By Jeffrey Lord on 7.6.10 @ 6:08AM
Clinton’s Byrd eulogy: ties between Klan, Arizona Latinos and Obama DOJ.
Christian Adams and Bill Clinton.
Who would have thought a heretofore unknown career Justice Department lawyer and the famously garrulous former President could combine to turn the spotlight on the centuries old — if never formally acknowledged — alliance between progressives and racism?
President Clinton first.
In winging along in his eulogy for the late West Virginia U.S. Senator Robert Byrd, former President Bill Clinton decided (impulsively?) to address the much commented upon knowledge that Senator Byrd spent part of his early career as an “Exalted Cyclops” of the Ku Klux Klan.
Blurted Clinton of that which must not be mentioned by liberals:
“He once had a fleeting association with the Ku Klux Klan, what does that mean? I’ll tell you what it means. He was a country boy from the hills and hollows from West Virginia. He was trying to get elected. And maybe he did something he shouldn’t have done and he spent the rest of his life making it up. And that’s what a good person does. There are no perfect people. There are certainly no perfect politicians.”
So. Bill Clinton says Robert Byrd was dallying with one of the most famously racist organizations in American history because he “was trying to get elected.”
OK. Fair enough. (Not really, but we’ll come back to this.)
But trying to get elected… to do what, exactly?
Well, as it happens, we know the answer to that. Senator Byrd spent his entire career as an elected official supporting — hold on — Big Government. Really. The whole shebang from the social programs to the big buildings and unions that housed and ran those programs. When he could get away with it, which was often, he loved having whole chunks of that Big Government built or removed to the end of that country road that was heaven to him — West Virginia.
And with Bill Clinton’s frank acknowledgment, we now have, at long last, an on-the-record nod to what has been the dirty little secret of the American left since its beginning.
And that dirty little secret would be?
The immutable connection between the sheerest, rawest forms of racism — and the political necessity of using that racism to successfully sell and build Big Government. Race is the social concrete required for the resulting political edifice over which progressives love to endlessly preen, build, re-build, enlarge and preen again. And all of it — the massive programs, the resulting bureaucrats, the mushrooming government unions — the entire framework cannot be successfully erected unless racism, fear of “the other,” is used as the pouring mixture. As Robert Byrd did with such early skillful success.
This is not some political reminder of the past, either. Robert Byrd and his affection for racism was not — is not — a relic of liberal days gone by.
To dismiss what Byrd did to get up onto his first political rung in the late 1940s as just the antics of some country boy with straw still in his ears is to seriously misunderstand what we are seeing in American society right this minute. To misunderstand what Christian Adams has stumbled onto in, of all places, the U.S. Department of Justice. Not to mention what we have seen in one form or another from progressives/liberals/the American left for some two hundred years.
Which is to say, for reasons that have little to do with anything other than the improbable conjunction of an elderly senator’s death, the last election and a furious Arizona legislature, we are seeing a startling if not historic acknowledgment. The curtain has been pulled back by both the former President and Mr. Adams on the direct linkage between race, racism and the progressive movement’s primal urge to central planning, statism and control of government. Big government.
What, after all, is the difference between the sentiments of the progressive Robert Byrd in his salad days as he tried to fan the flames of white anger in the name of providing Big Government…. with that of the Obama administration insisting it would not prosecute the Black Panthers in the Philadelphia case but would file a lawsuit against Arizona’s immigration law? The latter a law that specifically forbids racial discrimination?
What is the connection? What is the same in these events that are, after all, some 70 years apart?
The point in each instance was and is to enflame a solitary race of people for political purposes. Whites for the progressive Byrd, blacks and Latinos for the progressive Obama. And by so doing scoop up the votes at the next election and the next and the next — with the presumed progressive election victories used to inflate Big Government even more — just in time to provide more services to the targeted race.
This is precisely what Robert Byrd did with white West Virginia voters, his one-time Klan membership serving as the not-so-subtle wink and a nod that if you voted for Bobby Byrd he would be spending his time making sure the government got bigger, and you, white West Virginia voter, got a larger slice of the pie than those blacks over there in the other end of the hollow.
RECENTLY THE NEWS HAS BROUGHT us the story of Mr. Adams. Adams, who has been interviewed at length by Fox’s Megyn Kelly, has courageously come forth to quit his job at the Obama Department of Justice. A resignation prompted over the handling of a voter intimidation case in Philadelphia involving Black Panthers, one of whom was wielding a nightstick.
The case, says Mr. Adams, was a slam-dunk. Captured on video, attested to personally by a former aide to the late Attorney General and Senator Robert F. Kennedy, civil rights lawyer Bartle Bull, all of a sudden the case is dropped. Why? The U.S. Civil Rights Commission is investigating the details.
