December 13, 2002
Why Would the Republicans Choose Trent Lott to Lead Them?

Why would the Republicans choose Trent Lott to lead them? It's not as if it is any secret that he has been coquetting with the modes of expression of racist Dixiecrats ever since he was weaned. This is the subject of Paul Krugman's column today.

Paul Krugman begins by citing Joshua Micah Marshall, who says that right now we are debating whether the Senate majority leader is a racist who yearns for segregation or just a good ole boy who says things that make it seem like he's a racist who yearns for segregation in order to pander to his electoral base. Paul wants to consider a bigger question: whichever Lott is, why the h*** is he about to be majority leader of the Senate in the twenty-first century? What does it say about the Republican Party--the so-called party of Abraham Lincoln--that this is the guy they choose as their leader?


The Other Face: To win nationally, the leader of the party must pay tribute to the tolerance and open-mindedness of the nation at large. He must celebrate civil rights and sternly condemn the abuses of the past. And that's just what George W. Bush did yesterday, in rebuking Mr. Lott.

Yet at the same time the party must convey to a select group of target voters the message — nudge nudge, wink wink — that it actually doesn't mean any of that nonsense, that it's really on their side. How can it do that? By having men who manifestly don't share the open-mindedness of the nation at large in key, powerful positions. And that's why Mr. Bush's rebuke was not followed by a call for Mr. Lott to step down.

Of course, Mr. Lott isn't alone in that role. The Bush administration's judicial nominations have clearly been chosen to give a signal of support to those target Southern voters. A striking example has just emerged: We've learned that Mr. Lott supported the right of Bob Jones University to keep its tax-exempt status even while banning interracial dating; supporting his position was none other than Michael McConnell, a controversial figure recently confirmed as an appeals judge.

Notice, by the way, who really gets served in this charade. The open-minded majority gets ringing affirmations of its principles; but once the dust has settled, the people who agree with Mr. Lott get to keep him as majority leader, and get the judgeships too.

Still, pulling off a two-faced political strategy is tricky. What prevents reporters from explaining to the majority the coded messages that are being sent to the minority?

Good question; I wish I knew the answer. But what's remarkable in the Lott affair is how much he has gotten away with over the years...

The New York Times

December 13, 2002

The Other Face

By PAUL KRUGMAN

"Right now we're debating whether the Republican Senate majority leader is a racist who yearns for the days of segregation or just a good ole boy who says a lot of things that make it seem like he's a racist who yearns for the days of segregation." So writes Joshua Marshall, whose talkingpointsmemo.com is must reading for the politically curious, and who, more than anyone else, is responsible for making Trent Lott's offensive remarks the issue they deserve to be.

But this discussion shouldn't really be about Mr. Lott. It should be about how a man who sounds like Mr. Lott came to be leader of the Senate.

Let's be clear that last week's remarks were in no way out of character. On the contrary, they were entirely consistent with Mr. Lott's statements on many other occasions.

The great majority of Americans don't share Mr. Lott's views. For example, he opposed declaring Martin Luther King day a holiday, telling Southern Partisan magazine that "we have not done it for a lot of other people that were more deserving." Most Americans, I think, believe that King was pretty deserving.

So why is Mr. Lott in a position of such power?

The Republican Party's longstanding "Southern strategy" — which rests on appealing to the minority of voters who do share Mr. Lott's views — is no secret. But because the majority doesn't share those views, the party must present two faces to the nation. And therein lies the clue to Mr. Lott's role.

To win nationally, the leader of the party must pay tribute to the tolerance and open-mindedness of the nation at large. He must celebrate civil rights and sternly condemn the abuses of the past. And that's just what George W. Bush did yesterday, in rebuking Mr. Lott.

Yet at the same time the party must convey to a select group of target voters the message — nudge nudge, wink wink — that it actually doesn't mean any of that nonsense, that it's really on their side. How can it do that? By having men who manifestly don't share the open-mindedness of the nation at large in key, powerful positions. And that's why Mr. Bush's rebuke was not followed by a call for Mr. Lott to step down.

