What Gbaji fails to see is that you can't look at the Civil Rights Act by which party voted for or against it. What you have to realize is the political parties back then were not so far apart policy wise as both parties tried to cater to more of the middle and one needs to look at regions when comparing who voted for and against the CRA.
I do see that. Obviously, the issue was regional. Segregation was a popular policy position in the south. Thus, if you wanted to get elected in the south, you had to adopt a pro-segregation position. This did cross party boundaries. But if we look at the makeup of the parties, and how many Democrats were elected in the south on a pro-segregation platform versus Republicans, you kinda have to conclude that Democrats were more willing to adopt that position to win elections than Republicans were. Which means that the pro-segregation position was more prevalent in the Democratic party than the Republican party. Thus, the pro-segregation position held more sway over the national party platform of the Dems than that of the GOP. That is not (or at least should not) be in question.
The question is what happened after the CRA was passed (actually really during the build up to and time period after if we want to study the whole process). The point is that during this time period, a pro-segregation platform changed from being a winning one, to a losing one. And this process started well before 1964. It was a combination of two main factors:
1. An increase in industrialization in the south. This brought new workers into the region who did not hold strong segregationist views. These voters tended to vote Republican (where it was even possible for the GOP to mount a candidate, that is).
2. Erosion of black disenfranchisement. The civil rights movement had been steadily chipping away at Jim Crow for nearly a century. It was still not yet enough, but this gradual change slowly filtered through the southern states, changing perceptions (and party representation) as it went.
Once a critical mass was reached, the whole process fell apart. It was dependent on disenfranchisement to work. The number of staunch segregationists was actually relatively small among white voters, but had been in power for so long, that they could basically rig elections to ensure that only pro-segregation candidates had any chance of winning. Read up on Wallace's governor's races in Alabama for some interesting data about this.
I guess my point here is that the idea that racism was still a winning strategy in the south and that it just shifted to the GOP, and this somehow explains their gains in the south after 1964 (really after 1972) is incredibly weak. The trend had been against racial policies for some time. The primary obstacle to GOP success in the south had been that the same disenfranchisement that prevented black from voting also made it very hard for Republicans to even run for office. Once those obstacles were removed, they started winning elections. Not because of some shift of racists to the GOP, but because their platform had always appealed to voters, but voters were scared out of voting for it. Once the threats and intimidation tactics were eliminated (which didn't happen immediately after the passage of the CRA by any means), the GOP started winning elections.
GOP success in the south had nothing to do with racial politics, and still does not. I'm sure this myth does have some value to Democrats and Liberals, but it's just not backed up with evidence.
Thus, it seems to me that minorities have a pretty good idea of what they are doing when joining the Democratic party. They recognize that the Democratic party of today looks and sounds a lot more like the Democratic party of the North that with near unity passed the Civil Rights Bill of 1964 than the southern Democrats of the era who blocked it, and today would, like Strom Thurmond, likely be Republicans.
I disagree. I think that's an incredibly simplistic way of looking at things. A better explanation for the data is that while a Democrat could get elected in the south merely by being a Democrat (and perhaps be willing to vote for something like the CRA), it was impossible for a Republican to get elected without being a very staunch supporter of segregation and convince the powers that be who controlled things, that he was moreso than a Democratic opponent. Again, because in the south, the racist political machine was geared towards supporting Democrats by default because they had been the party that supported them for so long.
I'll also point out (again) that the issues and platforms shifted from racially directed to economically directed over time. The GOP just got there first, with a focus on free markets and promoting individual prosperity. As a result, the Dems adopted a more large government economic platform. The reason this appeals to minorities today isn't because of some insidious hidden racism in the GOP platform, but the simple fact that minorities, especially those that the Dems had been suppressing for so long, were the most likely to benefit directly from big government social programs.
So yeah, minority voters do know what they're doing, but it's not about race. It's about economic policies and which one appears to benefit them the most. I don't see this as some kind of support for the theory that the racists all moved to the GOP and created their modern platform. The fiscal conservative movement had been growing in the GOP for decades before the passage of the CRA, and during the same time period when the GOP was also leading the fight against segregation and racial discrimination in the south. So one would have to speculate that the same economic ideology which was entirely non-racist (and arguably anti-racist) in the 40s, 50s, and 60s, magically became racist in the late 60s and beyond. Because.... Why again?
It's a convenient claim to make if you're a Democrat and want to hand wave away your party's past. It's not a very good claim in terms of facts though.
Again though, that doesn't say *why* they switched. You could claim they were all dedicated racists, got fed up with their party swapping on segregation, and flocked to the GOP to continue their evil agenda there. Or you could say, that as politicians tend to do, they rode the winds of public opinion and shifted to the party that was now winning votes in their districts and states. As you pointed out earlier, positions on segregation and race were not specifically party aligned, but regionally aligned. A politician might have joined the Democratic party early in his career simply because that was his best shot at winning office. And when that changed, so did the affiliation.
So why one might try to paint the GOP as the party of Civil Rights, when we look at the actual record of who voted by region and the jump from the Democratic party to the GOP in the 60's and 70's we can see a pattern of Southern Democrats who having voted against the CRA, changing party affiliation, as they saw the GOP better reflected their views.
Only one Democrat who voted against the CRA shifted parties to the Democrats. And that almost certainly had nothing to do with thinking he could continue to foster some kind of racist policies in the GOP. There's no doubt that Thurmond himself was a racist, but his joining of the GOP had less to do with alignment with the ideology of the party as it did political necessity if he wanted to remain in office. And yeah, the GOP wasn't exactly going to say no, again for political convenience, not because of ideology on race. As I've pointed out several times, the GOP was primarily focused on economics and individual liberties, not race. And yes, politics sometimes makes strange bedfellows, but it would be an amazing stretch to suggest that the GOP somehow radically changed its stance on race because of one racist defector from the Democrats.
The additional point is all the folks in the Dem party who voted against the CRA and who remained in that party. If we're speculating that the presence of racists in a party will influence that party's policies in a racist direction, then we'd have to conclude that racism continued to be a far stronger factor in the Democratic party than in the Republican. I'll also (again) point out that the GOP platform didn't center on race, while the Dem platform did then, and still does. It's like comparing apples to oranges. Racists in a party where race is a central platform component will tend to influence that platform. Racists in a party where race is not a central platform component will tend to have no effect.