Let me go ahead and get this out of the way before some right-winger goes all finger-pointing sex nuts about my little rant about Steve Scalise and the Republican Party:
Former U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd, a Democrat from West Virginia, was a member of the KKK while he was a young man in the 1940s. Byrd didn’t deny this fact. Over the years, he opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and voted against the appointment of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. But much like South Carolina’s own Strom Thurmond, Byrd’s views softened over the years, and by the end of his career in the Senate, he very publicly denounced his previous sins, saying, “Intolerance had no place in America. I apologized a thousand times . . . and I don’t mind apologizing over and over again. I can’t erase what happened.”
OK, now that that is over and done with, I just want to ask City Paper readers a simple question: are any of you surprised that House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) spoke before a David Duke-led group in 2002? I mean, does it really shock anyone that a member of the GOP has ties, however tenuous, to America’s most prominent white supremacist?
I mean, right here in the Palmetto State, the SCGOP’s own Buddy Witherspoon was a member of the Council of Conservative Citizens, a white nationalist group, and he ran against Lindsey Graham in 2008. Prior to that, Witherspoon was a voting member of the Republican National Convention.
And then there’s Roan Garcia-Quintana. He was a member of Gov. Nikki Haley’s 2014 re-election team and a member of the CofCC.
Of course, there’s always South Carolina’s own Lee Atwater, the late, great, hate-filled Republican mastermind who described the GOP’s strategy to court racists as:
“You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”
And don’t even get me started on Ron Paul’s old racist newsletter.
The point is, the GOP has been reaching out to white supremacists for years. In fact, it’s a defining, but little discussed, platform of the Southern Strategy.
But for a significant number of you, I know that doesn’t matter. At least as long as you can chant the name “Robert Byrd” again and again and again.
And if not him, then Al Sharpton. Or the Rev. Wright. Or any of the other usual strawman suspects that blind you to the sinners in your own party.