You wouldn’t think we need to lay this out, but based on repeated erroneous comments I’ve received from conservatives over the years on this topic, here we go.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed by a coalition of both Democratic and Republican members of Congress, but it was ultimately signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson, a Democrat.
Civil Rights Act Passed Congress With A Majority Vote From Both Parties
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (H.R. 7152) was introduced in the House of Representatives by a Democrat, Emanuel Celler of New York on June 20, 1963.
A majority of Democrats voted for the bill in the House.
152 – 96
A majority of Republicans voted for the bill in the House.
More Democrats than Republicans voted for the bill (Democrats had the majority), but a higher percentage of Republicans supported it (80% of Republicans versus 61% of Democrats).
In the Senate, a majority of Democrats and Republicans voted for cloture and eventual passage.
A majority of Democrats voted for the bill in the Senate.
A majority of Republicans voted for the bill in the Senate.
The strongest concentration of opposition to the bill in both the House and Senate was from the South, particularly among southern conservative Democrats.
In the House, 93% of Southern Democrats (87) and 100% of Southern Republicans (10) voted against passage. In the Senate, 95% of Southern Democrats (20 votes) opposed the law and the 1 Southern Republican (Sen. John Tower, Texas) voted against Civil Rights.
A Democratic President Signed The Civil Rights Act
Lyndon Johnson, Democrat, signed the Civil Rights Act into law. He was joined at the signing ceremony by Martin Luther King, Jr. The claim that Johnson said, “I’ll have them niggers voting Democratic for the next two hundred years” is apocryphal and is disputed by those who served with Johnson. He definitely used racial slurs, but he also was an advocate for passage of civil rights, after pressure exerted by Dr. King and others.
What Happened To The Black Vote?
Black votes had already been trending towards the Democrats before Johnson signed the law. Democratic Party registration among black voters went from 40% in 1944 to 58% in 1964. That skyrocketed to 82% by 1964. Blacks have always voted overwhelmingly for the Democratic nominee for President, even when the party affiliation numbers were even. In 1944, when the black electorate was 40% Democratic, 40% Republican and 21% Independent, President Roosevelt received 68% of the black vote. After 1964 those numbers became even more lopsided, with Johnson receiving 94% of the black vote in 1964. It took until Barack Obama’s elections in 2008 and 2012 for the numbers to be that lopsided again, and it should be remembered that George W. Bush got 11% of the black vote in 2004.
Conclusion: Where We Stand Now
In an ideal world, we would still have liberal Republicans as part of the party who were key to bill’s passage. But in the conservative revolution that has roiled the GOP from 1964-present, there are no liberal Republicans left, and only a few (Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins) that you could make the slight argument that they are “moderate.”
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