counter sit-ins from Greensboro to Nashville to Atlanta; the 1961 Freedom Rides; the 1963 non-violent Birmingham civil rights demonstrations where "Bull" Connor turned firehoses and police dogs on women and children; the assassination of Mississippi civil rights leader Medgar Evers; the 1963 March on Washington where Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his "I have a dream" speech; and the 1964 murder in Philadelphia, Mississippi, of three civil rights workers, whose disappearance on June2o preceded by a week the first breaking of a Senate filibuster against federal civil rights legislation.
The tumultuous, moving, and often violent events of the decade led to congressional passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965-the two strongest pieces of civil rights legislation ever enacted-and set the stage for the Democratic and Republican parties to diverge sharply on the issues of civil rights. 1964 marked the beginning of a fundamentally new partisan configuration, based in large part on the politics of race.
The national Democratic party under the administrations of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson snapped the bond between the presidential wing of the Democratic party and the segregationist Democratic electorate, joining forces with the civil rights revolution to form a permanent Democratic party alignment with black America. The simultaneous toppling of the pro-civil rights, eastern-establishment wing of the Republican party (known in 1964 as the Rockefeller wing) by a conservative intraparty insurrection, drawing most heavily on the South for the core of its support, put the Democratic and Republican parties on a collision course over the issue of race for the first time since the Civil War.
The presidential contest of 1964 between Johnson, an outspoken proponent of the Civil Rights Act, and Barry Goldwater, an aggressively conservative opponent, marked the beginnings of what amounted to a racial realignment of the two parties. The 1964 Civil Rights Act was the most comprehensive measure of its kind ever passed, and it dominated news coverage of Washington for over a year-from June, 1963, when Kennedy sent the measure to Congress, through the breaking of the Senate filibuster on June, 1964, to final passage on July 2, 1964. The measure effectively declared illegal the structure of entrenched segregation in the South. It empowered the U.S. attorney general to file suit against segregated school systems, prohibited segregation in public facilities and accommodations, barred job discrimination by employers and unions, and provided for the termination of federal funds to schools, hospitals, and other institutions that discriminated. By the time of the 1964 election, poll data showed that an exceptionally high percentage of respondents, 75 percent, were aware of the fact that Congress had passed the Civil Rights bill; and of those familiar with the congressional action, a striking 96 percent knew that Johnson supported the bill, while 84 percent knew that Goldwater opposed it.
As the 1964 Civil Rights bill worked its way from proposal to passage, and as the presidential campaign took its course, the public perception not only of Johnson and Goldwater, but also of the racial stands of the Democratic and Republican parties, changed radically. The biennial polls conducted for the National Election Studies (NES) reveal that the public before 1964 saw virtually no difference between the parties on issues of race. As recently as 1962, when respondents were asked which party "is more likely to see to it that Negroes get fair treatment in jobs and housing?." 22.7 percent said Democrats, 21.3 percent said Republicans, and 55.9 percent said there was no difference between the two parties.
By late 1964, however, the public saw clear differences between the two parties. When asked which party was more likely to support fair treatment in jobs for blacks, 6o percent of the respondents said the Democratic party, 33 percent said there was no difference between the parties, and only 7 percent said the Republican party. Similarly, when asked in 1964 which party was more likely to support blacks and whites going to the same school, 56 percent said the Democratic party, 37 percent said there was no difference, and 7 percent identified the Republican party.'
The events of 1964 gave rise to a process in which, over time, the partisan differences on race seen by the public would extend beyond presidential candidates to members of Congress, to the stands taken by the two party platforms, and to the attitudes of presidential convention delegates, party activists, and the much larger universe of voters who identify with the Republican and Democratic parties. By 1964, the Democratic party was on its way to becoming the home of racial liberalism, and the Republican party was on its way to becoming the home of racial conservatism.
In the immediate aftermath of the 1964 Johnson landslide, every indication was that the Republican party had fatally misjudged the American mood in choosing a racial conservative as its presidential nominee, and that the Democratic party had captured the spirit of the country. Not only did Johnson swamp Goldwater by 15.9 million votes, 43.1 million to 27.2 million, but Johnson secured a solid liberal majority in Congress, raising the Democratic margin to 68-32 in the Senate, the largest since 1943, and to 295-140 in the House, the largest since 1939
In addition, the non-southern white electorate in the early and mid196os strongly endorsed the nonviolent civil rights movement. In both February 1964 and March 1965, the Gallup poll found the same percentage, 72 percent, of whites outside the South who thought Johnson was pushing civil rights "about right" or "not fast enough," and only 28 percent who thought he was moving "too fast. 116 Few elected officials and Democratic party strategists anticipated the political costs involved in translating the principle of equality into a powerful enforcement structure in the courts and in the federal bureaucracy.
