Southern Strategy Rises Again?

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In one of the opening shots of the 2006 Senate campaigns, the National Republican Senatorial Committee has started running an attack against Senator Robert Byrd on West Virginia television stations. Go watch the ad, or read my transcription:

1952. War in Korea. And Robert Byrd went to Congress. Much changed since then. Byrd voted for soldiers in the 50s; today against body armor in the war on terror. Then he stood with working families; today he votes higher taxes for the middle class. Then Byrd protected our flag; now he votes to allow flag burning. Senator Byrd. We all agree he’s changed. But is it good for West Virginia?

Forget the ludicrousness of finding a few votes that if stretched might appear to be contradictory across a five decade Washington career. Forget the ludicrous attacks that come in the middle. The unseemliness of this ad is much more subtle. Agreed: a lot has changed since 1952, and so has Robert Byrd. And what change is he perhaps best known for? For being an ex-Ku Klux Klan leader, who (eventually) repudiated his repugnant civil rights record. So when the ad says “We all agree he’s changed. But is it good for West Virginia?” I can’t help but hear the ghost of the Southern Strategy whistling Dixie. And didn’t the Republicans just sort of apologize for this sort of thing?

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