Trent Lott's Sins Splitting GOP Along Racial Lines

By Stanley Crouch
New York Daily News, Wednesday, February 3, 1999

To the good, there are major developments in the trouble surrounding Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott — developments that are creating dissension in the GOP ranks along racial lines.

As readers of this column know, I have been writing a lot about the Senate majority leader because, in my unwavering opinion, his long-time involvement with a pro-white organization is a political scandal that tests the integrity of the Republican Party.

Lott's story is rising slowly but surely from the shadows and should create quite a tornado of stink when the public nose is opened. But that will not happen until we are done with the tale of Mr. Bill and the chubby intern. The media seem incapable these days of covering more than one story at a time. So we will have to wait.

But as we do, very important things spinning off the Lott story are starting to appear on the horizon, and they tell us a great deal about why the GOP has such trouble with people who are not white, even those who agree with some of what the party thinks.

Prominent black spokesmen are beginning to show their disgust for a party that will not face up to the apparent bigots in its midst. The latest example came this weekend, when Armstrong Williams, a black Republican conservative who is a Washington talk-show host and a frequent guest on radio and television shows, published a powerful condemnation of Trent Lott in the Washington Times.

A week earlier, Williams had been a guest on Jay Diamond's radio show here in New York, where he was bombarded with information about how tight Lott has been with the Council of Conservative Citizens. Williams did some research on the organization and quickly concluded that it is racist.

Of Lott's denial that he had any firsthand knowledge of the group, Williams wrote: "This was a lie. As it turns out, he has been associated with the organization since its inception."

Williams wrote further that the actions of high-level Republicans like Lott explain why the party is incapable of making inroads into so-called minority communities.

"Compounding the problem," Williams went on, "is that, with the notable exception of Republican National Committee Chair Jim Nicholson, there has been little condemnation of Mr. Lott . . . from [his] colleagues. The Congressional Black Caucus has remained largely silent, and religious organizations have not been shaking their fists in the air."

This is very important, because Williams has been dismissed as an Uncle Tom by those in the black community who oppose his conservative views. If he is an Uncle Tom, then the Republican Party needs to recruit as many more of his kind as it can get. It needs more black people and more white people — more any kind of people — who recognize that a person such as Trent Lott deserves condemnation.

The fact that this has not happened yet is very telling. The Republicans lack the courage to stand up in a period when Newt Gingrich and Bob Livingston fell like two dominoes. The Congressional Black Caucus may well have compromised itself by associating with Louis Farrakhan's Million Man March. But what of the religious leaders? Is this not a moral issue of the first magnitude?

Once again, the issue of race allows us to see our nation's shortcomings, across the lines of color and among those who stand behind pulpits.

© Copyright 1999 Daily News, L.P.