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Posts Tagged ‘Historia de Estados Unidos’

imagesPaco Ignacio Taibo II es un prolifero escritor mexicano que combina muy bien la ficción (especialmente, la novela negra) y la narrativa histórica. Creador del genial investigador Belascoarán Shayne, Taibo II es autor  de un número impresionante de libros donde aborda temas de historia mexicana y latinoamericana en general. Destacan dos obras biográficas monumentales: Ernesto Guevara, también conocido como el Che (1996) y  Pancho Villa: una biografía narrativa (2006), donde enfoca dos figuras claves de la historia latinoamericana del siglo XX. Con una fuerte tendencia antisistema, no debe sorprender que Taibo II haya dedicado tiempo al rescate y análisis del movimiento anarco sindicalismo español con obras como Asturias 1934 (1980), Arcángeles: doce historias de revolucionarios herejes del siglo XX (1998) y Que sean fuego las estrellas (2015).

Me acabo de leer una de sus obras de narrativa histórica: El Álamo: una historia no apta para

Taibo

Paco Ignacio Taibo II

Hollywood ( 2011) y comparto aquí mis impresiones con mis lectores. En este corto y muy bien escrito libro, Taibo II desarrolla un efectivo trabajo  de desmitificación de la batalla del Álamo. Esta enfrentamiento entre fuerzas rebeldes texanas y efectivos del ejército mexicano fue uno de los principales episodios de la llamada revolución texana de 1836. Como bien documenta Taibo II, la  derrota de los rebeldes en el Álamo se convirtió en uno de los principales mitos fundacionales estadounidenses. A los que murieron en el Álamo se les ha convertido en símbolos del excepcionalismo estadounidense; en mártires de la libertad y la democracia. Taibo deja claro que uno de los elementos claves de la rebelión texana era la defensa de la esclavitud, no de la democracia. La especulación de tierras también jugó una papel importante en la rebelión texana. El autor baja del Olimpo al que han sido ensalzados, especialmente por Hollywood y Disney, los principales personajes estadounidenses de la batalla del Álamo: William Barret Travis, Dadid Crockett y James Bowie. Los presenta tal como lo que eran: aventureros, esclavistas, malos padres, borrachos, mentirosos, etc. Taibo  II no es menos duro con sus compatriotas, describiendo la  falta de visión y de liderato que reinó entre las tropas mexicanas, especialmente, las deficiencias de su máximo líder el General Antonio López de Santa Anna.

Aquellos interesados en la rebelión texana y en especial de la batalla del Álamo, encontrarán en este libro una visión crítica y profundamente desmitificadora de tales eventos. Quienes estén interesados en investigar estos temas, encontrarán una impresionante bibliografía que incluye fuentes tanto estadounidenses como mexicanas.

Norberto Barreto Velázquez

Lima, 13 de abril de 2018

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Princeton University ha publicado un libro cuya lectura parece obligatoria: American Empire A Global History. Escrito por el historiador británico A. G. Hopkins, este libro interpreta la evolución del imperio estadounidense desde una perspectiva global. Hopkins cuestiona la idea del excepcionalismo al examinar  la historia estadounidense desde una óptica internacional. Comparto con mis lectores esta “introducción” a su obra escrita por Hopkins y que fuera publicada en la bitácora Not Even Past.

The American “Empire” Reconsidered

by A. G. Hopkins

Whether commentators assert that the United States is resurgent or in decline, it is evident that the dominant mood today is one of considerable uncertainty about the standing and role of the “indispensable nation” in the world. The triumphalism of the 1990s has long faded; geopolitical strategy, lacking coherence and purpose, is in a state of flux. Not Even Past, or perhaps Not Ever Past, because the continuously unfolding present prompts a re-examination of approaches to history that fail to respond to the needs of the moment, as inevitably they all do.

