Bill Frist plays the race card

Before the entire conservative movement dislocates its collective shoulder patting itself on the back about having purged itself of racism — by demoting Trent Lott to the lowly position of United States Senator — here’s a world from our alternate Majority Leader, courtesy of Josh Marshall’s Talking Points Memo. Marshall quotes a Frist campaign speech from 1994:

While I’ve been transplanting lungs and hearts to heal Tennesseans, Jim Sasser has been transplanting Tennesseans’ wallets to Washington, home of Marion Barry.

Perhaps someone can come up with an innocent (i.e., non-racist) meaning for that speech. But I can’t. Sasser wasn’t backing extra payments to the DC municipal government. Presumably, by “transplanting Tennesseans’ wallets to Washington,” Frist meant supporting federal programs generically. (Tennessee, like most of the red states, is of course a huge net gainer from the Federal fisc, but let that pass.) So what did Marion Barry have to do with the price of fish?

As Marshall adds, there’s no reason to think that Frist is a racist personally, any more than there’s reason to think that about GWB. But each of them was willing to benefit from frankly racial appeals when the chips were down, because that’s a principal way Republicans win elections in the South. If the Republicans want to shed the stigma of racism, they’re going to have to be willing to give up its benefits.

Really and truly, it wasn’t just Lott.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: