Thursday, 14 October 2004

White-collar Klan back in the news

According to the Clarion-Ledger, a new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center indicates Mississippi Supreme Court justice Kay Cobb and U.S. Rep. Roger Wicker spoke at a Council of Conservative Citizens event in Byhalia, Miss. (a small town southeast of Memphis) four years ago, and that a sitting Republican member of the state legislature, Tommy Woods, is a member of the organization. (Woods is apparently something of a “joiner”; he’s also a Mason, Shriner, and a Gideon.)

The so-called “white-collar Klan” and its sponsorship of the quadrennial “Blackhawk” political rally was an issue in last year’s governor’s race, and Sen. Trent Lott’s links with the group added to the firestorm after his appearance at Strom Thurmond’s birthday celebration in 2002.

Thursday, 30 October 2003

What they said

Steven Taylor, here and here, and Matthew Stinson both do me the favor of explaining why I’m not a huge fan of the Stars and Bars Southern Cross. Steven says it far more eloquently than I could:

My question to those who are adamantly in favor of the flag: why? What does it uniquely mean to you about your Southern heritage? And even if it means something dear to your heart, isn’t whatever it is you wish to extol being tainted by what the flag signifies to others?

I think a lot of white Southerners do, deep down, recognize that; hence why I often hear comments like “the blacks are just pretending they’re offended by the flag” or “I know one black guy who isn’t offended, so I really don’t think blacks in general are.” So I think the key to change here is not necessarily to get whites to change their views about the flag, but rather to convince them that blacks’ views on the flag are genuinely-held, rather than a fabrication of the NAACP and the SCLC and professional race-baiters like Al Sharpton.

Meanwhile, if you’re not entirely sick of the gubernatorial campaign, you can read this Emily Wagster Pettus piece on the Rebel flag’s role in the gubernatorial race. And, as a special bonus, Amy Tuck finally signed that affidavit saying she’d never had an abortion (no, don’t ask… I don’t even pretend to understand what that’s all about).

Friday, 24 October 2003

State election roundup

Lauren Landes, guesting at Patrick Carver’s Ole Miss Conservative blog, notes that Haley Barbour has picked up endorsements from 42 state Democrats, angering the state Democratic Party leadership. The list of Barbour endorsers is here. In general, it looks like a list of has-beens and small fry; notably, no current member of the state House or Senate appears on the list.

Meanwhile, Eric Stringfellow continues to blast Haley Barbour from the pages of the Clarion-Ledger.

Tuesday, 21 October 2003

The not-so-great debate

Mark at Not Quite Tea and Crumpets posts his thoughts on last night’s gubernatorial debate, which is thankfully the last of the campaign season. He was rather underwhelmed by Ronnie Musgrove’s performance. (I missed the debate; hopefully C-SPAN will re-run it in the next day or so, but who knows?) The Jackson Clarion-Ledger also has an account of the debate.

In other gubernatorial news, Clarion-Ledger columnist Eric Stringfellow is unimpressed by Haley Barbour’s response to his picture being used by the Council of Conservative Citizens on their web site.

Monday, 20 October 2003

HaleyWatch Day 5

Today is the second day with nothing new in the mainstream media about the Haley Barbour/Council of Conservative Citizens flap. (Today’s Clarion-Ledger pieces on the campaign both focus on voters’ lack of interest in the campaigns’ attack ads: see here and here.)

Bloggers like Kevin Drum and Atrios who jumped on the story early no longer seem interested in giving it any traction, probably because “their guy” looks about as bad as Barbour does. I can’t really blame them—after all, since it’s not about a party but rather about a whole state political elite that lends groups like the CofCC credibility, there’s no real “story” any more, if by “story” you mean “something to beat over the head of Republicans.” Moderates indeed.

