From Strom to Barack

Strom Thurmond ran for President in 1948 as the segregationist States Rights Democratic Party candidate. The Dixiecrat Party…

a segregationist, populist, socially conservative splinter party of the Democratic Party in the mid-20th century determined to protect what they saw as the Southern way of life against an oppressive federal government.

In other words, blatant racists and righteous believers in the myth of White Superiority to, well….everybody. He did have the decency to become a Republican in 1964. In response, of course to the Civil Rights Act, which he opposed with the longest filibuster in the history of the Senate. He died (finally) in 2003, the year before Senator Obama was elected to the same body.

Senator Robert Byrd, a product of the same southern culture and society still serves, as the longest tenured and oldest Senator we have today. Senator Byrd was once a member of the Ku Klux Klan Unlike Thurmond, though…

“I know now I was wrong. Intolerance had no place in America. I apologized a thousand times … and I don’t mind apologizing over and over again. I can’t erase what happened.”

The span of these two long Senatorial lifetimes encompasses and illustrates the changes that we have gone through as a nation in regards to race. Barack Obama, the only black man in the Senate, and quite possibly the next President of the United States, serves with a former member of the Klan.

As recently as 2002, Senator Trent Lott, recently retired (scandal nipping at his heels) Lost his leadership position for remarks supporting Thurmond:

“When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn’t have had all these problems over the years, either.”

It doesn’t get much more blatant than that, in our ‘polite’ society of today, not in public anyway.


Major Danby has written about a phone call he received as a volunteer phone banking for Obama, in case we needed any proof that this same strain of racism is alive ad well in these United States today. A line from his essay struck me and inspired this one.

The world is turning, and it’s about to roll over the likes of him.  I know it, and I think he does too.

The question has been asked many times during this campaign…sometimes honestly, and sometimes with less pure motives, if America is ‘ready’ for a black President. Well, as far as I can see….it damn well better GET ready…because from everything I am seeing, as well as my instincts, and haha, my hopes…we are about to get one.

Now, I am not immune to political rhetoric, especially if it trumpets “change,” But neither did I just fall of the turnip truck. My political cynicism is hard won, and I hold it dear. So when Barack eloquently rhapsodizes about “change.” I don’t just drop my knickers. Words are just words, no matter how nicely shaped and intoned. But.

There is no denying …anything Obama says or does or doesn’t do aside…..that having a black President will indeed be a change!

Racism, prejudice, bigotry of any sort….does NOT exist in a vacuum. It is a behavior and a belief that needs some sort of reinforcement or agreement to continue…to flourish. Very few people are completely secretly racist. Racism exists…despite logic and fact etc. …because society, or at least segments of society, or taken all the way to the base level, interpersonal communication and reinforcement……..allows it to exist.

The conditions that allow it and encourage it have steadily changed since Thurmond ran for President on a platform of segregation and white superiority just 60 years ago. The majority of young people today, one of Obama’s main constituencies, are FAR less likely to judge or pre-judge solely on the basis of race. Our society HAS changed, is evolving away from this aspect of its horrid past.

As we prepare to take this next step (hopefully) what do you think the ramifications will be on our society in general….and on the attitudes of the remaining, dwindling, but still large….population of both the casual and the more vehement racists in our nation as….

“The world is about to roll over them?”



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    • OPOL on February 29, 2008 at 18:42

    racism (though I know it’s still with us).  I am hopeful that we will soon leave it in our dust.  I wish we could do the same with torture, cruelty, war and madness.  I don’t ask for much.

  1. One. The day Barack Obama accepts the Democratic nomination will also be 45 long years since Dr. King delivered the famous “I have a dream” speech. And on that day the dream will be one step closer to being true.

    Two. Laura Flanders made some good points as she was filling in for Thom Hartmann the other day. It won’t be easy. Over the next months we are going to need to talk to angry, bigoted people and try to convert them. It is hard seeing a non-white male on the ticket and the smear campaigns against him won’t go away. We will need to speak forcefully with the truth and try to break into some cold hearts. This election will expose who the racists are and are not and hopefully we can soon get behind that hateful part of our society.

    • nocatz on February 29, 2008 at 19:26

    when Carl Stokes was elected mayor of Cleveland in 1967, a difficult time to say the least.  I guess some people thought the end times had come.  There was some ‘Is Cleveland Ready’ talk I reckon.   Somehow he made it through the riots and was re-elected. It’d be interesting to speculate what would have happened if Cleveland did NOT have a black mayor then.  He called in the National Guard after some shootings/riot.

    I wouldn’t say he unified the city, but at least some people slowly realized that him being mayor wasn’t that big a deal .  I mean, it was a big deal at first, but the real world intruded on us all soon enough.

    It was also during his term that the Cuyahoga River famously caught fire..(damn media), though not the first or last time…

    Speaking of fire, Stokes was succeeded by Ralph Perk, who once again vaulted Cleveland into the  humor section of the news

    As mayor, Perk became the subject of national ridicule when he accidentally set his hair on fire while he attempted to use a welder’s torch to cut a ribbon at a campaign event.

    it goes on in a less than complimentary, but true, wiki

    A little slice….apologies to Unitary Moonbat.

  2. A lot of people liken Obama to MLK, but I don’t think that’s the right analogy.

    For me, Obama’s more like the Jackie Robinson. The guy ideally suited in both talent and temperament to finally break the ancient color barrier of one of our great national past times.

    Throughout the season, Robinson experienced harassment at the hands of both players and fans. He was verbally abused by both his own teammates and by members of opposing teams. Some Dodger players insinuated they would sit out rather than play alongside Robinson.

    Sound familiar?  My question is, who will be the Leo Durocher of the Dem Party?

    The brewing mutiny ended when Dodger management took a stand for Robinson. Manager Leo Durocher informed the team, “I don’t care if the guy is yellow or black, or if he has stripes like a fuckin’ zebra. I’m the manager of this team, and I say he plays. What’s more, I say he can make us all rich. And if any of you can’t use the money, I’ll see that you are all traded.”[25]

    Now that’s a manager.

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