The popularity of the civil rights cause foundered on a lack of broad-based support in the electorate for implementing far-reaching remedies, remedies that over the next decade and a half would be established by the courts and by the federal civil rights regulatory bureaucracy in support of the goals of racial equality. Johnson's commitment to the civil rights movement meant, in fact, much more than a political alliance with black leaders and voters.
Johnson and a Democratic Congress put the full force of the federal government behind the principle of racial equality, triggering a confrontation between black and white America, and setting off an ultimately distributional struggle that soon went substantially beyond the goal of eliminating legal segregation in the South. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, seeking and achieving new equality for vast numbers of American blacks through the power of the federal government, set the stage for the pervasive involvement of the federal judiciary, of a powerful centralized government bureaucracy, and of ranks of federal employees-in the nation's schools, military services, union halls, businesses, factories, employment offices, hospitals, neighborhoods, and civil-service systems.
To an extent, Johnson recognized the immediate political consequences of the 1964 Civil Rights Act-confiding to an aide that he believed he had "delivered the South to the Republican Party for a long time to come. 777 But both he and the Democratic leadership in Congress failed to foresee the full degree to which they had committed the federal government to what would soon encompass substantially more than a struggle for equal opportunity.
Johnson and the Democratic Congress unleashed the power of the federal government in behalf of American blacks who had previously been unrepresented in the battle for public- and private-sector resources, and who were now suddenly engaged in a racial struggle over the control of jobs, schools, housing, communities, and tax dollars. This battle, in turn, pitted the federal government not only against openly segregationist leaders, voters, and institutions-the target of the early, nonviolent civil rights movement-but against an angry and resistant segment of the working and lower-middle-class white electorate in the North.
Johnson and Congress set 'In motion a process in which the central issues of the civil rights struggle came to be defined in terms far more controversial than the simple granting of "equal rights" to minorities. The battleground of a deeply political conflict moved from the halls of Congress to the far less politically vulnerable-and far less politically responsive-federal court system, and to a vast network of civil-service employees mandated to enforce federal law.
In time, the national consensus behind the drive for black equality began to fray. The federal judiciary and the federal regulatory apparatus adopted remedies that sharply increased the political, economic, and social costs of the civil rights movement, including busing, affirmative action, strict legislative redistricting requirements, and a widening system of racial preferences. Traditionally Democratic whites-whites who felt themselves to be increasingly pressed economically, who felt that they bore the largest share of the burden of the civil rights revolution, and who chafed at what they perceived to be diminishing authority, autonomy, and prestige-decided at the ballot box that they were unable to voice their resentment and anger through Democratic party channels.
In 1964, neither Johnson nor the Democratic Congress anticipated that the church-led, nonviolent southern civil rights movement of the fifties and early sixties would soon be superseded in the public eye by a violent contagion of race riots in northern slums; nor that leadership of the civil rights movement would be seized by a highly visible new generation of activists committed to the rise of "black power"; nor that, just as the Supreme Court began to broaden the rights of criminal defendants, the crime rate would begin to skyrocket; nor that welfare expenditures and illegitimacy rates for blacks would start to soar; nor that a Democratic administration would become embroiled in a protracted war in Vietnam, critically constricting the ability of the federal government to finance a war on poverty; nor that black urban violence would be followed by a political and social revolution among white youths-protesting the draft, challenging the escalation of the Vietnam war, initiating a new liberalization in sexual mores and in drug use, threatening the most entrenched traditions of the middle class-and breaking, by 1968, Johnson's control of the Democratic party; nor that by the early 1970s the national economy would abruptly cease to follow its post-war course of steadily increasing prosperity.
None of this could be foreseen in 1964, and the election that year was widely read as a decisive endorsement by the voting public of the commitment of the Democratic Party to racial liberalism. The election had placed Johnson, the driving force behind the Civil Rights Act, against Goldwater, the arch-conservative, free-market avatar of an ascendant right-wing movement that had taken over control of the GOP presidential nomination process, just as Johnson had firmly aligned the Democratic party with the cause of civil rights, Goldwater represented a geographical and ideological shift for the Republican party. This shift was not only toward a new brand of sun-belt conservatism, but also toward an abandonment of the party's historical commitment to equality for blacks, a commitment dating back to the GOP of Abraham Lincoln, abolitionism, and the Civil War, and a commitment that had produced 30 percent black support for Eisenhower nationally as recently as 1956.
