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.

Wanted this holiday season: More wise men and women on the Hill

Any true connoisseur of “A Christmas Carol” would rank Alistair Sim’s 1951 star turn at the top of the list. It’s impossible to resist sharing the sheer joy of his Ebenezer Scrooge, waking up to discover he’s been given a second chance to become a human being, one who can make the world a better place with generosity and kindness. And he gets something out of the deal, as well.

Cue the happy ending and lessons learned.

For this holiday season, a remake is in order, with Scrooge a sucker for falling for Bob Cratchit’s tale of woe. A raise? Times are tough, or haven’t you heard how many people would love to have that clerk job. The greedy Jacob Marley may not be loved, but he sure would be admired, perhaps even praised, for accumulating as much wealth as possible in this life, with little regard for his soul in the next.

And what’s that hiding under the cloak of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come? Not Ignorance and Want, which come with a warning of harm if these societal ills are ignored. But instead, sacks filled with fraudulent mail-in ballots from Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

The point of so many holiday tales, when you think of it, hinges on transformation — that moment when the protagonist opens his or her heart. Think of the Grinch, whose actual heart seems to grow three sizes when he hears the gift-less residents of Whoville raising their voices in glorious song.

When an insurrection is seen as just another day in America

Is America getting a thirst for blood?

It’s a question I ask after hearing too many Republicans dismiss the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by a violent pro-Trump mob trying to halt the counting of American citizens’ votes as a “normal tourist visit,” in the words of Georgia Rep. Andrew S. Clyde, the same Clyde seen — mouth open and terrified — helping to barricade the besieged doors that day.

When I was a Baltimore schoolgirl, we often visited Washington, D.C., to tour the monuments. It was an easy and informative field trip, barely an hour away by bus. Now kids can occasionally be unruly, and the nuns had to raise their voices once or twice. But I don’t recall ever erecting gallows on the Capitol lawn, breaking windows or pummeling police officers with batons and their own shields. In fact, I’m sure it would have made the front pages if a bunch of Black grade schoolers from St. Pius V Elementary ventured a foot beyond the velvet ropes, let alone desecrated the beautiful marble floors of a government building by using them as a toilet.

Have things changed that much for Clyde and all the others asking Americans and the world not to believe their lying eyes?

When ‘America First’ is a ticket to last place

It came and went in a second, in political time, a proposed idea that proved too racist for the politician reportedly behind it. But an “America First” caucus that was disavowed, sort of, by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and several of her Republican colleagues who at first seemed ready to sign up should be treated as more than a ridiculous sideshow.

The notions that fueled a “draft” stating the group’s principles have lingered, becoming part of a conversation that’s becoming a little less shocking and a lot more routine.

That’s one takeaway from Greene’s enormous fundraising haul, despite her lack of House committee assignments and useful endeavors. Even though the Georgia Republican backed away when the caucus’s endorsement of “Anglo-Saxon political traditions” leaked out, the very idea seemed to excite some GOP lawmakers and ignite a constituency that is larger than many “real” Americans would like to admit.

You know, the real American citizens of every race, creed, color, orientation and national origin, who believe in the ideals of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence without reservation, despite the country’s history of both triumphs and failures on that score. They are the Americans not surprised, but still disappointed that too many of their neighbors, co-workers and elected representatives are willing to toss democracy if that’s what it takes to hold on to the power they perceive to be slipping away, and justify it all with a sense of superiority — cultural and otherwise.

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?