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George Wallace was a Democrat; so was Bull Connor

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Michael Barone,Democratic Party,Alabama

MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, who seems like a nice person, got caught making a huge historical mistake; he said George Wallace, the Alabama Governor who defied a desegregation order 50 years ago, was a Republican. Nope. He was a Democrat and ran in the Democratic presidential primaries in 1964, 1972 and 1976; he also ran for president as a third party candidate in 1968. Hayes either didn’t know that–surprisingly for a political commentator–or temporarily and perhaps conveniently forgot it. Or maybe he just figures that all political villains are Republicans. In any case he apologized for what he, appropriately, called a "stupid, inexcusable, historically illiterate mistake."

Here’s another fact he and others may want to keep in mind as we remember the climactic events of the civil rights movement 50 years ago: Bull Connor, the Birmingham police commissioner who turned fire hoses and police dogs on peaceful civil rights demonstrators, was a Democrat too. In fact, he was Democratic National Committeeman from Alabama, at a time when each state and territory had just one male and one female member on the Democratic National Committee.

One more reminder: President John Kennedy’s endorsement 50 years ago this month of what became the Civil Rights Act of 1964 came in the third year of his presidency, in response to events in Birmingham and elsewhere; previously he had been reluctant to raise the issue for fear he would antagonize Southern Democratic officeholders and voters. Some on the left evidently want to depict the civil rights battle as a struggle between benificent Democrats and evil Republicans. It was no such thing.

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Michael Barone

Senior Political Analyst
The Washington Examiner