DURST: The Buggy Whip of Politics

Ending the 02-03 Major League Judicial Season on a decidedly quirky note, the Supreme Court left the building by blowing liberals a big fat wet sloppy farewell kiss. Managing to skewer two dinosaurs with a single spear, they struck down a Texas anti-sodomy law, effectively legalizing homosexuality nationwide, and killing Strom Thurmond in the process. Oh come on, it was hours afterwards. You know that's why he kicked. He couldn't continue to live in a world where tolerance was mandated, and man-dating was tolerated.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I saw his funeral. I heard the seven brave Senators from extremely safe seats able to clear their busy July calendar, raise their stentorian voices intoning revisionist history eulogies: "The great man had abandoned his segregationist roots, becoming the first Southern politician to hire a black aid." The important word in that phrase is "politician," which means a person willing to carve up dehydrated strips of his mother's butt if it held the hint of a whisper of a glimmer of hope of getting him an extra vote. Expedience trumps philosophy every time.

Courting a paranoid white electorate in 1954, six years after capturing four states in his run for the Presidency on the Dixiecrat ticket, he won the only write-in Senatorial campaign ever by cutting the eyeholes in his pillowcases a little larger than most. In 64, he left the Democratic Party in response to the Civil Rights Act. Of course, once blacks started voting in sufficient numbers, he morphed into this paragon of acceptance. Yeah, right.

What do you think spurred him to set a record for longest speech in Senate history by speaking for 24 hours and 18 minutes straight? The relative merits of shiny varnish versus a flat coat on the woodwork fronting the Senate Gallery's balustrades? Whether children should first be muzzled and then struck or struck and then muzzled? A Paean to Spring in extended iambic pentameter? No, little buddy. It was a filibuster against a civil rights bill. He became famous for equating integration with communism, the 50's version of "Weapons of Mass Destruction."

Because large groups of homosexuals failed to flock to the major metropolitan centers of South Carolina, (quel surprise) Thurmond held no fear of alienating voters when he replaced homosexuals to stand in for blacks as the new improved breed of boogey men out to get hardworking decent normal folks with their unnatural customs, immoral habits, overdeveloped Musical Theater lore and unsolicited redecorating tips concerning finishing glazes.

After the Republican purge in 94, Thurmond chaired the Committee responsible for confirmation of Roberta Achtenberg for an appointment at HUD, Strom instructed her to: "Speak into the machine, please." The machine. For crum's sake, it's been called a microphone since 1908. Dismissing her qualifications, he blurted, "No decent heterosexual has ever engaged in sodomy," which, to their credit, caused the Senate to break into laughter. At the time Thurmond was 94. Probably engaged in sodomy by mistake.

Ironically, Thurmond's death was announced to the Senate by Majority Leader Bill Frist. Not Majority Leader Trent Lott, who was consumed by the firestorm he personally stoked toasting Strom's 100th birthday. "I voted for him and if the rest of the country had done the same, we wouldn't be having all these problems over all these years." He never specified what years, which problems, or who was having them, but the coded message was deciphered as a knowing wink to the assembled true believers. Mourning Strom Thurmond is like mourning the demise of the slave auction poster -- museum pieces both that this country would have been immensely better off without.

Will Durst is a political comedian on his way to Liberia.


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