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Trent Lott drew criticism last month for a statement he made in honor of Sen. Strom Thurmond’s 100th birthday. Lott essentially said that the country would be a better place if Thurmond had been elected president in 1948, the year he ran as a Dixiecrat on a pro-segregation platform. I, like many others, have trouble with Lott’s comments, but for different reasons. Lott did not go far enough.
It’s obvious that America would be a much better place if we had only listened to the conservative dictates on race. All our current troubles spring from pursuing progressive liberal reforms last century.
Teddy Roosevelt set the tone for the 20th century when he invited Booker T. Washington to a meeting at the White House. This was the first time, but unfortunately not the last, that a black was allowed into the sacred halls in a capacity other than domestic.
But you can’t keep good conservatives down. We elected Woodrow Wilson as president when Roosevelt tried to run again in 1912. Wilson, a man after my own heart, showed real moral character when he had the courage to have the film Birth of a Nation screened at the White House. This film, a celebration of pure-bred American conservatism, was a moralistic fable that exposed black men’s carnal desire for white women and celebrated the Ku Klux Klan’s protection of the innocent white slaveholders.
Roosevelt #2 came in and did something that, until then, I never thought I would see a Democrat do; he made appeals to black voters. However, the conservative South, the moral compass of the nation, successfully kept the meddling federal governments from outlawing their Sunday afternoon lynchings and allowing clearly undeserving blacks to benefit from New Deal programs.
But what conservative could foresee what Truman would do? He integrated the armed forces. Can you believe the cajones of this guy? That’s when my man Strom bolted from the Democratic Party and ran as a Dixiecrat, promising to protect the Southern way of life.
I was a little slow to get the hint and still stayed with the Democrats.
But after the armed forces were integrated, it was only a matter of time before the Warren Court, that satanic agent, would hand down its decision in Brown v. Board of Education, eliminating the states’ God-given constitutional right to not educate blacks.
And of course, the ruling in Brown gave momentum to the Civil Rights movement that found such success in those deplorable liberal ’60s. That damn Martin Luther King Jr. and his people hijacked the government and the Democratic Party and secured the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. This is when conservatives began defecting en masse. Ronald Reagan and Jesse Helms, two great men, took the opportunity to cross the aisle. In the 1964 presidential election, conservatives nominated Barry Goldwater, who opposed the Civil Rights Act—effectively saying he was not the candidate for blacks.
We found our vindication for the liberal ’70s in the Grand Old ’80s. An old-time conservative rose to power as a “Neo-Conservative” Gipper. (He fooled them good.) I mean, this guy gained political prominence when he favored tax exemptions for segregationist schools in California. Then, in his first presidential run, he showed real conservative morality by declaring in Philadelphia, Miss. that he would protect states’ rights. (You may remember Philadelphia as the town where three Northern civil rights activists, who were meddling in the state’s rights by registering blacks to vote, were duly “disposed of.”) Seeing his support in the South skyrocket he then chastised the Welfare Queens (black women who live off the state and get paid to have more and more babies).
To cap off that great decade, my man Bush I defeated Dukakis by reminding the country in a campaign advertisement of the lessons of Birth of a Nation: white women need to be protected against black male rapists.
So as you can see, liberalism has led this country down the wrong path at every turn. Trent Lott’s premise was right: the world would be better if it had more Strom Thurmonds in positions of power to champion conservative values. But there is hope. President Bush has not let conservatives like me down yet. He supports model institutions like Bob Jones University, model citizens like the loving preacher the Rev. Jerry Falwell and model memorials to the last true American gentlemen—the Confederate war heroes. So don’t lose hope. Just as liberalism is the history of the last century, conservatism can still be the history of this one.
R. Gerard McGeary ’04 is a government concentrator in Lowell House. He is president of the Harvard College Democrats.
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