Wednesday, 2 July 2003

More on Strom's legacy

My friend and former colleague Scott Huffmon, an assistant professor of political science at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., gives his perspective on Strom Thurmond’s legacy:

Couple of brief points about Strom (as an expert on southern politics…):
  1. [Steven] Taylor is wrong, he never actually had to use the bucket that had been placed in the cloak room during his 24 hr 18min filibuster (he had purged his body of all excess water by drinking hardly anything and taking constant steam baths for days prior)
  2. He forgot about the wrestling match with [Ralph] Yarborough about [Leroy] Collins’ appt to the Community Relations [Service] in the wake of the CRA of 1964
  3. Strom DID change…he was the first white southern member of Congress to hire a black staffer (in 1971), he was a supporter of the national MLK Jr. holiday in 1986, and he voted to extend the VRA in 1991
  4. it is correct that he is not known for sponsoring any landmark legislation, but he DID serve his constituents amazingly well…including black constituents…eventually
  5. even as a segregationist governor, he helped SC with a business friendly approach that helped alleviate the pain of being virtually abandoned by the navy and bringing SC kicking and screaming out of an agricultural based economy
  6. his REAL impact on the political landscape came with his prominent switch to the Republican party in 1964 along with his help in developing the “southern strategy” (with aid Harry Dent) ...this paved the way for white conservatives across the South to switch parties and irrevocably changed the state of presidential politics, the nature of the Republican party, and (by default with the exodus of southern conservatives) the Democratic party.

Obviously, I am appalled by 90% of his life and career, but to say that he had limited national impact is a fallacy. For good or ill, this man fundamentally altered politics in America.

(I've added a few links and clarifications in brackets.)