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On the Legacy of Jim Crow, Ted Cruz Picks the Wrong Partisan Fight (Opinion)

The Democratic-led Senate Judiciary Committee will hold an important hearing tomorrow: "Jim Crow 2021: The Latest Assault on the Right to Vote." Among the witnesses will be Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), former state Sen. Stacey Abrams (D-Ga.), and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund's Sherrilyn Ifill.

The need for the hearing should be obvious: Republican officials nationwide have launched the most dramatic attack on the franchise in generations. Nevertheless, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a member of the panel, apparently sees a degree of irony to the partisan circumstances. The Republican published a tweet this morning that read:

"Impressive candor for Senate Dems to hold a hearing on the history of Jim Crow laws. Bull Connor, Nathan Bedford Forrest (founder of KKK), George Wallace, Robert Byrd, ALL Democrats. Dems wrote Jim Crow. Sadly, they've got a lot of expertise in bigotry [and] discrimination."

If this sounds at all familiar, it's because Cruz has pushed a similar line before. Four years ago, the GOP senator told Fox News, "The Democrats are the party of the Ku Klux Klan. You look at the most racist -- you look at the Dixiecrats, they were Democrats who imposed segregation, imposed Jim Crow laws, who founded the Klan. The Klan was founded by a great many Democrats."

As regular readers know, we usually revisit this larger point about once a year, and in light of Cruz's cheap and misleading rhetoric, now is as good a time as any to set the record straight once more.

The Democratic Party, in the first half of the 20th century, was home to two broad, competing constituencies: southern whites with abhorrent views on race, and white progressives and African Americans in the north, who sought to advance the cause of civil rights. The party struggled with this conflict for years, before ultimately siding with an inclusive, liberal agenda.

The result was a dramatic shift in both parties. After "Dixiecrats" began their exodus in 1948, and in the wake of LBJ signing the Civil Rights Act in 1964, the Republican Party welcomed segregationists who no longer felt comfortable in the Democratic Party. Indeed, in 1964, Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater boasted of his opposition to the Civil Rights Act, and made it part of his platform.

Read entire article at MSNBC