Goldwater, one of only eight Republican senators to cast his vote against the 1964 Civil Rights Act and representing a new strand of racial conservatism within the GOP, was crushed by Johnson. For Johnson, the November landslide signaled that the country was prepared to support a momentous expansion of the liberal welfare and regulatory state-in the form of a package of legislation known collectively as the "War on Poverty" and the "Great Society." With the Civil Rights Act and the Economic Opportunity Act already on the books in 1964, Johnson pushed through Congress a legislative agenda tilted toward the poor and toward blacks: the 1965 Voting Rights Act, Medicaid, model cities, rent supplements, and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act-legislation with significant redistributive impact, in economic as well as in broader social terms.
In the liberal, pro-civil rights atmosphere of 1964, the right-wing strategy of the Goldwater campaign was a short-term disaster. The conservative movement behind the Goldwater campaign, however, had in fact, succeeded at a level not immediately apparent to the public-by seizing control of the presidential nominating wing of the Republican Party in a revolution which placed the GOP in an optimal position to capitalize on the abrupt shift in public opinion that overtook the nation during the next four years.
The Draft Goldwater Committee used "concepts and language so harsh that they were unfit for the day-to-day operations or dialogue of American politics," wrote columnist Robert Novak (who later became a leading advocate of conservatism,) in 1964.' In fact, within just four years, the concepts and language of the failed 1964 Republican campaign became publicly accepted GOP strategy. The essential tactics devised by conservatives in the early plans to win in 1964 were, according to Novak: Policy A: Soft-pedal civil rights. While stopping short of actually endorsing racial segregation, forget all the sentimental tradition of the party of Lincoln. Because the Negro and Jewish votes are irrevocably tied to the Democrats anyway, this agnostic racial policy won't lose votes among the groups most sensitive to Negro rights. But it might work wonders in attracting
Southerners into the Republican Party, joining white Protestants in other sections of the country as hard-core Republicans. Policy 13: Assume a vigorously strong anti-Communist line.... This wouldn't lose many votes among white Protestants and might snatch enough Catholic voters away from the Democratic Party to cut down Democratic margins in the big cities. Policy C: Except for the civil rights question, stick to orthodox Republicanism on domestic issues.9
The Goldwater movement irretrievably changed the structure of the Republican presidential nomination process, and in doing so, permanently changed the party. The campaign demonstrated 1) that conservatism provided an ideological mechanism for the Republican party to appeal to whites opposed to racial integration, without the liability of being labeled racist; and 2) that race could be used to break the economic class base of the New Deal Coalition among white voters, forcing an ideological shift to the right among a group once deeply committed to the redistributive and progressive economic agenda of the New Deal.
Perhaps most important, the Goldwater campaign served as the vehicle for an ideological revolution within the Republican party. This intraparty revolution ended the domination of the pro-civil rights, northeastern wing over the presidential selection process, and thus placed the GOP in position to capitalize on the white reaction that, in the second half of the ig6os, materialized in the North as well as the South. In 1964, however, evidence of these achievements was still concentrated in the Deep South, where its larger significance went largely unrecognized.
Goldwater ran in 1964 as an ideologically doctrinaire conservative, calling for the sale of the Tennessee Valley Authority, the evisceration of the Rural Electrification Administration, a voluntary system of Social Security, and the elimination of farm subsidies. None of these principled stands on the ideological right won him any states. In fact, in those states he did carry, each one of the government programs Goldwater sought to overturn had substantial, if not overwhelming, majority support.
There was, in reality, only one issue that permitted Goldwater to carry five states in addition to his home state of Arizona: civil rights. Goldwater declared himself personally opposed to segregation, but even more deeply opposed on principle to federal intervention to end segregation. "It is wise and just for Negro children to attend the same schools as whites," Goldwater wrote in 196o, but, he added, "the federal Constitution does not require the States to maintain racially mixed schools. Despite the recent holding of the Supreme Court, I am firmly convinced-not only that integrated schools are not required-but that the Constitution does not permit any interference whatsoever by the federal government in the field of education."" In 1964, Goldwater cast his Senate vote against the Civil Rights Act.