The message is clear: those Mississippians who care that an avowedly racist organization is actively involved in the campaigns of both major parties in our state will receive no support in trying to get rid of this cancer from other folks—whether in the mainstream media or the blogosphere—unless there’s some partisan “win” involved. Thanks. We appreciate it.

Elsewhere in the blogosphere:

My earlier posts are here.

Sunday, 19 October 2003

The joys of self-contradiction

I wrote here:

On the other hand, given Musgrove’s own admission of past participation in the rally, I find it hard to fault Barbour for attending it this year. And—barring further revelations—I’m willing to give Barbour the benefit of the doubt.

But, within hours, I also wrote:

Yet despite these ties, many politicians—black, white, Democrat, Republican—continue to attend the rally, as the Magnolia Report correctly notes. As I’ve noted before, however, this is exactly the sort of thing the Council thrives on: the appearance of respectability. Getting its members in positions to glad-hand political candidates is what they want, and the Black Hawk Rally was a prime opportunity. And it’s time that Mississippi’s politicians told the Black Hawk folks once and for all, thanks but no thanks.

A bit of explanation is in order. When I wrote the first post, I was still buying Bill Lord’s allegation that the rally and barbecue were separate events, with the rally sponsored by groups unaffiliated with the Council; I don’t consider this allegation credible any more.

If I were to rewrite my first statement in terms of what I know now, I would have to say that I fault Haley Barbour for attending the rally, as I fault any other candidate for public office who attended it in the past—including Ronnie Musgrove, who’s damn lucky that his smiling face isn’t plastered on the Council’s website right next to Barbour’s. (Barbour does rack up some extra sleaze points for his failure to demand his picture be removed from the site.)

Now, you can make an argument that a principled voter should turn to one of the third-party candidates in the race. However, as a group they’re all fairly unappealing: neither the Green Party nor the Reform Party deserve even the miniscule amount of added credibility that my vote for their candidates would give them, and the other alternative is running under the slogan “Keep the Flag, Change the Governor.”

More to the point, in a close, winner-takes-all election it is irrational for voters to cast a ballot for a candidate with a negligible chance of winning the election if they have transitive preferences among the candidates with non-negligible chances to win—which is political science speak for “vote for a major-party candidate if you prefer him or her over one of the other major-party candidates.” And in this campaign—taking into account my policy preferences and the fact that on most issues of consequence Musgrove’s position is more illiberal* than Barbour’s—at the moment I still have to give a small edge to Barbour, notwithstanding his pathetic handling of this situation and refusal to come out forthrightly against the Council’s use of his picture.

HaleyWatch Day 4

In the mainstream media today:

  • The DeSoto Times Today carries a writeup of its editorial board’s Friday meeting with Ronnie Musgrove.
  • The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a lengthy article on the state gubernatorial race, which explains where the “Keep the Flag, Change the Governor” signs and bumper stickers came from:
    This year, in addition to [Green Party candidate Sherman Lee] Dillon, there’s a Reform Party candidate, Shawn O‘Hara, and John Thomas Cripps, who’s running on the memory of the 2001 state flag referendum, in which voters resoundingly turned down a design—favored by Musgrove and most of the state’s business community—that would have removed the Confederate battle emblem. His posters urge voters to “Keep the Flag, Change the Governor.”
  • Delta Democrat Times columnist Amy Redwines considers her vote. She writes in part:

    I used to be happy to live here, as did a lot of other young people. But that was before I grew up and began to understand what kind of situation this state is in. I love Mississippi, and it will always be my home.

    We need a person in the governor’s mansion who can make this state do a 360-degree turnaround. If that doesn’t happen, we will continue to slide downhill.

    People already think Mississippi is chock full of backward rednecks and bigots, but there is more to the people here than those superficial perceptions.

  • Jackson’s alt-weekly, the Free Press has an extensive comment thread on the Barbour/CofCC/Blackhawk situation.

In the blogosphere and thereabouts:

This post will be updated throughout Sunday; previous posts can be found here.

