After his fifth apology, on Black Educational Television, and his promise to honor Martin Luther King Day and support affirmative action forever, Trent Lott packed it in. That was the signal for the pogrom.
From the Clintons to the Black Caucus, the Left howled that the GOP must now own up to its sins and exorcise the demon of racism that has inhabited the party soul since Nixon.
From all sides, evidence was thrown in Republican faces. Had not Reagan used the code word “states rights” in beginning his 1980 campaign in Philadelphia, Miss., the town where civil rights workers Schwerner, Cheney, and Goodman were martyred in 1964?
Had not Jesse Helms won on a racist ad showing a pair of white hands crumbling a rejection letter for a job lost because of affirmative action? Had not Bush I won the White House with his Willie Horton ad? Had not Pete Wilson won re-election as governor of California running on that “anti-immigrant” Proposition 187? Yet, rather than defend their past, Republicans reeled and groveled: “It wasn’t us!” “We’re not like that!” “We’re modern Republicans!”
The great failing of conservatives, said Whittaker Chambers, is that they do not retrieve their wounded. But the Trent Affair reveals a greater failure. Modern conservatives are a deracinated lot, unrooted in history, unwilling to defend their kinfolk or forebears. Confronted with a charge of “racism” or “bigotry,” their natural reaction is to imitate the wildebeest of the Serengeti and light out for the tall grass.
With neoconservatives, this is understandable. After all, they are transients; they never belonged to the tribe. When the great battles of the 20th century were fought, they or their fathers were AWOL or on the other side. From the fight to kill Wilson’s surrendering of sovereignty in the Treaty of Versailles, to America First in the early 1940s, to the postwar fights over Soviet subversion, to the Goldwater movement, Nixon, Agnew, and Vietnam, they were with Trotsky, Truman, and LBJ.
Thus, as the Left rewrites the history of the 20th century to make itself heroic and the Right the racist villains, neocons declare neutrality. As for Republicans, many take the attitude epitomized by old Henry Ford: “History is bunk.” And who cares about yesterday?
But as Trent Lott learned, ignorance has consequences. People who never heard of the 1948 Dixiecrats before December were soon howling for Lott’s head. Uneducated to think, the new generation has been conditioned to respond with precise political correctness.
But rather than apologize for its past, the Right should be demanding apologies. In World War II, liberal icon FDR appeased Stalin at Tehran and Yalta in a fashion so supine as to make Neville Chamberlain at Munich looked like Stonewall Jackson at First Manassas. When his bumbling heir, Harry Truman, left office, all the nations for which Britain and America had gone to war—Czechoslovakia, Poland, China—were in the iron grip of a barbaric, anti-Christian tyranny worse than any threat Hitler had ever posed, Americans were dying by the thousands in Truman’s “no-win war” in Korea, and the U.S. government had been honeycombed with spies and traitors to such an extent—as the Venona transcripts now prove—that Joe McCarthy had badly understated his case.
Liberals today wail and whine about the “anti-Communist hysteria” and “McCarthyism” of the era, but the American people loved the pounding that Nixon, Mundt, Jenner, and “Tailgunner Joe” gave Truman, Acheson, and Marshall, and Americans repudiated the liberal squish Adlai in two huge Eisenhower landslides without a single regret.
As for LBJ’s Great Society, it gave us deficits, crime waves, race riots in 100 cities, campus rampages by over-privileged brats, and another “no-win war’ into which a failing, incompetent liberal establishment had plunged the United States. Between 1968 and 1988, Nixon, Agnew, and Reagan hammered the Party of Humphrey, McGovern, Mondale, and Dukakis so relentlessly that liberals now all call themselves “progressives.”
Why is the GOP ashamed of this record of victory? There was nothing wrong with the tactics that gave the party those 49-state landslides. Simply because states rights were once used to sustain segregation does not invalidate that founding principle of the Republic.
Jesse Helms was right to spotlight a victim of the racist policy of reverse discrimination, as was Bush to highlight the consequences of the ACLU idiocy of Dukakis in handing out weekend furloughs to crazed killers like Willie Horton. When conservatives start apologizing for the campaigns that gave them their greatest victories, they become, as in 1992 and 1996, what Sam Francis aptly calls them: “Beautiful Losers.”