body and soul nails it
The always-amazing Jeanne D'Arc--whom I don't link nearly as often as I intend to--detects a whiff of hypocricy if the GOP's disavowal of Lott:
For a generation, the Republican Party has coddled and mobilized racial bigotry for the sake of winning elections. It was a conscious policy, which Kevin Phillips, an advisor to Richard Nixon’s 1968 campaign, described, in The Emerging Republican Majority, as an attempt to "make an ideological bid for the anti-civil rights South." Lee Atwater expanded that strategy by prodding tensions between blacks and working class white ethnics. The racist, anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic Bob Jones University has been a traditional stop for Republican presidential candidates at least since Reagan. Republicans have been experimenting with how much subtle (and occasionally not so subtle) racism they can inject into campaign ads for as long as I can remember (and my political memory goes back a good thirty years).
...That the Republican Party felt it had to present a tolerant face to America says something very good about the vast majority of Americans. We are a better country than we were forty years ago, and overt racism doesn't sell as well as it once did. But even while it was serving up that tolerant face, the party wanted the benefit of the racist vote. It got it. Having reaped the benefit, though, it ought to have to pay the price as well. Call it penance. Call it justice.
Trent Lott is an unrepentant racist, and I'll grant that most Republicans are not. But for me the fact that they aren't, that they know better, and are willing to exploit racism -- and to nourish and sustain it by doing so -- makes them morally worse than the poor dumb racists who are just looking desperately (and futilely) for someone more pitiful than them. That's something I've believed most of my life, and the Lott Affair just holds it up to the light so we can all take a good look at it.
That's why I not only want Trent Lott out as majority leader, I want it to be very clear that he's a Republican, that the Republican Party has provided a forum for people like Lott for decades. They're pretending they don't know what could make a man behave that way, and they shouldn't get away with it.
As I've said, I'm positive that many conservatives are uncomfortable with such tactics and would never condone them. But pretending they don't exist isn't the answer.