This as good a moment as any to consider how we got “from there to here” by stepping back from the present and taking a long view of the evolution of U.S. international relations. The first reaction to this prospect might be to say that it has already been done – many times. Fortunately (or not), the evidence suggests otherwise. The subject has been studied in an episodic fashion that has been largely devoid of continuity between 1783 and 1914, and becomes systematic and substantial only after 1941.
There are several ways of approaching this task. The one I have chosen places the United States in an evolving Western imperial system from the time of colonial rule to the present. To set this purpose in motion, I have identified three phases of globalisation and given empires a starring role in the process. The argument holds that the transition from one phase to another generated the three crises that form the turning points the book identifies. Each crisis was driven by a dialectic, whereby successful expansion generated forces that overthrew or transformed one phase and created its successor.

The first phase, proto-globalisation, was one of mercantilist expansion propelled by Europe’s leading military-fiscal states. Colonising the New World stretched the resources of the colonial powers, produced a European-wide fiscal crisis at the close of the eighteenth century, and gave colonists in the British, French, and Spanish empires the ability, and eventually the desire, to claim independence. At this point, studies of colonial history give way to specialists on the new republic, who focus mainly on internal considerations of state-building and the ensuing struggle for liberty and democracy. Historians of empire look at the transition from colonial rule rather differently by focussing on the distinction between formal and effective independence. The U.S. became formally independent in 1783, but remained exposed to Britain’s informal political, economic and cultural influences. The competition between different visions of an independent polity that followed mirrored the debate between conservatives and reformers in Europe after 1789, and ended, as it did in much of Europe, in civil war.

The second phase, modern globalisation, which began around the mid-nineteenth century, was characterised by nation-building and industrialisation. Agrarian elites lost their authority; power shifted to urban centres; dynasties wavered or crumbled. The United States entered this phase after the Civil War at the same time as new and renovated states in Europe did. The renewed state developed industries, towns, and an urban labor force, and experienced the same stresses of unemployment, social instability, and militant protest in the 1880s and 1890s as Britain, France, Germany and other developing industrial nation-states. At the close of the century, too, the U.S. joined other European states in contributing to imperialism, which can be seen as the compulsory globalisation of the world. The war with Spain in 1898 not only delivered a ready-made insular empire, but also marked the achievement of effective independence. By 1900, Britain’s influence had receded. The United States could now pull the lion’s tail; its manufactures swamped the British market; its culture had shed its long-standing deference. After 1898, too, Washington picked up the white man’s burden and entered on a period of colonial rule that is one of the most neglected features of the study of U.S. history.

The third phase, post-colonial globalisation, manifested itself after World War II in the process of decolonisation. The world economy departed from the classical colonial model; advocacy of human rights eroded the moral basis of colonial rule; international organisations provided a platform for colonial nationalism. The United States decolonised its insular empire between 1946 and 1959 at the same time as the European powers brought their own empires to a close. Thereafter, the U.S. struggled to manage a world that rejected techniques of dominance that had become either unworkable or inapplicable. The status of the United States was not that of an empire, unless the term is applied with excessive generality, but that of an aspiring hegemon. Yet, Captain America continues to defend ‘freedom’ as if the techniques of the imperial era remained appropriate to conditions pertaining in the twenty-first century.

This interpretation inverts the idea of “exceptionalism” by showing that the U.S. was fully part of the great international developments of the last three centuries. At the same time, it identifies examples of distinctiveness that have been neglected: the U.S. was the first major decolonising state to make independence effective; the only colonial power to acquire most of its territorial empire from another imperial state; the only one to face a significant problem of internal decolonisation after 1945. The discussion of colonial rule between 1898 and 1959 puts a discarded subject on the agenda of research; the claim that the U.S. was not an empire after that point departs from conventional wisdom.

The book is aimed at U.S. historians who are unfamiliar with the history of Western empires, at historians of European empires who abandon the study the U.S. between 1783 and 1941, and at policy-makers who appeal to the ‘lessons of history’ to shape the strategy of the future.

A.G. Hopkins, American Empire: A Global History


 

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La revista Huellas de Estados Unidos acaba de publicar su décimo tercer número con una selección de interesantes artículos enfocados, principalmente, a analizar el origen y significados del fenómeno Trump. Destaca el tema racial con trabajos de Valeria L. Carbonne (“Charlottesville: Historia de racismo y supremacía blanca“), Pablo Pozzi (“El Ku Klux Klan y el capitalismo” y  Ana Bochicchio (“¿Qué piensan los supremacistas blancos norteamericanos?”). Se incluye, además, la traducción de un capítulo del clásico libro de Michael Hunt Ideology and U.S. Foreign Policy (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987). Agradecemos, nuevamente, a los editores de Huellas de Estados Unidos por su gran labor promoviendo el estudio de Estados Unidos en América Latina.