Saturday, 18 October 2003

HaleyWatch Day 3

No new mainstream media coverage today of the Haley Barbour/Council of Conservative Citizens flap; the best resource is still Friday’s Associated Press report by Emily Wagster Pettus, who covers the Mississippi political beat for the AP. (Abbreviated versions have appeared elsewhere, including in today’s New York Times, but for the whole context I recommend reading the full version.)

However, the Jackson Clarion-Ledger’s lead editorial Saturday calls on Barbour, and other Mississippi politicians, to repudiate the Council. They write, in part:

Separatist groups — whether predominantly white or black — have no place in modern Mississippi. Neither do groups that preach hatred and distrust of religious groups.

The CCC is entitled to its views and enjoys all First Amendment rights to publish and display what it pleases on its Web site. But, at some point, Mississippi’s political elite in both parties need to stop winking and nudging over the CCC’s obvious entrenchment at the Black Hawk political gatherings and decide if they want to be identified with white supremacist and anti-Semitic rhetoric.

Sunday’s New York Times Magazine carries a lengthy, mostly negative profile of Barbour. It contains something that might be some more grist for the mill:

According to [Gene] Triggs, the once thriving town [Yazoo City] has never recovered from the period of school integration in the 1970’s and 80’s, when many whites, like Haley and Marsha Barbour, packed their children off to the private academies that were opening across the state. “Any parent has the right to send their kids where they can get the best education,” Triggs says, but keeping your kids in public school “was one positive stand a person could take to make the community better. I felt he should have exerted some leadership, and he never did.”

Around the blogosphere, things have also gotten quiet; apparently, some of those who jumped on for partisan advantage are having trouble trying to justify Democrats’ past participation in the rally, including appearances by Ronnie Musgrove and attorney general Mike Moore. However, there are at least some new posts:

My posts on the topic, in reverse chronological order, appear here.

Friday, 17 October 2003

Black Hawk rising

Trying to figure out this whole Black Hawk thing is a bit of a headache. Atrios is understandably confused about the ties between the two events, while Greg Wythe wants to know how Barbour got photographed with a Council of Conservative Citizens officer even though he wasn’t at the CofCC Black Hawk event. First the facts:

  • The Black Hawk (or Blackhawk?) political rally is a regular event, attended by politicians of all stripes. Quoth the Magnolia Report:

    Senator Trent Lott has unwittingly given the Blackhawk Political Rally a lot of negative national media attention. However, in the state, it is still viewed as a credible campaign stop by both Democrats and Republicans, white and black. Several hundred people attended the July rally to hear candidates for local office and a handful of state and district-wide candidates.

  • The rally is sponsored by two groups, the Black Hawk Bus Association and the Carrollton Masonic Lodge, according to Council of Conservative Citizens field director Bill Lord (from the WaPo account). The CofCC sponsors a barbecue at the same location that coincides with the rally.

  • Lord served as the emcee for the rally in 2003.

  • In the past, the rally’s sponsorship is more ambiguous. This 1999 Conservative News Service piece indicates that in 1995, the rally itself was sponsored by the Council. Lord was apparently actively involved in that rally as well:

    Lord described the event as “an old fashioned southern political rally that was completely integrated,” with about half a dozen black political candidates speaking and “maybe three dozen” blacks in attendance as spectators. According to Lord, the C of CC’s sponsorship of the event cost “around three or four thousand dollars. We sold barbecued chicken plates to make up the difference.”

  • By all accounts, the Council is an offshoot of the segregationist Citizens Councils, groups with primarily middle-class support that fought desegregation efforts in Mississippi and elsewhere in the South.

