Saturday, June 7, 2014

Jackie Robinson and Nixon: Life and Death of a Political Friendship -

Jackie Robinson and Richard Nixon
The Republican Party was, of course, the party of Lincoln.  The Democratic party was the party of slavery and accommodation to racism.  So African Americans voted Republican - when they could vote.  That began to change with Franklin Roosevelt, but I have often wondered: had I been borne in the south, opposed to segregation, when would I have left the Republican Party?  Michael Beschloss's piece here on Jackie robinson helps answer that question. - gwc
Jackie Robinson and Nixon: Life and Death of a Political Friendship -
by Michael Beschloss
In 1960, Robinson endorsed Nixon for president, declaring that the civil rights commitment of Nixon’s Democratic rival, John F. Kennedy, was “insincere.” In those times, an African-American Republican was by no means unusual. About 39 percent of black voters had supported the re-election of President Dwight Eisenhower and his vice president.

Jackie withstood intense pressure — including from his wife, Rachel — to follow King’s father in switching from Nixon to Kennedy; he later wrote that his decision had “something to do with stubbornness.” As a result, a ballplayer who had withstood death threats in 1947 to break the major leagues’ color barrier was denounced as a “sellout” and “Uncle Tom.” That November, Nixon won only a third of the African-American vote, a crucial factor in his hairbreadth defeat.
Although Presidents Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson championed what became the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Robinson quit his executive job at Chock Full o’Nuts that spring to campaign for Gov. Nelson Rockefeller of New York, a Republican, explaining that “we must work for a two-party system, as far as the Negro is concerned.”
But Republicans nominated Barry Goldwater, who opposed the 1964 legislation as unconstitutional. When Rockefeller denounced political extremism at the party’s San Francisco convention, Robinson, a “special delegate,” shouted, “C’mon, Rocky!” As Robinson recalled, an Alabama delegate “turned on me menacingly” before “his wife grabbed his arm and turned him back.”

Spoiling for a fight, Jackie cried, “Turn him loose, lady, turn him loose!” He later wrote with uncharacteristic overstatement that on leaving San Francisco, “I had a better understanding of how it must have felt to be a Jew in Hitler’s Germany.”

That fall, Robinson joined the 94 percent of the African-American electorate that backed President Johnson. (Since then, the percentage of the black vote for Democratic presidential nominees has never dipped below the low 80s.) In 1968, furious over Nixon’s courtship of Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, who had once led the segregationist “Dixiecrats,” Jackie backed the Democratic nominee, Hubert Humphrey.

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