 

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JFK at Rice University in September 1962. Image via Wiki Commons.

Rethinking the JFK Legacy

Steven M. Gillo

huffingtonpost.com October 27, 2013

As we approach the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination we are reminded of his enduring hold on the popular imagination. Once again countless magazine articles, newspaper stories, books, and television stories will focus on the man, his presidency, and his death. Politicians from both parties continue to invoke his name to sell themselves and their policies. Polls show that Kennedy is America’s favorite president, ranking above Washington, Lincoln, and Roosevelt.

Public adulation of Kennedy baffles many historians who have spent the past twenty years assaulting the foundation of Camelot. The public sees him as a bold and gallant leader who inspired the young, helped the disadvantaged, pushed for civil rights, stood down the Russians, and added glamor and style to the White House.

In recent years, however, many historians have focused attention on Kennedy’s shortcomings: the obsession with Fidel Castro, his reluctant support of civil rights, and the escalation in Vietnam. They have also probed beneath the glossy Kennedy charm and discovered a man who was dependent on prescription medication and who possessed an insatiable sexual appetite. Kennedy, a recent critic charged, was “deficient in integrity, compassion, and temperance.” That is a harsh judgment, and certainly not one shared by most historians. Most would agree, however, that his short time in office prevented JFK from leaving a lasting legacy of accomplishment.

Why the wide gap between the way historians view Kennedy and how the public perceives him? Part of the problem is that historians have difficulty appreciating Kennedy’s emotional impact on the public. Kennedy was the first president to use television to bypass the Washington opinion-makers and communicate directly with the American public. Television made obsolete traditional models which used legislative accomplishments to determine influence.

Because of the intimate relationship Kennedy established with the American public many people felt a sense of personal loss at his death. The assassination affected America unlike any other single event in modern history — with the possible exception of 9/11. No American born prior to 1960 can forget where he or she was the moment they heard the news of the President’s death. Seventy-five hours of television coverage helped create a shared sense of national grief. Four of five Americans felt “the loss of someone very close and dear,” and more than half cried.

Inevitably, in the years that followed Americans have searched to give his death some meaning. Our refusal to accept that Kennedy’s death could have been the result of a random, inexplicable act of violence has led us to search for more satisfying explanations. We refuse to accept that a loser like Lee Harvey Oswald could single-handedly kill a man as great as JFK. That search for meaning has lead to the creation of a mythical, heroic Kennedy. The thread that runs through most conspiracy theories, and permeates the popular view of JFK, is that nefarious individuals conspired to kill the President because he offered a new direction for the country.

But the Kennedy mystique is based on more than his photogenic qualities and his tragic death. In trying to understand Kennedy’s appeal I am reminded of what our first professional biographer, James Parton, wrote about Thomas Jefferson. “If Jefferson was wrong,” he wrote, “America is wrong. If Jefferson was right. America is right.”

Since the Puritans came to America searching for deliverance from the corruption of the Old World, Americans have believed in national destiny. Thomas Jefferson declared the new nation “the last best hope of mankind.” Herman Melville compared Americans to the biblical tribes of Israel, calling them “the peculiar chosen people… the Israel of our time.” At the heart of this belief was a faith that the future would always be better than the past. America stood as the exception to the historical rules which dictated that great civilizations eventually peaked and crumbled. Devoid of the class conflict, racial tensions, and the imperial designs that characterized other civilizations, America would move inevitably toward realizing its divinely inspired mission to be “as a city upon a hill.”

More than any president since FDR, Kennedy embodied these ideals of American greatness. Kennedy, like the nation he led, seemed larger than life. Every dimension of the New Frontier projected an image of strength and vitality: the inspirational rhetoric of sacrifice and idealism; the aristocratic elegance and democratic demeanor; the brilliant but compassionate advisers. Robert Frost captured the mood of the nation when he predicted that the Kennedy years would be an “Augustan age of poetry and power.”

