Tag Archives: Civil Rights Act

Is this alliance all that rare … really?

I continue to be struck by the surprise alliance reportedly formed with conservative Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and liberal Democratic U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.

They supposedly are preparing to team up on legislation aimed at restricting, possibly eliminating, lawmakers who become corporate lobbyists. The budding Cruz-AOC Alliance has tongues a-wagging in Washington. Why, some folks just cannot believe that these two ferocious partisans could find common ground on anything.

But I guess they have. At least that’s my hope.

It’s not unprecedented by any stretch. Two former senators, liberal Democrat Russ Feingold of Wisconsin and the late conservative Republican John McCain of Arizona, teamed up on campaign finance reform measures that sought to put caps on the money raised in political campaigns.

Countless other alliances have been formed since the beginning of the republic. Indeed, Democratic President Lyndon Johnson needed Republican senators to help him enact voting rights and civil rights legislation in the 1960s, given the resistance he was getting from southern Democrats in the U.S. Senate. LBJ was able to parlay his bipartisan friendships into landmark legislation.

I get that there appears to be plenty of skeptics about the Cruz-AOC team. Righties doubt that Ocasio-Cortez will be actually reach out to Cruz and other Republicans; lefties are inherently suspicious of Cruz’s statements expressing support for any idea put forth by a progressive colleague.

What began as a Twitter conversation between these two highly partisan lawmakers well might bear fruit. Or … it could wither and die.

I’m going to hold out hope that Sen. Cruz and Rep. Ocasio-Cortez carry through on their pledge to begin draining the proverbial swamp.

What have they done to your party, Mr. President?

Dear President Lincoln,

Wherever you are, I want to wish you a happy 210th birthday. Man, we have gone a long way in this country you once led in the years since you came into this world. I’m glad you were here, although you preceded me by, well, many years.

Mr. President, I am writing you this note while wondering once again what in name of emancipation has become of the party that used to carry your name.

Not long after you left us, Mr. President, Republicans began referring to themselves as belonging to the Party of Lincoln. They were proud of the legacy you left, the Emancipation Proclamation that freed the slaves, your fight to preserve the Union, the leadership you showed while the nation fought to save itself against the insurrection mounted by the Confederate States of America.

They took that pride well into the next century, Mr. President. Republicans joined hands with a Democratic president, Lyndon Baines Johnson of Texas, and helped enact the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and 1965, laws that bestowed full citizenship rights to all Americans, especially toward those African-American descendants of the slaves you freed.

But your party has morphed into something quite different, Mr. President. It’s now the party of Trump, as in Donald John Trump. It has become the party of nativism, of fear, of jingoism. To be sure, your party began marching down that road many years prior to that. Donald Trump was elected president and he has grabbed your party by the throat and sought to create a political entity that bears no resemblance to the party you once led.

Please understand, Mr. President, that you remain a hero to many of us who came along much later. We studied your presidency and understood how troubled you were for the entire time you served as our commander in chief.

I am one who wishes we still celebrated your birthday separate from the other presidents. Your time in office stands alone. The federal government, though, decided not too many years to meld your birthday into something called Presidents Day; it falls usually between your birthday and Feb. 22, which is when President/General Washington was born in Virginia. However, we now honor all the men who have held the office.

Granted, some of them deserve to be honored in such a manner. Not all of them, though. You might already know how I feel about the current president, so I’ll just leave that statement unsaid.

Happy birthday, sir. I wish your once-great party could find its way out of the darkness.

Bush 41’s death means end of ‘old’ GOP? Let’s hope not

More than a few talking heads have ruminated since the death of former President George H.W. Bush about the future of the Republican Party and whether the party of which Bush was a proud member will return in its former image.

Some have said “no.” I don’t subscribe to that idea.

Today’s Republican Party has been taken over by those loyal to a president who doesn’t define his own ideology — such as it is — by anything resembling traditional GOP values.

The GOP has taken a dramatically different course from where it used to travel. I’ll offer three examples

  • President Bush was a supreme coalition builder. He did that very thing when assessing how to kick Iraqi forces out of Kuwait in the late summer of 1990. He brought together more than 30 nations to (a) provide fighting forces on the field or (b) give money to finance the military initiative that became known as Operation Desert Storm; some nations, of course, did both.
  • The Republican Party of old once touted fiscal responsibility. It loathed a federal budget deficit. It preferred to curb spending and, yes, curb taxes. The current GOP has enacted a tax cut but has done damn little to curb spending. Thus, the deficit is ballooning again.
  • The Party of Lincoln used to be an inclusive outfit. It welcomed people of all races, ethnicities, creeds. It has become another kind of party these days. It is seeking to shut the door on those seeking asylum from tyranny in their homelands. Politicians who belonged the former Republican Party helped a Democratic president, Lyndon Baines Johnson, enact the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act of the mid-1960s over the objection of many southern Senate Democrats who clung to their segregationist history. Imagine that happening today.

