Senator Joe Biden, Busing, and Massachusetts Democrats [OPINION]
Facts and historical context matter to thoughtful people, especially with the Massachusetts Democratic Party presidential primary only a few weeks away. Our former Vice President, Joe Biden, has been attacked for his position against the busing of public school students based on the color of their skin in the 1970s when he was a member of the U.S. Senate.
There is more to the political story of busing, particularly in Massachusetts, than the leftist opponents of Biden probably even know. It is much easier and more satisfying to smear a political opponent as a racist than is to take some time to explore the historical record.
Massachusetts Democrats voted against busing when they had the opportunity to express their opinion in the 1976 Democratic presidential primary election.
If you are an easily triggered left-wing goofball, please stop reading now.
Out of respect for family tranquility, I waited until after the holidays to write this column. Some of your relatives over the age of 60 voted for a segregationist. Most of the Massachusetts Democrats voted for a candidate who opposed race-based busing, and by the current standards of the left, they are racists. See why I waited?
In 1972, Massachusetts voted for Sen. George McGovern and Sargent Shriver over Richard Nixon and Spero Agnew for President and Vice-President of the United States. Senator McGovern had easily won the Massachusetts Democratic Party presidential primary earlier in the year. The McGovern-Shriver ticket was the most credible left-wing option for America since the Progressive Party had run former Vice-President Henry Wallace against Harry Truman in 1948.
Just four years later, the world had changed in Massachusetts. The winner of the Democratic Party presidential primary in the Bay State was U.S. Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson, an opponent of busing.
As the New York Times reported at the time, "Senator Henry M. Jackson of Washington has attempted to exploit the busing issue. He has proposed legislation that would prohibit individual Federal judges from implementing busing plans that had not been approved by a special panel of three other federal judges."
The third-place candidate in the Massachusetts Democratic Party presidential primary of 1976 was a vicious segregationist. Governor George Wallace of Alabama, who blocked the doors of public schools to black children as the Ku Klux Klan conducted terrorist campaigns featuring lynchings, fire bombings, and assassinations, was the choice of over 120,000 Massachusetts Democrats in 1976.
The votes for the city of Boston are not included in the easily accessible statics for some unexplainable reason. But I did some digging and it appears that Gov. Wallace won the Democratic vote in the state capital. According to the Harvard Crimson newspaper, the Democratic Party voters in the city of Boston went for the segregationist.
The Alabama segregationist won Berkshire County. In Bristol County, he earned second place and he won the towns of Acushnet, Berkley, Dartmouth, Dighton, Fairhaven, and Raynham. Governor Wallace placed second in Plymouth County and among the towns in Plymouth County he won were Lakeville, Middleborough, and Rochester.
Shriver – brother-in-law to the late President John F. Kennedy, the late Sen. Robert Kennedy, and then-U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy – was defeated in every Massachusetts county by the Alabama segregationist except for Nantucket, where they literally had the same number of votes.
What changed so much in Massachusetts to make the local Democratic Party voters embrace two opponents of busing – one a violent segregationist – over a member of the Kennedy family, who they had chosen to be vice president just four years earlier?
Busing. The answer is busing.
This contemporary coverage of the 1976 Massachusetts primary by the New York Times explains the local Democrats' enthusiasm against busing:
"The Alabama Governor has begun to hit hard at the school busing issue and either through coincidence or design, his quest for delegates in the March 2 Democratic primary seems to be picking up momentum.
Here in Chicopee in south central Massachusetts, last night, so many people showed up at the High Point Motor Inn to hear him denounce Federal judges who “push little children around in sociological experiments” that it was necessary to schedule what the onetime segregationist delightedly called a “doubleheader”—two rallies.
The motel meeting room in this small industrial city had space last night for only 1,000 spectators. Two thousand showed up, many from nearby Springfield, a city where the court has ordered pupil busing."
Forced busing was so disruptive to the good folks of Massachusetts, they ran into the arms of the violent segregationist George Wallace and abandoned Sargent Shriver, the founder of the Special Olympics and their choice for Vice President of the United States just four years earlier.
Massachusetts Democrats weren't voting for segregation, they were voting against the federal government's race-based busing of their children in public schools and the daily turmoil it was causing in their lives and the lives of their neighbors.
When Sen. Joe Biden filed bills in opposition to forced federal busing, he was in the mainstream of American political thought. As the evidence shows, his position was supported by the majority of Massachusetts Democrats in 1976.
Consider the facts, not the smears.
Chris McCarthy is the host of The Chris McCarthy Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @Chris_topher_Mc. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.