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The Righteous Right Fouls Up
Let me see if I have this straight. According to 95% of GOP pundits:
A. As Senate Majority Leader, Trent Lott was an utter disgrace to the fundamental principles of the Republican Party. His resignation from the Majority Leader position was an absolute moral necessity after his crime against humanity
B. As a U.S. Senator, on the other hand, Trent Lott remains a valued public servant. Any notion that he should resign from the Senate is unthinkable. For him to quit now, just because a few folks have said a few unkind words about him, would be a crime against humanity.
A contradiction, no?
The explanation, of course: Lott's resigning allowed Karl Rove to move his boy Bill Frist into what had been a power base independent of the White House.
But if Lott also resigned from the Senate, the Democratic Governor of Mississippi would appoint a Democrat, splitting the Senate 50-50. That would give the Democrats a good shot at luring a liberal Republican to switch sides, thus regaining the majority.
Okay, now that we all understand, let's chant along with the Righteous Right:
"DEATH TO MAJORITY LEADER LOTT!
LONG LIVE SENATOR LOTT!"
Just two weeks ago, on VDARE.COM, I was complacently discussing the likelihood that the Supreme Court would soon outlaw racial preferences in college admissions.
Well … that was a long time ago.
Now the question is how much of the wish-list of race hustlers like Jesse Jackson is going to be granted, due to the Republican meltdown.
Yeah, sure, Trent Lott should be hung up by his toenails in every town square in America and all that. But it's important to go over exactly what happened.
The fundamental fact is that this disaster was almost completely self-inflicted by Republican pundits. It was the "right wing" mouthpieces, not the liberals, who went hysterical.
The initial reaction of most Democratic politicians and journalists was that Lott was just blowing smoke to make an old man happy at his retirement/100th birthday party. Nothing important should be read into it.
As Howie Kurtz reported in the Washington Post on 12/16:
"A dozen reporters heard the Senate majority leader say the country would have been better off if Thurmond had won the presidency—and it was carried on C-SPAN—but only an ABC producer thought the remarks were newsworthy. Even then the story didn't make it to the network's main newscasts. Baltimore Sun reporter Julie Hirschfeld Davis says there was so much 'tongue-in-cheek' talk at Thurmond's birthday party 'that a lot of us probably tuned out remarks that we might have been more careful listening to if it hadn't been such a jubilant atmosphere.'"
The very liberal retired Senator Paul Simon (D-IL) attended the 100th birthday party. He said later,
"I've worked with Martin Luther King Jr. and been at the forefront of civil rights legislation. If I thought it was serious, I'd be denouncing it. But I think it's being taken out of context, and that's not being fair to Trent."
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle said,
"There are a lot of times when [Lott] and I go to the microphone and would like to say things we meant to say differently, and I'm sure this was one of those cases for him."
Soon afterwards, two of Clinton's attack dogs, Sidney Blumenthal and James Carville, sent out mass emails trying to peddle the story. The websites of a few Democrat picked it up. But the big-time liberal media still wasn't interested.
What happened next was the key. According to Jim Rutenberg and Felicity Barringer in the New York Times (December 17),
"Early, widespread and harsh criticism by conservative commentators and publications has provided much of the tinder for the political fires surrounding Senator Trent Lott since his favorable comments about the segregationist presidential campaign of 1948. Conservative columnists, including Andrew Sullivan, William Kristol and Charles Krauthammer, and publications like National Review and the Wall Street Journal have castigated Mr. Lott …"
Similarly, the Washington Post's Kurtz wrote,
"Even after Lott's comments were reported, though, much of the establishment press ignored them for days. It wasn't until Lott apologized last Monday night that such newspapers as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today took note of the matter. In the meantime, Lott was pummeled by a number of online Weblogs - particularly by conservatives who agree with him on many issues - in a way that helped force the story into public view."
David Frum is a longtime journalist and former Bush speechwriter. I can't really remember much of anything special about him other than that he wrote two-thirds of the "axis of evil" phrase, and that he's replacing the unique and iconoclastic Florence King on the back page of National Review, which is depressing. Maybe NR thought they were hiring David Brooks instead.
Andrew Sullivan is the world's foremost spokesman for Andrewism, which is best defined as whatever Andrew is worked up about at the current stage in his prescription testosterone cycle. (Click here for his 7,000-word ode to injecting the manly molecule, and to the wildly variable impact it has on his judgment.)
I rather like Andrew, in part for his brave advocacy of The Bell Curve, in part because he has elevated hypocrisy to an art form. The disjunction between what he preaches and what he practices is so stark that it somehow feels wrong to judge him according to the normal standards of truth, logic, honesty, and morality that apply to drab analysts like me. Instead, Andrew is more like the lead character in the great roman a clef novel (think of Saul Bellow's Ravelstein about Allan Bloom) that no doubt will be written about him after he's gone.
Instapundit is less interesting. Glenn Reynolds is a law professor who used his amazing skill at typing fast to invent "blogrolling," or online backscratching. Every day he skims lots of other web logs and jots down countless quick links to those who agree with him. This drives traffic to various lonely bloggers, who gratefully respond with adulatory links back to him. It's mutual-admiration perpetual motion machine. Reynolds offers the usual libertarian-militarist ideology found online. But he distinguishes himself by being, even for a blogger, exceptionally self-righteous and self-regarding.
