Elizabeth Best wrote recently to praise Republicans for supporting the 14th Amendment, which was passed in 1868. The Republican Party in the 19th Century was the abolitionist party that opposed slavery, and continued promoting civil rights and the expansion of suffrage (including women) over the century that followed.

But that all changed in the 1970s when the Republican Party reversed course and adopted “the Southern Strategy.” Republican leaders noticed that a deep split had emerged in the Democratic Party between the solid South segregationists, and the northern liberals who supported Hubert Humphrey.

The Southern Strategy suggested that if the Republican Party turned its back on its abolitionist roots and started opposing civil rights, it could capture the South. The Republicans chose a candidate in 1964 for president that had voted against the Civil Rights Act. Gradually, over the next twenty years, the South metamorphosed to solid Republican.

The strategy was immensely successful. For the next several decades the Republican Party could count on the deep south every election, even without heavy campaigning.

The party has not done much to broaden its appeal. In recent years it has engaged in a campaign to pass election laws at the state level that are designed to suppress the registration, turnout and vote of minorities that traditionally support the Democrats.

In the last six years 30 Republican-controlled states have adopted various provisions designed to disenfranchise Blacks and Hispanics. The Democrats have fought back in court. It’s easy enough to establish the existence of these provisions since the legal codes of the states are public documents, they are in print, the laws have appeared recently, and are often carbon copies of each other.

Elizabeth praises the Republicans for supporting the 1868 14th Amendment enabling Blacks to vote. That was then, this is now!

Mickey McGuire, Tracy

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