Of course, Mr. Lott isn't alone in that role. The Bush administration's judicial nominations have clearly been chosen to give a signal of support to those target Southern voters. A striking example has just emerged: We've learned that Mr. Lott supported the right of Bob Jones University to keep its tax-exempt status even while banning interracial dating; supporting his position was none other than Michael McConnell, a controversial figure recently confirmed as an appeals judge.

Notice, by the way, who really gets served in this charade. The open-minded majority gets ringing affirmations of its principles; but once the dust has settled, the people who agree with Mr. Lott get to keep him as majority leader, and get the judgeships too.

Still, pulling off a two-faced political strategy is tricky. What prevents reporters from explaining to the majority the coded messages that are being sent to the minority?

Good question; I wish I knew the answer. But what's remarkable in the Lott affair is how much he has gotten away with over the years. How many readers ever heard about the flap, several years ago, over Mr. Lott's association with the racist Council of Conservative Citizens? The scandal was actually worse than his remarks last week — but it just got buried. And without the indefatigable efforts of Mr. Marshall and a few other Internet writers, Mr. Lott's recent celebration of segregation would probably have been buried as well.

My guess is that the White House believes it has now done enough. Mr. Lott has received his slap on the wrist; now we can go back to business as usual.

Bear in mind that while Mr. Bush has finally denounced Mr. Lott's remarks, he and his party benefit from the strategy that allows the likes of Mr. Lott to hold so much power. Let's not forget, in particular, the blatant attempts to discourage minority voting in South Dakota, Louisiana, Maryland and elsewhere. It's about time for those of us in the press to pay attention, and let this great, tolerant nation know what's really going on.

Posted by DeLong at December 13, 2002 11:36 AM | Trackback

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Because the people whom Lott upsets are in states that the GOP is unlikely to win anyway. I am pretty sure that right now a lot of Republicans think that Lott just says aloud what a lot of people (should) tacitely think and that this whole debate is just an other piece of political correctness bullsh%$t.

If you have any doubts just go read again the comments to Professor DeLong's post on a compelling study of racial discrimination by Marianne Bertrand Sendhil Mullainathan. In the same thread, you will read that:
* "white trash" people are equally likely to be discriminated against than African-Americans (no evidence provided, of course.)
* positive discrimination implies that Univerisity degrees African Americans earn aren't worth the paper they're printed on.
* France has too strong a democratic tradition (whatever that means...)
* etc etc.

Basically, I believe a large share of GOP supporters are unrepentant racists who would go at great length to deny any evidence of discrimination, and even greater length to condemn any effort to end this discrimination or improve African American participation in US politics.

It's as simple as that and, yes, it's disgusting. One the poster even dared to imply that if "Liberals" hadn't pushed for positive discrimination in US colleges, we wouldn't have had all these problems... It is the SAME conservatives who pretend to be upset by Lott's comments... Yeah, yeah,...

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on December 13, 2002 12:51 PM

Thank you JPS

Posted by: on December 13, 2002 01:05 PM

I totally agree, Lott should go.

But surely someone as smart as Professor Delong should be able to distinguish between supporting institutionalized segregation as in the old south and allowing tax exempt status for a private religious university.

Are you implying that Judge McConnel is a segregationist, or at last no different than Lott? This is deeply unfair.

Posted by: zed bronson on December 13, 2002 01:14 PM

I totally agree, Lott should go.

But surely someone as smart as Professor Krugman should be able to distinguish between supporting institutionalized segregation as in the old south and allowing tax exempt status for a private religious university.

Is Krugman implying that Judge McConnel is a segregationist, or at last no different than Lott? This is deeply unfair.

Posted by: zed bronson on December 13, 2002 01:14 PM

'But surely someone as smart as Professor Delong should be able to distinguish between supporting institutionalized segregation as in the old south and allowing tax exempt status for a private religious university.'

.....that happens to exist solely for catholic-baiting and the support of segregation.

The argument is, basically, whether or not the IRS interpreted the law beyond its scope to revoke the charity status of Bob Jones. Summary here. I say they didn't (as did the SC), as BJU isn't remotely a charitable organization under a reasonable definition.

From the decision: 'The IRS's 1970 interpretation of 501(c)(3) was correct. It would be wholly incompatible with the concepts underlying tax exemption to grant tax-exempt status to racially discriminatory private educational entities. Whatever may be the rationale for such private schools' policies, racial discrimination in education is contrary to public policy. Racially discriminatory educational institutions cannot be viewed as conferring a public benefit within the above "charitable" concept or within the congressional intent underlying.'

