“The first thing a man will do for his ideals is lie.”—Joseph A. Schumpeter
Earlier today, President Obama gave a speech at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library in Austin, TX in order to mark 50 years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Naturally, both conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats have chosen to proclaim themselves as heroes on civil rights, while casting the opposing side as villains. The truth, as expected, is somewhere in the middle.
While the Republican Party has a long history of passing civil rights legislation, it is also true that the mainstream conservative position on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was to oppose it. This can be confirmed by looking at the position of the ideological godfather of modern mainstream conservatism, William F. Buckley, Jr. He vociferously opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 using all sorts of sophistical “conservative” arguments—the main one being the pathetic “discrimination is good in a free society” argument. To make the case, then, that the mainstream conservative position was to support the Civil Rights Act of 1964, just because there are a number of Republican politicians who did, is arrant casuistry. In all arguments that try to paint the mainstream conservative movement as perfect on race, you’ll see the amateurish conflation of Republican politicians with ideological conservatives. You don’t ascertain the mainstream conservative position on issues by looking at the actions of Republican politicians. You ascertain the mainstream conservative position by reading the flagship ideological publications of the mainstream conservative movement—The National Review being the most prominent. As I said in my essay, The End of Artificial Black Conservatism:
Simply pointing out that Republican politicians supported civil rights bills in the 1960s is not a refutation of the fact that many ideological thought leaders in the mainstream conservative movement did not.
Similarly, Democrats pretending as though Lyndon Baines Johnson was an anti-racist hero because he signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law are delusional partisans.