Back when I was researching my script The Lady of Mississippi, an interracial romance set in 1926 in the Magnolia State, I came across one of the most mean-spirited men ever to serve in the United State Senate, Theodore Bilbo. This racist Democrat was a member of the Ku Klux Klan and famously filibustered an anti-lynching bill in the Senate. He advocated violence against blacks.
So much did this hate-monger define the worst aspects of Jim Crow that I included him in one scene in the script. Whenever I think of him, I realize that while some of the most noble and principled Americans have served in the United States Senate–as well as a number of dedicated public servants, so have some of the worst rapscallions in American political life.
Following a recount fraught with partisan shenanigans with more votes counted that people who voted, it looks like another such individual, a man of Bilbo’s angry ilk will now serve in the United States Senate.
To be sure, Al Franken embodies a different kind of hate and does not (to my knowledge) advocate violence against his foes, but like that mean-spirited Mississippian, he harbors intense hatred for an entire class of people. For Bilbo, it was African-Americans. For Franken, it’s conservatives and Republicans. And just as Bilbo embodied a political movement so too does Franken.
Fortunately, that movement is not nearly as pervasive or as powerful as was Bilbo’s in its heyday. It does not control state governments which repress some citizens and look the other way when others abuse and murder their fellows.
To Al Franken and his base on MSNBC and in the “netroots,” conservatives don’t just support (what they believe to be) bad ideas, they’re bad people, deserving opprobrium and ridicule.
Tomorrow, should this man will attempt to take a seat in the United State Senate, Republicans should challenge his credentials. They don’t have the votes to prevent him from being seated–as they did in 1947 when they refused to seat Bilbo, but they should, at least, be able to force a vote on seating him. This way, they’ll tie every Democrat in the Senate to the mean-spirited man from Minnesota.
Democrats may well have stolen a Senate seat, but they should at least take responsibility for the theft, especially when it goes to a man who has such a history of harsh language and hatred. It’s a sad day for America when such a man takes office. But, we’ve suffered worse, far worse than Al Franken.
And we’ll survive his stolen success.