Barack Bilbo - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Barack Bilbo

“I intend raising hell with the money lords, the privileged few, the men who hold 90 per cent of the wealth of the nation.”Ku Klux Klan Member, Liberal Democrat, US Senator-elect and former Governor Theodore Bilbo of Mississippi, 1934

Barack Obama and Theodore Bilbo agreed on two things.

They hated the rich. They judged by race.

Race is the base. The rich are the hitch. Identity politics is all.

First, last and always.

Over time, Americans have learned the hard way that when dealing with progressives or liberals — the Left — the race may change. What defines “rich” may change. The century, the decade, the year may change. What never changes is the elemental component of identity politics.

Race is the base. The rich are the hitch. Resenting some other race and always resenting the rich is the game.

From the Mississippi of 1927 to the Arizona of 2012. From the attempts to keep legally immigrating Asians out of America at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, to the attempts to hustle illegally immigrating Mexicans into America at the dawn of the 21st. Whether using the Supreme Court of 1857 to write slavery into the Constitution, or using the Department of Homeland Security of today to demand illegal immigration be written out of state law.


Race is always the base. The rich always are the hitch.

The names may change. From Bilbo the Builder (as Theodore Bilbo was nicknamed) to The One (as Obama was dubbed by Oprah Winfrey.).

In the end? Nothing changes.

Race is the base. The rich are the hitch. From Bilbo to Barack.

So, you ask. Who was Theodore Bilbo? And why exactly does Barack Obama so resemble him?

Like Barack Obama, Theodore Bilbo of Mississippi built and spent his entire political career selling that old liberal Love Potion Number One: race and class warfare.

Theodore Bilbo was a progressive Democrat, a lawyer and educator. He served successively as a state senator, lieutenant governor, governor (twice) and finally United States Senator from Mississippi (1935-1947). Like Barack Obama’s belief in the use of taxpayer money to prime the economy, Bilbo as governor won his nickname of “Bilbo the Builder” for what was in effect a state “stimulus” program. Tax dollars were poured into a state highway program, a lime crushing plant, a tuberculosis hospital, an “Old Soldiers” home and more.

As a U.S. senator Bilbo was not only an enthusiastic supporter of FDR’s New Deal. Like Obama, Bilbo was a master at playing the class warfare game, wasting no time in making himself the scourge of the wealthy. Where Obama whips up a frenzy today opposing “tax cuts for the rich” and “millionaires and billionaires” who aren’t paying their “fair share,” Bilbo would take to the Senate floor to rail against “poor-folks haters” “rich enemies of our public schools” “unemployment makers” and “private bankers ‘who ought to come out in the open and let folks see what they’re doing.”

But there was a catch to all of Bilbo’s spending and class warfare politics. Not coincidentally, it was exactly the same catch evident with Barack Obama and his modern-day allies in the media and politics. Class warfare alone wasn’t going to get Bilbo elected. Combined with the race card, however, Bilbo was unbeatable. Without identity politics and the seething resentments they cultivate, neither man would have had a political career of any success.

Challenging an incumbent governor in 1927, Bilbo scorched his opponent for calling out the National Guard to prevent a lynching. Why? Because in his quest for white votes Bilbo proclaimed no black person was worthy of being protected by the (all white) National Guard. The voters of Mississippi agreed — and Bilbo was once again back in the governor’s mansion.

A proud member of the Ku Klux Klan (like fellow progressive Democrat Senator Hugo Black from Alabama — whom FDR appointed to the Supreme Court), Bilbo was a master at polishing the messages of class warfare and race into a seamless sparkling jewel of rhetoric and policy that made the two indistinguishable one from another. Remembering always that race is the base, the rich are the hitch.

Why bother with retrieving the long-gone ghost of Bilbo the Builder, who died in 1947?

Because while Bilbo was symbolic of the approach, he was far from alone in using it. The Left’s tried-and-true political formula of identity politics has been captured repeatedly on video, not to mention in print. It is alive and well in the Obama administration, where the message of class warfare and racial politics is being used as a hammer not only by the administration but, as mentioned, by its media and political allies as well.

