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By David Podvin

From the beginning of this country, bigotry has been used to justify the exploitation of the black race for the purpose of enriching the economic elite. Even more profitable, however, has been the use of racism as camouflage to obscure the swindling of white Americans.

The corporate agenda of redistributing wealth upwards cannot survive scrutiny, so racism is an essential diversionary tactic. Republican politics is an evil little game based on the knowledge that the elitist conservative agenda can only attain an electoral majority by appealing overtly to the greed of the Lucy Ricardos of America while appealing covertly to the bigotry of the Archie Bunkers. For the GOP, the equation is Petty Bourgeoisie + Redneck = Victory. It is absolutely essential that Archie be made to focus on race so he does not notice that conservative policies are bleeding him dry.

Don Nickles appreciates that the hate factor requires a certain degree of finesse because – tax cuts or no tax cuts - Lucy is not going to vote for Bull Connor. Therefore, the right wing is anxious for Nickles to replace Trent Lott as Senate Majority Leader so they can get back to the business of race baiting with boyish charm.

Part of the game is pretending to be appalled on those unfortunate occasions when private convictions make their way into the public domain. Republicans, who selected Lott to be the leader of the Senate precisely because they knew he shared their racist philosophy, are now expressing astonishment to learn that he is prejudiced. As if on cue, conservative commentators across the country are shedding crocodile tears in sympathy with the same black community that they excoriated for being delusional during the Florida recount.

The mainstream media – Corporate America’s latter day version of Joseph Goebbels – at first ignored Lott’s most recent bout of Confederate Tourrette’s Syndrome, just as they chose not to notice all of his previous public professions of devotion to Jim Crow. Now, the journalistic Children of the Corn are scandalized, having taken their lead from their corporate masters who want the equally racist but more discreet Nickles to supplant Lott.

Even George W. Bush stopped drooling over the thought of slaughtering Iraqi children long enough to feign horror that Lott admires Strom Thurmond, who is also admired by Bush. There hasn’t been this much insincere moral indignation on public display since Captain Louis Renault was shocked - shocked I tell you - to discover gambling at Rick’s Place.

Demonstrably, Republican success has been constructed on the foundation of racism. Until the mid-Sixties, the GOP was highly competitive in seeking black votes, but was unable to win control of Congress. With the passage of civil rights legislation and the resulting rise in popularity of Alabama segregationist Governor George Wallace, Richard Nixon perceived an opportunity to create an electoral majority by appealing to the bigotry of resentful whites. Calling it his “Southern Strategy”, Nixon went about winning two elections by courting the racist element of the New Deal Coalition. By the time Ronald Reagan finished putting a human face on hating blacks, the Republicans had gained control of the Senate, and the party was firmly entrenched as the place to see and be seen for all your better bigots.

Poppy Bush then guided the GOP further back towards Andersonville by endowing his presidential campaign with the unofficial theme that Dukakis and the Democrats would let the darkies out of prison to rape your white wife. And, of course, Bush II took the next logical step by just preventing black votes from being counted in places where they would matter in deciding the election. From Nixon through Dubya, each succeeding GOP Grand Dragon has appointed to the federal bench judges with histories of virulent hostility towards African Americans.

It is against this backdrop that the right wing is now engaging in multiple choice damage control by claiming Lott “is a good man who must do a better job of explaining himself” (John McCain), “is being unfairly mischaracterized and harassed by the professional civil rights crybabies in order to damage the GOP” (Rush Limbaugh), “creates the false impression that conservatives hate blacks” (Bill Kristol), and  “is completely unrepresentative of the pro-civil rights record of the modern Republican Party” (Charles Krauthammer).

Then again, sometimes things are exactly as they appear to be. The bigotry of Trent Lott is that of the modern Republican Party. He has been making exactly the same hateful statements since the 1960s while steadily rising through the ranks as a leader of the New Right. When Lott was an obscure House member, Nixon identified him as a race baiter with a future. Lott was given a plum assignment on the influential Judiciary Committee, where he unflinchingly defended Watergate as being good government while championing a return to “separate but equal”. Gerald Ford warmly praised him as a “man of integrity” at the very time Lott was strenuously fighting against implementing court-ordered desegregation in the South.

