Just think. If Bob Dole had not become the Republican presidential candidate in 1996, the Republicans may have actually put up someone credible, and Bill Clinton might have been limited to a single term. And, one Chester Trent Lott would not have become Senate majority leader.
Lott’s career, while long, has been mostly undistinguished, except for gaffes and craven capitulations to what the former Ole Miss cheerleader regards as expediency. Who can forget his power-sharing deal with Tom Daschle in 2000, or his stated refusal to find Clinton guilty no matter what evidence emerged? Or what about his misplaced chivalry regarding sleeparound USAF pilot Kelly Flinn? And we must mention his losing Jim Jeffords.
His latest “misstatement,” of course, came at the 100th birthday party for Strom Thurmond, he of the much longer, and even less distinguished senate career. Lott noted that his home state of Mississippi was proud to have voted for Thurmond in 1948. “And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn’t have had all these problems over all these years,” Lott said.
A brief history lesson is warranted…
In 1948, the Dixiecrat party, a splinter group of southern Democrats, nominated Thurmond (then governor of South Carolina) for president, and Mississippi governor Fielding L. Wright for vice president. The 1948 election was the one in which everyone predicted that Democrat Harry Truman would lose to Republican Thomas Dewey, spawning the unforgettable image of the victorious Truman holding a newspaper with its headline blazing “Dewey defeats Truman.”
In the same election, there was another splinter group of Democrats, this one from the left-wing. The Progressive party nominated former FDR vice president and noted pinko Henry Wallace for president, and ultra leftie Idaho senator Glen Hearst Taylor for vice president.
The Dixiecrats got 1,176,125 popular votes and 39 electoral votes, carrying the states of Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and South Carolina. They also got the vote of one wayward Tennessee elector. The Progressives garnered 1,157,326 popular votes, and no electoral votes, their appeal being less concentrated.
One wonders exactly how electing Thurmond would have avoided the unspecified “problems,” referred to by Lott.
Thurmond or no Thurmond, federal intervention or no federal intervention, de jure segregation was on its way out. The pace was maddeningly slow at times, but the plantation mentality would die out, for economic and political reasons.
Would Thurmond have stemmed the growth of the federal leviathan? I seriously doubt it. If Thurmond knew anything, it was how to play politics, and spreading the pork around depends on Uncle Sugar getting bigger and bigger. So much for states’ rights.
The Dixiecrats were formed as a protest against the mainstream Democrats, yet Thurmond did not become a Republican for 16 more years. So much for the protest. Even Lott, although he worked as an administrative assistant for old time southern Democrat William Colmer from 1968-72, entered Congress as Republican in 1973.
Should Lott resign as majority leader? Absolutely. He is weak, stupid, and a lightning rod for criticism from the media and the Democrats.
At the very least, he could have used the opportunity of this latest bonehead pronouncement to toss some flack back in the other direction. As an original Republican officeholder, he could have reminded the Dems and their media sycophants that everything they hate about the old South was all Democrat all the time. He could even have said something about the outrageously left-wing Progressive Party, another Democrat product.
He could have done so much more than those silly, effeminate, repeated apologies. But he didn’t. So good riddance.