{{show_title_date || "Matthews: What happened to the Republican Party of the 1960s?, 2/21/13, 7:00 PM ET"}}

What happened to the Republican Party of the 1960s?

Updated

Let me finish tonight with this.

What happened to the Republican Party of the 1960s? You know, all those GOP senators who voted for the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. What happened to them? What happened to that Republican Party?

For the Civil Rights Act, the Republican vote in the Senate was 27 to 6; in the House it was 136 to 35—four out of five Republican members in both houses.

For the Voting Rights Act the following year, the Republican vote in the Senate was 30 to 2; in the House, the Republican vote was 112 to 24. Overwhelming in all cases.

I’m watching this debate over the Voting Rights Act and the need for it today, and I’m struck with the reality that the reason for it today is the Republican Party—not the party of the 1960s, but the one of Reince Preibus, the one that’s backed voter suppression efforts in dozens of states and keeps on doing it.

Every time a state run by a Republican legislature and governor passes another bill making it harder to vote—cutting down on voting days, expanding voter ID requirements—you have to wonder: are they doing precisely what the Voting Rights Act was designed to stop? Are they deliberately making it harder for minority voters to get into the booth and cast their ballots?

The Republican Party can be proud of its heritage in certain regards—certainly Abraham Lincoln pushing through the 13th Amendment outlawing slavery, certainly the backing of men like Sen. Everett Dirksen of Illinois for the Civil Rights Act.

The question going into the history books for this young century is whether the party will be as proud in the future for the positions it’s taking now.

What happened to the Republican Party of the 1960s?

Updated