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Lott's GOP Unmasked: Arrogance, Hypocrisy, and Deceit Hiding Beneath Religion's SkirtsB

By Cheryl Seal

It is hard to decide which is more reprehensible about the Republican Party - its hypocrisy, its dishonesty, or its arrogance. The Trent Lott flap is just the latest, and most well-defined example of the height (or should I say pits) of all these things. Here we have a man whose entire history, from his college days upward, has been a monument to racism, methodically, and intentionally constructed, stone by stone. Most people would agree, based on sad experience, that unless someone makes ongoing efforts for many years to change, who they are and the behavioral patterns that constitute who they are, are pretty much set by the time they emerge from high school. Trent Lott is no exception. He emerged from high school a bigot - a PRACTICING bigot, one who worked to keep his fraternity all white in college, one who went on to regularly oppose the efforts of better men than himself to promote civil rights. Medgar Evers was murdered in Lott's own state of Mississippi, fighting for civil rights as Lott himself fought to block the same rights - safe from any dangers, protected by the white power structure.

Throughout his political career, Lott did nothing personally to promote civil rights or to ever aid the majority black population in his own state. The only positive things he did for his black constituents was by default: because he managed to bring shipyard jobs into the state, some crumbs fell off his plate that could be shared by blacks - crumbs his PR folks are now declaring to be cake.

Now this bigot - this man who has made NO ongoing effort to change whatsoever - wants us all to believe that because he was caught expressing his real feelings - that all that racist stuff is behind him. He wants us all to "forgive" him...to grant him the compassion and understanding he has failed to ever grant the black population in his own state, let alone the rest of America. Did Medgar Evers' murderers show compassion? Did the bigots who murdered the four little girls at the 16th Street Baptist Church the year Lott left college and his all-white fraternity show compassion? Does the state of Mississippi, where blacks routinely get tougher sentences for the same crimes as whites, show compassion and forgiveness for blacks? Did Lott show compassion for ANYONE when he made his outrageous statement of bigotry at Thurmond's party? But we are supposed to dole out compassion and forgiveness where it is totally unearned, and where it will be regarded merely as a cheap commodity - something to tide Lott over till the next time. And there WILL be a next time.

But no, whines Lott. I'm a changed man. Yep, as of Dec. 2002, he is now a regular white Martin Luther King. What absolute arrogance! That Lott expects blacks to believe this drivel is PROOF in and of itself that he is, indeed a bigot - one who believes all blacks are stupid and gullible (the classic deep Southern bigot's perception of blacks). And he wants the rest of of America to play along. Why? So he can hold onto power he should NEVER EVER have been granted in the first place, as Senate majority whip. That the GOP selected Lott for this post says it all about the party. Nothing is REAL in this party. The GOP is nothing more than a self-serving corporate agenda wrapped up in a carefully crafted but totally superficial PR package. Thus we have a party that touts self-hating, bought-off, bigoted blacks like J.C. Watts as "proof" of their diversity and concern for race relations - while working to dismantle affirmative action and failing to demand an end to racial profiling. We have an administration that appoints "house blacks" (to use the term applied by activist blacks themselves) like Colin Powell and Condy Rice to high positions as "proof" that they are promoting black advancement - yet, under the same administration, we have a disproportionately higher percentage of blacks slammed by rampant unemployment than at any time in the past few decades. This is a party that appoints a proven bigot to its highest Congressional post and holds up an even worse (if possible) bigot, Strom Thurmond, as some sort of American icon, yet, attacks Cynthia McKinney, who continually spoke up on race issues, like a pack of rabid hyenas.

The point here is that Lott's statement was NOT a stupid black joke, or a slip of the tongue because he'd had one too many. It was a clear and pointed statement. There is no way you can turn his comment around and give it a different meaning (unless maybe you're Trent Lott's mother). The reason he felt empowered to make the comment at all, I firmly believe, is that the GOP has become so overempowered by weak Democrats and pushed to such blinding "illusions of grandeur" by its small but worshipful claque of narrow-minded, and thus totally unquestioning, supporters, that Lott believed no one would take exception. Worse, he may have felt that most of his fellow Republicans agreed and that the cowardly Democrats would never say anything even if they didn't. The GOP's hardcore enabling claque, a tiny and totally unrepresentative, but aggressively dedicated minority of the American people - is made up of rightwing evangelical Christians and corporate executives. These two groups are reviled by the American majority - a poll released last week showed that most Americans rate rightwing Christians just above prostitutes and a step below lawyers in their perceptions. But the GOP's determination to cash in on God. No one exemplified this more clearly than Rick Santorum (Senator from PA) on Meet the Press, Dec. 15. Trent Lott can't be a bad guy, Sanctimonious Sanctorum protested self-righteously - he goes to the same prayer meetings I do. So what? Mafia Dons go to mass and confession regularly. Milosevic is a faithful churchgoer. Hitler was a devout Catholic until after he decided religion and total dictatorship don't mix. Ask any KKK member and I bet, to a man, they will tell you they are God-fearin' Christians. By using their presence in a pew as a smokescreen for every ungodly activity they can get away with, the GOP has cheapened religion and made a mockery of what God means to the truly spiritual.

But, egged on by their corporate/evangelical claque, Lott, Hastert, Delay, Watts, Thurmond and the other "pillars" of the GOP feel empowered - and, astoundingly, the rest of the folk in Congress allow them to continue to ride roughshod over America. When I heard a tape of Lott's statements replayed, I was chilled to the bone to hear the wave of clapping from his fellow Congressfolk, and to later hear people like Joe Leiberman talking about what a great guy Strom Thurmond is. Has everyone in Washington (except perhaps the Democrats' black caucus) lost complete touch with reality? Congress has now gone from spending a year dismantling the bill or rights and constitution to condoning (which they have done by failing to immediately and decisively respond) two miserable bigots who have already been rewarded by positions of undeserved power. There was not ONE Congressperson present at that event with the guts and conscience to stand up and say, "How dare you, Mr. Lott?"

I used to hold out some respect for northern Republicans, such as Olympia Snowe (Maine) and Lincoln Chafee (Rhode Island). I once even voted for Olympia Snowe. But I did not hear their voices raised in dissent at Lott (nor did they take any meaningful stand against Bush's railroading of America this past year). The fact that they come from predominantly white states makes their silence this week WORSE, not less reprehensible. What does this mean, Olympia? That you and Chafee don't consider yourselves bigots because you don't have to deal with black people? So, when a race issue comes up, it's "someone else's problem?" Any remaining fantasy I had that there is such a thing as an "old-fashioned conservative" Republican is out the window. This week's revelations have conclusively proven that the GOP is a party of hypocrites and cowards hiding behind money and power, an exclusive club of dinosaurs more terrified of losing the approval of their fellow hypocrites and cowards than they are of losing what America is SUPPOSED to be all about.