Democrats and Phantom Voter Discrimination

Eric Holder looked Texas dead in the eye, and has drawn the proverbial line in the sand. He is demanding a federal court order which will require Texas to submit to federal "preclearance" for any potential changes to voting laws, despite the Supreme Court's ruling last month which deemed any such requirements by the federal government unconstitutional.

Texas, Holder insists, is still racist place (seemingly evidenced by nothing more than a predominantly Republican makeup), and if left to its own devices, minorities will suffer disenfranchisement today, just as they did in 1965 when the Voting Rights Act was passed.

While there is the obvious problem that this is a move to circumvent the Supreme Court decision, there is a more fundamental problem with this assumption. Not only is voter discrimination in Texas not a problem that warrants federal oversight today, as the Court correctly surmises, but voter discrimination in Texas wasn't a significant problem that warranted federal correction in 1965. Don't take my word for it. Take it from the horse's mouth. The most influential backer of the Voting Rights Act said precisely this, way back then.

Lyndon Baines Johnson's relationship with civil rights prior to 1960 was markedly different than the man Democrats remember as the bold challenger of discriminatory social conventions like segregation. When Harry Truman pushed for civil rights in 1947 and '48, for example, LBJ was one of his biggest opponents. Yet as the tide of public opinion turned against the historically held Democrat touchstone of segregation in the following years, LBJ eventually saw the writing on the wall.

So when Eisenhower offered his dedication to civil rights legislation in 1957, LBJ found himself conflicted, caught between his devotion to segregation and his ambition to become president. In the end, he remained loyal to both in that year, outwardly supporting the '57 civil rights bill while colluding with other Democrats like Richard Russell of Georgia in amending the bill "so as to minimize its impact," which ultimately watered it down enough that the bill evaporated in a heated legislative process.

But by the time LBJ had become president, he recognized that efforts to desegregate the South were gaining popularity with unstoppable steam, so he seized the opportunity to outwardly champion civil rights. After the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which journalist Ronald Kessler recalls LBJ saying would ensure that "those niggers voting Democrat for the next 200 years," LBJ continued his courtship of the minority vote by embracing calls for voter's rights legislation.

Certainly, by this point LBJ saw the political value in such a thing. The problem, as he saw it, was proving that it happened in any significant way.

On May 13, 1965, in a phone call with Carl Sanders, Democrat governor of Georgia, LBJ addresses the difficulty in doing that:

Now, you can say they can't discriminate, but I've got to prove that it discriminates, and I can't prove it in Texas. There's more Nigras voting there than there are white folks, a higher percentage of them. And more of them [paying] poll taxes now than white folks. Now I can't show that with a literacy test, that they're being discriminated against, 'cause they haven't got any. They got no test at all, just by God, anybody that can get up and pay a dollar and six bits can vote. And so let me do this the right way.

Just two months prior, he said roughly the same thing to his attorney general, Nicholas Katzenbach, only here, in his closer political circle, the "right way" becomes more apparent. From a recorded call on March 25, 1965:

Katzenbach: Now Mr. President, I said the reason for the low voter turnout in Texas is the poll tax, I hope that's right.

LBJ: Yes, I think so, I think that's right... I have said that, and have said it's disgraceful... Now, I have forgotten, but it seems to me he [JFK] had a third of the population [in Massachusetts], and almost as many votes... and the reason is that we [Texas] got a poll tax. It's not one that keeps a nigger from voting, he doesn't have a literacy test or anything like that, he just forgets to pay this dollar seventy-five cents.

And anything that you can, say about the Mexicans. Say it's not just Alabama and Mississippi, necessarily, but there are other places. Now I'm just wondering how you're going to get to the bad counties of the Mexicans in Texas, or the Negroes where they, they [cuts off]

Katzenbach: I think we can do that under the existing legislation... See the thing is that we've been concentrating on Mississippi and Alabama and Louisiana. Now, if we have 110 lawyers and they get free from that, I think we can do pretty well. We won't have the same problems with the judges [in Texas], and I think we can do a pretty good job.

In short, LBJ had for two years been calling publically for a repeal of the poll tax in the name of "fairness, decency, and equality." Yet behind the curtain, he obviously recognized that poll taxes may have been an issue reflective in overall voter turnout, but in Texas, with which he was most familiar, a poll tax was certainly not an issue of discrimination, no matter how much he wanted it to be for political purposes. Furthermore, there were no literacy tests given in Texas in 1965, and the percentage of black voter turnout, as LBJ lamented, was higher than white turnout. That is why Katzenbach suggested that the 110 lawyers they hired to construct a case supporting the discriminatory practices in Alabama be sent to Texas -- to make sure that some evidence of discrimination is found in Texas, too, despite the apparent lack of such evidence. It was about creating the appearance of voter discrimination, not about tackling the reality of voter discrimination.

The focus on voter's rights has been an issue more about political optics than ethical necessity for Democrats then, and for Democrats now. Democrats know that if they incessantly repeat the lie that voter ID laws are racist, millions of ardent Democrats and independents will never delve past that preposterous assumption. They will just maintain that the Republicans pushing for such laws are racist, and the Democrats fighting them are not. This is nothing more than a continuation of the lie that began in the 1960s.

Democrats were for the creation of a big paternalistic government in FDR's day, in LBJ's day, and today. Nothing has changed about that, despite the stupidly pervasive "party switch" myth, whereby Republicans became Democrats after the 1960s and vice versa. Utter nonsense. The underlying motivation that defines Democrats has never changed, dating back to at least Woodrow Wilson. The only difference is that in the 60s, that motivation to create a big paternalistic government was cleverly marketed as uniquely beneficial to minorities, and thereby gained generations of loyal voters -- in spite of the overwhelming evidence that a paternalistic government providing welfare and entitlements has proven uniquely destructive to the black community, for example.Consider the words of Ms. Frances Rice, chairman of the National Black Republican Association:

Democrats have been running our inner-cities for the past 30 to 40 years, and blacks are still complaining about the same problems. More than $7 trillion dollars have been spent on poverty programs since Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty with little, if any, impact on poverty. Diabolically, every election cycle, Democrats blame Republicans for the deplorable conditions in the inner-cities, then incite blacks to cast a protest vote against Republicans.

The truth is clear. Civil rights, for Democrats, has never been about the ethical underpinnings of the issues. It has always been about controlling the vote and expanding federal authority.

Today, too, the facts belie the Democrats' claim. Voter ID laws have been enacted in states like Georgia and Indiana, and minority voter participation has increased, handily proving that ID laws, at the very least, are a nonfactor. This is a deceptive rallying point for Democrats, and nothing more.

I would say that Holder and the Obama administration should be ashamed of their response to the Court's ruling on the Voting Rights Act. But given the Democrat's pedigree, it's obvious that such dishonesty is engrained in their political DNA. To them, this kind of malicious race-baiting is as natural as breathing.

William Sullivan blogs at and can be followed on Twitter.