For the white voters of the deep South, Goldwater's personal opposition to segregation was far less important than the public policies on race that grew out of his conservatism. Those southern voters responded by making Goldwater the first Republican since Reconstruction to carry the states most deeply opposed to integration: Mississippi, 87-1 percent; Alabama, 69.5 percent, South Carolina, 58.9 percent; Louisiana, 56.8 percent; and Georgia, 54. 1 percent."
Goldwater's success demonstrated that conservative ideology provided a new ' avenue for the Republican party into the South, an avenue that permitted the GOP to carry the most anti-black electorate in the nation without facing public condemnation. For a substantial segment of the white South, conservatism became a cloak with which to protect racial segregation.
At the same time, in a development that would soon have national relevance, Goldwater demonstrated that the socioeconomic class structure of the New Deal alignment in the deep South could be fractured by the issue of race. In the poorest white neighborhoods of Birmingham, the Republican vote shot up from 49 to 76 percent between 196o and 1964; in Macon, Georgia, from 36 to 71 percent; in Atlanta, from 36 to 58 percent; in Montgomery, from 45 to 73 percent; in Charleston, South Carolina, from 57 to 82 percent. In these cities, the vote among the lowest income whites, which had been 22 percentage points more Democratic than in the most affluent white precincts in 196o, became virtually indistinguishable from the vote in upscale white neighborhoods in 1964. 12
Detailed surveys conducted by the University of Michigan's Survey Research Center (SRC) suggest that these changes in class voting patterns were significant and of lasting ideological importance. The SRC data suggest that the issue of race actually produced an ideological conversion of poor southern whites from a deeply held economic liberalism to economic conservatism.
Although hostile to blacks, poor southern whites in the pre-civil rights period were among the nation's most liberal constituencies on non-racial economic issues, supportive of government intervention in behalf of full employment, improved education, and low-cost medical care. On these non-racial issues, the liberalism of poor white southerners in the 1950s was exceeded only by the nation's two most left-leaning constituencies, blacks and Jews, while such groups as Catholics, upper-status southern whites, rich and poor northern white Protestants, and border state whites were all more conservative.
By the early 1970s, poor southern whites had moved decisively to the right on these economic issues, becoming more conservative than Catholics, border state whites, and middle and lower-status white northern Protestants. On the basic issue of government intervention to protect the less well-off, poor southern whites by the 197os had become as conservative as upscale northern white Protestants, a key Republican constituency. 14 Those surveyed were native white southerners; the ideological shift did not result from an infusion of conservatism through migration from the Republican North. Southern whites had begun to link federal economic intervention with federal intervention in behalf of blacks. For native white southerners, economic liberalism became racial liberalism.
Without the underlying issue of race, the Goldwater movement would have been unable to alter fundamentally the structure of the Republican presidential nomination process, and in doing so, to transform the Republican party. The growing commitment of the Democratic party to civil rights under Kennedy and Johnson produced white defections to the GOP throughout the South, defections that were critical to the conservative take-over of the moribund Republican party structure in that region. Even more important, without race, the Goldwater campaign would have won at best only Arizona (which Goldwater took by a meager 4,782votes Out Of 480,770 cast), and the conservative revolution would have been irretrievably discredited.
For the architects of the conservative revolution within the GOP, the southern reaction to the civil rights movement was a fortuitous and unplanned development. Like Goldwater himself, the men who organized the takeover of the GOP were conservative ideologues. Determined believers in free enterprise, enemies of big government, opponents of organized labor, fervent anti-communists, critics of domestic spending, and advocates of a strong military, these men had not entered politics because of racial issues. The thirty-two prosperous businessmen, lawyers, small-town newspaper publishers, oilmen, and bankers who met in 1961 to form a right-wing cadre-working under the direction of New York political consultant F. Clifton White-were determined to purge the Republican party of liberal influence. "[11t was nothing less than a revolution that White and his colleagues were planning-the seizure of control of the Republican party by brand-new forces, based in the Midwest, the South, and the West rather than in the East and dedicated to the fast-growing cause of conservatism rather than to either liberalism or that pusillanimous cop-out called moderation," wrote William Rusher, publisher of the National Review, member of the inner core of Goldwater strategists, and one of the founding members of the emerging right-wing cadre.