Mr. Adams has explained in print, here at the Washington Times. And what does he say? Aside from flatly accusing his Obama-appointed superiors of deliberately and willfully playing politics, he says an important something else that has gone unnoticed in all the headlines.
The federal voter-intimidation statutes we used against the New Black Panthers were enacted because America never realized genuine racial equality in elections. Threats of violence characterized elections from the end of the Civil War until the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. Before the Voting Rights Act, blacks seeking the right to vote, and those aiding them, were victims of violence and intimidation. But unlike the Southern legal system, Southern violence did not discriminate. Black voters were slain, as were the white champions of their cause. Some of the bodies were tossed into bogs and in one case in Philadelphia, Miss., they were buried together in an earthen dam.
Let’s stop for a minute.
What Mr. Adams is referencing here is flat-out racism, documented until, as it were, the cows came home. The “threats of violence” of which Adams speaks — and the resulting murder and mayhem — were frequently initiated by, yes indeed, the very group Robert Byrd needed to get elected — according to Bill Clinton. The reference to the three civil rights workers murdered in 1964 in Philadelphia, Mississippi and “buried together in an earthen dam” leaves out a key fact. The defendants included the elected sheriff and his deputy. While the sheriff beat the rap — barely — the deputy, Cecil Price, and several others were convicted. The Klan was, of course, very much involved.
How was is it that elected Democrats — a sheriff and his deputy — could wind up charged with such a heinous crime as the lynching of three civil rights workers, then burning the bodies and burying them in an earthen dam? What would ever make an elected official think he could get away with such racist, literally murderous behavior?
The answer, of course, is that this kind of behavior had been made politically acceptable for literally a hundred years after the Civil War — by progressive politicians.
LET’S PICK ONE at random from before Robert Byrd’s time.
This would be one Carter Glass. Never heard of Mr. Glass? He was from Virginia, and very much the leader in the state progressive movement around the turn of the 20th century. A newspaper reporter and then editor, he was a champion of the Big Government ideas of the day, which in Virginia included the establishment of the State Corporation Commission to regulate the railroads and various corporations. He championed the progressive hero William Jennings Bryan in Bryan’s first run for the presidency in 1896. And then got the political bug himself.
On his very first outing, as a delegate to the Virginia Constitutional Convention in 1902, young Mr. Glass had his way with his fellow progressives, getting the State Corporation Commission created and written into the new state constitution. A solid progressive victory as the progressive movement in America had begun to surge.
But how did Carter Glass find the political capital to fuel this progressive victory?
Good question. With an answer that differs not in the slightest from Robert Byrd’s career or what is happening today — today — at the Obama Department of Justice.
Mr. Glass, you see, when he wasn’t busy adding to the size of Virginia state government with his new commission, was also busy doing something else. Specifically, he was whooping up the crowd of progressives to find a way around that pesky 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution enacted after the Civil War by the conservatives of the day: Republicans who took the concept of equal rights seriously. The 15th Amendment, recall, reads as follows:
Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
Section 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
What did Glass do to get around this?
Specifically, he had two ideas. Progressives loved them both.
1: Establish a poll tax
2. Create a literacy test.
If you didn’t have the bucks to pay the poll tax — which most blacks, only 35-years distant from slavery did not — well, no vote for you. And if by chance you did somehow have the bucks, well, you had to show that you could read — pass a “literacy test” that was in fact designed to do one thing: keep blacks from voting. Period.
When he was finished rousing progressive whites to a frenzy on this, Glass went on to whip up another gem. This time Glass wrote into the draft of the new state constitution a requirement — say again, that word is requirement — that all schools in Virginia must be segregated.
This state constitution, beloved by progressive Democrats throughout Virginia, was originally to be put before the voters. Then a problem. Without the poll tax and the literacy test yet enacted, that pesky 15th Amendment meant African Americans would show up and vote — and as one might suspect, they were none too happy with Mr. Glass and his proposed new state constitution.
Answer? What do you think? The Convention and its progressive leadership simply decided the Convention itself would ratify the new state constitution, thank you very much. There would be no popular vote on the subject.
Done. Black Virginians were then quickly deprived of their voting rights until the 1960s laws of which Mr. Adams speaks.
And Carter Glass? He went on to be elected a U.S. Congressman, where his progressive politics caught the eye of his fellow-Virginian and progressive (who had moved to New Jersey) Woodrow Wilson. As chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Banking and Currency, it was Glass who championed President Wilson’s progressive programs, especially the creation of the Federal Reserve System. (Did I mention that Wilson — an ardent segregationist like his friend Glass — carried Virginia in the 1912 and 1916 elections? Not much of a black vote. Lots of Big Government, though. Hmmm.)
