Tim Wise is a
British writer who is considered by many people to be an insightful expert on issues regarding race. However, in a recent essay, he displays a significant gap in his knowledge about the American civil rights movement. Expressing his dismay about the criticism of Van Jones, Wise concludes:
Make no mistake, had they been old enough in those days, Beck and every modern-day movement conservative would have stood with the segregationists, with the bigots, with the mobs who burned the buses carrying freedom riders. They would have stood with the police in Philadelphia, Mississippi, even as they orchestrated the killing of Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Mickey Schwerner. They would have stood with Bull Connor in Birmingham. How do we know? Easy. Because not one prominent conservative spokesperson of that time did the opposite. Not one. That's who they are. And the minute you forget that, the minute you insist on treating them better than they would treat you, the minute you insist on playing by rules that they refuse to as much as acknowledge, all is lost. They do not believe in democracy. They believe in power. White power.Yet in fact, actor Charlton Heston, who later became President of National Rifle Association (and thus a leading "modern-day movement conservative" according to many people) marched with Martin Luther King.
Undeniably one of the most prominent conservatives of the sixties with Senator Everett McKinley Dirksen (R-Il.), the Senate minority leader. He played an indispensible, leading role in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Thanks to Dirksen's wily maneuvering, for the first time in history a filibuster of a civil rights bill was broken. Republican Senators voted 27-6 for cloture. In the House, Republicans voted for the bill 138 to 34.
I have not been able to locate an on-line roll call of the votes of all the Congresspersons. Although both parties in 1964 were more ideologically diverse than they are today, I suspect that of the 80% of House Republicans who voted yes, there must have been many solid conservatives.
This document (page 1 of the House roll call) shows an affirmative vote by Rep. John Ashbrook (R-Ohio) who was so conservative that in 1972 he ran against incumbent President Richard Nixon for Republican nomination, challenging him from the Right. Ashbrook was a founding father of the modern conservative movement: "chairman of the Young Republican National Federation from 1957 to 1959; one of the founders of the American Conservative Union, serving as chairman from 1966 to 1971; and on the Steering Committee of the Committee of One Million against the Admission of Communist China to the United Nations, whose campaign began in 1953."
I was able to find a complete list of Congresspersons in the 88th Congress. By eliminating the six Republican Senators who voted against the bill (Bourke Hickenlooper, Barry Goldwater, Edwin Mechem, John Tower, Milward Simpson, Norris Cotton), we see that there were "yes" votes from 11 conservative Republicans. (American Conservative Union ratings are on-line starting from 1971; for Senators who were still voting in 1971, the 1971 ACU rating is in parentheses): Gordon Allott (82), Peter Dominick (87), Hiram Fong (67), Len Jordan (85), Jack Miller (91), Glen Beall (74), Roman Hruska (100), Carl Curtis (100), Milton Young (89, most senior Republican), Karl Mundt, and Wallace Bennett (94).
Mr. Wise's intemperate and inaccurate words serve as a reminder about the dangers of recklessly imagining the worst of one's political opponents. This is a particularly serious problem on both sides of American politics today, as it was during the John Adams administration, and in 1850s.