November 30, 2002
IS THE ECONOMIST ALWAYS THIS SCATOLOGICAL?Good ol' Strom?: Well, it depends on your perspective. But the old rogue certainly changed American politics (The Economist, Nov 28th 2002)
He quickly softened his views when South Carolina's blacks (who make up 30% of the population) started voting in large numbers. After a black-white coalition defeated one of his protŽgŽs in the 1970 governor's race, Mr Thurmond reinvented himself as an economic rather than a racial conservative. He hired a black staff member, doled out pork to black mayors as well as white, and re-engineered his constituency machine (which is reported to be one of the best in the country) so that it took care of blacks as well as whites. In the 1980s he voted for the voting-rights act and the Martin Luther King holiday. In his re-election in 1990 he won 20% of the black vote.
The Republican Party too has moved on. It may attract paltry black support; and J.C. Watts's imminent retirement may be depriving it of its only black congressman. But the modern Republicans no longer embrace race-charged issues as enthusiastically as they once did. The hard-line segregationists who waved Confederate flags at Mr Thurmond's rallies are a dying breed. Unlike his predecessors, President Bush's main aim is no longer trying to prise conservative southerners from the Democrats (he's got them already). He is trying to appeal to floating voters who are highly suspicious of bigotry. His signature themes are lower taxes and national security, not explosive cultural issues. And he has given blacks conspicuous jobs in his team.
Both the Senate and the White House will put on birthday parties for Mr Thurmond on December 5th. His native state is in the process of naming yet more high schools, government buildings, athletic centres, dams, malls and streets after him. Mr Thurmond is moving into a nursing home close to the house where he grew up. He can contemplate his legacy, while he looks out over pecan trees that he planted as a boy.
Pretty staffers all over Capitol Hill will certainly feel safer--supposedly he even hit on Condi Rice. Posted by Orrin Judd at November 30, 2002 7:46 PM