An Awful Lott of Racism

jacdon at jacdon at
Tue Dec 17 08:34:13 MST 2002

The following article was printed in the Dec. 15, 2002, Mid-Hudson
Activist Newsletter, published in New Paltz, NY, by the Mid-Hudson
National People's Campaign/IAC via jacdon at

What would America be like today -- to quote Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.),
the next Republican majority leader and one of the most powerful
political figures in the U.S. -- if "the rest of the country had
followed our lead" in voting for segregationist presidential candidate
Strom Thurmond in 1948?

This question, of course, is prompted by Lott's comments at the 100th
birthday party for retiring Sen. Thurmond (R-S.C.) on Dec. 6.  Lott's
home state backed Thurmond in his third-party run against President
Harry Truman and, according to the Republican senate leader, "we're
proud of it."  Why?  Because "we wouldn't have had all these problems
over all these years" had segregationists reigned in the White House.
Lott didn't specify what "problems" he was referring to, but the
inference was clearly to the degree of racial equality that exists in
the U.S. today.

Under criticism, Lott initially admitted he had selected "a poor choice
of words" and apologized if anyone was offended.  At the time, leading
Democratic Sen. Tom Daschle said he accepted his counterpart's
explanation, and leading House Democrat Rep. Nancy Pelosi did not issue
a public comment -- but as Lott's remarks drew increasing fire, led by
the Congressional Black Caucus, they both joined in.  The White House
also equivocated at first, with press secretary Ari Fleischer indicating
that President Bush retains "confidence in him as the Republican leader,
unquestionably," but by Dec. 12 the president had little choice but to
declare that "Any suggestion that the segregated past was acceptable or
positive is offensive and it is wrong."  Lott, however, still retains
his leadership post.

During the 1948 presidential campaign, Truman was under pressure from
Progressive Party candidate Henry Wallace to take steps to end the
apartheid-like Jim Crow segregation that existed in the U.S. since the
Reconstruction period after the Civil War.  Fearing Wallace would
attract liberal and left votes, Truman made the issue of civil rights an
election plank.  In the months leading up to the election he introduced
the Fair Employment Practices Act and took measures to desegregate the
armed forces.  At the Democratic convention that year, the racist
delegates from Alabama and Mississippi marched out behind a Confederate
flag.  The Dixicrats, as they were termed, held their own States' Rights
Party convention and nominated Thurmond -- the governor of South
Carolina at the time -- as president.  He ran a hate-filled racist
campaign scorning the "social intermingling of the races" and adopting
the slogan, "Segregation Forever." The racist party won four Deep South
states, gathering 39 electoral votes.

Regardless of his denials, Lott obviously still regrets that the
American people rejected Thurmond's segregationist program.  Well,
suppose Thurmond had won -- how would the U.S. look today?  Everything
would be separate and unequal.  This is not to say racism and inequality
have been ended in our country, but there has been considerable
progress, thanks to the struggles of the civil rights movement and its
left allies, which forced the political system to legislate the end of
formal segregation.

Had Thurmond's  and Lott's ideas been accepted, the Civil Rights Act
(1964), the Voting Rights Act (1965) and the Fair Housing Act (1968)
would not have become the law.  The schools would still be segregated.
Employment would be segregated.  Everything would be segregated -- and
in all probability a monumental liberation struggle would (or at least
should) have broken out by now.  This is the world one of the most
powerfully positioned political figures in America  looks back upon with
nostalgia and longing.  His big mistake was in saying out loud what some
other powerful politicians only think to themselves.

As a senator, Thurmond upheld the segregationist banner as long as
possible, casting one racist vote after another to prevent black
Americans from obtaining basic rights, including the longest individual
filibuster in history.   But when this notorious reactionary finally
retired a couple of weeks ago, one (white) politician after another
praised his record. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), characterized him as "a
great man" who has done "great things" in his life.  And it was no less
a prestigious Democrat than Sen. Joseph Lieberman -- the party's
vice-presidential candidate in 2000 and a contender for the top
nomination in 2004 -- who said of one of the Senate's leading racists of
all time, "He's a man of iron with a heart of gold."

Lott is fighting hard to retain his leadership position, even --
according to some sources -- privately threatening to resign from the
Senate in retaliation should the White House engineer his removal.  If
he resigned it is likely the governor of Mississippi would name a
Democrat to finish his term, a move that would reduce the GOP's 51-49
majority to a 50-50 split. The chances are Lott may well weather the
storm. The ever-more-pius-than-thou Lieberman counseled his friend to
"speak from your moral center," which Lott promptly sought to do when he
publicly begged forgiveness from the American people Dec. 13, adding
opportunistically  that "segregation and racism are immoral."

Lott's voting record during his 16 years in the House and 14 in the
Senate (including as Majority leader 1996-2001, a post he is to resume
next month) is heavily weighted against legislation benefiting
African-Americans, according to a survey by the New York Times Dec. 14.
"Lott has voted consistently against measures that could be identified
as civil rights legislation, and often was one of a small number of
lawmakers to vote that way," the newspaper revealed.  The NAACP has
repeatedly ranked Lott at or near the bottom of its annual "People's
Report Card" analysis of voting records.  This is hardly surprising for
a politician who  until relatively recently was close to the racist
Council of Conservative Citizens.

Civil rights activist Julian Bond, now a distinguished history professor
and NAACP board chairman for the last four years, captured the moment of
Thurmond's retirement and the praise heaped upon him by his political
peers with crystal clarity:  "Thurmond has spent his life trying to
maintain the status quo of 100 years ago.  He is a relic of America's
shameful past who had long overstayed his welcome;  And shame to his
colleagues who confuse simple longevity with an illustrious legacy.
Good riddance."

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