Pin the Tale on the Donkey

Pin the Tale on the Donkey: Bill Whittle spends thirteen minutes explaining the real history of the Democratic Party

Confederate flag was created by Democrats
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confederate_States_of_America

Frederick Douglass Republican
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederick_Douglass

KKK founded by Democrats
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ku_Klux_Klan

George Wallace Democrat
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Wallace#Segregation

I had no trouble finding sources for the above, but when I googled the LBJ quote, I found this very interesting discussion.

Re: President LBJ: Is this a real quote? [discussion paraphrased for clarity by CtH]
http://www.reddit.com/r/AskHistorians/comments/2088gl

Lyndon Baines Johnson allegedly said, “These Negroes, they’re getting pretty uppity these days and that’s a problem for us since they’ve got something now they never had before, the political pull to back up their uppityness. Now we’ve got to do something about this, we’ve got to give them a little something, just enough to quiet them down, not enough to make a difference… I’ll have them niggers voting Democratic for the next two hundred years”.

This quote is attributed to LBJ in Ronald Kessler’s book, and was supposedly said to two southern governors. Kessler has been cited as the chief Washington correspondent for the far-right-wing Newsmax. IOW, he comes to the table with his own biases. In the absence of a reliable objective record of that quotation, the best source to answer this question may be the presidential recordings made during the Johnson administration.

Several hundred conversations were recorded dealing with issues of racial politics and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. A quote like the one in question is not found in any of these recordings, nor do they contain the oft-cited statement to Bill Moyers that LBJ had “lost to the South to the GOP for a generation.” But they do provide excellent insight into how LBJ talked about these issues in private. For example, it is simply undisputed that LBJ did use the prevailing southern racial slurs of the time, including the word “n—–r,” as this actual recording demonstrates. This is hardly the only example.

While his nomenclature leaves something to be desired, the collected recordings show that LBJ had some astonishingly progressive views on race for a rural-born white Texan in the late 1960s. It should also be noted that LBJ knew his audience, and would speak differently to a Georgia state legislator than, say, a Connecticut governor. It’s very difficult to tell when LBJ is putting on an act for audience or when he’s speaking with his “true” voice.

I think the best we can say is that the quote is not inconsistent with LBJ’s style and is either genuine or a fair paraphrase. It’s the kind of thing LBJ might say to a Dixiecrat to convince them not to oppose the CRA. IOW, the quote might be genuine, but the sentiment was not. I think it does a disservice when these kinds of quotes are used to suggest that LBJ was duplicitous and uncaring about black America. Personally, I have no doubt over the bona fides of LBJ’s empathy and humanity after listening to the conversations in June of 1963 during the Freedom Summer disappearances, where LBJ was positively distraught.

I won’t begin to deny that LBJ was a ruthless political operator, and indeed, an unrepentant liar. But I cringe that this single quote, robbed of its context, would be used by some to imply that LBJ was a heartless racist manipulator. That’s one notion that I think the historical record soundly disproves.

2 Comments

Filed under Bill Whittle, Democrats, History, KKK, Republicans

2 responses to “Pin the Tale on the Donkey

  1. Chrissy, good job on possibly the most notorious LBJ quote making the rounds. Your discussion is even handed, balanced and honest. The last time I saw something like that on the Internet our flag had 48 stars.

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  2. Excellent history lessons!

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