Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Hal(l)ey's comet takes a hit

HALEY BARBOUR comes across as the generic good ol' boy from yonder Mississippi. Radiating good humor and unthreatening southern charm, he's done quite well for himself as the former Republican national chairman and now the governor of Ole Miss. A couple of years ago, Summit County's Republicans hosted him with an outpouring of amity and praise when he spoke at the party's big finance dinner as the guest of chairman Alex Arshinkoff. Then, as now, there was talk that he was itching to run for president.

After this week's fallout from his rising political fortune, Barbour may want to reconsider. In an interview with the ultra-conservative Weekly Standard, Barbour defended the notorious White Citizens Council as peace-loving business folks who maintained law-and-order against the Ku Klux Klan during the Civil Rights movement of the '60s. Or as he put it:
"You heard of the Citizens Council? Up North they think it was like the KKK. Where I come from it was an organization of town leaders. In Yazoo City they passed a resolution that said anybody who started a chapter of the Klan would get their ass run out of town. If you had a job, you'd lose it. If you had a store, they'd see nobody shopped there. We didn't have a problem with the Klan in Yazoo City."
Historians don't quite remember it as happening that way for the peace of mind of blacks. . Robert Mickey, a University of Michigan political scientist, told the Huffington Post that the Council's primary purpose was to oppose desegregation of schools by intimidating black parents who signed desegregation petitions. The Council even printed the names of signatories in the papers. You can guess what that was all about in the thriving plantation culture.

Time for damage control. Barbour issued a statement saying he didn't think the Councils were at all saintly and, in fact, asserted that their activities in the community were"totally indefensible, as is segregation."

But it was Whit Ayres, a Republican consultant with campaign experience in the south, who stepped forward to defend Barbour. With the usual political finesse, Ayres blithely assured us that Barbour's revisionist account of the White Citizens Council was a "tempest in a teapot."

Problem solved. Or maybe not.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Republicans will say that those "elitists" known as historians are wrong about everything. They'll argue that Republicans led the way for racial desegregation while conveniently substituting partisanship for the underlying ideology that has been part of the partisan realignment in the south. The Republican Party has replaced the Democratic Party in the South while co-opting the tried and true ideogoical focus on "states rights".