Here at Facing South, we were as surprised as all of you to read about the revival of Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS), who was driven from Republican leadership in 2003 after waxing nostalgic for the days of the Old Confederacy. By a vote of 25 to 24, Lott will become whip for the now-minority GOP.
Pundits are explaining Lott's rehabilitation by saying that it's a natural recovery from his 2002 gaffe, in which he lauded Mississippi's support for Strom Thurmond's segregationist bid for the presidency in 1948.
But the problem is, that wasn't the first time. Lott has a long and checkered history that reveals more than "insensitivity;" it exposes a whole-sale embrace of an agenda that can easily be labeled racist:
Lott's claim that he's guilty of nothing more than a temporary "poor choice of words" would be more convincing if his political career wasn't riddled with bigotry and intolerance. Far from being a one-time gaffe, Lott's noxious statements are in line with a lifetime of associations with racist people and causes.
Most notable has been Senator Lott's close ties to the Conservative Citizen' s Council, an openly racist and anti-Semitic group which grew out of the terrorist White Citizen's Councils, and which today, among other unpalatable positions, calls interracial marriage "white genocide."
In 1992, Lott was keynote speaker at the Council's national board meeting, ending his speech by enthusing that "the people in this room stand for the right principles and the right philosophy." Throughout the 1990s, Lott maintained his intimate relations with the CCC, hosting a private meeting with Council leaders in 1997, writing a column for the CCC magazine Citizen's Informer for eight years, and attending at least two CCC banquets in his honor.
In a comical and disturbing move, when confronted with evidence of these close associations, Lott claimed he had "no firsthand knowledge" of the CCC. CCC officials curtly responded that Lott was a "friend" and a "paid-up member."
It doesn't stop there. There's also Lott's 1984 address to the Convention of the Sons of Confederate Veterans in Biloxi, Mississippi, in which he claimed "the spirit of Jefferson Davis lives in the 1984 Republican Platform." The statement was covered in the winter 1984 issue of the right-wing Southern Partisan magazine, in which Lott also explained that he opposes civil rights legislation, and said that the Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday is "basically wrong."
The Jefferson Davis reference was telling. Lott has something of an obsession with the former President of the breakaway Confederate States of America. In the late 1970s, Lott spearheaded a successful campaign to have Davis' citizenship retroactively restored. More recently, Lott fought to gain custody of the desk Davis used during his Confederate reign, so that it could furnish Lott's Senate offices in Washington.