Eisenhower and the American Crusades

By Herbert S. Parmet | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 37
The Shrinking Center

I N 1957, A COMBINATION of forces helped to ensure the success of the first post-Reconstruction civil-rights act. The Administration and Congressional Republicans had interpreted the 1956 Negro vote as promising its possible reconversion to the GOP. As early as December, Republican Congressional leaders were told by Attorney General Brownell that the President and the Department of Justice were going to resubmit the requests that had failed before; the President himself, meeting with them on December 31, stressed the importance of moderate civil-rights legislation.1

Vice President Nixon, in his role as President of the Senate, furthered the Administration's goal by deciding that Senate Rule XXII, which had been used to protect repeated filibusters, was not binding without reaffirmation by the new session.2 Although a two-thirds vote for cloture was retained, Democratic liberals agreed that the Vice President had strengthened his own position as a potential Presidential candidate. At the same time, Majority Leader Johnson, similarly ambitious and seeking to rectify his own image as an anti-civil-rights Southerner, informed his colleagues at the start of the year that some sort of legislation would pass. No filibuster did develop. But extensive debates took place, mostly over granting the Attorney General power to initiate suits seeking court injunctions against those depriving individuals of any civil right which Southerners feared would, with the retention of an 1866 statute empowering the President to use armed forces to "aid in the execution of the provisions," bring about integration at bayonet point. Ultimately, that was discarded, as was the 1866 statue. But the bill did grant the federal

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