Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Todd Purdum

Todd Purdum is the author of the book An Idea Whose Time Has Come: Two Presidents, Two Parties and the Battle for the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

From his 2014 Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross:

GROSS: What impact did the Civil Rights Act and its passage have on President Johnson's relationship with the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement?

PURDUM: Well, the immediate effect was a positive one. He became quite close to them - many of them - and they work cooperatively through the Voting Rights Act. But as the '60s went on, and particularly as Martin Luther King and others began to oppose very vocally President Johnson's policies on Vietnam, an estrangement grew up. And by the time of King's assassination in 1968, he and Johnson were not on speaking terms anymore.

So that also is a very poignant - I mean, the two of them really combined to pass this landmark legislation and by the end of King's life they were really not speaking.

GROSS: You know, another ripple effect of the passage of the Civil Rights Act was the change in voting habits in the - the voting patterns in the American South. You want to just describe that?

PURDUM: Well, the night he signed the bill, Johnson told his friend Bill Moyers that he had a premonition that they'd just delivered the South to the Republican Party for years to come. And in fact, beginning in the 1960s and up to the present day, that really came true, as white backlash and resentment against these laws conspired to help revive and revitalize the Republican Party throughout the South.

The Republican Party in the South had been basically a black party and by the, you know, end of the 20th century was almost a completely white party. And the Republican Party's source of national strength is and remains the South.

GROSS: What did you learn writing this book on how the Civil Rights Act was actually passed about how Congress really works?

PURDUM: Well, I learned several things. One is that there was a lot of advantage to having a backroom deal, having quiet negotiations out of public view where people could test their ideas, not posture, not preen for the cameras, but just talk to each other as people. Secondly, they...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue