(A BALLSY HISS-STORY OF THE “BAGGERS” AND OTHER LOONY TUNE MOVEMENTS)
( Pt. 3: CIVIL RIGHTS, CIVIL WRONGS, CIVIL RUMPS)
By 1948, the country had changed a lot from what it had been a couple of decades earlier.
The U.S. (and the world) had endured a decade long depression, followed immediately by a world war that left an entire continent and numerous nations elsewhere crushed and broken.
The U.S. had gone from a mostly rural, isolationist regional power to the preeminent world power, due primarily to its undamaged infrastructure.
1948, itself, was a year of changes:
- In January, Gandhi was assassinated;
- In February, The Communist Party seized control of Czechoslovakia;
- In March, the Supreme Court ruled religious instruction in schools violated the U.S. Constitution;
- In April, President Truman signed the Marshall Plan, pumping $6 billion into European recovery. (That’s about $54,300,000,000 in today’s moolah.);
- In May, Israel declared its independence;
- In June, the first astronaut (a monkey named Albert I) was launched from White Sands, NM, and the Berlin Blockade began;
- In July, President Truman signed Executive Order 9981, ending racial segregation in the armed forces and the Democrats held their national convention.
And, that last little tidbit (the Democratic National Convention) is what brings us to ’48.
Once upon a time the South was solidly Democratic. (That’s “big D”, not “little d”. It was definitely not “little d”.) Once upon a time the Republican Party was the liberal party (party of Lincoln and all that) and the Democrats were the troglodytes.
That slowly changed over the years. The Democrats got smarter and the Republicans got dumber. (Or greedier, depending on your values).
The Republicans became primarily the “money” party of big business and the Democrats tried to be all things to all people (depending on where you lived). This is not to say that “money” didn’t buy more than a few Democrats (it still does) or that all Republicans were insensitive to average Americans. (The moderates hadn’t been pushed out of the party yet.)
On the political front, 1948 was not looking good for the Democrats.
In 1946, the Republicans had taken control of both houses and the majority of Governorships by campaigning against Harry Truman.
Many liberals in the party were dissatisfied with Truman and split to form the Progressive Party.
And, while the South was still rock solid Democratic, their Dems weren’t on the same wavelength as the rest of the party. While the rest of the Democrats (and the rest of the country) were moving forward in racial relations, the Southern Dems were still defending their Jim Crow laws.
The Jim Crow laws were enacted as whites regained control of southern government after Reconstruction. They were the basis of the disenfranchisement of blacks and “separate but equal” segregation. “Separate but equal”, doesn’t sound too bad, but it’s really akin to “fair and balanced” in that both are bald face lies.
All this came to a head in the Philadelphia convention.
Hubert Humphrey, who was then mayor of Minneapolis, led the fight to insert a civil rights plank in the Democratic Platform. Even proposing to give equal rights to them “damn niggers” was just too much for the Southern contingent, so they stormed out of the convention. (Actually, they just walked out, but “stormed out” sounds so much more dramatic.)
Their next move was to set up their own party: the States Rights Democratic Party (aka “Dixiecrat Party”).
Make no mistake about it, the “states’ rights” they were championing were the rights to discriminate and oppress as they damn well pleased.
Their platform read in part: “We stand for the segregation of the races and the racial integrity of each race; the constitutional right to choose one’s associates; to accept private employment without governmental interference, and to learn one’s living in any lawful way. We oppose the elimination of segregation, the repeal of miscegenation statutes, the control of private employment by Federal bureaucrats called for by the misnamed civil rights program. We favor home-rule, local self-government and a minimum interference with individual rights.”
After reading this, it struck me how recent it sounds. Then I remembered. Most of it could have come straight out of a Paul speech. (Ron or Rand – take your pick.)
The Dixiecraps (er…crats) chose South Carolina Governor Strom Thurman as their standard barer and Mississippi Governor Fielding Wright as Veep.They then attempted to usurp the regular Democratic ticket on the southern state ballots, hoping to force the election into the House of Representatives, where they thought they’d get their way.
To this end they did manage to replace the Democratic ticket in South Carolina and Mississippi (surprise, surprise) as well as Alabama and Louisiana. In the rest of the south, they had to run as a 3rd party (which they were).
Unfortunately for them (fortunately for the rest of us) their grand plan fizzled. They ended up getting 1,175,930 votes (2.4%) and carrying Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina, which along with an electoral vote in Tennessee gave them a grand total of 39.By comparison, the Republican ticket (Tom Dewey and Earl Warren) got 21,991,292 votes (45.1%), carried 14 states and received 189 electoral votes.
Thus ended the States Rights Democratic Party, but not the “Dixiecrat movement”. Southern politics was about to change horses (but they were still heading up a box canyon).
