Deciding by lott

1. The Republicans are going to let Lott bleed from now until January 6? Madness, madness! Just on tactical grounds, they need to get this out of the way fast. By the same token, those who are outraged about Lott will now need to keep the pressure on for three more weeks.

2. Given the nature of the1948 campaign, the references to Lott’s losing his job as “lynching” by Pat Buchanan and Richard Shelby are in astonishingly poor taste. Lynching victims didn’t get to retire to lucrative lobbying practices.

3. The newspapers keep referring to the issue as Lott’s speech. That’s wrong. The issue is Lott’s career as a race bigot, forced into the public’s attention by the speech. As someone remarked, apologizing for what you did makes sense. But there’s no point apologizing for who you are.

4. Republican senators are largely discussing this, in public, in tactical terms: Has Lott been so damaged that he can no longer be an effective leader? None of them seems to feel that there’s any moral issue about being led by someone with unreconstructed racial attitudes. (Two interesting statistics: The claim that Lott gets a third of the black vote turns out to be a lie; the actual figure for 2000 was 11%. Of 65 people on Lott’s staff, one, a mailroom clerk, is black.) That Republicans see the problem in tactical rather than moral terms is implicit in the proposal to lure Lott to step down from the leadership by making him a committee chairman. The gap between the elected leadership and the Republican opinion visible in the media (including blogging as a medium) couldn’t be more profound.

5. Lott is a race bigot. Nickles’s bigotry is around sexual orientation. Question to Republican senators: Do you regard that as an improvement, and does it satisfy you?

6. We’re going to hear about how tough this is for the Republican moderates. In some ways Nickles is worse than Lott. But the vote in the Caucus isn’t the final vote. There is then a vote in the full chamber, determining which party is the majority. If any of the moderates say that they will not vote at that point to make a bigot Majority Leader, then the rest of the caucus will have a choice between selecting a non-bigot or selecting a bigot to lead what will then be the minority.

7. That point should be driven home. If Trent Lott hangs on as majority leader, or if Nickles replaces him, it will be because Lincoln Chafee and Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe and Arlen Specter and Bill Frist and Dick Lugar find that result acceptable. If the whole town doesn’t have more than one righteous person in it, the right thing to do is obvious: leave, and don’t look back.

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: