Aug. 6 marks the 47th anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Passed by large majorities of both Democrats and Republicans, the act reflected the overwhelming consensus in America that had been finally forged on Alabama’s Edmund Pettus Bridge during the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery.
In the end, only one Republican senator voted no: Strom Thurmond of my birth state of South Carolina, founder of the Dixiecrats Party.
Think of that: In 1965, only one Republican senator voted against this great expansion of voting rights for the disenfranchised and dispossessed.
But today a different GOP wages war on our right to vote. The modern Republican Party is largely a creation of that same Strom Thurmond, who helped Richard Nixon defeat Hubert Humphrey in 1968 with his famous “Southern Strategy,” which helped turn southern Democratic Wallace voters into Republican Nixon voters, and later into Reagan voters and Bush voters.
The foundation of the modern Republican Party is no longer rooted in Lincoln, who signed the Emancipation Proclamation; its roots lie in the racism of Thurmond, who did everything he could to block African Americans from gaining expanded voting rights.
Now the party that he warped is doing everything it can to abandon one of our nation’s proudest legacies, the legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Fannie Lou Hamer and LBJ: the expansion of voting rights to all our people.