The Legacy of Busing
By Bruce Walker
February 13, 2012
In the 2012 presidential nomination season it is worth reflecting on that process forty years ago. In 1972, the Republican nomination was pretty much a slam dunk for RINO Richard Nixon. Contrary to what leftists would have us believe today, conservatives did not want Nixon to be president. Conservative Republicans supported Congressman John Ashbrook for the Republican nomination against incumbent President Nixon, and in the general election, another Republican Congressman, John Schmidt ran as a third party conservative and more than one million conservatives voted for him in the general election.
The interesting race, though, was for the Democrat nomination. There were a number of heavy hitters from the left – Humphrey, Muskie, McGovern, as well as Scoop Jackson who was anti-communist but otherwise on the left. Then there was a governor from the Deep South, George Wallace, who had run as a third party candidate four years before. This time the lifelong Democrat decided to seek his own party’s nomination, as he had in 1964. Wallace was wildly popular in places like Michigan, where he not only won the primary but received more votes than all the other Democrats put together, and Maryland, which he won also. Although McGovern is remembered for winning the nomination, it was Wallace who stunned the leftist establishment by winning almost one quarter of all the primary votes, and carried every single county in Florida.
Why? The issue upon which Wallace incessantly pounded was “The asinine busing of little school children.” This did not mean ending formal desegregation of schools. Wallace, an opportunist politician, had once proudly announced his support for segregation. What was at issue was the forced busing of children, at the order of federal courts, from neighborhood schools to other schools often many miles away in order to achieve an artificial racial balance in public schools. It was this outrageous usurpation of state power by federal judges which threw moderate Democrats from working class neighborhoods into supporting a man who was otherwise out of synch with their party.
From the viewpoint of four decades, it ought to be clear just what a horrific nightmare forced busing was for America . The rapid decline of public schools happened at this time and closely correlates to the implementation of forced busing. Moreover, anyone who could pull her children out of public schools and placed the children in private schools or home schooled the children did so. In Boston, for example, the percentage of white students in the public school system dropped from 65% to 28% in a few years and this continued to drop to about 17% today. Test schools in the system are absolutely abysmal, even compared to the lousy public schools of 2012.
Moreover, the money which the left is always screeching should be “invested” in schools, was instead “invested” in school busing. Cities spent enormous sums of money on school bus fuel, driving, maintenance and related costs – to say nothing of the money spent repairing streets worn out by millions of miles of unnecessary bus traffic each day.
Although “white flight” in the 1960s and 1970s too often related to racial prejudice by homeowners, a big chunk of that flight to the suburbs was by racially tolerant middle class families who simply did not want their children forced to sit for hours riding a bus to a distant school in which racial tension was created by the coercion of federal judges (who, like all good leftists, sent their own kids to pristine private academies.) The cumulative impact of raising the cost of educating children in cities like Boston and encouraging good parents to abandon big city neighborhoods was to gut many major cities.
Property values in big cities dropped while the values of suburban homes rose, stripping blue collar workers and senior citizens of much of their wealth. In fact, the forced desegregation by race became the de facto creation of segregation by income, so that the only kids left in big city public schools, black or white, were poor kids getting a poor education.
Organizations like the PTA, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and other community based and school oriented groups lost cohesion as many neighborhood kids were suddenly shipped away. This affected all students of whatever racial background. Neighborhood schools, which in some black neighborhoods in New York turned out exceptionally good students, found many of these young black students shipped to predominately white schools miles away.
The transmutation of public schools into laboratories for social engineering, a legacy of Marxists and Nazis, meant that these institutions lost intellectual seriousness. It is sadly true that busing was only one of these ghastly experiments on our children, but it was probably the single most destructive. It stripped public school systems of seriousness in the minds of parents and good students.
But the costs, judged by the measurements of leftists, are even greater. School buses have a big carbon footprint and ordering these buses to travel many extra miles every day meant that cities had much more air pollution than with neighborhood schools. Moreover, students who once walked or biked to school, getting exercise and reducing pollution more, were denied that healthy option by order of federal courts.
Four decades after this one issue turned the Democrat Party upside down in its presidential nomination, busing remains a brutal legacy of the left and its adopted maxim: You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs. The author of this horror, like the federal ending of illegal abortion, was an arrogant, insulated federal judiciary but the victims bear scars today which no legal balm will ever cure.
Bruce Walker is a long-time conservative writer whose work is published regularly at popular conservative sites such as American Thinker.