Now to the analysis:

If there’s a firewall between the Council and the rally, it’s a pretty porus one. Lord, arguably the most important member of the CofCC in Mississippi, served as emcee. (Imagine, if you will, if David Duke or Louis Farrakhan served as the moderator of a presidential debate.) The Black Hawk Bus Association, the co-sponsor of the rally, buys buses for segregated private academies—an action not much lower on the moral reprehensibility scale than the Council’s white supremicist dogma. It will come as no surprise to learn that the Citizens Councils—the precursor of the CofCC—established the academies in the first place. And the Council apparently sponsored the rally in the past, even if it’s made some nominal separation from it in 2003 (no doubt in reaction to the Lott fiasco, which—quite rightly—made the group into kryptonite for any politician with ambitions beyond serving as county dogcather). So I think it’s fair to conclude, despite Lord’s protestations to the contrary, that the rally has strong ties to the Council and its agenda.

Yet despite these ties, many politicians—black, white, Democrat, Republican—continue to attend the rally, as the Magnolia Report correctly notes. As I’ve noted before, however, this is exactly the sort of thing the Council thrives on: the appearance of respectability. Getting its members in positions to glad-hand political candidates is what they want, and the Black Hawk Rally was a prime opportunity. And it’s time that Mississippi’s politicians told the Black Hawk folks once and for all, thanks but no thanks.

Black Hawk scandal overblown?

Today’s Associated Press report by Emily Wagster Pettus, coupled with similar reporting by The Washington Post’s political columnist Al Kamen, suggests that our friends at the Council of Conservative Citizens have been overblowing their ties to prominent politicians to puff themselves up. Indeed, the Council admitted as much:

Lord said the CCC does not endorse candidates and the Barbour picture was included on the group’s Internet site because the “Web master was just seeking some publicity for our organization.”

But the group did sponsor the Black Hawk rally, right? Well—not exactly:

Lord said the CCC held a separate barbecue the same day as the Black Hawk rally, which traditionally attracts a broad spectrum of candidates, Democratic and Republican. [emphasis added]

And what of the scandalous nature of the Black Hawk event? Democratic incumbent Ronnie Musgrove is no stranger to it:

Musgrove said Thursday he had attended the Black Hawk rally in the past but didn’t this year because of a scheduling conflict.

Did Barbour make a mistake? Sure; he shouldn’t have let himself get photographed with a prominent member of the Council. That’s Politics 101. And frankly I think he should ask the group, politely, to take his picture off the site, although legally he really can’t stop them from using it if they insist on doing so*.

So, to review, for those who don’t read blockquotes:

  • The CCC doesn’t sponsor the Black Hawk rally. (The photo at their site suggests that the emcee of the rally, however, is the “Field Director” of the CCC.)
  • Haley Barbour apparently wasn’t at the group’s barbecue, which is a separate event.
  • Nonetheless, Barbour was photographed in a group with five other people, one of whom was the emcee of the rally and the “Field Director” of the CCC. (Whether Barbour was aware of his affiliation with the group is an open question.)

How does this affect my opinion of the matter? Obviously, I think Barbour should ask the group to remove the photo from their web site. And I’d like to see Mississippi politicians—Republicans and Democrats alike—stop attending the Black Hawk rally, since at the very least the organizers apparently have no qualms about inviting a person with a leadership position in the CCC to serve as emcee of the event.

On the other hand, given Musgrove’s own admission of past participation in the rally, I find it hard to fault Barbour for attending it this year. And—barring further revelations—I’m willing to give Barbour the benefit of the doubt.

* “Rea” in comments at Ricky West’s place says that Barbour would have legal recourse if the group didn’t remove the picture after he requested it. Since IANAL, I’ll take his/her word for it.

HaleyWatch Day 2

Today’s bullet-point summary of what’s happening in the saga of Haley Barbour’s apparent coziness with the Council of Conservative Citizens, better known as the respectable man’s off-shoot of the Ku Klux Klan (which I’ll update throughout the day as events warrant). All of my posts on this topic can be found here. Scroll down for new material as the day progresses; this post will stay at the top until Day 3.

