Skip to comments.JFK, MLK AND THE POLITICAL BALANCE
Posted on 11/14/2013 6:18:01 AM PST by Nextrush
It wasn't too many years ago that President George W. Bush would make a speech to a Pro Life group saying they needed to "change people's hearts".
I guess that was one way of saying that he was not planning any dramatic changes to the status quo of Roe vs. Wade when it came to abortion because public opinion wouldn't support it.
John F. Kennedy believed he was such a situation when it came to segregation as he won a narrow victory in the Nineteen Sixty presidential election.
The federal courts had ordered integration of public schools and public transportation, but segregation existed in everything from restuarants to hotels to where people were allowed to live.
Public opinion was not in favor of changing those conditions. Kennedy had achieved his narrow victory not just with the support of black voters in northern cities and white liberals, but white voters in southern states who favored segregation.
JFK had put on a show of "caring" about Dr. Martin Luther King when he helped to get King out of the Georgia State Penitentary during the campaign, but he was not going to follow that up with executive actions or by supporting new civil rights legislation in Congress.
The Kennedy plan to was use existing federal civil rights law to sue for voting rights for African Americans in the South. Kennedy felt that voting rights obtained slowly over a long period of time would force the southern white politicians to pay attention to blacks just they had to when his Irish ancestors got voting rights in the Northeastern states in the face of discrimination.
In the spring of Nineteen Sixty One a group of protesters tested a federal regulatory order to integrate interstate bus terminals. The Freedom Riders peacefully worked their way to Alabama, then violence broke out. After a melee in Montgomery that injured an aide to Attorney General Robert Kennedy, the president decided to act in a way that would stop short of breaking his campaign promise not to deploy troops in the South like Eisenhower did.
A white helmeted force of federal marshals, border patrol agents, prison guards and other federal law enforcement was deployed to offer protection to the Freedom Riders. Several hundred men armed with tear gas, night sticks and pistols were quickly put on the defensive at a church where a protest rally was taking place. When President Kennedy came close to ordering the Army in, Alabama's governor Robert Patterson was tipped off by a phone operator and declared martial law, using Alabama National Guard troops to protect the protesters.
In Nineteen sixty two Dr. King led a sustained campaign of civil rights protests against segregation of public facilities in Albany, Georgia. Local authorities used their own non violent tactics to arrest protesters and had informants planted among them. The FBI also had its informants providing information to the Kennedy Administration.
When Dr. King allowed himself to be arrested and refused to post bail so attention would be drawn to the protests, the Kennedy Administration used the host of NBC's "Meet the Press" to offer King a Sunday guest slot. When that attempt failed, a Justice Department official was sent to Albany to bail MLK out. (This was revealed by the Johnson Administration in Nineteen sixty six when Robert Kennedy was considered a potential rival to President Johnson for the Democratic presidential nomination.)
At Oxford, Mississippi in the fall of Nineteen sixty two, President Kennedy was faced with the challenge of enforcing a federal court order to integrate the University of Mississippi. Governor Ross Barnett was stood in the way of James Meredith when he tried to enroll. On Sunday September 30th another white helmeted group of hundreds of federal law enforcement officials with tear gas, night sticks and pistols deployed on the Ole Miss campus as Meredith was brought in.
Thousands of angry segregationist protestors had descended on the area and some began to attack the federal force with firearms and firebombs.
Two were killed and hundreds injured.
At this point President Kennedy broke with his campaign promise and ordered a full military deployment into northern Mississippi. The Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines along with federalized National Guard units totally 20 thousand plus were on the ground eventually. Protesters were marched under arrest at the point of bayonets.
Kennedy's move had alienated his white southern support and tenuous coalition a month before the mid term elections.
Then the Cuban Missile Crisis just happened to come along later in October closer to the election to sweep the story out of the news.
Dr. Martin Luther King regrouped from the failed protests in Albany believing that he needed to keep his plans close to the vest. King secretly met with a small group of people he trusted to plan the Birmingham protests for the next year.
In the spring of Nineteen sixty three the protests began culminating in the use of children under 18 with teenagers being hosed and attacked with dogs driven by Bull Connor's relentless efforts to win a political contest with more moderate members of Birmingham's white community. Small children as young as six and seven years old walked into Connor's police wagons to be arrested, too.
The race issue and the potential to split the coalition of support for President Kennedy was out in the open a year before his reelection year.
They can just use the slogan “Denmocracy for Democrrats”, and the people will fall in line.