Virginia Foxx and the GOP civil rights champions of yore – Today, she’d know them as RINOs

“They love to engage in revisionist history,” Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) said on the floor of the U.S. Congress, Nov. 19.  She was referring to Democrats as she had risen to speak in opposition to an environmental protection measure intended to safeguard a 21-mile segment of Molalla River in Oregon.  As she spoke, Foxx set about some blatant revisionism of her own.

Foxx’s began her objection with the bizarre suggestion that the GOP had been the champion of “good” environmental protection laws.  Had she stopped there, her floor speech would have justifiably been dismissed as a bit of irony.  Instead, Foxx went on to perpetuate the misconception that Republicans were also the champions of civil rights legislation in the 1960s, amid fervent obstruction from Democrats.

Upon the completion of Foxx’s remarks, she was passionately rebuked by Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-CA).  “I can’t believe my ears,” Cardoza said, and went on to assign credit for the Civil Rights Act (1964) and the Voting Rights Act (1965) to the efforts to the Democratic administration of Lyndon B. Johnson.

Here is video of the exchange on the House floor from the Nov. 19 post on the subject. (continued below the clip)

While Cardoza’s assessment was factually correct and his tone appropriate, his rebuke of Foxx would have been strengthened by informing her that the Republican Party of which she spoke no longer exists.  Indeed, the Republicans whose votes were vital to passing civil rights legislation in the 1960s would be derided as RINOs – Republicans in Name Only – by Foxx and like minded, right-wing ideologues of today’s GOP.

That conservatives have sought to maintain this myth is nothing new.  Paul von Hipple addressed it in a 2005 post responding to a taxpayer funded “Republican Freedom Calendar” which presented a one-sided representation of their Party’s historic role as advocates of civil rights.  The evidence employed to prop up this argument relies upon the higher proportion of GOP votes for the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

It’s a far too narrow interpretation of history, as von Hipple indicated in his 2005 post:

In fact, Congressional votes on the Civil Rights Act did not break along party lines – they split along regional lines. In the North, both parties supported the Civil Rights Act; in the South, both parties opposed it. The difference was that the Republican Party had very little presence in the South, which had been dominated since the 1870s by the segregationist wing of the Democratic Party.

This period marks a historical turning point for both political parties.  President Johnson and liberal Northern Democrats were ill prepared for the Southern white backlash that followed the passage of civil rights legislation.  Of course, the legislation wasn’t the only factor, but it was during this time that the Democratic Party set on a path to shedding its racist elements.  In doing so, Democrats lost the political grip on the South it had held since the Great Depression.

The path chosen by the Republicans was altogether different.  Interestingly, the GOP underwent a schism, not unlike the one presently in progress.

Republican conservatives, sympathetic to the racist backlash among Southern whites, made their first political inroads in the South around this time.  The most significant evidence for this trend was the GOP’s 1964 presidential nomination of Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater.

Before Goldwater’s nomination, the GOP’s regional strength was based in the American North-East.  Their party leaders were inclined to support government investment in infrastructure.  Having been decimated during their initial struggle against Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal (which they decried as “socialist,” sound familiar?) a moderate GOP persisted as a minority party, seeking to improve FDR’s legislation rather than rail against it.

Goldwater lost to LBJ in 1964, but having won his home state and four other Southern states in the contest, the GOP’s course was set.  They abandoned their moderate positions — the mantle of which Foxx is presently attempting to claim — in pursuit of the racially divisive “Southern Strategy.”

This political strategy was neatly summarized by Sidney Blumenthal in a 2003 post:

With the coming of the civil rights revolution, Democratic presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson deployed the federal government to support social equality. In reaction, Republicans — from Barry Goldwater to Richard Nixon to Ronald Reagan — developed a Southern strategy to win over white voters in the region who felt betrayed. That strategy involved using widely understood code words going back to the Civil War like “states’ rights,” an updating of the well-worn strategy of Southern reactionaries to demagogue on race in order to keep poor and working-class whites divided from blacks on issues of common interest. Thus the party of Lincoln became the party of Reagan.

Indeed, Reagan’s ascendency is instructive.  His rise was facilitated by the GOP’s rejection of its moderate voices.  Just as Foxx mistakenly claimed the civil rights mantle on Nov. 19, Reagan did also.   Yet his true feelings were betrayed by his policies and rhetoric.

From the above mentioned von Hibble Alternet post:

…Ronald Reagan, in his 1966 campaign to become governor of California, endorsed repeal of California’s Fair Housing Act, saying, “If an individual wants to discriminate against Negroes or others in selling or renting his house, it is his right to do so.”

Similarly, Foxx’s own statements over the past year illustrate her departure from the moderate positions of the kinder, gentler GOP of yore.  She has more than made herself clear regarding the present-day civil rights issues, most notably in debates over the rights of homosexuals and health care reform.