Another “states rights” party reared its ugly head in 1958. This one was called the National States Rights Party. As with the original, “states rights” was code for “keep the darkie down”.
Mr. Stoner deserves a sidebar. Hell, if I were scribbling this post back then, he’d get pages. But, he’s dead (2005) and gone and not missed a damn bit, so I’ll just hit the lowlights.
- Prior to running the party, Mr. Stoner, had rechartered a KKK chapter in Chattanooga at the tender age of 18.
- In 1958, despite his party duties, he still found time to bomb Birmingham’s Bethel Baptist Church. He was convicted in 1980 and after “taking it on the lam”, he was caught and served 3 1/2 years in prison.
- He stalked Martin Luther King just prior to Dr. King’s assassination and then served as a lawyer for James Earl Ray, the man convicted of the assassination.
- In 1970, J.B. ran for governor of Georgia. The self-proclaimed “candidate of love” said that he thought Hitler was too moderate. He also said that being a Jew should be a crime punishable by death and that black people were an extension of the ape family. He was beaten in the primary by Jimmy Carter, but he got 40,000 Georgia votes.
- To his credit(?), he did win a free speech fight with the FCC. He was allowed to say “nigger” in his campaign commercials.
In 1960, the party held a “secret convention” and nominated Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus for President. (If that name rings a bell, you’re either old or you pay attention to American history.)
The one thing Governor Faubus is famous for is for calling out the Arkansas National Guard to stop the integration of Little Rock’s Central High School. Unfortunately for the Governor, President Eisenhower pulled rank on him by nationalizing the guard and sending them home. Ike then sent in the 101st Airborne Division to protect the black students. The Governor responded by shutting down Little Rock’s high schools for the 58-59 school year. This became known as Little Rock’s “lost year”.
Obviously, Orval wasn’t elected President. He received 44,984 votes nationwide (.07% or 7 out of every 10,000 votes cast.
Kennedy (the Catholic) got 34,220,984 votes. (The entire “Know Nothing” movement simultaneously rolled over in their graves.) Nixon (the Crook) was an also ran at 34,108,157 votes. (Sadly, he’d return to torment us later.)
Needless to say, this wasn’t the horse that the South changed to, but it managed to limp along into the 70’s.
THE SHIT HITS THE FAN! (But first, a bit of prologue)
It’s 1964 and there’s a southerner in the Oval Office.
That “damn Boston Catholic” got shot down in Texas by the mob, or by Castro’s men, or the CIA, or the FBI, or the KGB, or Woody Harrelson’s dad, or some sap suckered into it by some southern “businessmen”. Or somebody, anyway.
We’ll never really ever know. Too many political careers depended on the “Warren Whitewash” with its “magic bullet theory” being accepted. (To history and conspiracy buffs, Arlan Specter’s name will pop up real quick.)
The “magic bullet” for those who are wondering, referred to the theory that a single bullet had entered through Kennedy’s back, exited through his throat and then struck John Connally.There are more than a few problems with this scenario:
- For starters, Oswald supposedly shot Kennedy from the 6th floor of the Texas School Book Depository. I’m not sure what the height of each floor was, but let’s go with 10 feet. So, that would mean that counting window height, the shot was fired from at least 53 – 54 feet off the ground.
Therefore the bullet entry point had to be higher than the exit point. Now, anatomy wasn’t my favorite subject (OK, female anatomy was, but I’m not talking about that.) but I seem to recall that the back is lower than the neck.
- The bullet then supposedly struck Connally in the back, broke a rib, exited his chest and shattered his wrist and then a fragment lodged in his thigh, thus causing seven wounds in the two men. So, the bullet went through 15 layers of clothing, 7 layers of skin, about 15 inches of tissue, struck a necktie knot, broke a rib, and shattered a radius bone. The “bullet” was later found on a gurney at the hospital after the assassination. As part of its “magic”, the bullet (CE 399) was intact with no blood or tissue on it. The bullet’s nose was normal and the tail had been compressed laterally. That begs a couple of questions: How did it manage to do all that and emerge (on the gurney?) with no blood, tissue or damage? And, where did the fragments found in Kennedy, Connally and the limo come from? Before you ask, yes they did do a ballistics check on the bullet and it was fired from Oswald’s rifle. The question is WHEN WAS THAT BULLET FIRED?
- In 1978, a Neutron Activation Analysis (NAA) was performed on the bullet and the various fragments from Connally’s wrist, Kennedy’s head wound and limousine fragments. They all didn’t match. They seem to have come from different bullets.
Let me state that I am not a conspiracy nut. I really have no idea who did it or why they did it. But I know bullshit when I smell it. And this stinks to high heaven.
If you want to get into it, a good place to start would be this wikipedia link. If you want to dig further than that, follow their links to the original sources. (Warren Commission Report, FBI files, expert testimony, etc.)
