So What If Thurmond (Or Goldwater) Had Been Elected?
For one brief shining moment, it
was beginning to look like Senate Majority Leader Trent
Lott was taking hormone shots. First he
troops to the border to resist invasion by illegal
aliens. Then, last week, at a birthday party for
Strom Thurmond, he virtually endorsed the South
Carolina senator`s presidential campaign 54 years ago—as
Mr. Lott has now apologized at
least twice and cringed and
groveled appropriately for saying something that
deviates from egalitarian dogmas, but whether Mr.
Thurmond`s distinguished colleague from Mississippi was
trying to utter some serious thoughts or had just
swallowed too much eggnog at the birthday bash seems an
No sooner had his words escaped the
senatorial lips than he was denounced by Jesse Jackson,
Al Sharpton, the Washington Post
editorial page, and—the world`s greatest expert on
What Should Have Been—Al
Gore. Alerted by the baying of the leftist pack
from which they take their cues, neo-conservatives like
the Weekly Standard`s
Bill Kristol and the failed and forgotten
Jack Kemp soon chimed in.
THIS JUST IN! President Bush has joined Sharpton,
Jackson, Kristol and Kemp in
denouncing Lott, although he seems more willing to
accept Lott`s apology.]
Mr. Jackson demanded that Mr. Lott
resign as Majority Leader, while Mr. Sharpton
denounced his remarks as "blatant racism" and
vowed to wage a national campaign against him. Mr.
Gore, in his ponderous way,
held that what Mr. Lott said was "fundamentally
racist," "divisive," and "divisive along
But of course, Mr. Lott said
nothing whatever about race, and never even mentioned
race at all. What exactly he did say was:
want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran
for president, we voted for him. We`re proud of it. And
if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we
wouldn`t have had all these problems over all these
What exactly Mr. Lott meant by his
remarks remains unclear, but several different
interpretations of them are possible, and Mr. Lott and
his defenders have invoked all of them. Nevertheless,
what Mr. Thurmond`s States Rights Party
mainly stood for was racial segregation, and Mr.
Lott knows that. The party was set up in protest of the
endorsement of legislation against segregation, and
those who supported the Thurmond candidacy—nearly
1.2 million voters—almost certainly did so because
they supported segregation.
So, was Mr. Lott right? If the rest
of the country had voted for Strom Thurmond in 1948,
would we "have had all these problems over all these
years"? Well, you never know, of course, but
In the first place, had Strom
Thurmond been elected president in 1948, such paragons
of legal reasoning as Earl Warren and William Brennan
would never have seen the inside of the
Supreme Court. Not only
Brown v. Board but also the
Escobedo, and several other
major decisions that revolutionized American
government and tossed much of the Constitution in the
office shredder would never have soiled the law books.
Judicial precedents that consolidated the Court`s
immense power today would never have been
Mr. Lott should ask his critics if
it would be OK to say he wishes
Barry Goldwater had been elected president in 1964.
Mr. Goldwater, though not a segregationist, voted
against civil rights legislation for precisely the same
reasons Mr. Thurmond gave—it violated states rights.
Would racial segregation have
survived? De jure segregation was eroding in the
southern states anyway. De facto, most
sociologists will tell you the nation`s schools today
are at least as segregated as they were in the 1950s. So
are housing patterns. So what? People of the same race
tend to prefer each other`s company.
But what we almost certainly would
not have enjoyed had Mr. Thurmond become president are
the fruits of forced racial integration as it was
imposed in later decades: the tidal wave of black crime
against whites that is now commonplace;
black race riots from Detroit and
Watts to Los Angeles in 1992; the virtual
destruction of American cities as a black underclass,
protected by the federal government,
pushed out whites terrified for their own lives and
of their families; the destruction
of American education and the transformation of the
schools into day-time prison camps for hoodlums. No
forced busing; no
affirmative action; no "hate crime" hypocrisy; no
"Afrocentric" or "multiculturalist"
garbage poured into our children`s heads. Probably no
mass immigration. No
self-hate for whites. No guilt. No fear.
In fact, had the conservatism of a
younger Strom Thurmond prevailed, there`s little reason
to doubt the United States and much of the rest of the
world would be better off than they are today under the
reign of terror and chaos that prevails as the chief
legacy of liberalism.
Instead of denouncing Mr. Lott,
Americans—liberal and conservative, black and
white—ought to think hard about the important and
unsettling truth he accidentally uttered.
December 12, 2002