It was the civil rights movement, however, that gave the conservative insurgency a wider focus, a broader target, and an enlarged constituency. On a number of complementary fronts, the civil rights revolution interacted with the conservative movement to strengthen the right-wing drive within the GOP. The first was to provide the manpower for the takeover of the weak southern Republican party organizations of the early ig6os. As the ties of the national Democratic party to the drive for black equality grew stronger, members of the southern Bourbon elite, once dominant in the local, segregationist, Democratic party, began to leave in droves to create what amounted to a white Republican party.
Evidence that the Goldwater drive was mobilizing a new breed of Republican began to surface at party gatherings. At the 1963 Republican National Committee meeting in Denver, northern Republican leaders, proud of their party's ties to Abraham Lincoln and the emancipation of the slaves midway through the Civil War, were stunned to hear southern chairman carrying on "boisterous conversation about "niggers" and "nigger lovers" wrote columnist Novak in his book, Tbe,4gony of the GOP in 1964.
At the decisively pro-Goldwater 1963 convention of Young Republicans in San Francisco, there was, according to Novak, "no doubt [the] unabashed hostility toward the Negro rights movement was fully shared by the overwhelming majority of the convention delegates. In the cocktail lounges at the Sheraton-Palace, delegates from North and South talked with a single voice on the race question.... For the Young Republicans at San Francisco, their party was now a White Man's Party."" in Memphis, Tennessee, at the same time, conservative forces wrested control of the GOP party structure from George Washington Lee, a local black leader who ran the Lincoln League, a virtually all-black local Republican party. "In about the early '6os [we] started what was called the Republican Association. Actually it was a white Republican party," recounted Jack Craddock, a conservative activist who later became Shelby County, Tennessee, GOP chairman. When the Goldwater movement was under full steam, in 1963 and 1964, "there was a real groundswell. People began to come in. We got ready to re-organize the party in late '63 or early '64. We literally had precinct caucuses in all the white precincts." Outnumbered when the Memphis party caucused, Lee took the fight all the way to the convention in San Francisco where he was voted down. "We loved it because it was all on TV. They seated our delegates. Lee sort of went fishing after that," Craddock said. "That's when the party came around. "
The leader of the southern drive to nominate Goldwater, Wirt A. Yerger, Jr., chairman of the Mississippi Republican party, was explicit in his goals for the creation of a competitive, two-party system in the South. The "overwhelming majority of Negroes are Democrats and could promise a bloc vote to Democratic candidates in Democratic primaries much more easily than they could make such an arrangement in a bi-partisan election," Yerger wrote in 1964 in The Rebel Magazine, the weekly publication of the Mississippi GOP." Yerger, in a March 11, 1964, memorandum to key Republican leaders, warned that "various civil rights [leaders], leftists and minority groups are registering several hundred voters daily in Mississippi while white conservatives stand by." To counter this threat, Yerger announced that "your Mississippi Republican party is planning a white conservative voter registration campaign.... If we want responsible conservative government in Mississippi, unregistered white conservatives must register and vote.""
The infusion of conservative white support into the southern Republican party organization functioned, in turn, to make the national party receptive to the white reaction to civil rights that began to emerge in force outside of the South within a year of the 1964 election. In contrast to the 196o Republican convention, which approved a strong civil rights plank, the 1964 GOP convention decisively rejected, by a vote of 897 to 409, an attempt to include in the party platform a strong stand in favor of civil rights.
Although Goldwater suffered one of the worst defeats in the nation's history, not all of his backers were downcast in the aftermath of the election. In South Carolina, where conservatives had demonstrated that they could break the Democratic lock on the deep South, "great rejoicing went on in the Thurmond ranks that election night," recalled Senator Strom Thurmond's political advisor, Harry S. Dent, the man who would go on to become a principal architect of Richard Nixon's southern strategy. "In the next two years, the seeds of the Republican Southern Strategy began to sprout and grow," Dent wrote. "The tree was bearing fruit. We South Carolina Republicans were now getting ready for the big coup-the White House-with this new Southern Strategy."
William Rusher, in a retrospective examination of the developments that followed upon the 1964 election, wrote:
It may seem perverse, and perhaps it is, to speak of a 'new majority' stirring in the immediate wake of a defeat as disastrous as Goldwater's was in 1964. And yet there seems no other way to describe what was happening on the American right in the years 1965-68."
