Links to Separatists Embarrass Both Parties

By Tom Teepen, National Correspondent, Cox Newspapers
Atlanta Constitution, Tuesday, January 26, 1999, page A15
� Copyright 1999 The Atlanta Journal and Constitution

ATLANTA -- The chairmen of the Democratic and Republican national committees have now dutifully denounced this noxious Council of Conservative Citizens. The declarations of anathema are somehow a bit pallid, but I suppose their decorum is preferable to having the chairmen throw up on camera, although that would get the matter just about right.

The council is that icky bunch that surfaced when it was learned Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., the impeachment whiz, had addressed its members. It is, in effect, the successor to the White Citizens Councils, coat-and-tie cousins of the declasse Ku Klux Klan in the days of massive Southern resistance to racial desegregation.

The council blusters against immigration and integration -- the shopworn old parlay of nativism and racism. One of the featured columnists of the council's publication sees America becoming "a slimy brown mass of glop." There's a lot more of the same.

Barr swears he didn't know what the council was up to when he spoke to it, which is doubtful. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, another speaker, says the same, which isn't believable at all. If there's anything a lifelong Mississippi politician knows, it's who these characters are. One CCC activist has chaired county election committees for Lott.

(Indeed, members say Lott himself belongs, but the senator's spokesman says Lott "does not consider himself a member.")

Both parties are embarrassed in this matter. Most of the council's notable politician members are southern Republicans, but the head of the CCC says most of the 34 Mississippi state legislators who belong are Democrats.

The CEO of the outfit, Gordon Lee Baum, is especially distressed to have been read out of the GOP. He says the "Wallace-Reagan Democrats" the CCC appeals to have given the Republican Party its victory margins in the South in recent years.

An odd construction, that -- "Wallace-Reagan Democrats." Odd not because it's amiss but because it's peculiarly honest. You usually hear "Reagan Democrats," meaning blue-collar Democrats Reagan won over. Fair enough elsewhere, but in the South "Wallace Democrats" is more like it, and has been ever since Richard Nixon co-opted all but the vilest parts of George Wallace's segregation-forever politics to get the GOP rolling in the region.

If you click on Barr's congressional Web site, it will pipe "Stars and Stripes" for you, if you wish, or it will play "Dixie," if you prefer. "Dixie," which became the anthem of the Confederacy, was written in dialect to be performed by white minstrels corked up in blackface.

It begins: "I wish I was in de land ob cotton/ Old times dar am not forgotten."

No kidding.

(This column also appeared under the title "Lott and Barr Join the Minstrel Show" in the Minneapolis Star Tribune [January 27, 1999].)