Charleston, South Carolina, was the cradle of the Confederacy. And come next January, barring unforeseen developments, it and the rest of the 1st District will have a black Congressman for the first time since Reconstruction. Tim Scott defeated Paul Thurmond for the Republican nomination last night, and the district has been a safe Republican seat since 1981. It wasn’t even close, with Scott trouncing Strom Thurmond’s son by 61 to 39 percent.
That a black man could beat the son of the legendary segregationist so badly in a district where the Civil War began — the district where Confederate troops fired on Fort Sumter in April 1861 — is a measure of just how much the South has changed in the last 50 years, and the country’s politics and race relations along with it.
But assuming Scott is elected, he needn’t apply for membership in the Congressional Black Caucus, of course. It’s a measure of how little the left in American politics has changed in the last 50 years that the Black Caucus — devoted to race-based politics and victimology — admits only liberal Democratic members.
3 Responses to “So True. . .”
I like Tim Scott, and I’m glad he’s on our side, but I think Strom Thurmond is getting unnecessarily slandered in this whole story. Whatever racial progress the south has made was visible in Strom long before Tim Scott came around. Thurmond was a segregationist (when he was governor, he engaged in a substantial building project for black hospitals and schools – more than any other southern politician of his day, he actually tried to make separate but equal more equal), but quickly adapted to the new reality in the late sixties. He accepted racial equality, and there seems to be no evidence that he harbored any racial animus. After the 60s, he never tried to bring segregation back. Hell, Tim Scott co-chaired his last reelection campaign.
Tim Scott’s election is something to be celebrated, but it’s something that couldn’t have come to pass without men like Thurmond, who came to peaceably accept that, whatever their prior beliefs, the south had to change its ways. Scott’s election is fruit from the tree that Thurmond’s generation allowed to grow, and occasionally nurtured, and it shouldn’t be used as an opportunity to pretend that Thurmond spent his whole life pissing on that tree.
You want to give someone credit for not being a bigoted asshole?
No. Just no.
Strom Thurmond certainly improved later in life. But he will forever be best remembered for two events: (1) His 1948 Dixiecrat run for the presidency, whose sole purpose was to defend segregation, and (2) his party switch in 1964 to endorse Barry Goldwater. Let’s examine each Thurmond highlight in turn.
There was no point to his run for president besides segregation. He ran out of pure spite, to show Democrats that they couldn’t win on a civil rights platform. Had Thurmond cost Truman the presidency, the civil rights movement could have been set back another generation or two.
Goldwater had been a staunch supporter of civil rights (back in the 1940′s, as a Phoenix city councilman, he had spearheaded equal rights for blacks long before it was politically safe or popular to do so). But Goldwater’s constitutional grounds for opposing the 1964 Civil Rights Act were, to much of the nation, indistinguishable from Thurmond’s segregationist grounds. Thus Goldwater, as one wit put it, carried the wrong states for the wrong reasons.
For the most consequential part of his career, Thurmond was a profoundly negative force. Only sheer cussed longevity and a wily willingness to bend with the times allowed him to stick around long enough to do anything redeeming. Perhaps the closest he came to atoning for his past was casting the 50th vote for Clarence Thomas’s confirmation to the Supreme Court.