GOP in South Sees a Civil War It Can Win

Racists lead the impeachment battle to punish Clinton for his social programs and civil rights stands.

By Earl Ofari Hutchinson
Los Angeles Times, Monday, December 21, 1998
© Copyright 1998 Los Angeles Times

Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia gives us an answer to why so many House Republicans defy public opinion, ignore the advice of GOP governors, reject the advice of party moderates in the Senate and are willing to paralyze the government to nail President Clinton. Barr says that they are fighting a civil war.

Since November 1997, Barr has been the point man for Southern Republicans in calling for Bill Clinton's head. This isn't the usual conservative political rage at a politician they regard as a corrupt, immoral, big-spending, big-government Democrat.

Barr, who represents the mostly white, conservative, suburban 7th District in Georgia, is a big booster of the Council of Conservative Citizens. This is the outfit that issued "A Call to White Americans," has denounced blacks as intellectually inferior, champions the Confederate flag and maintains tight ties to Klansman David Duke.

In House speeches, Barr has slammed the Congressional Black Caucus, opposed hate crime laws and spending on social programs. His Web page is linked to the pages of the most extreme right-wing groups in the nation. His campaign against Clinton is part of the Republican Party's Southern strategy to roll back the civil rights gains and eliminate the social programs of the 1960s.

Although Barr is one of the most extreme GOP race-baiters in Congress, he has got the political muscle to push the South's vendetta. Southern Republicans control 82 out of 228 Republican House seats, by far the largest single bloc in Congress. Clinton's victory in 1992 temporarily derailed the Southern bloc's plan to gut civil rights and social programs. Southern Republicans watched as more than 85% of African Americans voted for Clinton in 1992 and 1996 and provided the swing vote for many Democrats in congressional and state races this November. African Americans regard Clinton more favorably than Jesse Jackson or Louis Farrakhan.

The Southern bloc is distressed that the Congressional Black Caucus has been Clinton's biggest defender against the GOP assault and dismayed that far more African Americans than whites oppose impeachment. These Republicans are disgusted that Clinton has appointed more blacks to high administrative offices than any other president, supported minority redistricting in the South, called for tougher action against church burnings and convened the first-ever White House conference to push for tougher penalties to combat hate crimes.

Barr and his cohorts are enraged that Clinton is the first president since Lyndon Johnson to empanel a commission to talk seriously about racial problems and supported the U.S. Sentencing Commission's recommendations to "equalize" the disproportionate drug sentences given to minority offenders. They are affronted that Clinton increased funding for job and education programs, made numerous high-profile appearances at black churches, conferences and ceremonies on school integration in the South and opposed the anti-affirmative action Proposition 209 in California. They are distressed that Clinton is the first president to travel to and support economic initiatives in Caribbean and sub-Saharan African nations.

The faster the Southern Republicans rush to dump Clinton, the greater his popularity will be among African Americans. Many blacks see impeachment as a thinly disguised attempt to hammer the president for acting and speaking out on black causes, and as a backdoor power grab for the White House in the year 2000--and they're right. But as long as Southern Republicans control such a huge bloc of congressional votes, they believe that impeachment is the civil war they can win.