Friday, September 19, 2008

Last of the Southern Democrats

One of the most interesting things about political parties is the way they change over time. The Republican Party was once the socially liberal party of Abraham Lincoln, now it's the much more socially conservative party of Sarah Palin. The Democrats were once the choice party of the racist South, now they enjoy more minority support (all minorities!) than the Republicans.

But the changes are gradual, for all that they seem immediate (the Democrats under FDR seemed like a lightning transition, same for Repubs under Reagan).

Then there are the holdouts, or perhaps more the hangovers, politicians who make no sense: like Senator Robert Byrd, who first conceived running for political office when a fellow Klan member suggested it, and who voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Byrd is a Democrat, albeit one from West Virginia.

By the way, I am not suggesting that Byrd is worse than any other man of his time, he may just have proven more politically long-lived. Nor am I suggesting that he doesn't deeply regret his past: anything is possible.

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