The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Hypocrisy and fatuity to the max with antilynching 'apology'

It's hardly a novel combo. It's only a couple of months since we had the nation's legislators disgrace themselves over the Terri Schiavo Act.

In the Senate one had, on the one hand, the ululating, garment-rending Republicans, under Dr Diagnosis-by-Video Bill Frist, Oprah-ising up a storm.

And, on the other, the Democrats, nowhere to be seen [1].

Now, we have a thoroughly bipartisan example of a similar monstrosity: SRes 39 headed [2] Apologizing to the victims of lynching and the descendants of those victims for the failure of the Senate to enact anti-lynching legislation, sponsored by notable DINO Mary Landrieu, and co-sponsored by 44, including Boxer and Frist.

No doubt, the resolution will pass nem con - but on a roll call, just for the benefit of posterity (or senators' re-election, as the case may be). And uttering complete self-serving bollocks is as integral to the job description of a politician as a head for heights is to a steeplejack [3].

But the 40 years too late Senate conversion to antilynching can be noted as particularly egregious example.

The elements, historically, are clear:

Northern Democrats needed their Southern colleagues if they ever wanted to have a share in controlling the Senate. No matter how grotesque the nigger-baiting from the Claghorns - and, with the likes of Tillman, Bilbo and 'Cotton Ed' Smith, it was not for the weak of stomach.

And, of course, those Senate rules [4] over which today's Democrats drool ensured that no civil rights bill would stand a chance of passage.

But - and this is, perhaps, the hardest thing for today's pols to admit - even if the Senate had had no supermajority voting requirement, and one or other of the three inter-war antilynching bills had passed the Congress [5], the people of the South would have ensured that they would have remained a dead letter.

Fundamentally, the bar on civil rights legislation in the Jim Crow era was not the technical question of Senate supermajority voting. That was a mere pretext. The real impediment was the unwillingness of Northern pols to contemplate a re-run of Radical Reconstruction with military enforcement over the wishes of a united Southern population.

In gauging the task, one might adapt the passage from Lincoln's 1838 Lyceum speech:
All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years.

  1. Except for Tom Harkin, who was cheering Frist on. It would only have taken a Senate hold to stymie the whole farce; and not a single Dem - not Boxer or Feingold or Kennedy - could be found to do that thing.

  2. I'm not sure what the technical term is. Is it title? There is no short title - which one would ordinarily use for a bill's moniker.

  3. Take, for instance - just because the URL happens to be at hand - the truly nauseating speech given by Hillary to the AIPAC mass rimming, er, conference.

  4. They were, of course, tougher during the Jim Crow era.

  5. Whether Franklin Roosevelt would have vetoed is a delicious counter-factual to contemplate!

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