BuzzFlash Reader Commentary
December 10, 2002
BUZZFLASH READER COMMENTARY
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"Oh, God. It's ludicrous. He should remember it's the party of Lincoln." -- Bill Kristol, neoconservative Republican editor of The Weekly Standard, reacting to words uttered Sen. Trent Lott
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Abe Lincoln must just look down from heaven and shake his head at the latest embarrassment of another member of his former party. Honest Abe is best known for freeing the slaves, delivering the Gettysburg Address, and keeping the Union together despite the South's intransigence on the slavery issue.
So the words of Trent Lott on Dec. 5 in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, while they may have shocked Kristol, would not have surprised Honest Abe as he evaluated the Republican shenanigans from his perch above the Pearly Gates.
After all, Abe left the Republican Party for good in 1948 and joined the Democrats, albeit ethereally, when President Harry S. Truman proposed the first Civil Rights Act. Abe then sang the praises of a former Republican, Earl Warren, after the Chief Justice issued the landmark civil rights decision Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas in 1954. However, no one drew more praise from Abe than the Congressman, Senator, and President from Texas, Lyndon Baines Johnson.
LBJ pushed through the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the action that finally placed the power of the federal government behind the Emancipation Proclamation that Abe issued in 1863. Three amendments to the U.S. Constitution -- 13th, 14th, and 15th -- helped the effort when adopted in 1865, but the legislative machinery to implement them was never in place until 1964.
While the Republicans call themselves the "Party of Lincoln," that is a misnomer today, with any similarity today between the party that Lincoln led in the 1860's and the one that is led by the cowboy from Texas merely coincidental.
For example, take a look at the action that precipitated Kristol's lamentations. Sen. Lott, R-Miss., was celebrating the 100th birthday of one of the two retiring racists from the U.S. Senate, Strom Thurmond, the former Governor of South Carolina who bolted the Democratic Party and formed the Dixiecrats in 1948.
Lott was effusive in his praise. "I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of it. (Applause) And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either." The last sentence is the one that stunned Kristol, as well as hushed all of those at the celebration in the Dirksen Senate Office Building.
In the final voting in 1948, the Dixiecrats carried Lott's home state of Mississippi, along with Alabama, Louisiana, and South Carolina. Truman captured the presidency without the bigots, upsetting the stuffed-shirt Thomas Dewey with his famous "Give 'Em Hell, Harry" campaigning style.
Thurmond and his Dixiecrats were racists, and they placed the following wording into the platform of their newly-found party: "We stand for the segregation of the races and the racial integrity of each race."
Was Lott saying that he agreed with that platform? Is that what he meant when he said, "And if the rest of the country had followed (Mississippi's) lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either"?
The question that Kristol did not utter, at least within the hearing of any reporter, was, "Is Lott also a racist?"
In 1968, Richard Nixon made clear that the Republicans were unequivocally severing their roots with Abraham Lincoln. Nixon devised his "Southern Strategy," the one that defined the Republican Party as it exists today. Essentially, Nixon encouraged all of the Southern racists who opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to join his Republican Party. This exodus that started in 1948 was completed by Nixon 20 years later.
All that the neocons need is a white hood and a headdress, along with a few crosses, and the picture would be complete.
Abe must simply look down at the neoconservative Republicans, shaking his head and repeating the words for which he will be eternally remembered: "Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation: conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."
Then shrugging in his unassuming way, realizing that individual "liberty" and "equality for all" are no longer the cornerstone of the Republican party, Abe would move on and say, "Well, I tried," cognizant that those proponents of liberty and equality on earth -- Harry S. Truman, Earl Warren, and Lyndon Baines Johnston -- were sharing the gifts of heaven with him today.
A BUZZFLASH READER COMMENTARY
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