Ann Coulter’s Embarrassing Rewrite of Civil Rights History
Although there was a time when I read Ann Coulter with interest, lately I’ve been finding her Republican partisanship tiresome. A case in point is her latest attack on the Democrats for twisting what she regards as a noble struggle for black equality into a justification for punishing Christian bakers who refuse to prepare gay wedding cakes. Coulter praises the Republican Party for giving us the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Republicans in Congress did this as an act of kindness to blacks, she says, who had been victimized by Democratic racists for many generations. (Apparently Ann is still fixated on Dinesh D’Souza’s The Big Lie: Exposing the Nazi Roots of the American Left.) This was to be “a onetime exception to the law [protecting private associations] for one specific group of people based on an emergency.”
Supposedly if it had not been for the history of Democratic segregation, it would not have been necessary for Republicans to address this “emergency”—and to do it by an overwhelming majority. But once Republican took this step, the Dems began engaging in their usual electoral tricks: “Instead of civil rights being used to remedy historic injuries done to a specific group of people, they’d use ‘civil rights’ as a false flag for their pet projects.” Ann considers this Democratic misuse of the Republican anti-discrimination law of 1964 to be an insult to American blacks. From her comments, you would think that blacks are screaming over the derailment of what began as a noble Republican cause on their behalf. She remarks sarcastically that “it must make blacks feel great being compared to daft women, smelly homeless people and bossy gays harassing a Christian baker.”
Where to begin correcting such partisan nonsense? Although 95 percent of Republicans in Congress supported the 1964 Civil Rights Act, at least the same percentage of Northern Democrats did as well. Opponents came mostly from Southern and border state areas where legal segregation persisted. (Some non-Southern Republicans, like George H.W. Bush, also opposed the Act, but they were representing Southern districts, which would have included Houston at the time.) Those who voted for the Civil Rights Act were awarding special protections to women as well: it’s a figment of Ann’s imagination that the law pertained only to American blacks. Republicans also voted overwhelmingly for the Voting Rights Act in 1965 and for all of its extensions and amendments up until 2006. Affirmative action for blacks, which was rapidly extended to other designated groups, began under a Republican administration, that of Richard Nixon, with the Philadelphia Plan. Republicans, like Democrats, have supported a wide variety of anti-discrimination laws and directives since 1964. One would think Ann would have known this obvious fact.
Coulter also gives the misleading impression that Republican support for the Civil Rights Act had no ramifications afterwards, in terms of expanding administrative and judicial power. Apparently everything should have ended with the random act of kindness shown by Ann’s party in 1964. But the Civil Rights Act created mechanisms for continuing the war against discrimination, like the EEOC and agencies within the Department of Justice and later the Department of Education. The legislation was also expanded to include other groups, like Hispanics and later homosexuals. Depicting the 1964 act as a once-and-done thing is obviously and perhaps willfully wrong.
Democratic and many Republican legislators and judges didn’t simply abuse what was passed in 1964 to take advantage of the victim industry. That law created the conditions for a continuing war against discrimination on behalf of an expanding body of specifically protected groups. A connection does exist between the Civil Rights Act and the demand by organized gays that the government protect them against discrimination. One would have to be naïve to believe that once the government starts crusading against discrimination and is armed with the appropriate agencies, it will stop at precisely the point that Republican journalists decide it should.
One also has to wonder why Ann believes that American blacks are offended that the civil rights movement has been extended to other groups deemed as historically disadvantaged. About 90 percent of black voters faithfully support the Democrats, and their political readers don’t seem bothered that they have to share their status with LGBT advocates. Just ask Corey Booker, Maxine Waters, and former president Obama for their views on gay rights! A surging black vote in Virginia, which went 87 percent for the Democrats, helped make the liberal Democrat Ralph Northam governor in November. Perhaps Ann hopes this black alliance with the Democrats is more brittle than it seems, so she’s decided to chip away at it. She wishes to show that black hostility towards the GOP is undeserved while black enthusiasm for the Democrats is unjustified. Unfortunately she doesn’t argue her points well when she invents her own history.
Paul Gottfried is Raffensperger Professor of Humanities Emeritus at Elizabethtown College, where he taught for 25 years. He is a Guggenheim recipient and a Yale Ph.D. He is the author of 13 books, most recently Fascism: Career of a Concept and Revisions and Dissents.