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The Heart and Soul of the Republican Party
December 14, 2002
By Ed Hanratty

My oh my. Our esteemed soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader has really done it this time, hasn't he? For the rock-dwellers, here's a re-cap. Speaking at a celebration celebrating the 100th birthday of retiring South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond, Senator Trent Lott (R-Mississippi) said that when Thurmond ran for president in 1948, Mississippi voted for him. "We're proud of it," Lott said to 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."

In 1948, Strom was running on a states' rights/anti-integration platform. At one point saying something to the effect of "The government can't force the Negro into our homes, into our schools, and into our churches." He actually won four states, too. And I know you're as shocked as I am that the open-minded liberal state of Mississippi was one of them. Lott tried to cover his ass in a series of half-hearted scripted apologies, saying things like he didn't embrace disregarded policies of the past, it was only meant to compliment his 100 year old friend, saying he'd make a great President, yadda yadda yadda. Hell, even conservatives are calling for a more substantial apology, and they agree with the man for crying out loud.

But this can't be allowed to just die down and be swept under the rug the next time Iraq makes a Microsoft Power-Point presentation about how much ibuprofen they have in their possession. No. This man has one of the 3 most powerful and influential jobs in this great land. He sets the Congressional agenda. He sends a message. For as much jibber-jabber and rhetoric comes out of 1600 Pennsylvania, it's the Congress that is really in charge of getting things done. And after the Democrats rolled over and played dead in the November elections, the Congress is in the hands of the Republicans, and the most powerful man on Capitol Hill these days is none other than the Dixie Hairpiece himself, Mr. Lott.

This is not a case of a verbal boo-boo. This isn't even a President lying about who's giving him a blowjob, under oath or not under oath. This is worse than Fuzzy Zoeller telling Tiger Woods not to serve fried chicken and collard greens at the Masters Dinner. Why? Why is this worse than overt racism or presidential perjury? It's a matter of public perception, ideology and morality.

Did any of you see the Republican National Convention in 2000? From the great city of Philadelphia, the Republicans, in a desperate and pathetic attempt to prove that they were diverse, rolled out everyone with pigmentation darker than Casper the Friendly Ghost that had ever voted for the GOP, and they gave all 10 of them the chance to speak in prime time. Colin Powell was there, front and center. Condi Rice, cause hey, they're killing two birds with one stone by having an African-American woman speak, right? They had Jeb Bush's half-Hispanic son, George P. Bush speak. (this kid was once introduced by his grandfather, George "The Elected" Bush to then-President Reagan as "the little brown one.") Hell, they even had openly gay Arizona Congressman Jim Kolbe speak. Bottom line, they were trying convey: "Forget what you heard from your parents, the Republican Party is open to anyone, not just crusty old rich white men and armed to the teeth pro-life jesusfreaks"

But it's not. Try as they might to deny it, the heart and soul of the Republican Party lies in the belief that there a few chosen ones to whom this country has been entrusted, and its up to them to set the standards for morality, economics and foreign policy. They practice and believe in Exclusion. It's a free country, they're entitled to do so, but when they try and pretend otherwise, that's when America has the right to be pissed. You know, I respect Strom Thurmond a helluva lot more than Trent Lott. Why? Because as disgusting, as reprehensible as his policies were, at least he had the gonads to proclaim them publicly. I know, it's scary that he found receptive ears 54 years ago (you don't have to tell a New York Rangers fan how long 54 years is) but I'll take an overtly bigoted pig over an covertly bigoted pig any day.

Now, why do I say that it's worse than the President committing perjury about sex? No, it's not my blind and unyielding affection for President Clinton. It's deeper than that. See, Impeachment and the whole kitandkabootle came about partially because of Clinton's own success. The country was doing so well they could afford to worry about the Blue Dress. 100 years from now, Clinton will still be known for being impeached, but will historians look back at 1998-1999 as a "dark cloud" in American history? Hell no. They'll remember the booming economy, the Y2K scare, and the "Seinfeld" finale.

Now, I've got one of those senses of humor that can pretty much make light of anything. But there are certain things you just cannot make light of: Slavery. The Holocaust. The Irish Potato Famine. Segregation. The organized slaughter of Native Americans. It's not OK whatsoever. Furthermore, it was less than 40 years ago that America, the Land of the Free, had white- and colored-only bathrooms. There are middle-aged people who remember segregation, the degradation of living day-to-day as a second class citizen, not because of your lack of wealth, but by state mandate. It's not a joke. It's no laughing matter, and for one of the most powerful men in our government to make a light-hearted reference to how we wouldn't have all these problems if we elected a segregationist 54 years ago, is not an acceptable practice.

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