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Tony Perkins Hearts Racism

Just yesterday I turned to a colleague and said, "where did Tony Perkins come from anyway?" Louisiana, she told me, via Frank [EDIT: That's James] Dobson. But as Max Blumenthal explains these turn out to have been the fetid swamps of Louisiana white supremacy.

Which seems to me like a good opportunity to recall the case of Trent Lott. People who follow these things had known for many years that Lott was deeply tied in with white supremacist politics in Mississippi, but the media politely chose to ignore this reality. Then he came out as a segregationist at a birthday celebration for Strom Thurmond. Some bloggers started making noise. Conservatives took note and were, quite rightly, outraged. The George W. Bush, after supporting Lott for a little while, quite rightly dropped his support and Lott was, quite rightly, removed from his leadership post. After that . . . nothing. Lott remained a United States Senator and a member in good standing of the Republican caucus. He seems to have been the mastermind behind the nuclear option strategy that is now dominating the Hill and that led to the "Justice Sunday" rally which prompted Perkins' inquiry into Perkins.

Now it's well known that the media employs an extremism double standard. Any Democrat is allowed to be tarred with the views of any semi-prominent person who supports Democratic candidates or, at a minimum, criticizes Republican officeholders. But the Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate can share a television platform with a gaggle of bigots and that says nothing about him. I don't like it anymore than you, but this is the standard that's been in effect since 1968 at least. So the fact that Bill Frist can appear with white supremacist Tony Perkins and William "Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity" Donohue and escape unscathed no longer surprises me. But when Trent Lott was removed from his leadership post it seemed that the United States had applied a new standard: It Is Not Okay For The GOP Congressional Leadership To Be Composed of White Supremacists. Now it seems to me that a corollary -- it's not okay for white supremacists to be U.S. Senators -- seems to flow naturally from that principle. And yet, it doesn't. Does anyone out there in the conservosphere have a good explanation as to why white supremacism is an objectionable view in a Majority Leader but a-okay in a mere committee chair?

April 27, 2005 | Permalink


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Tracked on Apr 28, 2005 10:48:25 AM


wouldn't it be ironic, though, if a white supremacist engineered the end of the filibuster from his perch on the Senate Rules Committee?

Posted by: praktike | Apr 27, 2005 10:32:37 AM

What, exactly, are they supposed to do to him, Matthew? He's been democratically elected by the people of his state. The Republican party has no power to remove him from the senate, and as Arlen Specter shows, even when a party actively turns against an incumbent senator, it's damn near impossible to remove office, thanks to the primary system and the natural incumbency advantage. If people could be expelled from the Senate for being assholes . . . well, you know how that ends.

Posted by: Jane Galt | Apr 27, 2005 10:37:11 AM

"What, exactly, are they supposed to do to him, Matthew?"

Not appear on stage with him?

Posted by: praktike | Apr 27, 2005 10:42:36 AM

Actually, quite a few members of the conservosphere are just fine with a white supremicist as Majority Leader, Senator, President, Emperor, whatever. The problem is when he's dumb enough to say something that cracks the facade of their Mom & Apple Pie image.

Remember, the House Ethics Committee is waking up only because DeLay's ethics troubles are bad for the party image, not because they know anything new now that they didn't before.

Posted by: Stephen | Apr 27, 2005 10:42:43 AM

Throw the bum out (of the party, that is). I don't know how membership in the Republican Party works, and it might be completely up to the individual, but you could choose not to support him and then throw your money behind a primary challenger in the next election.

On the other hand, that costs a lot and takes a lot of time and costs you seniority on committees and such, which means it's better to just minimize the guy's public profile and keep him around for when you need him. Like, maybe taking the fall for the "nucular option".

Posted by: Dave | Apr 27, 2005 10:43:09 AM

The party didn't turn on Specter. They propped him up in the face of an insurgency. Jane Galt's comment is the opposite of the truth.

Lott's up for reelection next year. If the GOP - and by that, I mean the leadership and the party apparatus - wants to sink him, they can. If they don't, it's because they're apologists for racism and that's all there is to it.