Posted by: Jason McCullough on December 13, 2002 01:42 PM

Read this: An Open Letter to Trent Lott by Richard Barrett.

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on December 13, 2002 01:49 PM

Tax exempt status amounts to a public subsidy and really turns a private institution to a public institution. So, public standards unless "oddly" otherwise favored.

Posted by: on December 13, 2002 01:56 PM

It was the fault of all those "good" moderate Republicans whom Democrats approve of, relatively.

David Frum has a piece about how the right-wing Republicans have been much the toughest on Lott, "while Senator Chafee has said nothing at all about the matter, and Senator Specter has argued that it is time to move on. The Wall Street Journal editorial page has been tougher on Lott than has the middle-of-the-road Washington Post, and Charles Krauthammer than David Broder."

And, of course, as Mickey put it: "the NYT's Guilty Southern Liberal Howell Raines, hilariously, was asleep at the switch when a real 60's-style civil rights controversy came along". While Sen. Daschle wasn't exactly full of outrage.

Meanwhile Andrew Sullivan has been unrelenting on Lott, as have other conservatives like Thomas Sowell, etc.

So, Frum asks, why has the fastest, toughest outrage come from the right wing and the WSJ, with the moderates, liberals and the ever-so-racially-sensitive Times playing belated catch-up?

"What’s going on? Try these four hypotheses:"
http://www.nationalreview.com/frum/frum-diary.asp

Posted by: Jim Glass on December 13, 2002 02:14 PM

Easy. The right wing has the most to lose, and the moderates tend to live only by compromise. No one will confuse chafee for Lott, loyalty is worth a little, and attacking people you will likely have to work with is stupid.

And given that none of this is news to any liberal, piling on is more a symbol of moral inferiority, not superiority.

The WSJ had a couple of decades to make this point, and didn't. Hopping on the moral outrage bandwagon now is just another cynical move. Sorry, I just don't buy it.

Posted by: on December 13, 2002 02:26 PM

Does this mean Paul Krugman and Peggy Noonan are agreeing?

Posted by: Robert on December 13, 2002 02:54 PM

Re Frum's 4 points alluded to by Jim Glass:

From (1): "Over the course of that fight, conservatives have articulated a clear and consistent message of equal justice regardless of race." That's a laugh.

From (2): " For eight long years under Bill Clinton, conservatives incessantly argued that character counts." Uh huh. That's why they insisted on electing a deserter to the White House.

From (3): "As revolted as conservatives were by the moral obtuseness of Lott’s words last weekend, they were if possible even more aghast at their amateurism and irresponsibility." Very believable.

From (4): "As the Republican right has become more and more explicitly religious, it has become more and more influenced by modern Christianity’s stern condemnation of racial prejudice as a sin." *More* influenced, yes.

Best,

Posted by: Stephen J Fromm on December 13, 2002 03:39 PM

Surely, great fonts of wisdom about how business (and verily, the world) works like Jim Glass and David Frum cannot be unacquainted with the famous strategery known best by the shorthand "Covering your ass," can they? :>

Posted by: a different chris on December 13, 2002 04:11 PM

Brad DeLong asks, "Why would the Republicans choose Trent Lott to lead them?"

They shouldn't. And I'll give 2-to-1 odds that they won't.

(But being a Libertarian, if they do, I'd say it will probably help us. After all, no black person interested in small government would ever go to the Democrats.)

Posted by: Mark Bahner on December 13, 2002 04:34 PM

"So, Frum asks, why has the fastest, toughest outrage come from the right wing and the WSJ, with the moderates, liberals and the ever-so-racially-sensitive Times playing belated catch-up?"

Those who cry the loudest are obviously the most sincere and most concerned, don'tcha know? I mean, its so courageous to make indignant, sanctimonious condemnations of obvious racists like Lott. The liberals are showing their true colors as closet segregationists.

Posted by: nameless on December 13, 2002 04:39 PM

"...as have other conservatives like Thomas Sowell, etc."

