11 December 2002

Is Trent Lott a Racist?

Senate Republican leader Trent Lott has been busy backpedaling the last several days over an absolutely egregious statement he made at Strom Thurmond's birthday bash. I don't know what the official apology count is up to now, and I'm guessing that we're going to see more damage control and spin from the Lott camp in the coming days. For those of you who haven't heard what was said, here are the remarks that have ignited calls of racism:

I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either.

In case you're a little light on the historical record of 1948 presidential election politics, allow me to fill in the blanks or correct the myopic meanderings of right wing talk show callers and hosts. The States Rights Democratic Party split from the Democratic party not because of economic policy or abortion or school choice, but strictly due to their belief in "segregation of the races and the racial integrity of each race". Segregation forever was the campaign cry! If you doubt my words, check out their adopted platform.

Lott now says his statements were a "mistake of the head and not of the heart". But what the hell does that mean? I read it to say that his heart screams "Segregation Forever" but his head says that it wasn't politically expedient to verbalize it. Or does it mean he yearns for the Jim Crow era, but thinks he ought not ponder it anymore?

Even taken alone, such a repulsive remark renders Lott a racist in my view, but this is not an isolated incident that illustrates his bigotry. Consider the following points:

  • He told the controversial Council of Conservative Citizens that they "stand for the right principles and the right philosophy." The CCC, which has strong ties to the old white Citizens Councils, is considered racist by other conservative groups like the Conservative Political Action Committee. Lott severed his ties to the organization after he got heat for it, but not before having 14 columns printed by that organization's newsletter.

  • He made a very similar statement way back in 1980 at a rally in Jackson, Mississippi. Lott said "You know, if we had elected this man 30 years ago, we wouldn't be in the mess we are today."

  • He unsuccessfully argued for Bob Jones University to keep its federal tax-exempt status despite the school's policy prohibiting interracial dating for two decades.

  • In 1982, Lott voted against the Voting Rights Act extension, which some have called “the most important civil rights vote in the 1980s.”

What is even more pathetic is the national conservative talk show hosts defeding Lott. I heard Sean Hannity bring up Robert Byrd and Al Gore's parents. Michael Savage was defending Daschle for his refusal to criticize Lott. Come on, in 2002, the Republican Senate leader laments for the days of segregation, and all these clowns can conjure up are ancient history of some Democrats that the offending parties have since apologized and repudiated? On the Hannity show, Lott sinks even lower by comparing being too enthusiastic for Paul Wellstone memorial with being too enthusiastic for a pro-lynching agenda.


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