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Death of a Klansman

Senator Robert Byrd (D, WV) meets his Maker.

By Hobbes  |  June 29, 2010

Democratic Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia, the longest-serving American senator in all of history and a former official of the Ku Klux Klan, died this past weekend at 92 years of age.

The many eulogies and obituaries this week will no doubt cite his truly outstanding record in getting Federally-funded edifices named after himself; he was also reportedly the living individual most frequently named on bridges and highways.

As unsavory as such self-aggrandizement appears, we're not here today to condemn Senator Byrd for personal greed.  He was sent to Washington as the representative of the people of the State of West Virginia, he viewed it as his life mission to make sure that the maximum amount of Federal dollars flowed back to his home state - and he succeeded wildly in that goal past all bounds of reason or moderation.  In return, his constituents loyally returned him to office for longer than most of them have been alive.

If you, like Scragged, believe that Congresscritters are supposed to represent the desires of the people of their state, Sen. Byrd did this in spades.  Our concern would be for the integrity of an institution that allowed such egregious spending and for fellow Senators who tolerated it.

But more concerning than his addiction to pork is Sen. Byrd's racist past.  It is a matter of historical record that he was a Kleagle - a recruiter - and Exalted Cyclops for the KKK in the 1930s and 40s.  He wrote that he never wanted to

...see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels.

and filibustered the 1964 Civil Rights Act - yes, the same act that Republicans are pilloried for questioning to this day.

Now, the Senator apologized many time for his early racism, and was not seriously criticized for it in many years.  As Americans, part of our national ethos is a belief in the power of redemption and repentance; is it too much to think that Byrd may be a true penitent?  No.

Why, then, does our mainstream media persist in holding Republicans to a standard that they excuse away when it snags a Democrat?  In 2002, Sen. Trent Lott was hounded from the Republican leadership after he gave a routine, throwaway compliment to colleague Strom Thurmond who, a half-century before, had run unsuccessfully for President as a segregationist - despite explicitly repudiating the racist views that Thurmond himself had also repudiated decades before.

George W. Bush was routinely pilloried as a racist, infamously being accused of "not caring about black people" on national TV - despite appointing more black people to high office and great power than any other presidential administration in history including the one headed by a black man.  Bush's concern and generosity for Africans, black people who aren't even his constituents, has also been documented by Scragged though almost never mentioned more widely.

The millions of ordinary Americans who consider themselves Tea Party activists are routinely berated as motivated purely by racism in their opposition to Barack Obama's policies.  Never mind any substance to their complaints or worries about America's massive debt that are shared by noted economists; it's all racism!

And here we see the truth about "racism" in America today.  Yes, many years ago, there was great racism in positions of power as epitomized by the young Robert Byrd and Strom Thurmond, both of whom were Democrats at that time.  There is no official anti-black racism anymore, and has not been for decades.

Are there still racists?  Of course there are and always will be; they need to repent of their bigotry as both Byrd and Thurmond did.  Are such repentances genuine?  Who can say?

But they are most certainly not proven genuine by a liberal voting record, as the media would have you believe.  Bill Clinton should be the poster child for sexual harassment, but thanks to his staunch support for abortion, the so-called "women's groups" gave him a free pass.  If ex-Klansman Republican David Duke is exiled from polite society, so too should have been ex-Klansman Democrat Robert Byrd.

By making false accusations of racism, today's opinion-makers are doing minorities no favors.  If Tea-Partiers are racist, the term has no meaning, when you consider that the Tea Party movement has out-polled both the Republicans and the Democrats in popularity at the same time that we have a black president who won a majority of votes.

It is not for us to discern the thoughts and intents of Sen. Byrd's heart; he stands today before that Great Judge Whose rulings are final and binding.  Regarding the thoughts and intents of the living, though, who honor Sen. Byrd while pillorying their political opponents who have done far less in the cause of bigotry - well, all American can see and should judge most harshly.