The tragic series of events that followed Kennedy’s death challenged our faith in national destiny. A lost war in Vietnam and a crippling oil embargo reminded us that we could not shape the world in our own image. At home, racial violence, student protests, and government corruption revealed that America remained a deeply divided nation. During our time of trouble we turned to a heroic Kennedy for comfort. He reminded us of a time when America stood strong in the world, our nation felt united, and life seemed simpler. As the American dream slips further from the grasp of most people, as our faith in government and our hope for the future diminishes, we cling more tenaciously than ever to a mythic view of Kennedy.

We have transformed Kennedy into a metaphor of American greatness and judged all of his successors by that standard. Not surprisingly, they look dull by comparison. Politicians, eager to win the hearts of American voters, have tried to mimic Kennedy’s style and to steal his message. Republicans have invoked Kennedy’s memory to sell programs — supply-side economics, for example — that were antithetical to JFK’s own policies. President Obama flexed his political and legislative muscle to push through legislation that was far more ambitious than anything JFK could have imagined, yet even he, and his accomplishments, appear diminished by the comparison to a mythical Kennedy.

Over the years, the public, which has grown cynical and angry over raised expectations and diminished results, has moved to the sidelines of American politics waiting for the “next JFK.” Powerful, well-organized and well-funded, interest groups have moved to fill the void.

It is ironic that the memory of JFK would weaken political institutions. Kennedy won the presidency in 1960 by advocating change and, at least on a rhetorical level, he challenged us to confront old ideas. “For the great enemy of truth,” he said in a famous Yale commencement address in 1963, “is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived, and dishonest — but the myth — persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic.”

Ultimately, our fascination with Kennedy tells us more about ourselves, our deeply rooted beliefs and our need for heroes, then it does shed light on the man or his times. Kennedy was a very mortal man, very much a product of his times. In life he offered few solutions to the pressing issues of his time. His memory, burdened by the weight of myth, limits our ability to find answers to the problems of our own time.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steven-m-gillon/rethinking-the-jfk-legacy_b_4167729.html

Steven M Gillon is Scholar-in-Residence at History and Professor of History at the University of Oklahoma

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Huellas2

Acaba de salir el úlimo número de la revista Huellas de Estados Unidos de la Cátedra de Historia de Estados Unidos de la UBA. Componen este número un interesante grupo de trabajos sobre aspectos ideológicos de política exterior estadounidense y sobre el tema del consenso político. Completan este número un par de valiosos documentos sobre el racismo. Todos los ensayos y reseñas están disponibles en PDF.

Comparto aquí el índice de este número.
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Opinionator - A Gathering of Opinion From Around the Web

Maximilian in Mexico

By PHIL LEIGH
 
New York Times, October 4, 2013

On Oct. 3, 1863, a Mexican delegation arrived in the Austrian port city of Trieste to officially offer Mexico’s imperial crown to the 31-year-old Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian, a scion of the Austrian branch of the Hapsburg royal family and the brother of the Austrian emperor, Franz Josef I.

For 300 years the family’s Spanish branch and its successors had, by virtue of its seat in Madrid, ruled over colonial Mexico and much of the Western Hemisphere. After Mexico won independence in 1821, it fell into a constant state of near anarchy; There were 75 government successions by the time the American Civil War started. Conservative Mexicans and wealthy ex-patriots longed for the stability that a European monarchy might provide, and some of them recalled wistfully the steady hand of the Hapsburgs.

Maximilian was interested for two reasons. The liberal-minded archduke felt he could improve Mexico. Perhaps more important, there was nothing for him at home: his brother was just two years older, and was looking forward to a long reign (in fact, he ruled until his death during World War I).

Still, Maximilian would never have ascended the Mexican throne were it not for yet another emperor, Napoleon III of France. Since Napoleon III’s famous uncle sold Louisiana to the United States in 1803, France had no major stake in the Western Hemisphere. With the advent of America’s Civil War, the French monarch sensed an opportunity to change that, with Maximilian as his puppet.

