April 22, 2005

It's Time For The GOP To 'Lott' DeLay

Trent Lott said something vague and controversial: that the country would be better if Strom Thurmond were elected. It seemed to be about segregation, and in my opinion most likely was, but it wasn't explicit. For all we know he could've been talking about federalism or the South sticking with the Democrats. But Strom Thurmond's 1948 campaign was primarily - then and now - seen as a vessel for post-Confederate racism and segregation. That's a pretty accurate assumption to make, too.

Strom Thurmond disavowed those beliefs years before, and Trent Lott disavowed the strong appearance of segregationism he had given before. He didn't really have the bad race record that Thurmond did - or even Bob Byrd (KKK), Jimmy Carter (GA racists) or Zell Miller ("pottage") did - but he still talked about how he loved black people and practiced affirmative action and he went on BET to prove it. Alas for him, the GOP replaced him as leader.

Why did they do it? One, because that was really fucking stupid. If he couldn't watch his mouth at a birthday party where he knew his remarks could get out, then he obviously didn't understand the sensitivity of race. I mean, where has he been all these years? Just stupid.

Two, even though everybody makes mistakes, that doesn't mean you have a right to forgiveness and keeping your super-important job. As a politician, his primary job is to make his side look good. A lot of Congressional leaders suck at this because they're chosen for the patronage and friends they have in Congress, not necessarily for looking good. But Lott's job was to make the GOP look good, in addition to other important duties. By basically showing off racist sentiments, he cast doubt on the whole GOP - something that Democrats have done for years and something the GOP, especially Bush, is trying to come out from under.

Getting rid of Lott had the opposite effect on race - it showed the GOP wouldn't stand for that stuff. There's a higher standard held to the GOP on race - after all, Bob Byrd was in the KKK but he still got to be Democratic Majority Leader for years and the Democrats give barely a peep when he said "white nigger" in an interview (and the supposedly-leftist MoveOn.org is giving Byrd a million bucks this year). So the GOP corrected Lott by kicking him out, because they want to show they're better on race than the Democrats and the media say.

And third, they didn't really like Lott anyway. He was kinda old-school, he loved pork, and he was just kind of bad for the cameras. He was not an especially good face for the GOP. So they didn't want him anyway.

Frist is miles better, even if he is dragging his feet on judicial appointments. He isn't a firebrand, but he comes across as clean-cut, honest, concerned and reasonable. He's also a doctor, which means he's educated and he dedicated his life to helping people. More importantly, he makes it harder to stereotype the GOP as a bunch of redneck good ol' boys from the South - a stereotype Lott reinforced.

I think the GOP needs to 'Lott' Tom DeLay. He's a liability. Aside from shooting his mouth off about judges having to answer for their decisions in the Terri Schiavo case - which most people interpret as terrorism but which is almost certainly an afterlife deal - he also says stuff the vast majority of Americans and Republicans disagree with. Take evolution; DeLay apparently blamed school shootings on teaching working moms, daycare, teaching evolution and birth control pills.

Or take a recent interview where Delay criticized Justice Kennedy as outrageous for getting his research on the Internet and suggested that the Congress should try to redefine the constitutional limit on justices serving for "good behavior" as requiring they make good constitutional decisions.

His ethics charges aside, he's a major liability. He's also easily characterized - not necessarily incorrectly - as a redneck creationist. Do the Republicans really need to put up with this guy as one of their main faces in Washington? I should hope not.

Frankly, I wish it would be possible to simply cut DeLay loose in the same way in the same way they did Lott. Let him hold his House seat and face the Ethics committee as a member, not the GOP head guy. Of course, he has a lot of power and he's done a lot to cement himself in-place as the leader. It would take a massive internal GOP movement to unseat him, or his resignation.

More importantly, you Democratic weasels need to shut up about it. Republicans will only circle the wagons if Democrats keep attacking DeLay. If you could just calm down it might be possible for the GOP to get rid of him itself. It's probably too late, considering the fuss the Democrats and the media have already made about it. By making a stink, it's already been polarized - any Republican going against DeLay now is liable to be seen as a Democratic flunkie.

It would be very beneficial to the Republicans if DeLay would just leave. He redistricted in Texas, opening the door for hyper-political redistricting at awkward times between Censuses. He fiddled with the Ethics Committee, trying to neuter it against himself. He's now talking about kicking out judges who, though they might be making horrible or boneheaded decisions, are supposed to be protected by judicial independence.

He's not a good face for the GOP. He has apparently no respect for checks and balances and makes statements that are both impolitic and incorrect. It would be best for the GOP if DeLay would step out - NOW. In Congress, elections are always just around the corner. DeLay is a serious liability. If the GOP wants to pick up seats in the House in 2006, then DeLay as leader is the first thing that needs to go to.


Blogger David R. Mark said...

Your review of Lott's demise as majority leader suggests the Thurmond comment was an isolated racially divisive event. Not so.

You're forgetting Lott's unfortunate ties to the CCC, an ally of the Ku Klux Klan, which were revealed in the late 1990s, but at that time failed to derail his career as a party leader (perhaps, for the same reason, Republican Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia and Democratic Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia have not lost their jobs.)

David R. Mark

April 24, 2005 1:01 AM  

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