Edward J. Blum and Paul Harvey: How (George) Romney Championed Civil Rights and Challenged His Church

Roundup: Talking About History

Edward J. Blum and Paul Harvey are co-authors of The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America.

When Mitt Romney named Paul Ryan as his running mate this weekend, he not only underscored his commitment to Ryan's financial ideals -- he also sharpened the divide between his political outlook and that of his father. George Romney, the former governor of Michigan, was well known for supporting Civil Rights, not just through words but through financial policies. During his gubernatorial term, he expanded state social programs, including for programs for the poor and unemployed, and created an income tax levy.

In short, George Romney's programs resembled those of his son Mitt when he was governor of Massachusetts, but diverge nearly entirely from those advocated by his son, and his new running mate, during the current presidential campaign. A closer look at the arc leading from father to son illustrates the Republican Party's change in social outlook from the 1960s to the present.

In 1963, George Romney was able to forge a bond with Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King that seems virtually inconceivable across today's political divide. The year was a pivotal one for both men. In between launching his spring campaign in Birmingham and delivering his "I Have a Dream" speech in Washington at the end of August, King led a march in Detroit in June....

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