In early 1862, as America convulsed through the first year of its Civil War, France began placing troops in Mexico to collect customs duties on goods, in order to force the country to make payments on a defaulted debt to several European countries. But the Mexican government was too poor to concurrently make the payments and at the same time support the army of President Benito Juárez. Initially, soldiers from Spain and Britain joined the French, but were withdrawn once they realized Napoleon was scheming to establish a puppet monarchy. As a result, Maximilian would have no power without the presence of the 40,000-man French Army.

Napoleon had hoped to get Maximilian installed a year or so earlier, but he did not capture Mexico City until June 1863. Additionally, the archduke’s October ’63 acceptance of the crown was conditioned on “a vote of the whole country,” which was quickly achieved by gathering signatures under the glitter of French bayonets.

Still, Napoleon knew how drawn out the war was becoming and reasoned that President Abraham Lincoln would be too focused on suppressing the Confederacy to oppose him. The Monroe Doctrine would be temporarily impotent, while the future offered possibilities to render it permanently ineffective.

Although Juárez was forced out of Mexico City, he remained in the country opposing Maximilian during the entire American Civil War. Juárez quickly sided with Lincoln. Early in the war he granted the United States the right to land troops on Mexico’s west coast, where they could march rapidly into Arizona territory if needed to confront a possible Confederate drive westward. On doubtful authority the first Confederate minister to Mexico, John Pickett, countered by offering to support Mexico in the reoccupation of territories lost in the Mexican War, including the present states of California, Arizona, and New Mexico, if Juarez would cancel his deal with Lincoln.

Although Juárez declined, Washington realized that the Confederates could make a similar offer to Maximilian, turning the Mexican crisis into a proxy war. As one visitor to the archduke’s castle in Trieste wrote the Confederate minister in Paris,

Maximilian expressed the warmest possible interest in the Confederate cause. He said he considered it identical with that of the new Mexican Empire … that he was particularly desirous that his sentiments upon this subject should be known to the Confederate President.

The presence of a monarchy supported by a French army south of the border alarmed Washington and the far western states. In January 1864 Senator James McDougall of California proposed a Congressional resolution stating that French intervention in Mexico was “an act unfriendly to the republic of the United States.” It called upon the French to withdraw by March 15, and threatened war if they didn’t. But Lincoln wanted only one war at a time and had the motion sidetracked.

Nonetheless, three months later the House of Representatives unanimously approved a resolution that stated:

The Congress of the United States are unwilling … to leave … the impression that they are indifferent … [to] the deplorable events … in Mexico and … declare that it does not … acknowledge any monarchial government … in America under the auspices of any European power.

Although the Union’s concerns had validity, France wanted to avoid open warfare. In a Paris meeting before departing for Mexico, Napoleon, hopeful of territorial gains whichever side was victorious, convinced Maximilian to avoid endorsing the Confederacy until it won independence. As early as January 1863 the French consuls in Galveston and Richmond had been urging Texans to secede from the Confederacy..

After hearing about the French agitation in Texas, the Confederate Secretary of State, Judah Benjamin, instructed his Belgium minister to investigate. The man replied, “Mexico as she was previous to her dismemberment is the … cherished end at which [Napoleon III] aims.” Lincoln’s government captured Benjamin’s letter and asked its Brussels representative for his opinion. He confirmed that Napoleon III wanted Mexico to restore the borders applicable before the Mexican War. In short, he wanted Mexico to reclaim not only the Mexican Cession, but also Texas. Indeed, owing to its French traditions, Napoleon III believed that he might even be able to recover Louisiana. If all went as he hoped, France would once again have a major stake in the New World and the Monroe Doctrine would be meaningless.

The Confederacy reacted by expelling the offending diplomats, but Lincoln changed military priorities. After the fall of Vicksburg, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant wanted to lead an army reinforced by Gen. Nathaniel Banks against Mobile, Ala. A glance at a map confirms the obvious logic of the movement. Lincoln would not permit the advance, writing Grant, “in view of recent events in Mexico, I am greatly impressed with the importance of reestablishing the national authority in Western Texas as soon as possible.”

