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  Advice to GOP: Stop Talking!
The Conservative Guy
December 2002

Republicans need to quit responding to the Democrats' witch hunt. Let the Democrats overreach as they try to actually prove that Lott is a rabid racist and segregationist and it will eventually backfire on them.

It has been announced that Senate Republicans will meet on January 6 to
discuss what has become a crisis in their leadership. Until that time,
Republican leaders should stop talking about the Trent Lott matter.

What will fill the media vacuum about this story will be the voices of those
who want to keep the issue alive: the Democrats. In the past week, the
debate over this situation has reached absurd proportions. The demand for
punishment has grown from censure to resignation to removal. The rhetoric
has become shrill and the finger pointing indiscriminate.

For a solid week, The New York Times has been relentless in its attacks on
Lott, George W. Bush and the Republican Party. On Sunday, CNN’s Final
Edition featured columnist Julianne Malveaux who declared that Lott “just
took the sheet off his head and made it clear what kind of Klan member he
is.” The leaders of many African-American organizations came together on
Monday to call for the ouster of Lott. During CNN’s Talk Back Live the same
day, radio host Tom Joyner repeatedly called Lott a racist.

The charges have become more vicious, outlandish and reckless. Julian Bond
and Elijah Cummings among others are reading from the same flawed page when
they criticize the Republicans for “putting a man like Lott” fourth in line
to the presidency. In fact, the line of succession puts the President Pro
Tempore of the Senate in that position. That person is Senator Robert Byrd
of West Virginia, Democrat and unrepentant former member of the Ku Klux
Klan. Last year, it was Byrd who used the “N-word” in a televised interview
with Fox News interview. Neither a denouncement of him nor a call for
resignation or censure was forthcoming. These are minor details not to be
considered while the destruction of Trent Lott is in progress.

Those at the forefront of this political witch-hunt will need to continue
turning up the volume against the silence. A lack of response from
Republican ranks will require them to keep this fire stoked for several
weeks among themselves and their media patrons. In they meantime, they will
also need to secure the active support of the balance of the party. They
have already blasted the Democratic Party leadership for not responding
earlier and sufficiently loud.

A singular focus on this particular issue may cause a schism within the
party. They will need to decide how much political capital they are willing
to spend to dislodge Lott, as substantial energy will be required to sustain
the necessary moral outrage until January. A fractured Democratic Party may
not be up to it.

African-Americans are undeniably an important Democratic constituency, but
they do not constitute a majority. A grateful Mary Landrieu called them
“the soul of the Democratic Party”, but the reality is that while Democrats
receive the black vote 90% of the time, turnout is always a concern. Their
indifference was a reason cited for the Democrats’ poor performance in
November. White Democrats, on the other hand, are unlikely to rally around
a cause that has such a limited upside.

Still more difficult will be to portray Trent Lott as a rabid segregationist
and racist, as it simply doesn’t match the image of the public person. Lott
will need to be demonized to the same degree as Newt Gingrich and Pat
Buchanan were for this issue to have any legs. An overreach has the
potential to backfire on the Democrats in the same way that Clinton’s
impeachment proceedings did on the Republicans. After all, the party of
Byrd and Hollings has its own history yet to acknowledge.

By the time the Senate conference meets on Jan 6, the furor will have
subsided and the Democrats may be embroiled in the kind of infighting that
they do so well.