Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Not a Slaveholder, But He Played One on TV

In the tradition of Senators who should know better, the Washington Times reports that Senator Byrd (D-WV) will be playing the role of a confederate slaveholder in an upcoming movie. The NAACP has already denounced Byrd’s role, saying: "It’s not in keeping with his Senate position to be playing that kind of role," said West Virginia NAACP head James Tolbert. Now this insensitivity on the part of Senator Byrd could just be a misunderstanding, so like other recent Senatorial missteps it is useful to consider his past practices. As recently as 2001, Byrd used the "N" word on Fox News. In the 1940s, he was a recruiter for the KKK. In 1945, he wrote the following about the desegregation of the armed forces:

"[I will] never submit to fight beneath [the American flag] with a Negro by my side. Rather I should die a thousand times, and see Old Glory trampled in the dirt never to rise again, than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds."

And, of course, Byrd is not the only Democratic currently serving in the Senate with a segregationist past. Fritz Hollings (D-SC) is a former segregationist, and Zell Miller (D-GA) got his start in politics working for one of the staunchest segegationists in Georgia politics. I did not choose to bring these issues up during the Lott affair simply because it was important to get the GOP house in order without using the "but you do it" defense. But now that he has stepped down as Majority Leader, perhaps it is time for the Democratic party to look at the log in its own eye.

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