The civil rights movement created, and was created by, a broader civil rights revolution that, over the four post-World War 11 decades, introduced into every aspect of American life racial, ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities that had once been relegated to the margins of American society. The expansion by the federal courts of the civil rights agenda-an agenda for which political credit, as well as responsibility, fell heavily on the Democratic party-was only one aspect of the much broader agenda setting role of the federal government. The Supreme Court of the ig6os and early 1970s, responding in part to the liberal and human rights-oriented climate of opinion emerging in the industrialized Western nations, effectively recast liberalism to include an even larger rights revolution. This revolution went beyond questions of race or ethnicity or faith; it was a revolution that sought new civil and citizenship rights for a range of previously stigmatized groups, groups often with few political supporters: criminal defendants, atheists, prisoners, homosexuals, the mentally ill, illegal aliens, publishers of pornography, and others. This revolution forced into the political arena such issues as school prayer, sexual liberation, criminal rights, abortion, deinstitutionalization, drug use, and prison reform.
Civil rights for blacks were won concomitantly with civil and human rights for other previously outcast and unprotected groups. In a series of decisions from 1957 to 1966, the Supreme Court found criminal defendants, many of them poor and black-and some clearly guilty-entitled to a new range of fundamental constitutional protections and rights. These included protections against illegally obtained evidence (Mapp v. Obio) and against self-incrimination (Malloy v. Hogan, Miranda v. Arizona); and granted defendants the right to counsel (Gideon v. Wainwrigbt, Escobedo v. Illinois), to silence (Miranda), to due process (Pointer v. Texas), and to a speedy trial (Mallory v. United States).
At the same time, as the Supreme Court was pioneering a spectrum of new rights, it was removing itself-and the state-as the bulwark and guardian of what would come to be called "traditional values." In 1962, in Engel v. Vitale, the Court barred prayer from the public schools. In 1962, in Manual Enterprises v. Day, the Court made prosecution of obscenity increasingly difficult, requiring that such material violate "community standards of decency"; in 1964, in Jacobellis v. Obio, the Court made obscenity prosecution still more difficult, requiring proof that such material be "utterly without redeeming social importance." In 1965, in Griswold v. Connecticut, the Court handed down a decision recognizing a right to sexual privacy, legalizing the sale of contraceptive devices, and clearing the way for the widespread distribution of the recently invented birth control pill.
Just as the Supreme Court was issuing opinions provocative to socially and culturally conservative voters, and destabilizing to traditional power relations, it was also handing down decisions that dramatically weakened the political power of rural counties, a bastion of social conservatism. In Baker v. Carr (1962), and in a series of subsequent decisions, the Court instituted a major expansion of judicial authority over what had been legislative prerogative, ruling that the previously independent authority of state legislatures to draw their own districts was subject to strict "one man, one-vote" standards.
While altering the balance of power between urban and rural constituencies, the Supreme Court granted new license to newspapers and television to adopt adversarial journalistic stands toward public officials and towards local power structures. The media, which during the years of civil rights protest came to be seen increasingly as siding with the forces of insurgency, gained new authority to scrutinize and criticize public officials, as the Court, in The New York Times Co. v. Sullivan in 1964, established the standard of so-called "actual malice"-independent of truth or falsehood-in cases seeking to collect damages for the libel of public figures.
The Court as a driving force in the promulgation of an expanded rights-oriented liberalism reached the culmination of its political influence in two cases of the early 1970s: asserting, in 1972, the preeminence of the federal government by overturning in Furman v. Georgia state capital punishment laws; and ruling illegal, in Roe v. Wade in 1973, all state prohibitions against abortion. It was the decision in Roe that led over the next fifteen years to the mobilization behind the Republican party of millions of fundamentalist and evangelical Christians voters.
The Supreme Court of the 196os and 197os became, in effect, a dynamic force, thrusting a network of highly controversial issues to the forefront of the political agenda. In doing so, the Court placed the Democratic party in an increasingly ambiguous position. Largely through its commitment to civil rights-of which the rights of blacks were the primary focus-the Democratic party became the defender of an expanded network of broader rights established in a sequence of far-reaching decisions by the federal bench.
Unlike the original civil rights movement, which resulted in the full-scale conversion of blacks to the Democratic party, the rulings of the Supreme Court in behalf of defendants' rights and abortion rights-and against school prayer and the death penalty-functioned to mobilize many more citizen activists on the conservative than on the liberal side of these divisive issues. The Court-led agenda in the long run, while providing overdue rights to large numbers of disfranchised citizens, contained significant costs for the national Democratic party, and became a major mobilizing tool for an ascendant Republican party.