There has been a lot of hubub in the press over the past two days concerning some troubling, and some would say racist, remarks by Senate majority leader Harry Reid. Many Republicans contend that the Democrats are going soft on Reid, and had a Republican said those words, the Democrats would be showing no mercy.
On this point, I believe the Republicans are correct. I think it is a fair question to ask if the response would be different if Reid had been a Republican. In fact, I think the honest answer is that it would be different. One of the most troubling points to me in politics is our lack of honest, self-reflective responses. So often, we gauge our reaction or support according to "which side" an event or opinion is associated with.
That being said, I believe the comparison of Reid's comment with that of Trent Lott back in 2002 is off the rail. This is where Republicans lose my sympathy.
Trent Lott had said back in 2002 of Strom Thurmond's 1948 presidential run:
"When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we (S.Carolina) voted for him. We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over the years, either." (It is also worth noting that Lott voted against the Voting Rights Act and against the continuation of the Civil Rights Act.)
Let's do a little history into Strom Thurmond and perhaps we can get a peek into the "problems" that his presidency would have avoided.
Thurmond was a staunch segregationist as Governor. He resisted Truman when the army was desegregated, when poll taxes were eliminated, and when anti-lynching laws were proposed. When the Democratic Convention took on a decidedly anti-segregation position, he broke from the party and ran as an independent in protest. He garnered 2.4 % of the popular vote and won 4 southern states. While on the campaign trail he declared:
"I wanna tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that there's not enough troops in the army to force the Southern people to break down segregation and admit the nigger race into our theaters, into our swimming pools, into our homes, and into our churches."
This was the presidency Lott wished would have happened?
Again, I think Democrats need to honestly ask what their response would be had Reid been a Republican. However, when Republicans try to rank those two scenarios as equal, I realize there is a faction of that party that is still living in 1948.