Make no mistake, all of this furor over immigration is, in the hands of the Left, 100% all about race. So too is the response from Attorney General Eric Holder’s supporters to his imminent contempt citation all about race.

Take a look at these two videos. One is from the other week — in 2012. One is from 49 years ago, in 1963.

First is this one, which shows President Obama in the White House Rose Garden announcing he is issuing an executive order that allows millions of illegal immigrants — read: Hispanics — to remain in this country regardless of their illegal status.

The second? This is a clip of a more modern Theodore Bilbo (and one for whom video is available). That would be Alabama Governor George Wallace, a Democrat, giving his inaugural address on the steps of the Alabama State Capitol in which, just as President Obama was doing in the Rose Garden, Wallace makes a defiant stand in favor of racial politics. After running a winning campaign for governor built around a Bilbo-style appeal to the little guy, pledges to spend money on building schools — and making sure, in Wallace’s own words, that he was never “out-segged” — meaning losing because he wasn’t sufficiently appealing to the white segregationist vote.

In other words, the first clip with Obama is all about a smooth racial pitch to Latinos.

The second, from Wallace, a bit more unsophisticated if still exactly on target, is all about a racial pitch to whites.

You might call the first video the Party of the Klan goes Latino. Which is to say there is zero difference in the Left when it comes to the politics of race. As a matter of fact, to illustrate the point more vividly, here are some of Theodore Bilbo’s progressive peers making their racial statement in the Washington, DC of 1928. And here are progressive Latinos in Arizona reacting to Governor Jan Brewer’s signing of the immigration bill that was the subject of this week’s Supreme Court ruling. Like those white progressive Klan members in 1928, these progressive Latinos were making their statement on race.

Not to be left out, of course, is Al Sharpton.

Here, for example, is the Reverend Al Sharpton making a racial pitch to blacks by insisting that the upcoming House contempt citation for Eric Holder is all about…you guessed it…race. (This, by the way, from the same Al Sharpton whose Bilbo-esque use of race is captured here.) This would be, by the way, the same Attorney General Holder who refused to prosecute the New Black Panthers for standing outside a Philadelphia polling place with nightsticks.

Sharpton also used his Holder “it’s all about race” press conference to attack Texas Senator John Cornyn for calling on Holder to resign not just over Fast and Furious but for using the Justice Department to block states fighting against voter fraud. Voter fraud that, according to Sharpton, “does not exist.”


No less than Sharpton’s fellow MSNBC host Chris Matthews took to his own Hardball show on July 20, 2011 to say the opposite:

I know all about it in North Philly. It’s what went on. And I believe it still goes on.

For those not from Pennsylvania, “North Philly” — North Philadelphia, has a heavy concentration of African-Americans and Puerto Ricans, aka “Latinos.” So on the one hand Matthews is saying there is voter fraud going on in a heavily populated black and Puerto Rican section of Philadelphia — and Al Sharpton is insisting voter fraud isn’t happening.

Yet mysteriously, as we noted yesterday, Matthews jumped on the Pennsylvania State House Majority Leader — Republican Mike Turzai of Pittsburgh — for publicly saying the passage of a Pennsylvania voter ID law would enable Governor Romney to win Pennsylvania. After all, we can’t be having fraud-free elections in Pennsylvania, can we?

This is the same Matthews, by the way, who blurted a Bilbo-esque admission on air a while back while watching President Obama. What did he say? Oh yes….Matthews said that he “forgot he [the President] was black.”

One can be certain that Theodore Bilbo wouldn’t have forgotten either.

Thus goes the game of identity politics and appealing to Americans by race.

A recent contender in the race base game was this commercial on so-called “white privilege” sponsored by the University of Minnesota with an assist from the University of Colorado and the NAACP.

The commercial is a lovely example of racial Marxism. Recall that it was Marx who came up with the idea that all thought was the result of the class of the thinkers. There was no such thing as objective truth. Every concept that exists, went the line, was the result of an “ideological superstructure” imposed by class.

