Thursday, December 12, 2002
Returning to the theme of Senator Lott. I've got to say, all the conservative and Republican opinionators whom I respect most have gotten this story right, if they have weighed in on the subject. It's a long list and spans the spectrum from theo-con to neo-con to libertarian. Too bad Republican Senators haven't done the same.
It is now too late for the GOP to get out of this without damage. Had there been immediate and fierce reaction from within Republican ranks, the whole thing would have been a net-positive for the GOP. Imagine if Tom Delay had said that he was offended, that such sentiments have no place in the GOP, and that Lott must explain himself adequately and convincingly if he is to be an effective party leader going forward. Attacks on Delay - and GOP ultras more generally - would have been far less credible in the future. But the outcry was primarily from conservative pundits and pressure groups, not from elected officials or members of the Administration. And the result is that if Lott goes now, it will appear to be an act of politics, not principle. If he stays, of course, it'll be a disaster. And the longer this plays out, the harder it will be to make him leave.
Jonah Goldberg and others have suggested that this will play out equally badly for Democrats and Republicans, or that Democrats have just as big a problem as Republicans in this area. Wrong on both counts. Daschle may be in trouble with Maxine Waters, but that's not what matters. What matters is that marginal white voters will be more reluctant to pull the lever for the GOP in the next election, and black voters will be energized to vote Democrat. All of Gore's campaign slogans from 2000 that were used to fire up the black base will be more effective next time, not less. And Robert Byrd may indeed be as much of a closet segregationist as Lott. But he is not the Democrats' majority leader. There are plenty of black voters who think the Democrats take them for granted and give them a raw deal. Lott just reminded them that there's no alternative. Think that hurts the Dems? Think again.
I supported a number of GOP candidates in the last election cycle. I've written to those who made it to the Senate to urge them strongly to oppose Senator Lott's election to Majority Leader in the next Congress. I've also written to the national GOP to explain that I will not support the national party so long as Lott is Majority Leader. I'll continue to support individual candidates that I approve of, whether they are Republicans or Democrats. But I will not support the national party.
This is not the Confederate Flag, a very emotional issue that anyone other than blacks and Southern whites opine on at their peril. This is certainly not something like affirmative action where Republicans can take a principled stance that is opposed by most black Americans. Lott's comments are not subject to a variety of plausible interpretations. He said it would have been better if the Dixiecrats won in 1948. That either means that he regrets the demise of segregation, or that he is too stupid to understand what he said. Either way, he is unqualified to serve as Majority Leader. The best outcome would be for Lott to resign under pressure from his colleagues in the House and Senate. Second best would be for President Bush to quietly push him aside. Third best would be for President Bush to publicly repudiate and humiliate him. Worst would be for him to remain.