In the mainstream media:

  • The Clarion-Ledger Thursday morning has an extensive piece on the whole flap. Telling quote for those who want to single out Barbour and Republicans for criticism:
    [Democratic nominee Ronnie] Musgrove said Thursday he had attended the Black Hawk rally in the past but didn't this year because of a scheduling conflict.
  • The Washington Post notes that the Council of Conservative Citizens’ ties to the Black Hawk fundraiser may have been exaggerated by the group:
    But Bill Lord, the council’s Mississippi field director and one of the folks in the picture, told our colleague Tom Edsall that it should be noted Barbour spoke to a rally not sponsored by the council but by the Black Hawk Bus Association and the Carrollton Masonic Lodge. The council sponsored the Black Hawk Barbecue at the same event, but that was a separate thing.
  • An article on Barbour campaigning in DeSoto County in the Memphis Commercial Appeal makes no mention of the controversy. Nice to see the CA on the ball here as always.
  • At least they’re in good company; the New York Times doesn't mention it either in their account of the gubernatorial race.

Around the blogosphere:

  • Greg Wythe finds Barbour’s statement regarding the photo rather weak, to say the least.
  • Atrios can’t “wrap [his] head around” the concept that the rally and barbecue are separate. In fairness, it doesn’t help in trying to understand things that the emcee of the rally was a Council of Conservative Citizens officer, but the rally itself isn’t actually sponsored by the CofCC.
  • Alan at Petrified Truth says Barbour has coupled “stupidity” and “moral obtuseness”, on the basis of Fox’s version of the AP report.
  • Ole Miss Conservative’s Patrick Carver thinks Barbour shouldn’t be “too harshly criticized” in light of the AP/WaPo revelations; however, he thinks Barbour should distance himself more forcefully from the CofCC.
  • Ricky West (North Georgia Dogma) has a followup from his post yesterday arguing that Barbour should forcefully repudiate the Council and its views; he’s got a suggested script:
    Hey, it's easy - Bob Barr did something similar - you go on O'Reilly and Larry King and Chris Matthews and say "hey, I had my picture taken with a bunch of people whose views are repugnant. It was a barbeque for the bus association & the masons and their group was a separate thing. It was a mistake to have my picture taken with them, but there were hundreds of voters there - and I'm sure any politician will tell you that it can be confusing when you're in a large group, as the famous video of Bill Clinton hugging Monica Lewinsky during the rope-line gathering will illustrate - and I was shaking hands and getting my picture taken with lots of them. Nonetheless, I demand that such a racist organization remove my picture from the site (even though it's legal to have it there) and I repudiate anything and everything it stands for".

    He also thinks Democrats should consider whether or not Ronnie Musgrove has some questions he should be answering too. Steve Verdon agrees.

  • Mike Hollihan thinks Barbour is now toast.
  • Steve Verdon says “the whole thing simply stinks.” Blog on the Bloch is of similar mind.
  • The Carpetbagger Report (cool blog name, by the way) has a challenge for Barbour.
  • Arthur Silber thinks Republicans should reconsider their party allegiance in light of the situation.

Thursday, 16 October 2003

KlanDay Post #4

I really don’t want to “flood the zone” on this—I have far more interesting things to blog about, and it is a nice day outside—but Patrick Carver’s take is worth reading. He also finds one media account that suggests there’s more to the story—did the Council of Conservative Citizens exaggerate its ties to the rally? And what happened to the black attendees?

The electoral effects of CCC ties

How much do Haley Barbour’s ties to the “white collar Klan” matter? Let’s play a game of Mississippi electoral math (courtesy of the U.S. Census):

Mississippi has just over 2 million people of voting age. 33.0% of the VAP is non-Hispanic black, 64.2% is non-Hispanic white, 1.3% are Hispanic, and 1.5% are “others” of various categories (including 0.5% mixed race). Barring electoral shenanigans, I think we can safely assume the Democrats capture almost all of the 35.8% Hispanic or non-white vote—say 95% of it.* Assuming non-differential turnout, that means about 34% of the vote is locked up already for Musgrove. (If anything, I would expect differential turnout in favor of blacks, as there are two black candidates on the statewide general election ballot.)

