There's some debate about the exact wording Lyndon Baines Johnson used after he signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In the most common version of the story, LBJ referenced the future of the Democratic Parry and said, "There goes the South for a generation."
Fifty years later, that prediction is holding up quite well. Zach Roth reported over the weekend:
Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy defeated incumbent Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu in the Louisiana Senate runoff election Saturday night, giving the GOP its 54th seat in the upper chamber when Congress reconvenes next year.
The Republican Party now holds every statewide office in the swath of seven states that used to make up the Solid South for Democrats: Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and the Carolinas.
That phrase, "Solid South," used to describe Democratic control of the South, which was completely dominant in the generations that followed the Civil War. It now has the exact opposite meaning -- it took a half-century, but the region has completely flipped.
Indeed, as Nate Cohn reported, "In a region stretching from the high plains of Texas to the Atlantic coast of the Carolinas, Republicans control not only every Senate seat, but every governor's mansion and every state legislative body."
Think about that for a moment. In the early 1960s, Democrats controlled every Senate seat in the South, every governor's office, and every state legislative chamber. Now, from the Lone Star State to the Carolinas -- or more specifically, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas -- Democratic control has dropped to literally nothing.
Landrieu's Senate seat has been held by a Democrat every year since 1883, but no longer.
First up from the God Machine this week is a provocative argument from one of the more high-profile figures from the world of religion and politics.
Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), who's reportedly gearing up for another Republican presidential campaign, told a right-wing audience this week that "the words 'separation of church and state' is not in the U.S. Constitution, but it was in the constitution of the former Soviet Union. That's where it very, very comfortably sat, not in ours."
To be sure, Santorum has never been a fan of the First Amendment principle -- he once said the argument makes him want to "throw up" -- but to suggest church-state separation is communist is pretty outrageous.
As famed church-state lawyer Leo Pfeffer once explained: "It is true, of course, that the phrase 'separation of church and state' does not appear in the Constitution. But it was inevitable that some convenient term should come into existence to verbalize a principle so widely held by the American people...." In other words, church-state separation is a summary of the Constitution's religion clauses. That doesn't mean it doesn't exist.
Roger Williams was talking about church-state separation in 1644. More than 100 years later, key founders like James Madison and Thomas Jefferson championed the idea. Madison, who is widely considered to be the "father of the Constitution," was a primary drafter of the First Amendment. In a document known as the "Detached Memoranda," Madison wrote, "Strongly guarded ... is the separation between religion & Gov't in the Constitution of the United States."
Here's a newsflash for Santorum: Williams, Jefferson and Madison were not communists.
As for the constitution from the USSR, it copied a variety of our First Amendment principles -- including freedom of speech and press, which the Soviets promptly ignored -- but it obviously doesn't mean our First Amendment is communist.
But even putting all of that aside, what I'd love to know is what Santorum would, if he had the power, replace the American tradition with. If the Pennsylvania Republican could, he'd apparently knock down Thomas Jefferson's church-state wall in its entirety. Fine. But what exactly would he prefer as an alternative? Does Santorum see theocracies abroad as a superior model?
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