Reagan stood cheek to cheek with Lott in Philadelphia, Mississippi when the Gipper symbolically kicked off his reelection campaign on ground that was stained with the blood of murdered civil rights workers. Poppy Bush called Lott “a great American” several weeks after the senator voted against honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with a national holiday. Bob Dole said that he would seriously consider Lott to be his running mate as the Mississippi senator was busy denying confirmation hearings to black Clinton judicial nominees.

Dick Cheney has said Lott is a “great American”.

Even now, McCain calls the Senate Majority Leader “a man of integrity”.

And George W. Bush, when he is not making cynical condemnations of statements that align perfectly with his own policies, has lauded Lott for being “a national treasure”.

All of the effusive praise, coming from every significant Republican leader of this era, has been made with the full knowledge that Trent Lott remains an unreconstructed Confederate whose personal hero is Jefferson Davis. As Lott fought each advance by African Americans during the last four decades, the GOP vigilantly responded by pushing him ever higher up the party ladder until he became the most powerful Republican legislator in America.

Lott must now be feeling a legitimate sense of victimization, wondering why he was taken out to the woodshed and coerced to make phony apologies for being the same hatemonger that his party has always embraced. It is like something out of the Soviet Union, where a venerated apparatchik who outlived his usefulness got carted off to Siberia for “counterrevolutionary activity” that was indistinguishable from his meritorious lifetime of “revolutionary activity”.

There are many villains in this sordid affair, and Trent Lott is not foremost among them. He has belatedly been exposed as being David Duke with road kill pasted to his scalp, but Lott is not responsible for turning a backwater bigot into the leader of the United States Senate. It took a roster of scoundrels for that to occur.

The primary miscreant is Corporate America, which runs this country, underwrites both parties, and warmly embraces racism but deeply deplores its racists’ creating controversy. The mainstream media is the propaganda arm of big business; Rather and Jennings and Brokaw have known for decades of Lott’s bigotry, and they could have derailed his career long ago by merely reporting the truth. However, they have also been aware that he favors huge tax cuts for their rapacious multinational employers. Trent Lott is a clueless racist bastard – the racist bastards of the boardroom know exactly what they are doing.

The Republican Party has perverted the outcome of the Civil War by devolving into the vehicle through which the Confederate ethos becomes national policy. The vitriolic majority in Mississippi has every right to elect someone who reflects their un-American values, but that in no way required the Republicans to make him their Senate leader. The party embraced Lott because, while the GOP strives to talk like Abraham Lincoln, it prefers to govern like Lester Maddox. Lott’s mistake in the eyes of his fellow Republicans is the talking part, not the governing part. Every time the right wing gains power, the black community is targeted for economic hardship and social disruption. The entire conservative movement should have been there alongside Lott offering apologies on Black Entertainment Television. Unfortunately, what African Americans will receive instead is more unprovoked abuse.

The Republican jihad against wrongly colored people has gone largely unchallenged. The Democratic Party increasingly resembles what is known in pro wrestling as “the opponent”, whose job consists of creating the illusion of competition prior to taking a dive. The party tolerates and enables the racism of the GOP; it might be that the Democrats despise the black people on whom they depend for votes, or it could be the Democrats merely feel morally compelled to exhibit cowardice at all times, or maybe the Democrats are just honoring the script. Regardless, the outcome is disgraceful.

Last, but never least, the American people bear responsibility for the Lott fiasco. As a result of the sacrifices of their predecessors, the current generation of Americans has been awarded more freedom than any civilization in history. Unfortunately, most folks are too busy mastering video games and living vicariously through soap operas to really care. If someone would post the racist Republican agenda on an Internet porn site, maybe the masses would finally take a hard look at it.

This latest tempest reveals less about Trent Lott than it does about the United States. Lott will either survive the uproar or be replaced by another bigot, and nothing will change. The overriding question is whether those Americans who are not racist tools of big business are ever going to get fighting mad that their country is being run by people who are. Until righteous anger overtakes the apathy that currently infects the good people among us, conservatives will continue to spread their hatred while recoiling in mock horror at the idea that racism even exists.

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Last changed: December 13, 2009