My Care2 colleague Tracy Viselli understandably called for Foxx’s apology or resignation following her slanderous comments about Matthew Sheppard on the House floor while debating the hate crime legislation that bares his name.  More recently, Viselli , rightly, took issue with Foxx’s declaration that the present health care reform proposals pose a bigger threat to America than “any terrorist from any country.”  Add to this Foxx’s 2006 vote, along with 33 other Republicans, opposing the extension of the Voters Rights Act, and it becomes clear that any claim of civil rights advocacy exists only in her mind.

Further, these outrageous examples of Foxx’s true beliefs plainly illustrate that the North Carolina congresswoman has absolutely nothing in common with the Republicans who helped advance  the cause of civil rights in the 1960s.  Rather, Foxx is just another product of the cynical GOP which prospered by exploiting the societal divisions left after their passing.

Related on Care2:

~ Judy Shepard:  Grace in the Face of Foxx

Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution Act; Rep. Virginia Foxx


Lilith Graves
Lilith Graves8 years ago

Thanks for the info.

Roger C.
Roger C.8 years ago

We must remember, Republicans weren't always like they are now. Nor were Dems. Both parties have changed, in 150 years. Civil Rights was enacted by a Massachusetts Dem & a Texas Dem, with the help of Dirksen, a Republican. Nixon created the EPA, normally a Dem consideration. Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican, created the National Park system. Dems must remember this.
Republicans should remember this, too, when they create their 'loyalty oaths'.

Lee Ellen B.
Lee Ellen B8 years ago

I rarely advocate violence of any kind.....but someone needs to SLAP this woman! (Like you would hit a person who is hysterical.) It is clear she needs to be brought back to reality!

Reagan hated poor people of any color. He thought they were the scourge of the earth, as is evidenced in this article. It was just the beginning of the "RICH folks have more rights" movement that this woman and her ilk embody. 'Trickle down,' my a$$! (We all know what runs DOWN HILL!)

Joyce M.
Sandra D8 years ago

Yea, Robert W. and where is your moral outrage at human trafficking and 5-year-old murder? I'll bet you and your right-wing ilk will not be out in front of anywhere giving a voice for her. You just care about a fetus--something you can have little effect upon--you don't really have to do anything. A five-year old actually would require some care or that you might actually have to do something if you saw her abused. You are so concerned with sticking your nose into other people's business about what a woman should or should not do with her own body or what two consenting adults do together. You're a man--let me say it again--NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS! What skeletons are hiding in YOUR closet? As a child in grammar school, we always used to say, "Fox smells his own hole first"!

Susan P.
.8 years ago

Once again, for those who still have not gotten it yet. Had it not been for Theodore Roosevelt, we would not have a national parks' system and all the land contained within those parks would be owned by the rich.

Aaron Pendell
Aaron Pendell8 years ago

Amen, Mary Hunt. :)

Mary Hunt
Mary Hunt8 years ago

Well Robert W., you got me. I'm a democrat, I'm prochoice and I oppose discriminating against people who happen to be gay or lesbian. Foolish me. I don't even believe in discriminating against narrow minded Republicans.

Robert W.
Robert W.8 years ago

Oh yes, and the mighty demos are also champions of infant murder (abortion) and anti family values homosexual rights.

Mary Hunt
Mary Hunt8 years ago

It is true that Nixon did some good things environmentally speaking as bad as he was in other ways. He supported the Clean Air and Water Act as well beginning the EPA, however he is the last Republican with a good environmental record. George W. Bush had the worst environmental record since Theodore Roosevelt. He used Executive Orders extensively to wipe out past progress and do massive damage to environmental causes. And yes, southern democrats did not support civil rights. In fact most of the south turned Republican because of the civil rights laws passed during LBJ's administration. That being said, an overview of history shows that the Democrats generally have a much better record with respect to both issues and certainly the last 30 years demonstrate that. Rex J. got it right. Republicans never let the facts get in the way of their ideology or the truth, at least not those on the right. Increasingly, most Republicans are on the right.

Lloyd H8 years ago

So it has been at least 39 years since a sitting Repugnican President actually did something right, and considering it was Dick 'If the President does it, it is legal' Nixon. That says nothing about the current Repugnican party forming a Triad with the Christian Taliban of America and Corporate Plutocrats to subvert the Constitution of the US and restrict certain Rights - LIfe, Liberty, the Persuit of Happiness, and Freedom of Religion to only those above a certain income, of a particular religious belief, sexual preference, or political party adherence. And yet they are the ones to squeal like stuck lipstick wearing pigs about others infringing on their rights to make obscene profits, enforce their Christian Sharia as law and practice their politics of hypocrisy at the expence of thousands of lives every year,the loss of freedoms based on not conforming to their concept normal and acceptable and the loss of any chance to pursue happines due to insufficeint funds, holding the wrong religious or political ideologies. One must give them credit for being able to liars, fear mongers and complete hypocrits and sociopaths standing on the necks of others while filling their pockets with money and still be able to sing the parises of 'Liberty and Justice for All', that makes the Founding Fathers vomit in their graves.