Racial Marxism, as vividly displayed in the “white privilege” commercial, is designed to convince that whites think differently than blacks (and presumably anyone else “of color”) for no other reason than their color. The Ku Klux Klan — filled with all those long ago progressives — could not have said it better.

In fact, this was exactly what Theodore Bilbo believed. Not only did the progressive Bilbo agree with the University of Minnesota progressives and those from the NAACP that there was white privilege, he argued that it must be preserved at all costs. Writing in his infamous book Take Your Choice: Separation or Mongrelization, Bilbo made a literary appeal to the white race based entirely on the views he had been using to win votes for decades.

Last but not least in all of this is the venerable leftist magazine Mother Jones, which featured the kind of June cover on identity politics that both Bilbo and Obama would surely admire. Titled “WTF, GOP?” it lists a Bilbo and Obama favorite “People who hate banks” as number two in a list of groups MJ believes the GOP has offended. Not for Mother Jones (why aren’t they named Mother Group?) the idea that Americans are individuals and that conservatives appeal to people in a color-blind, gender blind fashion. No sireee. The list of groups in addition to “people who hate banks” that are supposedly offended by the GOP include “Latinos” (but of course) and the Bilbo-esque “The 99%”. There was also people who like sex (!!?), old people, gays, vets, gay vets, old people, sick people, scientists…etc. yada yada yada.

The other day MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry stood up to do her Bilbo impression, applying a little Bilbo-esque racial thinking to the American (read: George W. Bush) response to 9/11.

Said the MSNBC host — to the “Take Back the Dream” conference (a veritable cornucopia of skincolor judging/capitalist hating leftists who surely would have thrilled to hear from Theodore Bilbo):

The other thing that happens in that moment, I don’t want to miss this, is that a new version of what America typically needs emerges — and that is a racial enemy. Americans, in part, identify who we are and who deserves what through our notion of whiteness and who are our racial enemies that are the non-whites.

The new racial enemy became not so much Reagan’s “welfare queen,” who was imaginary, but instead this imagined other that is somehow Muslim, or Arab, or Sikh, or something else.

Ms. Harris-Perry may have no idea who Theodore Bilbo was. But like Barack Obama, she made her own version of exactly the kind of pitch that Theodore Bilbo used to fuel his entire career. Just as Theodore Bilbo needed racial enemies, so too, apparently, does Melissa Harris-Perry. Not to mention MSNBC.

Why? Because race is the base. And, although Harris-Perry didn’t play the rich are the hitch card at this lovely gathering, an Occupy Wall Street-style hate fest about the woes of the “99%” was on the agenda.

Which brings us back to where we started. With this quote from the man himself, Theodore Bilbo:

I intend raising hell with the money lords, the privileged few, the men who hold 90 per cent of the wealth of the nation.

Imagine that.

A lifetime member of the Ku Klux Klan, a politician who got himself elected playing the race card over and over and over again — a man who has been dead lo these past 65 years — was once upon a time saying the very same progressive things as Barack Obama, Eric Holder, Al Sharpton, Chris Matthews, and the conference agenda that hosted Melissa Harris-Perry.

Will racism ever end? Will envy ever end? Not if the Left has anything to say about it.


Because there are too many political and media careers that can be made profitable politically and financially by keeping racism and envy alive and well.

If he were here, you could ask Bilbo the Builder. But since he isn’t… try Jay Carney.

Or Eric Holder.

Jeffrey Lord
Follow Their Stories:
View More
Jeffrey Lord, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is a former aide to Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp. An author and former CNN commentator, he writes from Pennsylvania at His new book, Swamp Wars: Donald Trump and The New American Populism vs. The Old Order, is now out from Bombardier Books.
Sign up to receive our latest updates! Register

By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: The American Spectator, 122 S Royal Street, Alexandria, VA, 22314, You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

Be a Free Market Loving Patriot. Subscribe Today!