So, 66% of the vote is “in play.” Musgrove, who just needs 50% of the total vote to win, needs about another 16%; if you do the math (16%/66%), he only needs about 24.2% white support to win the election. Barbour, on the other hand, needs 75.8% white support, or the votes of just over three-in-four white voters.

Now, where is Barbour going to get those votes? Basically, we can divide white Mississippi into four bits: the Jackson area, the Gulf Coast, DeSoto County, and “everywhere else” (or rural Mississippi). Red meat—waving the Rebel flag, hanging out with the CCC, etc.—works for rural Mississippi; I suspect he gets 80%+ of the white vote in this area (except possibly around Musgrove’s old stomping grounds in north Mississippi), although how much flag-waving he’d need to do is debatable—Musgrove certainly didn’t endear himself with white voters when he limply backed 2001’s flag referendum. Red meat probably also is effective in the Jackson suburbs.

But what about the DeSoto and Gulf Coast regions? Does the CCC strategy cost him votes there? Probably not. The Mississippi press in general don’t spend a lot of time talking about the group, and most people in those parts get their media from neighboring states anyway. Most new voters moving to those areas—the “soccer mom” demographic, if you will—aren’t steeped in Mississippi politics.

Does Barbour absolutely need the CCC to get elected? I doubt it; the group really isn’t that powerful in the grand scheme of things. To the extent they have real political power, it’s because Mississippi politicians treat them as a legitimate organization. On the other hand, as long as Mississippi’s black vote remains largely monolithic (despite the disconnect between the views of rank-and-file black voters and the state’s black elite, particularly on social issues), I’m not sure the state’s Republicans will believe they can afford to lose even a single white vote. And, of course, blacks aren’t going to vote for Republicans in large numbers while the party panders to groups like the CCC.

More on the "white collar Klan"

I was going to compose a long post on the Council of Conservative Citizens, but I realized I said most of what I wanted to say almost a year ago. And, more or less what I said about Trent Lott applies equally to Haley Barbour. One thing I noted at the time:

The group is strongly tied to the whites-only academy system that perpetuates segregation and underinvestment in public education in the state.

The event Barbour was photographed at was a fundraiser for buying new school buses for Mississippi academies. Haley knew why he was there, and he knew who was behind it. If he didn’t, he’s far too stupid to be governor of Mississippi, much less to have chaired the Republican National Committee. (Not that being stupid is a disqualification for office in this state; if so, we’d have to throw out both major-party wackjobs running for lieutenant governor.) And, frankly, even though as a libertarian I’ll defend to the end the right of the segregated academies to exist, and I think that the individuals who send their children to them aren’t necessarily racist (this state is full of horrible public schools, due in no small measure to chronic underinvestment because the state’s elite don’t send their kids to them), I find them to be morally reprehensible institutions that no American of good conscience should support in this day and age.

Coming next: the electoral calculus of pandering to the white collar Klan.

Ricky West isn’t buying the "I didn’t know" defense either. (Link via CalPundit.)

Hangin' with da Klan

Via Matthew Stinson, I note that both CalPundit and Andrew Sullivan have discovered that Haley Barbour’s been photographed with members of the organization best known as the white collar Klan.

I guess it’s time for me to move back into the undecided column again, even given my severe reservations about having another term of Ronnie Musgrove.

Alex Knapp isn’t impressed either. Expect more on this topic from me today…

Meanwhile, Jacob Levy is morbidly curious about the Council’s fixation on the Frankfurt School. I was confused because the only major Institute for Social Research I’d heard of is at Michigan; I'm sure they'd love it if they could be ascribed such influence on human society. (For the record, the Institute for Social Research in question is this one.)