"George Wallace never threw a bomb," Lewis noted. "He never fired a gun, but he created the climate and the conditions that encouraged vicious attacks against innocent Americans who were simply trying to exercise their constitutional rights. Because of this atmosphere of hate, four little girls were killed on Sunday morning when a church was bombed in Birmingham, Alabama."
Is there really anything else to say? OK, maybe a little. Lewis didn't say McCain/Palin were George Wallace, but he rightfully noted that Wallace--among others--stoked anger and hate for his own political ends, which in turn led to a lot of death. There are a couple other parrellels which are worth noting:
A black lawyer recalls, "Judge George Wallace was the most liberal judge that I had ever practiced law in front of. He was the first judge in Alabama to call me 'Mister' in a courtroom." Later, when a supporter asked why he started using racist messages, Wallace replied, "You know, I tried to talk about good roads and good schools and all these things that have been part of my career, and nobody listened. And then I began talking about niggers, and they stomped the floor."
He was defeated by John Patterson in Alabama's Democratic gubernatorial primary election in 1958, which at the time was the decisive election, the general election still almost always being a mere formality. This was a political crossroads for Wallace. Patterson ran with the support of the Ku Klux Klan, an organization Wallace had spoken against, while Wallace was endorsed by the NAACP.
After the election, aide Seymore Trammell recalled Wallace saying, "Seymore, you know why I lost that governor's race?... I was outniggered by John Patterson. And I'll tell you here and now, I will never be outniggered again." In the wake of his defeat, Wallace adopted hard-line segregationism, and used this stand to court the white vote in the next gubernatorial election.
UPDATE: For the record, Obama's response was pitch perfect. One thing I truly respect about Barack is his unwillingness to do the Sista Souljah movet. He is nuanced, thoughtful and self-critical when it comes to black folks. But I've never seen him throw us over the bridge--despite white pundits repeatedly calling on him to do it. As a black person, I have tremendous respect for that.
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