Point of information: In an interview years ago (too lazy to find, but it's on the Internet somewhere), Thomas Sowell said, though he dislikes political classifications, if he had to classify himself, it would be as a "libertarian." (Small "l." He said he doesn't agree with the Libertarian Party on national defense...which shows that even really intelligent people make mistakes sometimes. ;-))

All in all, I'd call him a "conservative," too. But the good kind. ;-)

Mark (Libertarian, with big L)


Posted by: Mark Bahner on December 13, 2002 04:43 PM

Small "l" libertarian here.

Never liked either party much, truth be told.

One reason the "old boys" are laying so low on this is that they have an idea what's in their closet . . . . and no, they're not all Republicans. In fact, right now Senator Byrd is being teed up and will be next in line.

I despise Senator Lott, no I DESPISE Lott, but I equally DESPISE Byrd. And there's probably a bunch more I just don't know well enough to hate properly, yet.

Be sure of this, though: this is NOT just a conservative, or a Republican issue, and that's going to be part of the fun . . . . . .

Posted by: Anarchus on December 13, 2002 06:11 PM

"In fact, right now Senator Byrd is being teed up and will be next in line."

Sorry, you already missed your chance:

"I think we try to have good will. My old mom told me, `Robert, you can't go to heaven if you hate anybody.' We practice that. There are white niggers. I've seen a lot of white niggers in my time. I'm going to use that word."

--Sen. Robert C. Byrd's (D-W.Va.) on Fox News Sunday, March 4, 2001

"I apologize for the characterization I used on this program. The phrase dates back to my boyhood and has no place in today's society. As for my language, I had no intention of casting aspersions on anyone of another race."

--statement of apology on same show

Posted by: nameless on December 13, 2002 06:32 PM

We need Trent Lott just as we needed Newt Ginrich. The Republicans are now Southern led and have been anti Black for the longest time. To give up this agenda would split their party and surely weaken them. There are no more country clubs like Jacob Javitz or Nelson Rockfellas left. The Repuiblicans have been extremely artful about cobbling together a disparate assemblage of Southerners, country clubs, business lobbies and anti-abortonists with unlimited funds. It is time they pay the price for their Southern faction being quiet partners in racism. They also used racism in Bushimandering (George Bush's redrawing congressional boundaries through the clever and immoral use of the 1990 census data.)

Posted by: on December 14, 2002 03:40 AM

Paul Krugman mentions judgeships. We must be concerned about who becomes a Federal Judge because the Republicans have adopted a bold agenda for controlling our society through the appointment of conservative and reactionary judges. They have created a "judical counter- revolution" in the Rhenquist court which give power to the states. (Go www.wnyc.org...Lopate...Dec 13,2002)

Posted by: on December 14, 2002 04:11 AM

The Republicans will not dump their racists supports. They make up considerably more than the margin of victory. They will work harder on their code words. But Democrats really cannot complain until they dump their fringe elements.
Fortunately for Dems their fringe's goals are generally on the up and up, they are simply, and sometimes drastically, misguided.
Democrats should use this as an indicator that they need the antiglobalists to rethink their positions to focus on real workers, so that they can argue within a framework that might actually do some good for transition help, baselines for the environment and worker's rights internationally.
Bottom line, though, is that the Republican's have chosen leadership that should be more of a national embarassment than it is - I really do not even hear conseratives, except for the wacky kind, defend Tom DeLay, other than him being an effective arm-twister. There is simple silent acceptance of this bizarre little man. There was a lot fuss over Pelosi ( I am undecided on her - I do not know any positons of hers that I disagree strongly, but that could be because I do not know many of her positons. The simple criticism that she is from San Francisco does not work for me, because I have lived there and can think of no better place in the country). But what happend to a discussion of how bizarre Tom DeLay is - Is there a famous murder that he has blamed on something other than Clinton or the teaching of evolution?

Posted by: theCoach on December 14, 2002 06:25 AM

All,

It is clear. For JFK to win big and break GOP hold of the south, he will need a southern VP. He has two choices:

1. Sen. Edwards

2. Rep. Lewis

My money last week was on johnjohn 2004 (i.e., Sen. Edwards). Since Lott sharing that he is a bigot, I think Rep. Lewis is a shoo-in.

JFK/Lewis from 2004 to 2012. Lewis will not run for top job and Hillary will take over from 2012 to 2020.

