A Nixon-Era Distraction Steps Out of Limelight
Initial Pain, but Perhaps Long-Term Gain
Couple of articles really bring to the forefront what will certainly be some overreaching on this whole Lott-mania. Its a natural process, when there's blood in the water, to locate exactly where the line is drawn on acceptable parallels.
To date, there've been a few, and I myself have been one of several to point out those that stand out to me. For my own sake, I denote the more egregious in order to place them on guard for their actions. Maybe Ballenger or even Burns aren't as bad as their comments reflect. Maybe their genuine in their remorse for saying them. But they still need to be taken to task for them.
Where it gets dicier is whether or how to equate a voting record or a paper trail to such disdainful beliefs. The New Republic has an article highlighting Alabama Senator Sessions. It notes that his record is strongly more odius than Lott's, he has a history of focusing on issues that do indeed indicate a desire to deny or abate black voters, commenting on the Klan in a way that implies acceptance of their racial views, etc ... the problem is that there is no single smoking gun to really tie that down like the Lott video at Stromfest.
There have likewise been some aspersions cast at the likes of Lott's presumptive replacement, Bill Frist (via Josh Marshall):
"[Jim Sasser is] sending Tennessee money to Washington, to Marion Barry ... While I've been transplanting lungs and hearts to heal Tennesseans, Jim Sasser has been transplanting Tennesseans' wallets to Washington, home of Marion Barry."
Josh explains his sentiments in the link above more thoughtfully, but the ending is probably the point I concur the most with:
Now, I don't think Bill Frist is a racist. Nor do I hope or expect he'll end up like Trent Lott. One reader -- flopping around like a fish-out-of-water making the case for Frist -- sent me this link about how Frist goes to Sudan to operate on African children. So how could he hate black people? How could he be a racist?
This misses the point. I doubt Frist is a racist. But this almost makes the point more clearly. Even some of best Southern Republicans seem incapable of resisting the temptation to dabble in racial code words and appeals on the stump. (In Frist's case, perhaps it was a rather notorious campaign consultant who worked for him that year and has a rep for such ugly tactics.)
I think the Bush family is a very similar case. I don't think this President Bush or the last one were racist in any way. Nor do I think either of them liked dabbling in racial politics. But in a pinch, when the chips were really down, both have been willing to do so. For this President Bush you need look no further than the South Carolina primary fight in February 2000.
The issue here isn't what's in your heart or what your party's 'thought' is. It's what you're willing to profit from, where you're willing to draw the line, what you do and don't look at and say 'I'm not going to put up with that in my party.'
On that count, the GOP falls really short.
Neo-conservative Republicans are very different from Dixiecrat Republicans. So why won't they stand up to them more often? Maybe they should try ...
Its easy to just try and paint this as a situation where Dems may love to see fratricide among Reps. I'm sure there will be those that get a kick out of it, just as some Reps enjoy seeing Dems battle amongst themselves on free trade, war, taxes, and any number of other issues. I stand by my comment that this transcends party politics. The fact of the matter is, however, that it was the Republicans who took in the bulk of Dixiecrat voters back in the day, and still have a sizable contingent of same to deal with. Will they continue with a wink and a nod, or will they truly rid themselves of this influence?
The Democratic party has its share of leftovers: Byrd, Hollings, etc. Some have been more contrite than others in noting a change in their sentiments over time. But as a party, the Democrats made their move in 1964 when LBJ pushed a Civil Rights bill, and in 1965 when a Voting Rights bill was pushed. As for the present extremists, we're working on that one. McKinney and Co, have been sent packing by black voters no less. There's lessons to be learned, and it would behoove all partisans to take note and do a lot less politicking of the issue. We can serve notice, we can debate the merits, but it does no good to overreach on what truly constitutes a "racist agenda" if your going to include things like the minimum wage or health care as bullet points on such an agenda.
Atrios has this to say:
Throughout all this Lott mess something's been bothering me. I would say, roughly, that the difference between Left and Right on racial issues in this country isn't as some seem to think a policy difference but rather a difference in perception . Those on the Left generally think that racism is still a problem which adversely effects racial minorities enough that we should formulate a policy response to the problem, while those on the Right don''t. There are enough people on both sides who agree that there is a problem but debate about what should be done about it, but I do think the predominant difference is the perception issue.
However, soon after the Lott thing broke we heard plenty of Republicans screaming "look at all the Democrats who are racists too!"
Fine, fair enough. But if there are all those racists in the top levels of government, don't we have a problem?
One hears a similar mantra from conservatives on a whole variety of issues. Those civil rights activists used to be right, but now they go too far. I supported feminism back when it was about equal rights for men and women, but now it's all crazy. Of course it's good that we don't have a property qualification for voting, but all this welfare state nonsense goes too far.
The question is what did conservatives used to say about these things back in the day. Well the abolitionists sure were right about slavery, but why do they have to go messing around with something like segregation? The suffragettes did good work, and it's a wonderful thing that women can vote, but women having jobs? That's just crazy.
It's one that's bugged me ever since the Brady Bill was a hot topic. Conservatives would always say how they have no problem with the laws already on the books, but that we don't need new laws. Very disinenginuous since they've been railing against the present laws for as long as I've been scouting political news. Why the need for revisionism, or more appropriately, the CONSTANT revisionism? To point back to Lincoln and say "We're the party of Lincoln" when party leaders are sucking up to the CCC, Southern Partisan, and the other neo-confederates out there, is trying to have it both ways. To say "Republicans supported Civil Rights" when Goldwater opposed it (admittedly on ideological principled grounds, but with the acceptance of those with far weaker principles), and more importantly, Nixon's turning his back on enforcement of Civil Rights laws, again ... trying to have it both ways.
Just more crap that bugs me ... that's all.