The 1960s were a tumultuous decade, and indeed it was a time that some allege that the “parties switched”. Ratings issued by interest groups of the period don’t bear that out. However, there were some definite changes that certain individuals in politics underwent in that turbulent time. A fascinating example is what happened with two people commonly regarded as conservative: Democrat George W. Andrews of Alabama and Republican William M. McCulloch of Ohio. Both had served since the 1940s, both were critics of the Truman Administration, and both received low Americans for Democratic Action scores during Truman’s second term. Although they certainly didn’t agree on all issues, the most obvious disagreement the two had was one of the question of civil rights. Andrews was a signatory of the Southern Manifesto and an advocate for shutting down public schools and making education private to stop desegregation while McCulloch was known as “Mr. Civil Rights” for his advocacy on the subject and had supported an NAACP lawsuit to desegregate restaurants in Ohio.
The first major conservative ratings organization, Americans for Constitutional Action, scored Andrews a 31% and McCulloch a 100% in their 1959 ACA-Index. In 1969, however, the situation was reversed: Andrews scored a 93% while McCulloch scored a 33%. Although I have contrasted Andrews’ lowest score and one of McCulloch’s three 100% scores vs. one of Andrews’ highest and McCulloch’s lowest for dramatic effect, a more comprehensive look is only somewhat less dramatic: when their votes from 1957, 1958, and 1959 are counted together, Andrews has a 37% and McCulloch a 95%. McCulloch’s scores after 1969 were 53%, 56%, and 63% and Andrews’ were 78% and 87%. A change had occurred, and not only one because of differing methods of scoring from ACA. McCulloch had voted against the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 and numerous expansions of government but now was more willing to embrace anti-poverty spending and was more flexible on expansions of government. Andrews had previously supported public housing measures and food stamps, but later voted against housing programs and food stamp spending. There appear to be two turning point years for the two men. Andrews’ is 1962, and McCulloch’s is 1968. The below chart represents their ACA-Index scores from 1957 to 1972. Andrews doesn’t have a 1972 score as he died at the end of 1971.
1962 was the year George Wallace ran his successful campaign for governor on a distinctly anti-Kennedy line and the year that longtime Alabama Senator Lister Hill almost lost reelection to a Republican activist who ran a hard anti-Kennedy line. Although there had been room in the past for support for national Democratic policies in Alabama, this room was shrinking, and the 1964 election proved it. Five of eight Alabama seats were won by Republicans, the first time any Republican had won a House seat in Alabama since 1898. Andrews was among the three remaining Democrats, and part of this can certainly be thanked to his significant shift rightward after the 1962 midterm. Remaining Democrats shifted more to the right, including Senators Hill and Sparkman.
For McCulloch, he had been tapped to be on the Kerner Commission in July 1967 to investigate urban riots of that summer. The committee had concluded that rioting was caused by lack of economic opportunities, generally blamed white society for the conditions causing the rioting including racism, and had recommended programs to remedy de facto segregation in the cities. Given the shift in his record, including his willingness to cast votes for housing and anti-poverty programs after the release of the report, being on the commission probably had a great impact on him.
Derbes, B.J. (2012, September 24). George Andrews. Encyclopedia of Alabama.
William M. McCulloch. Ohio History Central.