Joe Conason's Journal

More Confederate nostalgia from the GOP. Was the Lott scandal the end, or just the beginning?

Published January 6, 2003 6:35PM (EST)

My bad
William Lind's ideas are grotesque and his associates are unsavory, but his grammar isn't wrong -- as several readers kindly pointed out. "Bad" modifies "things," which is correct. My very limited apologies to Lind. (I plead a bad head cold that I picked up on a badly ventilated plane. )

The post-purge GOP
Is slavery compatible with compassionate conservatism? Can a patriotic Republican wish that the Confederates had won the Civil War? I ask because a White House spokesman has "declined to comment" on the revelation that Bill Back, a candidate for the chairmanship of the California Republican Party, distributed an article promoting those neo-Confederate views.

According to yesterday's L.A. Times, Back e-mailed a newsletter in 1999 that included an article by William Lind titled "What If the South Had Won the Civil War?" Lind's somewhat ungrammatical conclusion: "Given how bad [sic] things have gotten in the old U.S.A., it's not hard to believe that history might have taken a better turn." The newspaper also reported that Lind's article "says that race relations in the South were damaged not by slavery but by [Reconstruction] and migration of blacks to the north." This sounds like an outtake from a Trent Lott address to the Council of Conservative Citizens (which has also distributed Lind's works).

Back has apologized for sending out Lind's article, claiming that he didn't realize how "offensive" it would be. In the meantime, however, he has risen to the party vice chairmanship in the nation's largest state and, until this embarrassment, was considered a very serious contender for its chairmanship. Karl Rove may very well decide that this idiot should be whacked before he causes any more trouble, but why won't the White House repudiate him publicly?

It's likely that Rove and Bush don't want to annoy William Lind's patron, the powerful far-right figure Paul Weyrich, who often made life miserable for the White House during the first Bush regime. Lind operates the Center for Cultural Conservatism, a subsidiary of Weyrich's Free Congress Foundation, where he fantasizes about burning feminists at the stake and concocts theories about the Marxist Jews who have infected American culture.

Lind is the latest example of the moral sickness that pervades the far right of the Republican Party, where "morality" is sufficiently elastic to permit bigotry and thuggery, and "conservative" is defined to include the CCC and other openly racist organizations. Last summer, Lind appeared at a Washington conference of Holocaust deniers and neo-Nazis, where he delivered a speech explaining how the "Frankfurt School" refugee academics who fled from Hitler's Germany to New York were the villainous creators of political correctness and much else that later went wrong in their adopted homeland. "These guys were all Jewish," he reportedly said, no doubt to considerable applause from the audience of anti-Semites.

The Southern Poverty Law Center report on Lind's speech at this unwholesome event includes a picture of him addressing the conference. Evidently nervous about appearing among the Hitler fans, Lind noted that Weyrich's policy is to "work with a wide variety of groups on an issue-by-issue basis." Lind has won considerable mainstream legitimacy despite his extremism. The same week that he told the Holocaust deniers about those awful Frankfurt School Jews, Lind gave an interview about Islam and the war on terror to the conservative Jewish World Review.

If Republicans are serious about cleansing their party of racism -- and many of them are -- then the purging of Trent Lott should be the beginning, not the conclusion. With the departure of Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond (as well as the elevation of Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice), Republicans have an opportunity to reclaim the legacy of Lincoln they forfeited three decades ago. That would be good for the GOP and good for America. It cannot happen in a party that encourages Confederate nostalgia and worse.

[10:31 a.m. PST, Jan. 6, 2003]

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By Salon Staff

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