Everyone: Join me in saying: "Thanks, Unca. Lott!"

Ali Karim Bey

Posted by: Ali Karim Bey on December 14, 2002 08:57 AM

Is a member of the party that kept Bill Clinton and lost the white house because of it really asking why the Republicans are having trouble getting rid of Trent Lott?

If the Democrats continue to comfort themselves with the notion that the only reason they lose elections is that the other side is a bunch of scheming racist bastards, they're going to continue to lose elections. It's blinding them to substantive issues, and it's alienating swing voters who don't like being told that they're scheming racist bastards.

Posted by: Jane Galt on December 14, 2002 11:26 AM

hey jean-philippe,

i think you completely misunderstood my comment that poor white trash americans are as likely to be discriminated against as americans with blck sounding names. (although as your phrased things i'm really not sure what point you're trying to make)

my point was simply that in america we use race to talk about issues that are really matters of sociology and economics.

Posted by: on December 14, 2002 03:56 PM

'Is a member of the party that kept Bill Clinton and lost the white house because of it really asking why the Republicans are having trouble getting rid of Trent Lott?'

Jane, we lost the White House because Gore was a flat-out shitty candidate. I'm not sure Clinton even did any damage, either, since in the 1998 election we gained seats.

It's also a bit silly to suggest that "lying to a prosecutor about your sex life" and "cozying up to white supremacists" are comparable.

Posted by: Jason McCullough on December 14, 2002 04:09 PM

Oh, as to why Lott was the majority leader in the first place: we're witnessing the tail end of the civil rights movement. Before and during, it was ok to use coded language to appeal to southern whites (even reagan did a creepy bit of this); it's finally becoming Not Ok, especially since the GOP is somewhat attempting to reach out to minorities now.

Lott had the misfortune to be in power during the phase transition.

Posted by: Jason McCullough on December 14, 2002 04:13 PM

It's blinding them to substantive issues... Amen to that brother. Bush's administration committed a political error this week which, as usual, the Democrats fumbled royally. (No wonder they have trouble winning.) Not sure what it is? Maybe haven't even heard about it? Well, the Treasury proposed this week rules which will allow companies once again to change their pension systems to "cash balance" plans. This has a tendency to rip off older workers while supposedly helping younger ones (but of course, there will be time to change the rules before they get their hands on the money). Pensions is a theme that Middle America cares about. Pensions is a theme that typically favors the Democrats (it's why the Republicans wilt every time the words "Social Security" are spoken). I've looked at a good twenty "leftish" blogs, and mine is the only one which mentioned it. Trent Lott is blocking the view.

Posted by: Andrew Boucher on December 14, 2002 10:09 PM

The GOP uses race constantly to rally its positions. It uses upstate/downstate as a proxy by running ads upstate which are adverse to downstate and ignoring what is said upstate in the city. It uses income as a proxy. The GOP may feel it can become a majority party and must broaden its appeal. It feels it can appeal to Hispanic voters who have conservative sentiments about some things such as church annd family. Hispanics will grow as a populatiopn segmnent and will out number Blacks in demographic terms. Blacks often dont vote even where there is no problem to their doing so.

We all should look back to Richard Nixon's Southern Strategy and realize it was a successful maneuver.

Clinton would have been the greatest president since FDR if it had not been for the intense persecution. Yes Star was a Special Persecutor.

The GOP has better demographic political tacticians. Furthermore the press is so right wing...all the cable talking heads...CNBC, MSNBC Fox..spew out right wing palava. When Toricelli resigned he said he could not get out his message because of the War Talk. War Talk preemted the Demographic message and Daschel did nothing to help himself. This was Karl Rove's strategy. Watch there will a war and war talk clear into 2004 and it will still preempt the Democratic message.

Has anybody been watching Sen
Byrd? Pieces of his speeches are quoted in the Times(www.nytimes.com). He is always talking like we are in the Late Roman Republic. It has seemed that way for the last fourty years, ever since I was a classics student.