After a modest move against Brownsville and the Texas coast in November 1863, General in Chief Henry Halleck and cotton speculators urged a modification to the Union’s plans in the coastal Southwest that resulted in General Banks’s disastrous Red River Campaign in the spring of 1864. The goal was to capture the rebel stronghold at Shreveport, La., and then occupy the cotton fields of east Texas, while incidentally seizing up to 300,000 cotton bales (worth about $2 billion in today’s dollars) along the way. Unfortunately, even though Union forces outnumbered the rebels by more than two-to-one the Confederates turned back the federal offensive. Banks returned to New Orleans with fewer than 5,000 cotton bales, and the drive into Texas was halted.

Fortunately for the Union, the French and Maximilian were having a much harder time stabilizing their hold on Mexico than they had expected. After the end of the war, in an effort to help Juárez, Grant sent Gen. Philip Sheridan to the Rio Grande with an army of 50,000 men. Since Secretary of State William H. Seward did not want a war with Mexico or the French, he persuaded President Andrew Johnson to issue a ban on exports of weapons and ammunition. But Grant secretly ordered Sheridan to supply Juárez with matériel and weapons, including about 30,000 rifles.

Soon thereafter, Napoleon III announced a staged withdrawal of French troops, which left Maximilian nearly defenseless within two years. Juárez regained power in 1867, and promptly executed the naïve archduke.

 

Sources: “James J. Horgan, ““A Confederate Bull in a Mexican China Shop,” from “Divided We Fall: Essays on Confederate Nation Building,” John M. Belohlave, ed.; Henry Martyn Flint, “Mexico Under Maximilian”; Gene Smith, “Maximilian and Carlota”; Donald Miles, “Cinco de Mayo”; Robert Kerby, “Kirby Smith’s Confederacy”; Dean Mahin, “One War at a Time”; Frank Owlsey, “King Cotton Diplomacy”; Ludwell Johnson, “Red River Campaign”; G. J. Meyer, “A World Undone.”

disunion-phil-leigh-thumbStandardPhil Leigh is an independent Civil War historian and author. He is writing a book about wartime intersectional trade between North and South, “Trading With the Enemy.”

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The Republican Party’s Hidden Racial History

by Timothy N. Thurber

History News Network

On September 17, lawyers from the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University joined the Texas State Conference of the NAACP, the Mexican American Legislative Caucus of the Texas House of Representatives, and others in a lawsuit to overturn a new state voter identification law (Brennan Center).

A month earlier, North Carolina enacted a statute containing several reforms, including a requirement that voters produce government-issued photo identification and a seven-day reduction in the period for early voting.

These and similar proposals in other states have sparked sharp partisan fights. Democrats believe that they violate the Voting Rights Act and constitute deliberate efforts by Republicans to suppress voting by nonwhites, students, and others who by and large do not favor the GOP. Firmly denying any intent of malice against any demographic group, Republicans insist that reforms are needed to combat voter fraud.

Conflicts over voting are as old as the republic, but they have intensified since President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election and the Supreme Court’s June 2013 decision striking down Section Four of the Voting Rights Act, which determined the states and localities required to seek federal approval for changes in election laws. “Preclearance,” as this policy was commonly known, applied primarily to the South. Republicans have tended to applaud the Court’s ruling, arguing that discrimination against nonwhites once was a problem but is now so rare that federal oversight is no longer needed. Colin Powell stands a rare exception within the GOP; he has denounced the North Carolina statute as morally wrong, based on inaccurate beliefs about the extent of fraud, and politically suicidal. The Republican Party, he contends, should be reaching out to blacks and other nonwhites.

For some observers, these developments are the latest chapter in the shift of the pro-civil rights “party of Lincoln” to a southern-controlled, states’ rights GOP that has little room for African Americans. Didn’t overwhelming majorities of congressional Republicans favor the Voting Rights Act in 1965? Yes. In the Senate, thirty Republicans backed the legislation, and only two opposed. House Republicans voted five-to-one for it. As Republicans have been noting ever since, that was a higher percentage of support than registered by Democrats.

A closer look at the events of 1965, however, reveals that the current Republican approach to voting is more similar to that of a half century ago than the final congressional tallies indicate. So, too, is the contemporary political context.

