Death of a Klansman

Senator Robert Byrd (D, WV) meets his Maker.

Democratic Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia, the longest-serving American senator in all of history and a former official of the Ku Klux Klan, died this past weekend at 92 years of age.

The many eulogies and obituaries this week will no doubt cite his truly outstanding record in getting Federally-funded edifices named after himself; he was also reportedly the living individual most frequently named on bridges and highways.

As unsavory as such self-aggrandizement appears, we're not here today to condemn Senator Byrd for personal greed.  He was sent to Washington as the representative of the people of the State of West Virginia, he viewed it as his life mission to make sure that the maximum amount of Federal dollars flowed back to his home state - and he succeeded wildly in that goal past all bounds of reason or moderation.  In return, his constituents loyally returned him to office for longer than most of them have been alive.

If you, like Scragged, believe that Congresscritters are supposed to represent the desires of the people of their state, Sen. Byrd did this in spades.  Our concern would be for the integrity of an institution that allowed such egregious spending and for fellow Senators who tolerated it.

But more concerning than his addiction to pork is Sen. Byrd's racist past.  It is a matter of historical record that he was a Kleagle - a recruiter - and Exalted Cyclops for the KKK in the 1930s and 40s.  He wrote that he never wanted to

...see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels.

and filibustered the 1964 Civil Rights Act - yes, the same act that Republicans are pilloried for questioning to this day.

Now, the Senator apologized many time for his early racism, and was not seriously criticized for it in many years.  As Americans, part of our national ethos is a belief in the power of redemption and repentance; is it too much to think that Byrd may be a true penitent?  No.

Why, then, does our mainstream media persist in holding Republicans to a standard that they excuse away when it snags a Democrat?  In 2002, Sen. Trent Lott was hounded from the Republican leadership after he gave a routine, throwaway compliment to colleague Strom Thurmond who, a half-century before, had run unsuccessfully for President as a segregationist - despite explicitly repudiating the racist views that Thurmond himself had also repudiated decades before.

George W. Bush was routinely pilloried as a racist, infamously being accused of "not caring about black people" on national TV - despite appointing more black people to high office and great power than any other presidential administration in history including the one headed by a black man.  Bush's concern and generosity for Africans, black people who aren't even his constituents, has also been documented by Scragged though almost never mentioned more widely.

The millions of ordinary Americans who consider themselves Tea Party activists are routinely berated as motivated purely by racism in their opposition to Barack Obama's policies.  Never mind any substance to their complaints or worries about America's massive debt that are shared by noted economists; it's all racism!

And here we see the truth about "racism" in America today.  Yes, many years ago, there was great racism in positions of power as epitomized by the young Robert Byrd and Strom Thurmond, both of whom were Democrats at that time.  There is no official anti-black racism anymore, and has not been for decades.

Are there still racists?  Of course there are and always will be; they need to repent of their bigotry as both Byrd and Thurmond did.  Are such repentances genuine?  Who can say?

But they are most certainly not proven genuine by a liberal voting record, as the media would have you believe.  Bill Clinton should be the poster child for sexual harassment, but thanks to his staunch support for abortion, the so-called "women's groups" gave him a free pass.  If ex-Klansman Republican David Duke is exiled from polite society, so too should have been ex-Klansman Democrat Robert Byrd.

By making false accusations of racism, today's opinion-makers are doing minorities no favors.  If Tea-Partiers are racist, the term has no meaning, when you consider that the Tea Party movement has out-polled both the Republicans and the Democrats in popularity at the same time that we have a black president who won a majority of votes.

It is not for us to discern the thoughts and intents of Sen. Byrd's heart; he stands today before that Great Judge Whose rulings are final and binding.  Regarding the thoughts and intents of the living, though, who honor Sen. Byrd while pillorying their political opponents who have done far less in the cause of bigotry - well, all American can see and should judge most harshly.

Read other articles by Hobbes or other articles on Partisanship.
Reader Comments
Cynical but true. Byrd was just a better competitor than the others on capital hill. As for 'racism', well who know who is what anymore...
June 29, 2010 9:17 AM
I do think that there is a double standard in liberal-run media that will seek to crucify figures on the right for even saying some things while giving public figures with similar caliber who happen to be on the left a "free pass" based on the assumption that "we all know they aren't REALLY racist" or whatever.

I think the same holds true in conservative-run media, too. For example, liberal figures get bashed on talk radio for awarding too much power to the State, but how many conservative voices were raised against Bush when he was doing the same?

It's just human nature to defend other people who are waving the same little flag you are. It isn't right, but it's definitely there.
June 29, 2010 1:15 PM
"But how many conservative voices were raised against Bush when he was doing the same?"

Ours. :-)
June 29, 2010 3:53 PM
And I think we may be able to agree, Petrarch, that the good people at Scragged are not exactly in lockstep with what one might call the current "mainstream" of conservative media... :-)
June 29, 2010 4:49 PM
I'm not sure that's so, Werebat. It depends on what you consider to be the conservative mainstream. IMO, the website Redstate is a fair example of mainstream opinion in the community of conservative ordinary people. The mainstream of "conservative" politicians would be quite a bit to the left of them, and also of Scragged, thus more inclined to statist growth as, alas, was Bush.
June 29, 2010 6:30 PM
So, is the "mainstream" of conservative media closer to the politicians or to the people?

The bottom line is that neither side's talking heads are going to be interested in whistleblowing on their own team's star players. One would expect a weighing of pros vs. cons, of staying true to ideals vs. maintaining power, etc. if such a thing were even up for consideration. Such is politics. Neither side is free of it, and I think most people know that.
June 29, 2010 6:56 PM
Of course that's true, Werebat. But the natural tendency of power is to increase itself. That's why sitting R politicians are to the left of the majority of their voters, and sitting D pols are likewise to the left of most of their voters.

Now, there is a very small but extremely noisy far-far-left fringe, probably single digit percentage of the electorate. The equivalent far-far-right fringe is almost never heard from; instead, the media likes to portray the average conservative as on the fringe, which by definition he is not considering that a majority of Americans consider themselves conservative.

The inherent tendency of government is to grow, which is why the Founders tried to design the system so as to make it as difficult as possible. It's taken over 200 years to reach this point, which is pretty good if you think about it.
June 29, 2010 9:02 PM
If we had wanted a true Conservative in office, we could have elected Ron Paul. He was right there. There is a well-written article right on this website explaining how he would likely have beaten Obama.

I think part of the problem is that true Conservative politicians like Paul are inevitably going to run afoul of certain special interest groups in this country, who likely consider themselves to be "conservative" but aren't really. I'll leave it at that.
June 29, 2010 10:59 PM
As one might expect, the Times put a slightly different spin on Sen Byrd's death. Good headline, tho.

Byrd and the Bard
American politics loses more than just its greatest quoter of Shakespeare.
July 4, 2010 3:03 PM
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