Posted by: on December 15, 2002 05:21 AM

Oh please: "Clinton would have been the greatest president since FDR if it hadn't been . . . . "

One forgets that when President Clinton took office the Democratic Party controlled both houses of Congress. And the first two years of his Presidency were a disaster, created in part by putting his unelected wife in charge of the creation of the most complicated legislative proposal ever made. I repeat: the Democratic Party controlled both houses of Congress and thought they had a mandate for creating a health care program - which they could easily have done, or which an FDR could easily have accomplished. Clinton could not and did not and it had NOTHING to do with Ken Starr and EVERYTHING to do with bad leadership and the creation of a very bad piece of legislation.

ALSO, I am NOT defending Ken Starr. By the time he was appointed in late 1994, Clinton had already proven himself a legislative disaster as President.

Posted by: on December 15, 2002 08:20 AM

Clinton could not and did not and it had NOTHING to do with Ken Starr and EVERYTHING to do with bad leadership and the creation of a very bad piece of legislation.

It certainly wasn't helped by a misogynistic, knee-jerk media assault on Hillary, and huge lobbying efforts by the insurance companies most likely to be bolted out of their money troughs by any legislation. FDR didn't have to deal with that kind of assault in the 1930s; Clinton certainly did. Easy to forget, though.

Posted by: nick sweeney on December 16, 2002 10:13 AM

As has been stated (even in the NYT today), a lot of the Lott outcry has come from non-racist, non-Southern righties who are (more or less) genuinely outraged at the comments (where they were when the CCC story broke in '98 is an interesting question). With that in mind, it's kind of sad to read Jane Galt's denial of the Southern Strategy. Does she _really_ think it didn't/doesn't exist? Does she really think that Reagan praising "state's rights" in Philadelphia, MS (site of the infamous triple civil rights murders) was a statement of constitutional principle? Oh, Jane.

Yes, there are lots of flaws with the Dems. But to pretend for one moment that Republican strength in the South is not tied to racism is...sad? naive? ignorant? fatuous?

As someone pointed out, everyone is well aware of the non-mainstream (defined, evidently, as suburban white) bases for the Dems: labor, blacks, gays, Jews. And many people resent that, and demand that Dems distance themselves from that base. But the racist Southern base of Republicans has been swept under the rug, whispered in code words. And so people like Jane can pretend it doesn't exist, and sleep well at night.

Posted by: JRoth on December 17, 2002 07:36 AM

NY Times:
~~
Conservatives Led the Way in Criticizing Lott's Remarks

Early, widespread and harsh criticism by conservative commentators and publications has provided much of the tinder for the political fires surrounding Senator Trent Lott ...

Conservative columnists, including Andrew Sullivan, William Kristol and Charles Krauthammer, and publications like National Review and The Wall Street Journal have castigated Mr. Lott...

The responses by conservatives have provided a marked contrast to the contention — put forth most recently by former President Bill Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore — that the nation's conservative news media acts as a monolithic Republican support system....

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/12/17/politics/17CONS.html
~~

Maybe we all should be grateful for the rise of the new conservative media monopoly -- as lamented as it is by Al Gore, Professor Krugman, et. al. After all, if we were still stuck with the old, respectable, NY Times/TV networks media monopoly we'd never have had the Lott story.

Conservatives, it seems, at least know how to criticize their own -- and even criticize their own with more vigor than liberals criticize them, when there's some substance on the merits.

Perhaps Professor K. will try to match them, and breathe some life into the surviving remnants of the liberal media, by adopting the trick and criticizing a Democrat in his Times column someday. ;-)

(Even though he's already explained on his web site why he won't.)

Posted by: Jim Glass on December 17, 2002 07:54 AM

*Now* you consider the NYT a believable source!

'Conservatives, it seems, at least know how to criticize their own -- and even criticize their own with more vigor than liberals criticize them, when there's some substance on the merits.'

I wouldn't get too haughty; conservatives defended his flirtations with the CCC back when that blew up in 1998.

Posted by: Jason McCullough on December 17, 2002 03:08 PM

Conservatives don't really know how to criticize their own. The intense reation to the accidental truth spoken Trent Lott, was a shock to Southern senators. It is clearly an act of denial(See Wash Post 12/21). The Republican Party does not want the public to sees its dark history because they have hopes of replacing the Democratic Party as a majority party and they can only do this by appealing to people of other ethnic groups.
Grouchy

Posted by: on December 22, 2002 05:27 AM
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