Posted by: JP | Apr 27, 2005 10:44:10 AM

Two ideas here:
--Both the right and left have wackos. But the dominant right wackos in the public eye right now seem to be religious people using religion as cover for their arguments and attacking anyone who criticizes them as anti-religious. And attacking religion is still pretty taboo in this country. Whereas a lot of our wackos are, honestly, just wackos.
--In general I find a real divide in what people think about racism. My friends who are people of color or grew up in the South seem to just take for granted that a lot of people are racist--they don't endorse it, but that's the way it is. Whereas for my friends who grew up in educated families in blue state urban areas being a white supremacist is almost inconceivable. So, when a political figure is linked to white supremacists, half the people already figured he was anyway, and the other half assume it's being exaggerated because no sane person actually believes that stuff anymore, right?

Posted by: flip | Apr 27, 2005 10:48:59 AM

Does anyone out there in the conservosphere have a good explanation

I'd be happy to answer if only I could understand what Matthew is getting at here. He's upset that Lott is still a Senator? I.e., that we should have thrown him out of the party a la David Duke?

Listen, I'm no fan of Trent Lott. But it seems to me that demotion from Majority Leader to mere Senator was enough of a punishment for the guy. The guy is probably much more comfortable around the Southern semi-racists than I would be. And? For that we should kick him out of the party and boot him from the Senate?

Matthew, when your party kicks Robert (KKK) Byrd (you know, the guy saying the n----- word on TV a couple of years ago?) out of the party, I'll be the first one to advocate kicking Lott out of our party. But you aren't. Instead, you are promoting Robert (KKK) Byrd as the first line of defense against filibuster repeal.

So, you hypocrites take the first move.

Posted by: Al | Apr 27, 2005 10:50:50 AM

Query: who will be the first winger idiotic enough to bring up Robert Byrd in this thread, as if it were a real counterargument?

Posted by: JP | Apr 27, 2005 10:52:29 AM

Damn. Late by two minutes!

Posted by: JP | Apr 27, 2005 10:52:58 AM

But it seems to me that demotion from Majority Leader to mere Senator was enough of a punishment for the guy.

"Mere Senator"? Oh, TEH HORROR!

Posted by: mythago | Apr 27, 2005 10:56:12 AM

BTW - Speaking of filibuster repeal, it is really my fault that I don't read Matthew's other blogging activity. TAPPED simply doen't have the quirkiness that I love about this blog. But I see, via MyDD, that Matthew has stolen my position on filibusters. How many times have I posted, right here on this very blog, that I think that repeal of the filibuster for judges now INEVITABLY will lead to the Democrats repealing it for all legislation sometime in the future? I must have posted it at least 5 times. Now I see Matthew stole the idea and posted it on TAPPED!


Posted by: Al | Apr 27, 2005 10:58:15 AM

Al's last name is Tuquoque.

Posted by: cleek | Apr 27, 2005 10:58:52 AM

funny, cleek, I thought his full name was "Al-Trolls Martyrs Brigades."

Posted by: praktike | Apr 27, 2005 11:04:27 AM

In this case, I plead guilt to cleek's charge. As I said, I would be perfectly happy to have Lott out of the Senate. Accordingly, I have, I think, answered Matthew's question of whether I think it is acceptable to have Lott in the Senate.

But have you or Matthew or any Democrats answered why you have KKK Byrd leading the charge against the filibuster?

Posted by: Al | Apr 27, 2005 11:06:48 AM

Al's mindset can best be summarized as "I'm against white supremacism, but." It's telling that Sen. Lott's racism is less offensive to him than the annoying liberals who insist on interfering with his desire to find some excuse, any excuse, no matter how lame, not to have to think about it. This isn't so much the sign of an extremist (Al really isn't all that far to the right if you read the substance of his posts, to the extent that there ever is any substance), as the sign of a morally repugnant human being.

Posted by: JP | Apr 27, 2005 11:07:10 AM

Oy. Toomey had substantial support from the conservatariat and from groups like Club for Growth, but the party, including Santorum who supported pro-choice Specter over anti-choice Toomey, was firmly behind him.