In March 1965, President Lyndon Johnson proposed legislation that greatly expanded federal authority over state election laws, particularly in the South. The bill contained a “trigger” provision that used voter participation data from 1964 to automatically suspend literacy tests in several southern states and bring those states under the preclearance requirement. This approach would relieve individuals and organizations of many of the considerable legal hurdles (and, in numerous instances, personal risk) of filing lawsuits. That case-by-case method had been tried under the 1957 and 1960 civil rights laws but had resulted in few new black voters.

Led by Everett Dirksen (Ill.), Senate Republicans allied with non-southern Democrats to defeat southerners’ efforts to preserve local autonomy, most notably their attempts to delete the trigger and preclearance provisions. Republicans also backed cloture, which ended the southern Democrats’ filibuster and ensured that the bill would pass.

House Republicans initially rallied behind legislation, offered by Gerald Ford (Mi.) and William McCulloch (Oh.), that enhanced federal jurisdiction compared to earlier civil rights laws but nevertheless preserved more state autonomy compared to Johnson’s. Their bill did not automatically ban literacy tests or contain preclearance requirements. Since the early twentieth century, Republicans had favored literacy tests in their own states and insisted upon maximizing state authority over voting rules, largely in response to high levels of immigration to the Northeast and Midwest. Low levels of black voting, Ford and McCulloch argued, might stem from factors unrelated to discrimination. The pair also pointed out that their legislation would apply to more southern states than did the president’s. Prominent civil rights groups and leaders preferred Johnson’s approach, however.

The Senate’s action, plus the sizable Democratic majority in the House, meant that the Ford-McCulloch legislation had no chance. House Republicans then fell in line with the winning side. Just one of the seventeen Republicans from the ex-Confederate states voted for Johnson’s measure. Southern Republicans, in other words, were just as eager as southern Democrats to limit Washington’s reach.

The political context of the mid-1960s also echoes the present. In 1965, Republicans were debating how to rebuild their party. The 1964 election had been a disaster not just for presidential nominee Barry Goldwater, but for the party as well. A handful of Republicans wanted to more closely align the GOP with the civil rights movement. Doing so, they argued, would increase African American support and help the party with the expanding number of whites, in the South and elsewhere, who favored a more racially egalitarian society. “We have got to get the party away from being an Anglo-Saxon Protestant white party,” Charles Percy asserted. Percy had just lost his bid to be governor of Illinois; he would be elected to the Senate in 1966. Likewise, Governor George Romney (Mi.) fired off a twelve page letter to Goldwater in which he noted that the Arizona senator had received eight million fewer votes than Richard Nixon did in 1960 and voiced alarm over the “southern-rural-white” thrust of the senator’s campaign. “The party’s need to become more broadly inclusive and attractive,” Romney emphasized, “should be obvious to anyone.”

Romney and Percy were minority voices within their party. Most Republicans continued to agree with Goldwater that the black vote was largely unwinnable and essentially irrelevant. Whites far outnumbered African Americans in most of the nation, including most of the South. As Johnson’s bill was being debated, state and local Republicans from Dixie warned northern GOP lawmakers that allying with president would undermine the party’s recent growth in Dixie. Worried that the elimination of literacy tests would mean a large influx of black voters, one Louisiana organization appealed to Nixon to lobby congressional Republicans on the South’s behalf. Illiterate African Americans, they wrote the former vice president, simply followed Democrats’ instructions or sold their votes for beer or a few dollars. The head of the Mississippi GOP predicted chaos “if large numbers of ignorant, illiterate persons are suddenly given the vote.”

Concerns over fraud were not limited to the South. Believing that the Democrats had stolen the 1960 election through fraud in Chicago and elsewhere, the RNC had launched Operation Eagle Eye in 1964. Republicans across the nation tried a variety of techniques to prove that many African American voters were ineligible. Republicans also worked to dissuade blacks from voting by spreading false information in African American neighborhoods regarding the voting process. Operation Eagle Eye flopped, but Republicans would continue to use many of these methods in the decades ahead.

Timothy N. Thurber is Associate Professor of History at Virginia Commonwealth University, and author of The Politics of Equality: Hubert H. Humphrey and the African American Freedom Struggle, and, most recently, Republicans and Race: The GOP’s Frayed Relationship with African Americans, 1945–1974.
– See more at: http://hnn.us/article/153358#sthash.xPizvkxg.dpuf

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