The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Bernie Sanders: George Wallace Fan?

Posted on | January 31, 2020 | Comments Off on Bernie Sanders: George Wallace Fan?


Should we muster some “strange new respect” for Bernie?

Seven years after Martin Luther King, Jr. referred to George Wallace as “perhaps the most dangerous racist in America today,” a young Bernie Sanders praised the segregationist Alabama governor.
In an interview with the Brattleboro Reformer in 1972, Sanders, then 31, said Wallace “advocates some outrageous approaches to our problems, but at least he is sensitive to what people feel they need.”
Sanders, now a Vermont senator and 2020 Democrat, said, “What we need are more active politicians working for the people.”
The 1972 remarks surprised the interviewer at the time, who wrote that “even though [Sanders] has been labeled a ‘leftist radical’ by some persons, Sanders had some praise for [Wallace].”
On other occasions, Sanders was more critical of Wallace and warned about the allure of white identity politics.

To explain “strange new respect”:

The “Strange New Respect” Award is the invention of Tom Bethell, who noted decades ago how liberals would always start praising a conservative or Republican who showed signs of moderation, Bob Dole being a great example. “New respect” — a phrase you’d actually see in the media — was a euphemism for “moved to the left.”
It is a totem of insincere liberalism, a coy way of attacking present-day conservatives. My corollary is that for liberals, the only good conservative is a dead conservative. Back in the 1960s, William F. Buckley was attacked as a fascist or worse, and dismissed as a retrograde force. Today, of course, liberals call him a “national treasure,” and bemoan that today’s conservatism isn’t more like Buckley.

Can conservatives play the same game? If Bernie praised Wallace back in the day, maybe we are unfair to dismiss him as a simplistic lefty.

Speaking of fairness, it’s important to remember that Wallace actually began his career promising progressive reform, and lost the 1958 gubernatorial election to John Patterson, who ran as an all-out segregationist and implied that Wallace was “soft” on the issue. After that defeat, Wallace vowed (in blunt language I won’t quote here) that he would never lose on that issue again, and he was as good as his word.

Few of our readers are old enough to actually remember those days. I wasn’t born until 1959, and was 13 at the time of the 1972 election, so all of this was really before my time. My parents were both Democrats, and rather liberal by the standards of the Deep South at the time. It is probably a waste of time to try explaining what attitudes were like — what people were like — many decades ago, in an attempt to understand that society. Most people will simply condemn my ancestors as morally inferior, but that condemnation requires a belief that 21st-century America is superior to the America that fought and won World War II.


The way history is taught nowadays makes it easy to forget that the America which defeated Hitler did so with a segregated military, and that all the U.S. troops that fought and died on D-Day were white. Ask yourself: Why is the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia?

Thirty-four Virginia National Guard soldiers from the town of Bedford were part of D-Day. Nineteen of them were killed during the first day of the invasion, and four more died during the rest of the Normandy campaign. The town and the “Bedford Boys” had proportionately suffered the greatest losses of the campaign, thus inspiring the United States Congress to establish the D-Day memorial in Bedford.
The Bedford Boys included three sets of brothers: twins Roy and Ray Stevens, with Ray killed during the landing while Roy survived, Clyde and Jack Powers, with Jack killed and Clyde wounded but surviving, and Bedford and Raymond Hoback, both killed. The losses by the soldiers from Bedford were chronicled in the best-selling book The Bedford Boys by Alex Kershaw, and helped inspire the movie Saving Private Ryan.

This one small community in the Blue Ridge hills near Lynchburg suffered the loss of 19 of its sons on D-Day, and this is a very white part of Virginia. Even today, 93% of the population of Bedford County is white. In 2016, Bedford County voted more than 3-to-1 for Donald Trump (30,659 to 9,768 votes for Hillary Clinton). To put it bluntly, Bedford County is everything the Left hates about America, and this raises questions about the kind of America that George Wallace sought to preserve. Even if we are horrified by the history of Jim Crow, we must acknowledge that our ideas of “progress” tend to overlook those virtues that our allegedly less enlightened ancestors possessed, and that the loss of such virtues — including old-fashioned patriotic courage — is implicated in many of the social problems we suffer as a nation today.

For example, liberals love to talk about inequality:

The men and women who sign up overwhelmingly come from counties in the South and a scattering of communities at the gates of military bases like Colorado Springs, which sits next to Fort Carson and several Air Force installations, and where the tradition of military service is deeply ingrained.
More and more, new recruits are the children of old recruits. In 2019, 79 percent of Army recruits reported having a family member who served. For nearly 30 percent, it was a parent — a striking point in a nation where less than 1 percent of the population serves in the military. . . .
That has created a broad gap, easily seen on a map. The South, where the culture of military service runs deep and military installations are plentiful, produces 20 percent more recruits than would be expected, based on its youth population. The states in the Northeast, which have very few military bases and a lower percentage of veterans, produce 20 percent fewer. . . .
In 2019, Fayetteville, N.C., which is home to Fort Bragg, provided more than twice as many military enlistment contracts as Manhattan, even though Manhattan has eight times as many people.

What does this mean? It means that American military power — the muscle of our foreign policy — rests disproportionately upon the shoulders of Southerners, particularly the children of military veterans. And this inequality in terms of military service has consequences for our national politics, because people who have “skin in the game” (my son is a paratrooper who has served in Afghanistan) are likely to have a much different view of foreign policy than the decadent elite who send their sons to Harvard instead of Fort Benning or Parris Island. The elite have more influence over foreign policy, but their sons are not the ones dodging bullets and mortars to enforce foreign policy, and this is a kind of inequality that liberals don’t seem to care much about.

Well, I don’t know how much that long digression has to do with Bernie Sanders, except that some people seem to think that the best way to beat Bernie is to smear him as a racist. Not in a million years would I ever vote for Bernie, but there are still 5 A’s in “RAAAAACIST!”



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