Fifty-one years ago tomorrow the events of Selma, Alabama, would be broadcast for the world to see as Alabama State troopers would attack peaceful marchers as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge over the Alabama River. The march was to end in Montgomery, the state Capitol, to press for voting rights and to protest the death of Jimmy Lee Jackson, who had been killed by a state trooper Feb. 26. Instead of a peaceful march, they were met with tear gas, billy clubs and horses.
At the time it was the Democratic Party that was coming unhinged at the prospect of ending segregation. Democrats controlled the statehouses in the solid South. It was Democrats who saw the revolution in 1948 as South Carolina's governor, Strom Thurmond, left the Democratic Convention over the party's adoption of a civil rights platform. He and other southerners became known as Dixiecrats and Thurmond was the new party's nominee for president. Mississippi's Gov. Fielding Wright was his vice-presidential running mate.
Their bid was, of course unsuccessful, but they did get 39 electoral votes to Harry S. Truman's 303 and Thomas E. Dewey's 189. That race may have also produced the most famous newspaper headline in history when the Chicago Daily Tribune printed in error across its front page, "DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN."
Fifty-one years later it is the Republican Party going through seismic gyrations that threaten its very existence. Unlike the 1948 revolt where some left to join the ranks of the Dixiecrats, the establishment Democrats were able to coalesce around Truman and win the White House. The establishment Republicans are firing all cannons at the leader in delegates, billionaire Donald Trump, and so far, the broadsides have had little effect. Trump's basic message is not that much different from the Dixiecrats'. He's just widened the target area to include immigrants, Muslims and anyone else he deems unworthy of his gaze.
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Dire predictions have been made by his opposition, Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. Even the past two Republican nominees, Sen. John McCain and Mitt Romney have taken their turns putting Trump in their gun sights. It may all be too little, too late.
While the outcome of this process is yet to be decided, there is no doubt that when the history of this election is written, there won't be an overriding good story at the end as there was in 1965 when Bloody Sunday led to the passage, in August, of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
This election, rather, will have no such redeeming quality. And it will be one both political parties, and the citizens they represent, would rather forget.