Posted by: Atrios | Apr 27, 2005 11:08:40 AM

Well, JP, then I am as "morally repugnant" as every single Democrat who continues to be part of a party that includes Robert KKK Byrd.

Posted by: Al | Apr 27, 2005 11:09:59 AM

I think Stephen has it exactly right. Trent Lott wasn't punished for having segregationist sympathies, he was punished for embarrassing the Republican Party. Removing him from his leadership position was damage control.

Al comparing Trent Lott's statement to Robert Byrd's use of the "n"-word is revealing. Republicans think that Lott's problem was that he said something that people took offense at. No, that's not the problem. The problem isn't Lott's words but the sentiments that those words reveal. His words expressed regret for the failure of a pro-segregationist political movement. Does Trent Lott regret the end of segregation? That is the implication of his words. It is that implication that is disturbing.

Posted by: Daryl McCullough | Apr 27, 2005 11:17:01 AM

Wouldn't say that I am from the conservosphere, but I think that the answer to your question is pretty straightforward, Matt. Simply put, there are powerful elements of Lott's constituency (and the South, not to regionalize American racism) that carry a torch for theories of white supremacy. These people have adapted to Civil Rights Era reforms and employ very sophisticated techniques of sustaining their cause, innoculating themselves from fallout stemming from "external" political pressures and keeping the spirit of resegregation alive. A fairly easy concept but extremely sophisticated in its application - and persistent. It is a wholly unsustainable polity but these guys have already tested their mettle and are proving to be committed and capable survivors. A reading of Afrikaaner history might be instructive, even if it represents an extreme (let us hope!) of the consequences of racial insularity.

Posted by: hotspock | Apr 27, 2005 11:18:27 AM

Gawd, I fucking hate the Byrd argument. The benefit that Dems have over Republicans is that the African-American community is an important voting block for us. In close call matters, we get a step because there are institutional checks on any anti-minority actions by our members.

Republicans, on the other hand, gained the South by pandering/agreeing with the racists. At best, you could claim that Republicans are against the whatever lay beneath Jim Crow, but not at the expense of tax cuts. Don't like the history? Find Mr. Peabody and see if he can help you out.

Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Apr 27, 2005 11:20:57 AM

Last I heard, Byrd made several lengthy apologies for his involvement in the Klan. And his voting record on racial issues shows that his apologia reflects his current beliefs more than his earlier membership in the Klan.

Look, a healthy number of elderly white Southern politicians had some involvement with either the Klan, the White Citizens' Councils, or some other white supremacist organization back in the day. What matters at this point is what they make of that past. Do they repudiate it, like Thurmond (partially) or Byrd did? Even George Wallace rejected it after his near-death in 1972. Or do they embrace the modern incarnation of it like Lott and Duke and the "Conservative" Citizens Council? That's the issue.

Posted by: Elrod | Apr 27, 2005 11:32:33 AM

What, exactly, are they supposed to do to him, Matthew?

Er, Matt Y. alludes in the post to the fact that Lott is CHAIR OF THE SENATE RULES COMMITTEE. Now, even if Lott was duly elected by the people of his state, I don't think that legally obliges the GOP to make him CHAIR OF THE SENATE RULES COMMITTEE. But you know, I am not a lawyer. Maybe the GOP really wants to express their disapproval of white supremacism by removing Lott from the CHAIRMANSHIP OF THE SENATE RULES COMMITTEE but some obscure provision of the Constitution ties their hands.

Or maybe they don't really want to distance themselves from Lott at all, and Jane and Al are being dishonest hacks.

Posted by: Matt Weiner | Apr 27, 2005 11:34:10 AM

Maybe Jane could hit him with a 2x4. Oh wait that's is only for protesting against a war sold by lies. Rascism is worth throwing you hands up in the air and saying "whatcha you gonna do"?

Posted by: Rob | Apr 27, 2005 11:40:20 AM


Posted by: praktike | Apr 27, 2005 11:40:59 AM

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