ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith Damaged Democrat Myths

While he revealed the truth against some Democrat myths, he also perpetuated a myth about Barry Goldwater.

Myths which are believed in tend to become true.” – George Orwell

If you surveyed 100 average Americans, and asked them which political party supported civil rights, nine times out of ten you would be told: the Democrats. The truth is actually quite the opposite. While many Democrats did support civil rights legislation, it actually had more Republican support than Democratic support. However, the myths have been made and the masses don’t bother to question them.

ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith spoke at Vanderbilt University on Tuesday, and what he said may shock you:

“What I dream is that for one election, just one, every black person in America vote Republican… Because from what I’ve read… Barry Goldwater is going against Lyndon B. Johnson. He’s your Republican candidate. He is completely against the Civil Rights Movement. Lyndon B. Johnson was in favor of it. What happens is, he wins office, Barry Goldwater loses office, but there was a senate, a Republican senate, that pushed the votes to the president’s desk. It was the Democrats who were against Civil Rights legislation. So because President Lyndon B. Johnson was a Democrat, black America assumed the Democrats were for it.”

Stephen A. Smith’s statement contains both truths and falsities. The myth—as I mentioned above—is that Republicans hated the civil rights movement and were ultimately forced by the Democrats to concede to it. But that’s just not true, and Smith mentions that.

According to Politifact, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed the House 290-130, with 61% Democratic support and 80% Republican support. When it was passed in the Senate, following a two-month filibuster led by Democrats Russell, Thurmond, Ervin, Byrd, and Fulbright, it passed with 69% Democratic support and 82% Republican support.

President Lyndon Johnson signed the bill into law, and so the myth was made that Democrats were primary supporters of civil rights legislation, while Republicans were opponents. When the Voting Rights Act passed the next year, the results were similar, with more Republican support in both Chambers.

Where Smith gets it wrong is when he claims that Barry Goldwater was “completely against the civil rights movement.” That is incorrect.

According to The Heritage Foundation:

“The major reason for the extremist rhetoric was Goldwater’s reluctant vote, on constitutional grounds, against the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Goldwater, who had voted for the 1957 and 1960 civil rights bills, wanted to support the 1964 act but objected to two of its provisions: Title II (public accommodations) and Title VII (fair employment).”

“Barry Goldwater, who had voted in favor of the previous bills, voted against the 1964 Civil Rights Act because “He feared that Title VII would culminate in government dictating hiring and firing policy…As Goldwater warned, preferential treatment, or affirmative action, mandated by government became general practice.”

Heritage continues:

“…a few weeks after Goldwater was discharged from the Army in November 1945, Democratic Arizona Governor Sidney Preston Osborn asked him to organize the Arizona Air National Guard. One of Goldwater’s first recommendations, soon approved, was to desegregate the unit. Goldwater’s integration of the state’s Air National Guard took place more than two years before President Harry Truman integrated the U.S. armed forces.

Goldwater was an early member of the Arizona chapters of both the NAACP and the National Urban League…Later as a Senator, he desegregated the Senate cafeteria in 1953, demanding that his black legislative assistant, Kathrine Maxwell, be served along with every other Senate employee after learning she had been denied service.”

When one looks outside the scope of that single vote in 1964, explores the reasoning behind it, notes his previous “yea” votes, and looks to his personal life, it becomes clear that Barry Goldwater was not a racist, nor was he against the civil rights movement.

On the other hand, it can be argued that Lyndon Johnson was the one who didn’t much like civil rights—at least for his first two decades in the Senate. Even Barack Obama acknowledged it when he spoke at the LBJ Presidential Library in 2014:

“During his first 20 years in Congress, he opposed every civil rights bill that came up for a vote, once calling the push for federal legislation a farce and a shame.”

Politifact backs up Obama’s claim.

Additionally, Johnson was a widely known racist himself. He frequently made grotesque racial remarks. Biographer and American historian Robert Dallek wrote that Johnson explained his decision to nominate Thurgood Marshall to the Supreme Court thusly:

“When I appoint a nigger to the bench, I want everybody to know he’s a nigger.”

It behooves me to give Johnson some credit, because he does indeed deserve some. However, my point is this: Barry Goldwater was not “completely against the civil rights movement,” and Lyndon Johnson was not the golden Democrat, who fought Republican obstructionism to push through civil rights legislation. These are the myths we have been taught by the left.

Stephen A. Smith’s comment at Vanderbilt underscores the notion that we must do our own research before we come to believe anything. His comment mixed truths and falsities, reality and myths. Liberals will surely be angry with him because he said that Republicans supported the Civil Rights Act more broadly than the Democrats did—but it’s the truth. However, they will surely be pleased that he essentially called Barry Goldwater a racist—which was not the truth.

We cannot allow myths to become reality. If we do not dispel falsities in our midst, we will never make real progress—politically or socially.