I cannot predict whether the old Republican Party will return, let alone when that might occur. I try like the dickens to avoid cynicism. My hope still springs forth that there will be a better day ahead.

President George H.W. Bush — although he was far from perfect — still in many ways embodied the ideals of a once-great political party. Those ideals have been pushed aside. We’ll bury Bush 41 in a few days. While we’re at it, how about trying to exhume the remains of a Republican Party that he represented?

Get set for another key court decision on being gay

Step up, Stacy Bailey. I think you’re about to become a national celebrity and a lightning rod for a highly emotional talking point.

Bailey once taught in an elementary school in the Mansfield (Texas) Independent School District in Arlington. Then she got suspended by the school system. Why? Because she showed her students a picture of her wife.

The Mansfield ISD is empowered to suspend or even fire employees based on their sexual orientation. Oh, brother. This needs to be litigated and the courts need to do what it did for the issue of gay marriage, which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that same-sex couples can marry in all 50 of our United States.

Texas is one of 28 states that allows employers to take such punitive action.

As Fox News reported: The school district released a statement saying they are and have always been “an inclusive, supportive environment for LGBT staff for decades.” Action was taken against Bailey, they say, because allegedly “her actions in the classroom changed.”

Bailey was removed from the classroom after a parent complained that she showed a picture of her and her then-girlfriend and now-wife to her students.

Read the entire Fox story here.

I am unaware of how the MISD defines how her “actions in the classroom changed.” If the “change” involves merely showing students a picture of the teacher and her wife, then I believe the Mansfield district has a serious problem on its hands.

The U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage on the basis of the Equal Protection Clause stated in the U.S. Constitution. To my way of thinking, “equal protection” applies to Stacey Bailey. She and her spouse are entitled to be married and to live together just like all Americans.

How in the world does that affect her ability to teach children?

Fox News reported this about the Civil Rights Act of 1964: The statute says, “It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer… to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.”

“The questions is whether ‘sex’ covers sexual orientation and gender identity issues,” attorney Sandra Mayerson told Fox News.

If the court system doesn’t rule in Bailey’s favor eventually, my hope then rests with Congress and whether our nation’s lawmakers will have the courage to insert the words “sexual orientation” into the Civil Rights Act.

It’s only right.

Race mattered in ’64, but LBJ and Goldwater kept it on ice

lbj and goldwater

Donald J. Trump and Hillary Rodham Clinton are engaging in a most extraordinary political fire fight.

Republican presidential nominee Trump and Democratic nominee Clinton are accusing each other of racial bigotry.

Race is an issue in this campaign? It must be so.

It also was an issue back in 1964. The major-party candidates then, though, took a different course.

President Lyndon Johnson and his Republican Party challenger, Sen. Barry Goldwater of Arizona, decided to keep race out of the campaign.


The two men met at the White House in July 1964 and agreed that they wouldn’t interject the highly charged issue of race relations into their quest for the White House.

Sen. Goldwater was never known to curb his own tongue. He was a fiery conservative who was prone to making provocative statements. He opposed the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act.

President Johnson, the Texan known for his excesses and his occasional crudeness, had taken office amid profound national tragedy the previous November. He decided it was time to move his party away from its segregationist past, a decision that would cost the party dearly throughout the South.

As Politico reports:

“In 2016, many observers have suggested similarities between Trump and Senator Goldwater. In some ways, they are analogous: Both were outsiders who won the nomination of a deeply divided Republican Party after defeating the preferred, more moderate candidates of the GOP establishment. And Goldwater, like Trump, had a habit of impolitic comments, as in his clarion call that ‘extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.’ It was a central part of Goldwater’s appeal: He tells it like it is, political correctness be damned—’In your heart, you know he’s right,’ just like his campaign slogan said.

“But there’s a big difference between the quixotic campaign of Goldwater and the spectacularly flawed campaign of Trump: Goldwater abhorred racist rhetoric, whereas Trump may have sealed his fate with it in two major turning points. First came Trump’s assertion that U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel could not fairly rule in the Trump University case because the Indiana-born Curiel is of Mexican ancestry while Trump has pledged to build a wall on the Mexican border. Then, Trump’s attack on Ghazala and Khizr Khan, the Muslim-American Gold Star parents who appeared at the Democratic National Convention. Trump insinuated that Ghazala Khan, who stood silently by as her husband spoke, was ‘not allowed’ to speak due to their Islamic religion.”

It’s not that we should sweep the race issue away, pretend it doesn’t exist. My concern in 2016 is that the invective has poisoned reasonable, rational and responsible discussion.

President Johnson and Sen. Goldwater perhaps had the same fear 52 years ago when they decided to keep their hands off a live political grenade.

What would LBJ think of today’s political climate?


