In early March of 1972 the The New York Times Op-ed pages ran the following letter from former Alabama governor and Presidential Candidate — then on his third run, second as a Democrat — George Wallace:
The American people are fed up with the interference of government. They want to be left alone. Once the Democratic party reflected true expressions of the rank-and-file citizens. They were its heart, the bulk of its strength and vitality. Long ago it became the party of the so-called intelligentsia. Where once it was the party of the people, along the way it lost contact with the working man and the businessman. It has been transformed into a party controlled by intellectual snobs.
What did the Democratic Party do that angered Wallace so? Some of them were in favor of desegregation. In fact, Wallace’s dislike of Civil Rights caused his first failed presidential run in 1964, attempting to primary President Lyndon Johnson.
Now look at the date of the quote. It’s early winter for racism. The Civil Rights Act had been in place for eight years, The Voting Rights Act for seven, and The Fair Housing Act for four. Shortly after this, we would enter the controversies of affirmative action and desegregated busing. The era where many Americans felt we actually started to move to far in the opposite direction — although many of them felt any change was “to far in the opposite direction,” despite legitimate criticism of those ideas existing. At most, the average segregationist could either hope for a Wallace administration or pray that President Nixon would throw them a bone — and in a few ways he did.
The question to ask is not rather Wallace was a racist or a crackpot. The context to the above rantings as well as both his blocking of the University of Alabama when President Kennedy tried to desegregate it is evidence enough. As well as his first inaugural address as governor (where he praises former Confederate President — and loser — Jefferson Davis and states “ In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”), now that I think about it.
Instead, we should be asking what Senator Sanders thought of the man. According to his supporters, he has an amazing tract record on racial issues, even taking part in the March on Washington with Martin Luther King Jr. (Wallace, for the record, said that “The President [John F. Kennedy] wants us to surrender this state to Martin Luther King and his group of pro-communists who have instituted these demonstrations,” in reference to the men behind the march.)
Well, thanks to The Washington Examiner, we know. Now, fair is fair, and Wallace did renounce his segregationist views during the 1972 campaign — before renouncing his racist views all together in the 1979 — however, the overall langue on his platform did not change.
A “young” Bernie Sanders said Wallace “advocates some outrageous approaches to our problems, but at least he is sensitive to what people feel they need.” What problems were they exactly? According to Wallace, those uppity Negros.
It is just odd that Bernie Sanders would have a kind word to say about this man. For the record, then-Senator Joe Biden, who the Bernie camp declared a racist from the start, said around the same time he’d sooner vote for President Ford than Wallace. But I guess Sanders didn’t grief over Senator Fritz Hollings, so he’s clearly worse.
Even more recently, Sanders has expressed sympathy for those who feel “uncomfortable” voting for an African-American President. While Sanders is not a racist, it’s clear he at least has more sympathy to racists than one should be. Especially one who wishes to paint himself as a hard-core, life-long progressive.
Basically, I kind of feel uncomfortable supporting him.