[Continuing our series on deception in politics and public policy.]
Last week, at http://capitalresearch.org/2014/10/we-have-lost-the-south-for-a-generation-what-lyndon-johnson-said-or-would-have-said-if-only-he-had-said-it, I took a look at that story that has circulated in recent years as, in essence, a smear of Southern Republicans: that President Lyndon Johnson, after signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, said that “We have lost the South for a generation.”
More from my investigation of this quote:
► Almost all uses of that version of the quote are from the past 10 years. However, I found a close variation in a 1988 Washington Post article by Patricia Brennan in which she quotes Johnson aide Ben Wattenberg. (Wattenberg was one of the first “neoconservatives” in the original sense of the term, a New Deal liberal who came to recognize the failures of Big Government policies.) As quoted by Brennan, Wattenberg said that, even during Johnson’s 1964 landslide, “there were six states that Barry Goldwater kept: Arizona and five states in the South. You trace it forward and you see that they never came back. They were out because of civil rights and they stayed out. . . . The day they passed the civil rights bill, LBJ said to Bill Moyers, ‘You know, I think we gave the South to the Republicans.’”
I suspect that Wattenberg, apparently speaking off the cuff, paraphrased another Moyers quote of Johnson (about which, more below). Further garbled over time, as in the Telephone Game, that quote in the Washington Post article may have been the source for the lost-the-South-for-a-generation version. Or it’s possible that the quote originated as an indirect quote, one without quotation marks, that appeared in the magazine The Economist in 2002. By 2004, the quote was appearing in articles with quotation marks. I can find no direct reference to Johnson saying it or to whom it was said. It is always used as a quote that, well, everyone knows.
► In the early 1990s, another version of the story held that the Johnson statement was “There goes the South.” The Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald used that version November 4, 1992.
Timothy Noah of the left-wing online magazine Slate (then affiliated with the Washington Post) wrote (January 27, 2004, posted at http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/chatterbox/2004/01/forget_the_south_democrats.html):
“There goes the South for a generation,” Lyndon Johnson is said to have predicted as he signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act into law. Actually, it’s been two generations, but otherwise Johnson was dead-on. For 40 years, the Democratic Party begged Southern Democrats to return to the fold.
Considering that all Southern states except Virginia voted for Jimmy Carter in 1976, while Carter was losing the rest of the country as a whole, and that, with the exception of in 1964, the South was significantly more Republican than the country as a whole beginning in 1988 at the presidential level and in 2010 at the local and state level, the fake Johnson quote was hardly “dead on.” Still, I suppose that Noah deserves credit for only half-lying because he qualified his use of the fake quote (“Johnson is said to have predicted”).
► The Wilson Quarterly, Winter 2000, published an interview with Johnson aide Harry McPherson and Jack Valenti in which McPherson was quoted as saying that another Johnson aide, Bill Moyers “came in on the evening of the passage of the Voting Rights Act.” (Note that he referred to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 rather than the Civil Rights Act of 1964.)
. . . Johnson, having had a wonderful day signing the bill, everybody around him praising him, was sitting, Bill says, with his head in his hands at his desk. Bill said, “Mr. President, it’s the greatest day of your presidency.” Johnson said, “Yes, and it’s the day we gave the South to the Republican Party for the rest of our lifetimes.”
Interestingly, Valenti wrote an account of the passage and signing of the Voting Read all »