The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

7 December 2002

The once and future Solid South

The occasion of Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday has opened the door to a closet where a lot of our less-savory history has been stashed. Thurmond, you'll remember, ran for President in 1948 on the so-called "Dixiecrat" ticket, a campaign remembered fondly by, among others, Trent Lott. Not that Lott would actually have voted for Thurmond, inasmuch as he was seven years old at the time, but no matter.

As a useful reminder of just what the Dixiecrats stood for, beyond the vague generalities of "states' rights", Atrios has posted a shot of the 1948 sample ballot for Mississippi's breakaway Democrats, which, you should pardon the expression, calls a spade a spade.

And Thurmond's Dixiecrats gradually returned to the Democratic Party in the early Fifties; the Southern transition to Republican stronghold would not begin for another decade or so. (Thurmond joined the GOP in 1964.) The horrendous racism of the Dixiecrat days is mostly behind us Strom Thurmond himself seems to have outgrown it but I have to wonder just what's going through Trent Lott's head when he defends it.

Posted at 9:24 AM to Political Science Fiction

"I have to wonder just what's going through Trent Lott's head when he defends it."

Not much, it seems: and #120702

BR, Fritz/f

Posted by: Fritz Schranck at 10:30 PM on 7 December 2002

I grew up in Strom's own South Carolina, and while it would be unfair to suggest that every Southern gentleman was committed to preserving the racism that once prevailed and still occasionally peeks out from behind a sheet, it would be disingenuous to suggest that none of them were.

The Democrats for many years have taken black votes for granted, and they should probably be grateful to the likes of Trent Lott for helping to make it possible.

Posted by: CGHill at 10:46 PM on 7 December 2002

One of the major stations reported that Strom Thurmond renounced his previous racist positions. Is this true?

Posted by: Florence West at 12:45 AM on 12 December 2002

While Strom never issued a formal renunciation, he started backing away from his segregationist positions in the Sixties; he apparently saw the handwriting on the wall. By the Seventies, most Southern senators (the major exception was Jesse Helms, R-NC) had given up on trying to maintain separate-but-not-so-equal societies. To my knowledge, Thurmond hasn't uttered one word that could be construed as racist in more than a decade, and in his native South Carolina, requests for help from his office are routinely handled without any consideration of race. I'd say this is close enough to renunciation.

Posted by: CGHill at 7:10 AM on 12 December 2002

Actions ought to speak louder than words: Strom Thurmond was the first Senator to hire an African-American onto his Senate staff.

Posted by: Kevin McGehee at 4:26 PM on 13 December 2002

By gum, I'd forgotten that (if I was ever sure I knew it, which is arguable at best).

But it does fit the pattern. Even George Wallace recovered from his stint as a segregationist. I think it's something particularly Southern, and probably politically conservative, at work here - when you know the changes are coming, you grit your teeth and get to it. (On the left, it's more of a tradition to whine about it for an extended period first.)

Posted by: CGHill at 5:02 PM on 13 December 2002

As a young 24 year old southerner,I have been constantly confronted, since I was a child, with images of the dark history of the south.
Yet. While the media and popular cullture is quick to slam the south for it's past it fails to paint a broad view of present racism festering in the north .

In the mid seventies the Busing issue divided Boston .
In the late seventies riots in San Francisco over gay rights
1980s Wide spread violence in Chicago,Cleveland Detroit and New York derrected at blacks, immigrants, gays and other minorities
In 1991. Rodeny King was dragged from his car and beaten .
LA. race riots happened the following year .
1997. After being beaten a young homosexual was tied
to a fence post in Idaho and left to freeze to death .
1998. a man was solemnized with a toilet plunger .
1999. 41 shots rang out in New York city .
2000. Cleveland Ohio was set ablaze by racial tensions .
The media can only the Byrd dragging death in Texas as an example of racism in the new South.
Yet, wasnít those men from Idaho and didnít they receive the death penitently ?
Statisticly, New york, Pennsevana , Ohio and Illinois each have a higher rate of violent crimes derrected against
blacks and other minorities than any four southern states. In in fact in 2002 New York City with 14 million people
alone has a higher race related violence rate than the entire south of 100 million people.

Point is that racism is not merely contained to the south
or even a state, as many would lead you to believe .
It is a national as well as global issue that can not be confined
to one state or even a region but confronted and purged from
every realm of civilized society.

Posted by: shane jones at 1:49 PM on 15 May 2003