Despite the desperate idolization of Instapundit by other bloggers, however, the tracking service Alexa seems to show that VDARE.COM has more traffic. Hardly surprising. Visiting Instapundit.com is like being caught in a hailstorm of ping-pong balls. Apparently, Instapundit and Sullivan are more socially respectable to link to, but VDARE.COM is more interesting to read.
So as soon as these Righteous Righties decided that Lott's 100th birthday party bloviating was the most serious statement of considered belief since Luther's 95 Theses, the bloggers who take their direction in hopes of getting a link back began howling for Lott's head.
And it was only then that the New York Times and the rest of Big Liberal Media jumped on the story.
Instapundit, the All-Seeing Sage of Blogovia, has whined that it was "galling, and unjustified" that the Democrats were using his witch burning crusade to advance their agenda of racial preferences.
And Andrew has complained:
"Some of the sanctimony is now beginning to bug me. ...The equation of opposition to affirmative action or hate-crime laws or any other number of leftist policies with racism strikes me as a massively cheap shot. (I was on WBUR last night and paleo-lib Jack Beatty went straight to that knee-jerk point. Grrrr.) And the blithe assumption of moral superiority is equally galling."
Similarly, Frum has lamented that the Washington Post reported that the White House looked more likely to argue in favor of racial preferences in the University of Michigan quota case.
Of course, the establishment conservatives are trying to tell themselves that it will ultimately be all for the best. Noemie Emery writes in the Weekly Standard:
"It is now a great mess for the Republican Party, but one that has the potential to turn into a great opportunity, and one the party should eagerly seize. It is a chance for the GOP to clean up its act and its household, haul tons of old rubbish out of the attic, and banish some shopworn old ghosts."
Which sounds an awful lot like Greta Garbo playing the Soviet commissar in "Ninotchka." Asked the news from Moscow, she replied:
"The last mass trials were a great success. There are going to be fewer but better Russians."
I now expect a concerted effort to silence anyone on the right suspected of crimethink about human biodiversity. Already, Frum has smeared my website www.iSteve.blogspot.com in his NRO column.
Of course, he doesn't make any arguments against anything I've written. He's smart enough to know that getting into a public debate with me over race is a losing proposition. (If he's brave enough, I'm ready to debate him anytime.)
I've certainly got nothing against the paleos. They have proven infinitely more interested in learning from the human sciences than have the increasingly anti-scientific neocons. (For a laugh, check out "Has Darwin Met His Match?" in the December 2002 edition of Commentary).
Still, I've never been a paleo. In 1999, John O'Sullivan wrote in National Review an article entitled "Types of Right." Number 5 was:
"Evolutionary Conservatives. This is an almost wholly intellectual group (e.g., Steve Sailer, John McGinnis, Charles Murray)— not a politician brave enough to stand with them — who have realized two things: first, that lessons of the new science of evolutionary psychology are largely conservative ones about an adamantine human nature, the natural basis of sex roles, and so on; second, that the knowledge gained from the Human Genome Project and the rise of genetic engineering will throw up some fascinating and contentious political issues in the increasingly near future."
On the political front, the Establishment media is now enthusiastically answering the Weekly Standard's call for one, two, many purges. But they will conduct the hunts on their own liberal terms.
For Trent Lott is not some kind of unique locus of Political Incorrectness in the Republican Party. There are lots of Lotts.
Between 1/3rd and 3/8ths of the GOP vote comes from white Southerners. The vast majority of these citizens no more want the return of Jim Crow than they want the return of summers without air conditioners. But they do bear normal human feelings of loyalty and affection toward their parents, grandparents, and more distant ancestors - which are expressed through various exercises in symbolism, or through mere politeness.
A huge fraction of all Republican office holders are from the South. Virtually every one of them is on record committing Lott's Sin: saying something nice about a representative of the Old South.
In the feeding frenzy of the last week, we've been treated to one story after another about how all Republican victories since Kevin Phillips wrote The Emerging Republican Majority in 1969 were illegitimate because they were based on white Southern voters.
I believe the success I've had as a voter analyst stems in large part from my taking a moral stance that happens also to be a factual reality. I believe in the equality of American citizens. I refuse to fall for the increasingly common assumption that "While all voters are equal, some are more equal than others." I try to remind everybody that they still count everybody's vote the same.
For example, for 20 years the press has been telling us that the gender gap is going to devastate the GOP. But it never happens, because a man's vote counts exactly as much as a woman's vote. And men, although the media doesn't care, tilt just as much to the Republicans as women do to Democrats.
Similarly, Democrats have often succeeded in delegitimizing Republican victories won with white votes. This isn't just symbolic. Democrats have actually scared Republicans away from strategies that worked in the past.
For example, George H.W. Bush's 1988 campaign against Dukakis' softness on crime was permanently libeled as racist because the best example of Dukakis' foolishness was a furloughed murderer named Willie Horton - who happened to be black.
Similarly, the GOP has been brainwashed into believing that Pete Wilson's spectacular comeback in 1994 is now off-limits because it appealed to The Wrong Kind of Voters.
Well, I'm too much of a small "d" democrat to believe that there are Wrong Kinds of Voters—there are just voters.
But that's going to be an increasingly rare view as the fallout from the Righteous Right's temper tantrum continues.
Great going, guys. Thanks a Lott.
December 22, 2002