In a recent column in the Gazette-Times, Paul deLespinasse unfairly and incorrectly stated that the Republican Party became the heir to the Democrats' platform of promoting racism in this country after the Democrats turned away from that position. That is, very simply, not true.
Mr. deLespinasse states (correctly) that numerous Southern Democrats, their bigotry finally disavowed by their party, sought a new political home among the Republicans, whose other beliefs were more consistent with their own. That's true enough, but, just as a church would always welcome a sinner seeking his personal path to God, the Republicans welcomed these former Democrats — but told them to leave their racism at the door. Love the sinner, hate the sin.
Nixon's so-called "Southern Strategy"? It entailed wooing discontented Democrats with a conservative message stressing states' rights, smaller government, law and order, and no busing — but no racism, no segregation. This message resonated with some, but many more Democrats heard the siren song of (former Democrat) George Wallace and his segregationist American Independent Party. Wallace carried five Deep South states in the 1968 presidential election, and it was with him that the racists found succor, not within the Republican ranks. Nixon supported both the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, and introduced the first Affirmative Action plan in 1970.
Prior to this diaspora of Democrats, which brought many into their ranks, the GOP never once supported, or advocated for, segregation, discrimination, or Jim Crow. Since that time, and to the very day this appears in print, they still have not done so, and I don't anticipate they ever will.
When, from time to time, bigots like David Duke have attempted to seek political office under the Republican banner, the response from the GOP has been absolute repudiation, even suggesting to the base that they should vote for the Democrat in the race. Mr. deLespinasse's statement that "the two parties' positions on civil rights have now been completely reversed" is a blatant falsehood. The Democrats certainly reversed theirs; the Republicans' remains unchanged from the days of Lincoln.
We are further told that just the "liberal wing" of the Republican Party supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Really? In 1964, the Republicans nominated Barry Goldwater for president, so, obviously, the "liberal wing" would not be considered dominant, or even ascendant, at that time. How is Mr. deLespinasse's claim to be reconciled, then, with the fact that 80% of House Republicans voted in favor of the Civil Rights Act and 82% for the Voting Rights Act? The Senate numbers were 82% and 97% respectively and, in all instances, the Republican percentages were higher than the comparable Democrat numbers.
And the "gutting" of the Voting Rights Act laid at the feet of Republicans? Passing state laws designed to hold down minority voting? How can those claims be upheld in light of the fact that Black voter turnout has gone from 42.5% in the 1990 midterm election to 51.4% in 2018? What about Georgia, where the Black turnout in 2018 exceeded 60% — higher than the white percentage?
A columnist's work should certainly reflect his own opinion and ideas — no dispute whatsoever on that. But what is presented in the form of a statement of fact, not opinion, should be exactly and only that — certain, verifiable fact, not revisionist history slanted toward a specific perspective.
I am not a Republican. If I were, however, I would feel rather strongly that Mr. deLespinasse had grievously insulted me and, in so doing, had done a great disservice to readers of this newspaper.
John Brenan lives in Corvallis.
Get local news delivered to your inbox!
Subscribe to our Daily Headlines newsletter.