Democrats Loudly and Enthusiastically Deign to Acknowledge Racism Exists...
...but will they remember that come next election?
Call me cynical, but there is something fishy about Democratic leaders' current loud and enthusiastic condemnation of Trent Lott's racist remarks: namely, what took them so freaking long? In other words, it seems a bit odd that after four solid days of silence and/or excuses (from white Democrats, that is--the Black Democratic Caucus was angry from day one), Daschle and co. finally decided to make a big fuss. Especially considering their refusal to pay attention to black voters before last month?s election. As the Africana.com editors put it in this week's A-List:
...and in the Africana.com editorial:
Racist Republican Axis of Evil: There is something mildly annoying about the fact that after vigorously counseling the Democratic Party to abandon black voters (a.k.a. "special interests") the combined American liberal punditocracy--to a man, well, a white man--is frenzy-feeding on Trent Lott's praise for Old Jim Crow (a.k.a., that disgusting fossil Strom Thurmond, who would have to live a thousand years before he could begin to absolve himself of the literal black blood he has on his hands.). What would white folks do without us, really? After taking the blame for the Democrats poor showing (our turn-out was either too low to turn the tide or high enough to scare white folks off depending on who you asked) in November, we now provide them with the first legit opportunity to draw blood on the Bush Administration, something neither Enron, serious intelligence lapses leading up to 9/11, the bungling of the hunt for Osama, nor a collapsed economy has allowed them to do. The Congressional Black Caucus is rightly calling for Lott's head, but at the end of the day, the removal of a single individual, no matter how highly placed, will do little to change the fact that the Republican Party is now the home of neo-Confederate rabble whose "pride" is little more than an opportunity to re-animate the rituals and symbols associated with the chattel-slavery era South. Helms, Ashcroft, Thurmond, the entire "Dixiecrat" caucus turned Republican, the Northern Republican Party operatives who capitalized on white Southern hate in order to build the "new" Republican Party, race-moderates like Ronald Reagan who played to the neo-Confederate trash gallery in order to win elections -- over-excitable progressives often over-use certain epithets in attacking the right, but there really are no other words to describe these people except "racist" and "evil."
Is it any wonder, then, that as long as it has leaders like Lott, the Party of Lincoln will remain the Grand Old Party of American racism? For every well-scrubbed, earnest, fiscally/socially conservative Negro trotted out by the Republican Party -- Colin, Condeleezza, JC, whoever -- there are ten Strom Thurmonds, Jesse Helmses, John Ashcrofts and Trent Lotts standing behind them. Southern racism is the original sin of the modern conservative movement, and it's the reason why the Republicans attract bigots the way Paraguay attracts Nazis -- Lott and company act like a government in temporal exile, enacting and re-enacting the drama of their lost, beloved Confederacy. Lott's comments are odious, but his continued presence in the Senate is even worse. President Bush should immediately denounce Lott and his comments, and Trent Lott himself should resign, not just from the majority leadership, but from the Senate itself.Yes, yes, and yes. You might also want to check out "Republican Party's 40 Years of Juggling on Race" in today's NYTimes. Some choice quotes:
Ever since the Republican Party in the South was reborn by hostility to the civil rights legislation of the 1960's, the national party has increasingly depended on Southern votes while insisting to Northern moderates that it is still the party of Lincoln.In other words, Bush didn't wag his finger at Lott yesterday to soothe black voters but to reassure moderate white suburban Republicans that their party wasn't racist. Honest. From Paul Krugman's new column:
One of the sharpest examples of how Republicans have successfully balanced those two interests occurred in 1980, when Ronald Reagan opened his campaign in Philadelphia, Miss., and set off an outcry when he used the code words "states' rights" to appeal to whites.
To repair the damage, Mr. Reagan traveled to Detroit in October and sought to reassure suburban whites that he was no racist, by obtaining the endorsement of two black civil rights leaders, the Rev. Ralph David Abernathy and the Rev. Hosea Williams. That was not to seek black votes, but as his pollster, Richard Wirthlin, said after the election, to soothe whites who generally support Republican policies but do not think of themselves as supporting racism... .
The political reality, Mr. Wirthlin said today, is that "Republicans cannot afford to alienate the South, but to alienate the suburbs on a racist charge would even be more damaging."
Notice, by the way, who really gets served in this charade. The open-minded majority gets ringing affirmations of its principles; but once the dust has settled, the people who agree with Mr. Lott get to keep him as majority leader, and get the judgeships too.Hear, hear. And in case there was any doubt left in your mind that Trent Lott is an evil racist fiend (and a nasty homophobic fiend, to boot!), keep reading Atrios, who has links to useful articles like this one (noting that Lott helped lead a successful battle to prevent his college fraternity from admitting blacks).
Still, pulling off a two-faced political strategy is tricky. What prevents reporters from explaining to the majority the coded messages that are being sent to the minority?
Good question; I wish I knew the answer. But what's remarkable in the Lott affair is how much he has gotten away with over the years. How many readers ever heard about the flap, several years ago, over Mr. Lott's association with the racist Council of Conservative Citizens? The scandal was actually worse than his remarks last week ? but it just got buried. And without the indefatigable efforts of Mr. Marshall and a few other Internet writers, Mr. Lott's recent celebration of segregation would probably have been buried as well.
My guess is that the White House believes it has now done enough. Mr. Lott has received his slap on the wrist; now we can go back to business as usual.
Bear in mind that while Mr. Bush has finally denounced Mr. Lott's remarks, he and his party benefit from the strategy that allows the likes of Mr. Lott to hold so much power. Let's not forget, in particular, the blatant attempts to discourage minority voting in South Dakota, Louisiana, Maryland and elsewhere. It's about time for those of us in the press to pay attention, and let this great, tolerant nation know what's really going on.
Oh, and if you're wondering why I don't use a consistent style for blockquotes in my posts, I'm experimenting to see what is easiest to read... I know italics aren't that easy to read.