On July 2, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson sat in the East Room of the White House in front of a crowd of politicians, civil rights activists, and media, and signed the Civil Rights Act. The bill was the culmination of months of work; many say it was a de ning moment of his presidency. And in his ensuing ebullience Johnson would tell the crowd surrounding the desk how proud he was that the signing occurred on his daughter’s birthday and the ninth anniversary of his 1955 heart attack. But his elation did not last long. Later, in a more somber tone, he confided to White House aide Bill Moyers: “We have just delivered the South to the Republican Party for a long time to come.”
Johnson was right—to a degree. Following the 1964 Civil Rights Act and to this day, the White South has consistently voted Republican in presidential elections, ending decades of “Solid South” support for the Democratic Party. But this support for Republican presidential candidates did not coincide with support for Republican congressional candidates; in fact, it was not until the 1990s, generally known as the “Republican Breakthrough in Congress,” that the White South, as a majority, even supported Republican congressional candidates. New allegiance in congressional politics was delayed, but why?
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