When I first posted on the Lott story I figured it would completely die. Why? Because I figured the usual suspects would make the usual around of apologetic statements. They would argue that what Lott was praising was 'States' Rights' and that was a GOOD thing and it was wrong to read anything into it other than Lott's support for "limited federal government" and what was wrong with that and you're racist for saying otherwise so SHUTUPSHUTUPSHUTUPSHUTUP YOU STUPID BIG GOVERNMENT RACIST JESSE JACKSON AL SHARPTON LOVING LIEBERAL!!! (Emphasis mine, because it needed to be emphasized. -Demos)I've been writing about this sort of thing for a while now, so none of this really surprises me any more than it did Atrios. I believed then, and believe now, that the entire reason why this got so much play was that the conservative/libertarian bloggers and writers who maintain the real power latched on to this because Atrios and Josh Marshall had their party (and movement) of choice down cold and they didn't want to be a party to it. There is no question here of them actually being racist; I don't believe it, Atrios doesn't believe it, and nobody believes it. The problem, as Brock put it so well in his book, is in the greatest strength: their loyalty to the movement. Defending Republicans, even those nasty-ass segregationist throwbacks, is important- they're important Republicans that win elections- by definition without them the country goes Democratic, and the hated anti-American Lieberal leftists get the reigns. Once Lott proved himself a liability, though, then they were free and clear to jettison the old bastard. So they denounced him, and between them and Krugman they got the media on board. After that, it was over. Lott's gone, party's stronger. How Leninist.
Which is what happened the last time Lott stepped into this particular minefield.
What I hope comes out of this is the recognition and understanding that when a politician in the south goes on about "states' rights" they are speaking in code that is well understood by a portion of the electorate -black and white. I don't mean that all supporters of federalism are objectively pro-segregation (Very big of me, no?), just that in certain contexts and from certain people the use of that phrase and related ones is nothing more than a big "FUCK YOU" to the black population. They get it. And, enough of the whites get it too.
In 1860 States' Rights was about maintaining the institution of slavery. In 1948 it meant this In the 50s it meant opposition to any form of desegregation. Moving into the 60s it meant opposition to the nasty federal government's pesky anti-discrimination laws and that horror of horrors, the Voting Rights Act.
Us liberals feel genuine outrage the William Rehnquist was a poll thug. We'd chalk it up to youthful indiscretion if he hadn't lied about it in confirmation hearings -- twice. We feel genuine outrage that a necessary stop in the Republican primary season is Bob Jones University - a slap in the face to minorities and ANY non-Protestants, particularly catholics. We feel outrage that the liberal media tut tuts it a bit every four years, but doesn't make a big deal out of it other than as 'strategery.' We feel genuine outrage that, as Bob Hebert reminds us, Reagan's first major campaign apperance was in Philadelphia, Mississippi,
which just happened to be the place where three civil rights workers — Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and James Chaney — were murdered in 1964.
Reagan knew the code then too:
During that appearance, Mr. Reagan told his audience, "I believe in states' rights."
And, we feel outrage that this speaking in code is, to us, obvious. It's obvious to anyone who pays attention. It's obvious to african-american civil rights leaders who get smacked down every time they bring it up. I'm tired of such people being accused of some form of "reverse racism" for even daring to bring it up. I'm tired of liberals and democrats being accused of cynical exploitation of race. What could be a more cynical exploitation of race than a fake organization run out of Grover Norquist's office with Lou Sheldon, Gary Bauer, and Sean Hannity on its board? My God what an insult.
Race and racism are still huge issues in this country. The P.C. backlash and its accompanied white male victimology has turned the issue completely on its head in a farcical fashion, and for the most part this is the slant that the 'liberal media' takes on these issues. It's time to stop this bullshit.
What'll this mean in the future? Well, first, it's probably going to be a temporary reprieve for the Republicans, because they can point at Lott and say "see? We don't accept racists in our ranks." They won't start hacking away at each other: the circular firing squad is a Democratic institution, not Republican. The right-leaning folks in blogdom will no doubt try to use it when they call their ideological opponents racist for some reason, although anybody trying to use it on Atrios would be a bloody moron, considering the events of the past week or so. Left leaning folks in blogdom will continue to butt their heads against the sides of the Echo Chamber, although Atrios and Josh Marshall at least has proven that you can get something to resonate through the walls if you pitch it juuuust right.
Most importantly, though, the "liberal media" idea has suffered a massive hit. This story honestly couldn't have come at a better time, considering the broadsides that people like Jim Cappozola, Scoobie Davis and dozens of others have landed on the idea of the "liberal" media over the last few weeks. It was already taking on water, and now there's little to be done but grab the lifeboats and hope a plane flies by. Trying to say "but the media did report on it" won't help, because it's pretty obvious by now that they weren't going to, and all that anybody needs to do is point out all the cases just like this one that the media has ignored, is ignoring, or will no doubt ignore in the future. This sets a precedent.
(Besides, there's no doubt that Krugman is going to hammer away at this one in the future. I wish the country had more columnists that have better things to do. It seems like they produce the best, most fearless work. "Gamma girls" and all that.)
Anyway, Kudos to Atrios for (as I said on his site) ruining the career of an evil old bastard. In a just world, there'd be ticker tape involved.