THE COMMON wisdom holds that the GOP 2016 presidential race will boil down to a joust between the “establishment” and the “insurgents.” The former will allegedly be more moderate and the latter more conservative. Since most polls for two decades have shown that around two-thirds to 70 percent of self-described Republicans call themselves conservative, this elite narrative will focus on just how much the establishment candidate will need to be pulled to the right in order to fend off his insurgent challenger. And since the Tea Party has clearly become a vocal and powerful insurgent element in the GOP, the narrative will focus on two other questions: Who will gain Tea Party favor and emerge as the insurgent candidate?
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Kennedy’s support for the movement effectively forced his successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, to back it as well, even though Johnson had opposed civil rights legislation during his twelve years as Senate majority leader. Johnson realized that he had to honor Kennedy’s commitment to the movement in order to unite the Democratic Party and lead it effectively. He therefore put all his energy into pushing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 , a tougher civil rights bill than even Kennedy had envisioned. Johnson later followed through with the Voting Rights Act of 1965 . Even though these acts were landmark achievements and finally gave black Americans equal social and political rights, Johnson likely would not have endorsed them had it not been for Kennedy’s prior commitment. In fact, after Johnson had done what he considered to be his political duty, he ordered the FBI to investigate civil rights activists and organizations for alleged ties to Communism.