This is a yarn about a cloth, and what this cloth’s unraveling means to the fabric of our political lives.
Our tale begins in the men’s department of a Washington area department store where, while browsing the socks last weekend, I bumped into Trent Lott, the former Senate majority leader. The courtly Mississippi Republican was casually dressed but natty as ever. He is enjoying his post-Senate life as a lobbyist, but he was sad about a recent development: The Senate had just killed Seersucker Thursday.
Lott created Seersucker Thursday in the ’90s, encouraging senators of both parties to mark the beginning of summer by wearing the pajama-like cotton, popular in the South.
As many as 30 senators once donned the striped fabric — from Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski to California Democrat Dianne Feinstein, from Minnesota Democrat Amy Klobuchar to Pennsylvania Republican Rick Santorum. Often, they’d go together to the dairy lobby’s ice cream social, also held on the third Thursday in June.
Seersucker Thursday would have been on June 21, but on the evening before, the Senate cloakroom’s staff notified members that the custom was being discontinued. Lott’s former colleagues thought it would be politically unwise to be seen doing something frivolous when there’s so much conflict over major issues.