This L.A. Times story highlights Republican efforts to beat Obama in North Carolina. Specifically, the story focuses on the Lee County GOP and its strategy to woo Latino voters into voting for Romney. Lee GOP front man Charles Staley predictably blames the media for creating the impression that the GOP is anti-Latino (I suppose the Republican assault on Latino immigrants in recent years had nothing to do with that impression), and then gives us this little tidbit of revisionist history:
“Lyndon Baines Johnson gets in there, there’s riots in the streets, so they decide, we need to keep these black people in their place,” Staley said. “So, well, one way we can do it is to form this Great Society and make sure everybody gets some money and if they get in trouble, we’ll stop giving them money. That was the foundation of what we call social services. Up unto that point, the black population voted Republican.”
Really? Does he know he just said that out loud? Social services are just a big liberal plot to "keep these black people in their place." What a racist point of view. He is basically saying that blacks don't think for themselves, or if they do, then they are easily duped and bought. In Staley's attempt to be magnanimous to Latinos, he deeply insults blacks.
He is also ignoring the impact of history. It was the Democratic Party which gave us the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as a legion of white racists stood in the way. The deep-seated racism in the South, leftovers from the days of slavery and the Confederate defeat, was reinforced time and again by the conservative arm of the Democratic Party. This is more a product of geography than partisanship, but if you wish to hammer the party politics issue, then you have to realize that, because of the Civil Rights Act, Democrats like Strom Thurmond switched parties. The Democratic Party had become too liberal for its conservative racists, so they switched sides. It didn't happen overnight (nothing in politics does), but it happened. And, it happened not because of social programs, but because of civil rights.
Where does Staley get his silly beliefs? I think I know. A major conservative publication, The National Review, published this article in May of this year. About 2 weeks later, Slate Magazine published a scathing rebuttal by Alex Pareene. Republicans will tell you that all you need to read is "the truth." I encourage you to read both sides. History only happened one way, however. Pareene's article sets the record straight. He correctly notes, "Both parties at the time had liberal and conservative wings, and in each of those parties it was the liberal wing that was right on civil rights." That's a distinction worth noting.
I'd love to talk about how Latinos who vote Republican are acting against their own self-interests. I'd love to point out that Staley is naive to think that simply being able to speak Spanish means Latinos will vote his way. But, Staley's comments revealed a deep misunderstanding of history he himself lived through(!), and that misunderstanding leads him to a very low view indeed of black Americans.