Those “lighthearted” racist comments from Senator Trent Lott last week are looking more like the norm than a mere slip of the tongue for this good-old-boy of the South. It’s now being reported that Lott praised the racist 1948 presidential campaign of Strom Thurmond in 1980 as well. Worse, he used almost the exact same words, declaring that the country would have been much better off if it had just followed Mississippi’s lead and voted for Thurmond – not Truman or Dewey – for president.
There’s really only one way out of this mess for Lott and the Republicans: Lott must resign his position as the Senate’s majority leader. Ideally, Lott should be forced to tuck his pig tail between his legs and oink his way back to Mississippi, but – for now – the Democrats would probably settle for a grand demotion.
In addition to shining a bright light on the Republican Party’s not-so-latent racism, this affair also offers yet another example of the pure silliness in the notion of a “liberal media.” Sorry, but those days are gone – if, that is, they ever existed in the first place. The so-called liberal media did practically nothing on this story for several days after Lott made his ignorant pledge of segregationism. In fact, they probably spent more time on the reports of $200 haircuts for Democratic Senator (and presidential hopeful) John Kerry than they did on Lott’s overt racism.
Speaking of Democrats, the man who’s about to hand the gavel over to Lott in the Senate, Tom Daschle, was all too ready to let Lott’s hateful comments drift on down the Potomac before the leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus pointed out that they should have a say on the matter before their pale colleagues sent the matter sailing.
Whoa, there, exclaimed, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, it might be fine for Daschle to extend his own olive branch so quickly, but she and the rest of the Black Caucus weren’t going to let bygones be bygones without some more political pain exerted on Lott. Why, Waters wanted to know, can the white leadership of the Democratic Party be so quick to forgive such outrageous bigotry and then scratch their heads in wonderment when black Americans don’t show much enthusiasm for the Party at election time?
And Waters knew the answer to the question, too: Because the national Democratic Party has done nothing but take its traditional constituency for granted for the last several decades while, at the same time, turning their policy spines to jell-o.
Then, of course, there’s President Bush, the man the media likes to call the great moral leader of this nation who hasn’t said squat about the incident. Bush’s press secretary, Ari Fleischer, has uttered the only official presidential reaction to the episode and it was a pallid acceptance of Lott’s apology. But that was before it became known that Lott has now publicly sided with Thurmond’s segregationist past on two public occasions in the last twenty years. And still not a peep of personal disgust from Bush.
Well, well, well, if the Democrats were looking for an issue I think they just found one; that is, if they open their eyes and see it sitting under their noses. Lott’s comments and the Republican Party’s ho-hum attitude toward them is the kind of blunder that the Democrats should see as a gift wrapped in gold paper. It’s not often, you know, that the Republican’s Neanderthal core gets exposed so perfectly. Tax-cuts for the wealthy get wrapped in “trickle down” nonsense; blatant butchering of urban renewal projects get couched in “free enterprise” jargon; turning blacks away at the polls (a la Florida 2000) gets blamed on “arcane voting regulations;” and promoting racist death penalty statutes is camouflaged as “getting tough on crime.”
But Trent Lott praising segregationism is, well, the Senate’s Republican leader being nothing short of overtly racist. And the Republican Party’s refusal to take it seriously is its own tacit endorsement of the racism.
Don’t forget, Trent Lott wanted to impeach Bill Clinton for being on the receiving end of a (consensual) blowjob – a political misstep that certainly pales in comparison to two public declarations of support for the federal government forcing blacks to remain separate from whites.
Impeach Lott Now.
MICHAEL COLBY is the editor of Wild Matters. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org