Yet, as a percentage of the party, more Republicans voted for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 than did Democrats. For his key role breaking the Democrats' filibuster and getting the act to pass the stalled Senate, Republican Sen. Everett Dirksen, a conservative from Illinois, landed on the cover of Time magazine. President Lyndon Johnson called Dirksen "the hero of the nation." The Chicago Defender, then the country's largest black daily newspaper, applauded Dirksen's "generalship" for helping to successfully push through the bill.
Older black voters sometimes explain they're opposed to Republicans because of the "racist" Southern strategy. But Richard Nixon speechwriter Pat Buchannan, credited with inventing the "Southern strategy," considered the Democratic Party the party of the racists. Buchanan said: "We would build our Republican Party on a foundation of states' rights, human rights, small government and a strong national defense, and leave it to the 'party of [Democratic Georgia Gov. Lester] Maddox, [1966 Democratic challenger against Spiro Agnew for Maryland governor George] Mahoney and [Democratic Alabama Gov. George] Wallace to squeeze the last ounces of political juice out of the rotting fruit of racial injustice.'"
But before that, another pivotal event occurred that helped the GOP-as-racist meme. In 1960, during the presidential campaign, Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested following a sit-in at a segregated lunch counter in Atlanta. Hundreds of other protestors were released, but King was jailed on a trumped-up probation violation for failing to have a Georgia driver's license.
King's aides reached out to then-Vice President and Republican presidential candidate Richard Nixon. They also reached out to the Democratic nominee, John F. Kennedy. Bobby Kennedy called the Atlanta judge handling the case. Shortly after that call, the judge released King. Nixon, according to Harry Belafonte, a King supporter, "did nothing." Is that true?