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Fri Feb 8, 2019, 07:42 AM

'Single Most Important Vote' of John Dingell's Career

R. Saddler @Politics_PR 24m24 minutes ago
Inside the ‘Single Most Important Vote’ of John Dingell’s Record-Breaking Career http://j.mp/2tbIaix

Nearly a decade into Dingell’s Congressional career, President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Civil Rights Act came before Congress. After Dingell helped get the 1964 bill passed, he faced a difficult primary. Redistricting meant that he was up against another incumbent Congressman, John Lesinski, with whom he had much in common, including a Polish family background and fathers who had also served in Congress. The big difference between them — and likely the topic that would drive voters in one way or the other — was on the issue of race, as TIME described it back then:

The Dingells were liberals and champions of the Negroes, who comprised some 46% of the population in their longtime constituency. The Lesinskis stood fast against any Negro penetration of their own home ground of Dearborn, a virtually all-white city of 115,600.

Predictably, Dingell this year voted in Congress for the civil rights bill, while Lesinski was the only Northern Democratic Congressman to vote against it. Dingell’s vote took some courage. In Michigan’s redistricting, he lost most of his old Negro constituency, faced Lesinski in a new district that included 80% of Lesinski’s old territory and was 90% white.

In the new district, bordered by Negro neighborhoods and beset by fears of black incursions, the backlash, so everybody thought, was an “obvious” issue. Dingell accused Lesinski’s followers of “trying to use it. They’re raising the bogeyman, telling people that if I’m elected there will be two Negro families on every block in Dearborn.” Lesinski indeed raised some bogeymen. “The other day,” he cried in a typical speech, “a 35-year-old man was set upon and stabbed by four colored fellows. He was stabbed to death. It didn’t appear on TV or in the papers. They hushed it up. Now that’s the kind of thing that the people are worried about.”

…To believers in the backlash theory, Lesinski’s victory seemed a cinch. But Dingell won by a vote of 30,791 to 25,620. In a district that was clearly liberal on almost every issue other than civil rights, his liberal record was the big difference. Moreover, as Dingell himself said, with more accuracy than modesty: “I can make an understandable and intelligent speech, where my opponent, frankly, cannot.”

“I very nearly lost an election over it. But it was the right thing to do. It was the single vote that did the most to see to it that our country remained one and to finally begin the solution of the problems that triggered the Civil War,” he once told an interviewer, “I was challenged in an election in which the Wall Street Journal gave me a 1 in 15 chance of winning. It was a hard-fought campaign in which I asked people: Why is it that a white man or woman should be able to vote and an African-American should not?”

read: http://time.com/vault/issue/1964-09-11/page/45/

UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 26: Rep. Joe Lewis, D-Ga., presents Rep. John Dingell, D-Mi., a signed magazine with his famous civil rights march on the cover at his 50th anniversary party in the National Building Museum. (Photo By Chris Maddaloni/Roll Call/Getty Images)

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Fri Feb 8, 2019, 08:54 AM

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