Principalities & Powers

The Grinch Who Stole Kwanza

The political plum on last year’s Christmas pudding, so to speak, was l’affaire Lott, which, erupting at the birthday party for retiring Sen. Strom Thurmond in early December and continuing until Trent Lott’s less-than-voluntary resignation as Senate majority leader three weeks later, threatened to ruin Kwanza for just about everybody.  The Lott crisis was an unhappy one for President Bush and the Republican Party because it forced them to think about their real political base of middle-class whites—not a few of whom are Southerners—rather than twaddle on about the entirely fictitious coalition of blacks and Hispanics mobilized by the GOP’s ethnic sensitivity.  The President could not simply dump Mr. Lott as unceremoniously as he would have liked, because that would have alienated the millions of white Southerners who saw nothing wrong with the senator’s comments.  But neither could Mr. Bush keep Mr. Lott as majority leader, because keeping him would have been a plum pudding in the faces of the real custodians of the Republican conscience, namely, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the Rev. Al Sharpton, and the millions of American blacks whose votes Mr. Bush continues to imagine he can win.  The President was thus reduced to the coy stratagem of having his brother Jeb, governor of Florida, and Secretary of State Colin Powell denounce Mr. Lott; by allowing surrogates who had no business...

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