Wilson was so enamored of Congressman Glass that eventually he appointed him Secretary of the Treasury, where he remained until a vacancy in the Senate opened. He spent the rest of his life as a U.S. Senator from Virginia. Elected, of course, with lots of white votes — something he had gone out of his way to arrange way back in 1902. He’s even been back in the news in the last few years with the financial problems and the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933.
So. Connection, please?
Carter Glass won his career as a progressive champion — creator of everything Big Government from the Virginia State Corporation Commission to the United States Federal Reserve to Glass-Steagall — by whipping up racial animosities. In Glass’s case, the installation of the poll tax, the literacy test, and segregation of Virginia schools as the means to the electoral and Big Government end.
Not a white voter in Virginia doubted just where Editor Glass, delegate Glass, Congressman Glass, Secretary Glass and Senator Glass stood.
BY THE LATE 1940s, another aspiring young progressive by the name of Robert C. Byrd was making himself known in the hollows of his home state of West Virginia, just over the border from Carter Glass’s home turf. Young Mr. Byrd was, precisely as Bill Clinton says — and just as was true of Carter Glass — on to the game for progressives. So he sat down and wrote a letter to one of the preeminent progressives of his day, Mississippi’s Senator Theodore Bilbo. Said the young progressive Byrd to the old progressive champion Senator Bilbo:
I shall never fight in the armed forces with a Negro by my side.… Rather I should die a thousand times, and see Old Glory trampled in the dirt never to rise again, than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds.
And with that, young progressive Mr. Byrd did exactly what old progressive Mr. Bilbo (known as “Bilbo the Builder” for his Big Government programs as governor) had bragged about in an appearance on the then new radio program called Meet the Press: he joined the Ku Klux Klan.
What Bill Clinton has done with his Byrd eulogy is finally bring out into polite society what has been one of the central principles of American progressives. If, to quote Mr. Clinton, you are “trying to get elected” — elected as a progressive champion of Big Government - you have to know how to play the race card.
Carter Glass did it for decades by targeting whites in Virginia. Barack Obama’s Justice Department is targeting black voters right now by refusing to prosecute civil rights law in the Black Panthers Philadelphia case. (Adams also points out, in a fashion that reminds of the white elected sheriff’s participation in the Philadelphia, Mississippi voting rights murders, that one of the accused in the Black Panthers voting rights case “is a Democratic elected official from the city of Philadelphia.” That would be Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Apparently, the more things change the more they stay the same. Especially in the Philadelphias.) And in Arizona, the Obama White House is targeting Latinos by instructing the same Justice Department to file suit against a law that specifically bans racial discrimination — yet is portrayed, with much help from the white liberal media, as threat to the very lives of every Latino.
What President Clinton has done with his Byrd eulogy is shine a spotlight on the very traditional if unspoken progressive method of operation. Tying race to Big Government. Play to the worst fears of race X — scaring whites in Virginia, blacks in Philadelphia, Latinos in Arizona — and win elections as a result. Elections that are then used to reward the race at hand with Big Government goodies ranging from poll taxes, literacy tests, school segregation, to non-prosecution of voter intimidation or prosecution of race-neutral immigration law.
That’s the game.
To block — forever — the idea central to the Declaration of Independence:
We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights…
To do this — whether your name is Carter Glass or Robert Byrd or Eric Holder or Barack Obama — by perpetually frustrating the creation of a color-blind society. Playing, whether you are a white Democratic elected official in the Philadelphia, Mississippi of 1964 or a black Democratic elected official in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 2010, the perpetual race card. Playing that race card always in the name of creating something else: the progressive goal of bigger and bigger Big Government.
Now, in a rare moment of candor, President Clinton — who himself played the race card (unsuccessfully) against Barack Obama in the 2008 South Carolina primary — has ‘fessed up.
RIP, Senator Byrd. We’re not big on speaking ill of the dead here. You were a wiser, kindlier old man by the time your maker opened his door. But what you did with the Ku Klux Klan was, contrary to President Clinton’s implication, neither unusual nor a result of your youth.
What you did was standard operating procedure for progressives. White progressives. Black progressives. Latino progressives. Any progressives.
And as both now-ex Justice Department lawyer Christian Adams and Arizona Governor Jan Brewer can testify:
It still is.
Jeffrey Lord is a former Reagan White House political director and author. He writes from Pennsylvania at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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