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Free Citizen

This writer espouses individual liberty, free markets, and limited government.

Location: Jackson, Mississippi, United States

Friday, September 14, 2007

Oh No-o-o, Mr. Bill!!

At this point in his long career, columnist Bill Minor's research evidently consists mainly of delving into his mental files.

"Many Democrats in Mississippi's era of one-party politics were elected by hitting the "n-word" harder than their opponent. But Democratic pols dropped race after the 1965 Voting Rights Act gave blacks access to the ballot box."

I'm sure the "n-word" was used in the 1903 campaign, when James K. Vardaman was elected governor. (That was the very first campaign that Mr. Bill covered.) It was probably used for some years thereafter, but I can attest that it was not used in the 1959 or 1963 campaign. The "i-word"-- integration-- and the "s-word"-- segregation-- were the ones used then. And, by the way, there were a few thousand Mississippi blacks registered to vote prior to the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

In 1967, Jimmy Swan of Hattiesburg ran for governor promising to establish a system of "free, white, private schools." Feeling threatened by the Swan candidacy, former Gov. Ross Barnett ran radio spots in south Mississippi in which he said, "If you want private schools, Ross Barnett will see that you get them!" Swan finished a strong third in the Democratic primary, while Barnett was a distant fourth. State treasurer William Winter, the most liberal candidate, led the primary but lost the runoff to Congressman John Bell Williams. (A friend of mine once described Williams as "Ross Barnett with a little sophistication and one less arm." Personally, except for John Bell's racial views, I rather liked him.)

In the 1967 campaign, Winter noted that many generations of his family had lived in Mississippi, and that he had always defended segregation. He said that his ancestor had fought in the Civil War under General Nathan Bedford Forrest, from whom Winter had received his middle name.

Swan didn't do as well in the 1971 governor's race. The two Democratic runoff candidates, former district attorney Bill Waller and Lt. Gov. Charles Sullivan, both ran as racial moderates and promised to integrate the state highway patrol. As governor, Waller, who had twice prosecuted Byron de la Beckwith for the murder of Medgar Evers, appointed the first blacks to state posts and ended the Sovereignty Commission by vetoing its funding. (This, to be sure, was the commission that had functioned to maintain segregation in the state.)

Ironically, Waller's opponent in the 1971 general election had been the independent Charles Evers, who was the mayor of Fayette and brother of Medgar Evers.

"What do you think was the bottom line of Richard Nixon's "Southern Strategy" in 1968? Remember, while Nixon was peddling his Southern Strategy, Lee Atwater, the master of GOP dirty tricks, was honing his skills."

The Republican Nixon must have had a pretty poor "Southern strategy" in 1968, since the independent George Wallace carried five Southern states and the Democrat Hubert Humphrey carried Texas. Nixon finished a distant third in Mississippi, with 13.5 percent of the vote.

Nixon clearly had a "national strategy" in 1972, when he carried 49 states.

The Democrats must have a "Southern strategy," since the last three Democratic presidents have been Southerners. Also, the Democratic vice presidential nominees were from the South in 1960, 1988, 1992, 1996, and 2004, and the 2000 presidential nominee was a Southerner.

The "Southern strategy" is one of the basic tenets of the Keepers of Odd Knowledge Society (KOOKS).

Lee Atwater was still a teenager in 1968, and I'm sure he had things on his mind other than political "dirty tricks."

"When [Haley] Barbour entered the governor's race in 2003, he didn't forget some of the old tricks. Barbour played the race card, donning in his lapel a miniature state flag with its Confederacy stars and bars while attacking Democratic Gov. Ronnie Musgrove for trying to change it."

So wearing an emblem of the state flag in one's lapel amounts to playing the "race card," eh? The only time Barbour mentioned the flag in 2003 was when he was asked about it, and he certainly didn't attack Musgrove on the flag issue. Let's not forget that some 64 percent of Mississippians voted to keep our current flag. Even several black-majority counties voted for the current flag.

According to Mr. Bill, the only way any Republican ever wins any election is through "dirty tricks" and/or playing the "race card."


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