When did admitting mistakes become weakness for Republicans?

In 2002, Trent Lott of Mississippi tried, awkwardly, to make amends.

What did the then-Senate majority leader do to merit penance? Waxing poetic and perhaps feeling a bit nostalgic, Lott gave a speech honoring the 100th birthday of fellow Republican Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, the onetime Dixiecrat who once broke off from the Democratic Party with a group of the like-minded to form the States’ Rights Democratic Party, built on segregation and steeped in white supremacy.

“I want to say this about my state,” said Lott, harking back to Thurmond’s 1948 folly. “When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn’t have had all these problems over all these years, either.”

First, Lott backtracked by saying he did not mean what he clearly said, calling the celebration “lighthearted.” Next, the apology, “to anyone who was offended.”  “A poor choice of words conveyed to some that I embraced the discarded policies of the past,” he said in a statement. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

He resigned as majority leader after receiving criticism mostly from Democrats but also from some Republicans, worried they might lose support of Black conservative voters for whom whistling Dixie was a step too far.

I’m not sure if Lott’s motive was genuine moral growth or reading the room. But at the very least, it acknowledged that longing for the bad old days was not a good thing.

For reasons exemplary or political or both, anything that name-checked the divisive and ugly politics of Dixiecrat days of glory was seen as a drag for a politician and his or her party. This was true even when the words honored Thurmond, a longtime senator, one whose hypocrisy moved front and center when his Black daughter, Essie Mae Washington-Williams, in 2003 claimed her truth and her birthright.

Was 2002 really that long ago? In political years, apparently, yes.

‘Punching down,’ the political weapon of so-called tough guys

The late great stand-up, actor and occasional philosopher George Carlin was known to cross the lines of what polite society would call good taste, but he himself drew a few lines when it came to his theory of funny.

Asked by Larry King in 1990 about popular bad-boy comedian Andrew Dice Clay, Carlin, while defending Clay’s right to say whatever, said, “His targets are underdogs. And comedy has traditionally picked on people in power, people who abuse their power.” Clay’s core audience, Carlin said, were “young white males” threatened by Clay’s targets, assertive women and immigrants among them.

Rule-breaker Eddie Murphy came to look back on his younger self, the brash young man dressed in leather, and cringe, especially at his jokes about women and relationships, he told The New York Times in 2019. “I was a young guy processing a broken heart, you know, kind of an …” — well, you get the idea.

In today’s cruel world, it’s not just comedians punching down, reaching for the “easy” joke, setting new and low standards, though a few still revel in their ability to shock (see Michael Che and his approving nods to vile remarks about the sexual abuse of young female athletes).

Many who should know better have given up seeking a more perfect union, one that welcomes all. They see advantage in aggression and, unlike Murphy, don’t feel one bit embarrassed when reflecting on their words and actions.

In fact, the “punching” is the point, and it’s always aimed squarely at those perceived as less powerful, from poor and disabled Americans who want to vote without jumping through unnecessary hoops and facing intimidation from poll watchers to transgender children eager to play sports to Black and brown students who would like their role in the country’s history to be taught without accommodation for those too fragile to hear the truth.

POLITICAL WRAP: Senate Unlikely to Support Commission on Capitol Attack

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Legislation to establish an independent commission investigating the attack on the Capitol on January 6th will likely die in the Senate.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is sending strong signals that House Democrats will go it alone if the commission vote fails in the Senate.

POLITICAL WRAP: Liz Cheney Likely to be Ousted from GOP Leadership

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Representative Liz Cheney is likely to lose her position as the number three House Republican.

Cheney is among the few members of the GOP to vote for the second impeachment of then-President Donald Trump.

Our political contributor, Mary C. Curtis, gives us her take in the video above.

The GOP talks a good game, but let’s review those conservative principles

What is the Republican Party in 2021? It’s easier to say what it’s not.

With a majority of the party’s House members voting to invalidate the results of a free and fair election, and a good chunk of its voters going along with the fantasy that Donald Trump was robbed, it’s clear the GOP is not a stickler for democracy or the Constitution. And with most Republican senators not interested in holding an impeachment trial for a former president accused of “inciting an insurrection,” Americans can be pretty sure the party is not too keen on accountability.

It’s not a new contradiction. But while it’s true that the GOP has long instructed voters not to “look behind the curtain,” the mess that is spilling out has become impossible to ignore. The sight of thousands of violent rioters storming the center of legislative government will do that.

So what are just a few of the slogans that have crumbled?