"WELL, IT JUST SEEMS TO ME that each race should keep themselves pure. If we have too much race mixing, it's going to wipe out the white race. We're far outnumbered by the blacks, browns, yellows."
Those were the sentiments in 1987 of a New Hampshire state senator, John Parker Hale Chandler Jr. They came up during an interview in which he insisted that he was not racist, merely concerned about the "mongrelization" of the white race.
What made Hale's views on race newsworthy that year was that he served as the honorary chairman for Merrimack County of Jack Kemp's presidential campaign, and had been going around telling a boorish joke: "Did you hear that Jesse Jackson has dropped out of the presidential race? He found out that his grandmother had posed for the centerfold of National Geographic." He had also been quoted as saying that it revolted him to see Jackson kiss the daughter of a white supporter.
Republicans reacted to Chandler's racism in different ways. The then-governor of New Hampshire, John Sununu, allowed as how Chandler's views were "an unfortunate, inappropriate comment to make." The chairman of the state Republican Party, Elsie Vartanian, said, "The voters have returned him on a regular basis [and] will decide whether they want to do that again."
Senator Majority Leader Trent Lott
Kemp, by contrast, offered Chandler a choice: Apologize publicly or resign. Chandler refused to apologize. Kemp booted him.
I don't know what Chandler is doing these days, but I wouldn't be surprised if he is active in the Council of Conservative Citizens, the racist political group to which a few well-known Republicans -- notably Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott -- have ties. The CCC seems to share Chandler's concerns about "mongrelization." In one of its recent newsletters, Robert B. Patterson, a regular contributor, writes:
"No one can deny the importance of the question of miscegenation or race-mixing. Its very essence involves the preservation of the white race as well as the Negro race. It is a matter of racial survival. . . . Any effort to destroy the [white] race by a mixture of black blood is an effort to destroy Western civilization itself."
CCC publications drip with this kind of poison. So does its web site. Its racist core and roots are not in doubt; it was built from the remnants of the old segregationist Citizens Councils of America. The CCC has some sway in the Deep South; its largest membership is in Mississippi. The notion that an experienced Mississippi politician wouldn't know what the CCC is all about is, to put it mildly, extremely dubious.
Yet that was Lott's claim when he was first asked about the group in December. He had "no firsthand knowledge" of the CCC's beliefs, he said.
That was almost certainly a lie. Lott has long been involved with these people. He has spoken at their gatherings, invited their leaders to his Senate office, and twice asked their top Mississippi operative to chair his Senate campaign in his native Carroll County. He addressed the CCC's national board in 1992. "The people in this room," he told them, "stand for the right principles and the right philosophy." His newspaper column has often appeared in the organization's newsletter.
Republicans and conservatives have a choice when it comes to dealing with a noxious outfit like the CCC. They can forthrightly denounce it and sever all ties with its members -- the approach Kemp took with Chandler in 1987. Or, like Sununu and the New Hampshire GOP chairman that year, they can offer a bland non-condemnation, proclaiming their own virtue while being careful not to alienate the racists.
Last month, Lott assured the Anti-Defamation League that he "can't imagine being associated with an organization that promotes any form of racial supremacy." But he is associated with such an organization, and he refuses to anathematize it. So have his Republican colleagues. When US Rep. Robert Wexler introduced a resolution denouncing "the racism and bigotry espoused by the Council of Conservative Citizens," House Republicans declined to support it. (They tried to substitute it with a resolution blandly rebuking "all who practice or promote racism.") Out of deference to Lott, no Republican will propose Wexler's resolution in the Senate.
This is intolerable. Over the years, Republicans and conservatives have shown an admirable willingness to excommunicate the haters and crazies in their ranks. In the 1960s, William F. Buckley and National Review drummed the John Birch Society -- an anti-Communist group given to wild accusations and conspiracy theories -- out of the modern conservative movement. More recently, when members of a George Bush campaign committee turned out to be hard-core antisemites, he axed them. David Duke's electoral bids have been shunned by the GOP establishment.
By tiptoeing around the CCC, Republicans and conservatives are jeopardizing that record of not tolerating hate-peddlers. When Jesse Jackson and the Congressional Black Caucus balked at denouncing Louis Farrakhan's grotesque Nation of Islam, it said something about their willingness to confront moral degeneracy. By the same token, if Republican leaders cannot say openly that they despise the CCC, they will have said something important about their values.
There is no place in our politics for this kind of vermin. There should be no place in the Senate for a majority leader who can't say so.
(Jeff Jacoby is a columnist for The Boston Globe.)
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