Monday, December 20, 2010

Haley Barbour, Jim Crow Republican

I've described Mississippi Gov. Haley "Boss Hogg" Barbour as "a crazy blowhard" but "pretty much your perfect Republican."

And his history of racism (and cozying up to racism) has been well-documented -- for example, the fact that he has a Confederate flag signed by Jefferson Davis in his office, not to mention the fact that he has been involved with the Council of Conservative Citizens, a segregationist group.

In many ways, Barbour is a throwback to the Jim Crow Deep South, and so it hardly comes a surprise that he thought the Old South of racism and segregation wasn't so bad:

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour says he doesn't remember the Civil Rights era being "that bad," citing his attendance at a Martin Luther King Jr. rally nearly 50 years ago.

"I just don't remember it as being that bad," Barbour (R), 63, told the conservative Weekly Standard, which did a lengthy profile on the governor. "I remember Martin Luther King came to town, in '62. He spoke out at the old fairground and it was full of people, black and white."

Yes, I'm sure Barbour just loved MLK. TPM's Eric Kleefeld has more:

As Barbour recalls it in a new profile in The Weekly Standard, things weren't so bad in his hometown of Yazoo City, which took until 1970 to integrate its schools (though the final event itself is said to have gone on peacefully). For example, Barbour says that there was no problem of Ku Klux Klan activity in the town -- thanks to the Citizens Council movement, an organization that was founded on the basis of resistance to integration and the promotion of white supremacy.

"You heard of the Citizens Councils? Up north they think it was like the KKK," said Barbour. "Where I come from it was an organization of town leaders. In Yazoo City they passed a resolution that said anybody who started a chapter of the Klan would get their ass run out of town. If you had a job, you'd lose it. If you had a store, they'd see nobody shopped there. We didn't have a problem with the Klan in Yazoo City."

So there wasn't the Klan, but that's only because there was the Klan-lite, Citizens Councils that fought for the same things:

The White Citizens Council movement was founded in Mississippi in 1954, shortly after the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision that outlawed segregated public schools, and was dedicated to political activities opposing civil rights -- notably boycotts of pro-civil rights individuals in Barbour's hometown, as opposed to Barbour's recollection of actions against the Klan. It was distinguished from the Klan by the public self-identification of its members, and its image of suits and ties as opposed to white robes and nooses.

A Barbour spokesman claims that the governor isn't a racist, but the evidence keeps piling up. At the very least, he seems to have, and to have had, no problem with racism, including the organized racism of these councils.

As Matthew Yglesias points out, after all, the council in Yazoo City was actually a white supremacist group, not some benign anti-KKK group. Are we to believe that Barbour doesn't know this? Please.

Haley Barbour is just your basic Jim Crow Republican.


Earlier this year, I happily endorsed Barbour for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. I stand by that in light of these new revelations.

He's pretty much the perfect Republican nominee, more perfect than Palin, more perfect than Huckabee. He's pretty much the incarnation of what it means to be a Republican. And so the Republicans would be stupid not to hand him the nomination should he decide to run.

As Jonathan Chait has written, "There are people who think that the solution to the GOP's image problem is to nominate a sleazy, corpulent, cigar-chomping lobbyist from the Deep South? Is Boss Hogg unavailable?"

You certainly don't need Boss Hogg when you've got the real thing.

Haley Barbour '12!
Because you can't be too Republican.

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