JOHNSON CITY, Texas — What would Lyndon think of what happened today?

We’ve spent the past three nights in President Johnson’s beloved Texas Hill Country and it was in this tranquil environment that we heard the news out of Washington — that House Speaker John Boehner is resigning his speakership and his congressional seat at the end of October.

The reaction from across the political spectrum? Well, President Obama — with whom Boehner has had many enormous differences — called him a “patriot” and a “good man.”

The reaction from the right wing of the speaker’s Republican Party? They cheered the news. Good riddance, Mr. Speaker.

Right wingers are smiling at the news. They want the speaker out of there.

Which brings me back to Lyndon Johnson.

LBJ was a proud Democrat. He also was a supreme legislator, thought by many to be the greatest Senate majority leader in the history of the “world’s greatest deliberative body.”

He took his legislative skill with him to the vice presidency and then — in that spasm of violence on Nov. 22, 1963 — to the presidency.

How do you suppose he earned the legislative kudos? He earned them by knowing how to compromise and how to get his friends in the other party to join him in enacting critical legislation. The Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, enactment of Medicare? All three of those landmarks were achieved with bipartisan support engineered in large part by the president of the United States.

Today, the mood and the atmosphere is different. Arch-conservatives — and, for that matter, ultraliberals — would rather fall on their proverbial grenades than compromise with politicians they see as enemies, and not just adversaries.

Lyndon Johnson would be an unhappy man were he to rise from his grave in Stonewall and see what has happened to the two great political parties that at one time knew how to work together to get things done for the common good.

In that respect, the president likely would throw his arm around Speaker Boehner, wish him well and hope for the return of better days atop Capitol Hill.



LBJ legacy shines brightly

Fifty years ago this week, a long, tall Texan who was new in his job as president of the United States, signed a landmark bill into law that changed the face of the nation — and changed the political landscape in this country.

President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It guaranteed the rights of all Americans regardless of race, ethnicity or religion.


He had become president under grievous conditions just six months earlier. President John F. Kennedy’s murder was still fresh in our minds and our broken hearts. The new man in the Oval Office took office and took charge of JFK’s unfinished legislative agenda, which included the Civil Rights Act.

It took a master legislator such as LBJ to finish the job. Prior to becoming vice president, Sen. Lyndon Johnson served as majority leader and had built a reputation as, shall we say, a supreme negotiator. He was unafraid to lay his hands on fellow senators to persuade them to vote his way … or else.

He took that skill to the presidency. Meanwhile, he had to persuade southern Democrats who weren’t as keen on the Civil Rights Act as many northern Republicans. LBJ did the deed and was told by one of his best Senate friends, arch-segregationist Richard Russell, D-Ga., that the bill would “cost us the South.”

Johnson perhaps knew what the political stakes were at the time he signed the bill, but he knew it was the right thing to do.

He put his name to it.

The LBJ Library in Austin this week is honoring the late president’s achievement. Four of his presidential successors — Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama — will be on hand in Austin to speak to the greatness of the Civil Rights Act.

What’s more, the Johnson family along with the library administration, are working overtime to burnish LBJ’s legacy to include far more than the tragedy and heartache of the Vietnam War.

Let’s hope they succeed. Lyndon Baines Johnson deserves high praise for enacting this law.

JFK a liberal? Not so sure about that

David Greenberg, writing for The New Republic, posits a theory that President John F. Kennedy was a true-blue liberal.


Interesting, eh?

The president, who was shot to death 50 years ago next week, cut taxes. He stared down the Soviet Union by flexing the nation’s military might. He also, according to Greenberg, believed government could be a force for good, not evil. Kennedy preferred diplomacy over armed conflict, Greenberg asserts, making him more liberal than conservative.

I suppose that’s all true.

Greenberg’s piece, though, doesn’t touch on some other key issues that defines liberals and conservatives.

How about abortion? I don’t recall much discussion over the years since JFK’s death about how he viewed women’s reproductive rights. The president was a practicing Catholic, after all. Even though he made it clear during the 1960 presidential campaign that church doctrine wouldn’t inform his public policy, many politicians before and since JFK’s time have relied on their faith to decide some of these critical matters.

Prayer in school? Did the 35th president oppose school-mandated prayer, which the Supreme Court essentially struck down in 1963?

Environmental protection is another favorite issue for liberals. It wasn’t until 1970 — during the administration of Republican Richard Nixon — that the federal government created the Environmental Protection Agency.

Kennedy did seek to further the cause of civil rights, but he had to be persuaded to do so. His death in Dallas prevented him from enacting the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. That was left to President Lyndon Johnson, whose courage helped the Democratic Party “lose the South,” in the words of his good friend, Sen. Richard Russell, D-Ga.

My own view is that JFK was more of a centrist than a bleeding heart.

Given the extreme views that both parties have adopted in the past two decades, that isn’t such a bad thing.