OK, back to the topic of today’s tirade.
Before he died, Kennedy had introduced civil rights legislation that promptly got bottled up in the House Rules Committee by it’s Southern chairman and was essentially declared “DOA”.
After his death, the segregationist bloc in congress felt a bit safer. Kennedy was gone, the bill bottled up and there was a Texan in the Oval Office.
And then, everything changed.
In his first address to congress, after becoming president, Johnson told the legislators “No memorial oration or eulogy could more eloquently honor President Kennedy’s memory than the earliest possible passage of the civil rights bill for which he fought so long.”
Kennedy was an idealist, Johnson was a pragmatist. Having been Senate Majority Leader, Johnson knew which arms to twist and which asses to kick into line to get what he wanted. And, he wanted the bill passed and he wanted it passed NOW! It required a few procedural tricks, but they got it out of committee, passed by the house, and sent to the senate.
There, the new majority leader, Mike Mansfield, executed another trick or two to bypass the Senate Judiciary Committee and it’s Mississippi chairman. Instead of dieing in another committee, the bill was sent straight to the Senate floor for debate.
The “Southern Bloc” of 19 senators, led by Richard Russell of Georgia, launched a filibuster that lasted 57 working days. Strom Thurman (you remember him) blasted the legislation. “This so-called Civil Rights Proposals, which the President has sent to Capitol Hill for enactment into law, are unconstitutional, unnecessary, unwise and extend beyond the realm of reason. This is the worst civil-rights package ever presented to the Congress and is reminiscent of the Reconstruction proposals and actions of the radical Republican Congress.”
On June 10, 1964, after Richard Byrd finished delivering a 14 hour, 13 minute filibustering address (and while the Rolling Stones were recording “12 X 5” in Chicago) the Senate leadership finally dug up the 67 votes needed for cloture. (Now, they can hardly ever even find 60.)
Nine days later on June 19, 1964, the Senate passed the final version of the Act, which was signed by President Johnson on July 2, 1964. LBJ’s Civil Rights Signing Speech.
THAT DID IT! That damn Democratic Congress and that damn Democratic Texas turncoat could no longer be trusted. Meanwhile on the other (Republican) side of the street, Barry Goldwater (“In your heart, you know he’s right” or if you were a Democrat: “In your guts, you know he’s nuts”) was making sympathetic sounds.
(Before I continue, in the spirit of full disclosure, I should tell you that Barry is one of my political heroes. Those of you who have read a few of my posts know my general opinion of most politicians (leaches), but now and then there are some I actually admire. Barry is one of three Republicans who make that list, along with Fred Thompson and former Oregon Governor Tom McCall. Not that I agree with most of the political positions of either Barry or Senator Thompson. In fact, quite the opposite. However, both seemed to possess that political rarity – integrity. In Governor McCall’s case, I would be hard pressed to find points of disagreement. However, in today’s Republican party, McCall would be a dinosaur (and a pariah). He was a MODERATE! Also, in disclosure, there is a very loose connection with Barry and I had the privilege and pleasure of knowing and working with Governor McCall. Of course, I’ve worked with Bill O’Reilly as well. However, that was neither a privilege nor a pleasure. Senator Fred, I’ve never met, but would love to.)
Sidetrack over, back to the main path:
Goldwater’s Presidential campaign was heavy on “states’ rights”. However, in this case “states’ rights” wasn’t a cover for racism (at least to Barry). Goldwater had a history of supporting civil rights legislation. He had voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 because he felt it was an intrusion of the federal government into the affairs of states and interfered with the rights of citizens to do business with whoever they chose. The South liked what it saw and thought it heard. Maybe, just maybe, this kind of Republican was more their style than those damn Dems.
In the election, Goldwater was the first Republican to win the Deep South (Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina). Unfortunately, the only other state he carried was his own (Arizona) and he lost in a landslide.But, the transition had begun.
(A quick note as I end this episode: This was originally supposed to be a four-parter. However as I researched, I quickly discovered that there were a lot more American loony tune movements than I had realized. And, believe me, I’m just covering a miniscule fraction of them.
This section was supposed to cover WWII to the beginning of the Obama hype machine. But it’s already quite long and I haven’t even hit 1968 yet. Therefore, I’m going to cut it here.
Next time I’ll cover the 1968 Democratic Convention/Anti-War Protest/Chicago Police Riot; the rise and demise of the American Independent Party; Ross Perot and a few other choice tidbits.
p.s.: If my ramblings don’t revolt you, I’ve got a FaceBook page (“Grouchy’s Grumbles”) you might enjoy. Better yet, you might “like” it. It’s free (and worth every cent) and almost completely painless (other than the usual bad jokes).