Dems need to learn how to play the game of political nastiness if they want to counter the Republican tide of the past few decades. At the very least they will need to learn to remind Republicans, continually, that there was such a thing as a southern strategy, and that this really did represent the Republican party’s voluntary renunciation of the honor of being the heirs to “the party of Lincoln,” and that it was Democratic willingness to take on the segregationist wing of their party that drove the major civil rights bills of the 1960s. With all due respect to my political science colleague at Poliblog, it is emphatically not to miss the point to focus on these facts, facts that are within the living memory of my parents’ generation.
Apparently not. While it’s certainly true that successive Democrat presidents were leaders in getting the legislation passed, Southern Democrats were the main opponents. The legislative record is easy enough to access (a 20 second Google search sufficed):
The House of Representatives debated the bill for nine days and rejected nearly one hundred amendments designed to weaken the bill before passing H.R .7152 on February 10, 1964. Of the 420 members who voted, 290 supported the civil rights bill and 130 opposed it. Republicans favored the bill 138 to 34; Democrats supported it 152-96. It is interesting to note that Democrats from northern states voted overwhelmingly for the bill, 141 to 4, while Democrats from southern states voted overwhelmingly against the bill, 92 to 11. A bipartisan coalition of Republicans and northern Democrats was the key to the bill’s success. . . .
Senator Richard Russell, Democrat from Georgia, led the so-called opposition forces. The group was also known as the “southern bloc.” It was composed of eighteen southern Democrats and one Republican, John Tower of Texas. Although a hopeless minority, the group exerted much influence because Senate rules virtually guaranteed unlimited debate unless it was ended by cloture. The “southern bloc” relied on the filibuster to postpone the legislation as long as possible, hoping that support for civil rights legislation throughout the country would falter. The Democratic leadership and Humphrey could not control the southern wing of the party.
There you have it.