Where politics is personal not partisan

Why does Robert Byrd Get a Pass?

Robert Byrd Official Photo 111th Congress
Why does Robert Byrd Get a Pass?

The double standards in politics between what happens when Democrats make ‘mistakes’ and Republicans do is astounding, and harmful to us in the long run.

It must be nice to be a Democrat.

You are often given a pass for doing things that, had a Republican (or any other average citizen) done them, would tar them for life. In 2012, we learned that Mitt Romney did something stupid. He – as a high school student in 1965 – cut the long hair of a male classmate. We were treated to long news articles on the behavior. Here’s just a few examples:

Romney hair-cutting prank: School leaders say similar incidents today would bring punishmentThe Washington Post

‘He was an evil bully…it was like Lord of the Flies: Former classmate reveals the ‘real’ Mitt Romney and how he ‘held down gay…student and chopped off his hair’The Daily Mail

Mitt Romney’s history of haircut bullyingThe Observer

Mitt Romney’s prep school classmates recall pranks, but also troubling incidentsThe Washington Post

For the mathematically challenged, Romney had been out of high school 47 years before he ran for president. It’s safe to assume that the bad decisions he made as a teenager did not follow him into adulthood. By all measures Romney – a successful business and family man – is a remarkably decent human being, even if his politics (see: Romneycare) are imperfect.

Yet that one incident branded the man a bully unfit for the Oval Office.

(Romney also gave a woman cancer, kept women locked up in sexist binders, and was going to kill Big Bird, in case you forgot).

But he was a bully for doing something wrong and stupid a lifetime ago; the left and the media hung that incident around his neck, even after he apologized for it. High school kids do stupid things – some of them monumentally stupid and some of them hurtful and downright dangerous. But that’s been the case since time immemorial.  Teenagers are impulsive, immature, and reckless because – mentally and physically – that’s just their nature.

Contrast Romney’s behavior with that of late Democrat Senator Robert Byrd. As an adult in the 1940s, Byrd organized 150 of his friends and acquaintances to form a chapter of the Ku Klux Klan in Crab Orchard, West Virginia. A Klan official was so impressed with Byrd’s organizational skills that he suggested the butcher run for political office, telling him “The country needs men like you in the leadership of the nation.”

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Byrd went on to spend fifty years on Capitol Hill, held leadership posts in the Senate, and helped with the ratification of the Panama Canal Treaty.

Byrd has said that his involvement with the KKK “taught me in a very graphic way what one major mistake can do to one’s life, career, and reputation”…but did it? Byrd enjoyed a very lucrative, decades-long career in the U.S. Senate, including in leadership positions. When Byrd died in 2010, the New York Times called him a “pillar of the Senate” and “an institution within an institution.” Then-President Barack Obama said of Byrd’s passing that “America has lost a voice of principle and reason.” Byrd filibustered the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – speaking for over fourteen hours against the landmark legislation. Is this the “voice of principle and reason” Obama was speaking of?

Byrd didn’t merely join the Klan; he organized and started a chapter. And The Washington Post outlines his beginnings in the Klan:

According to his book, Byrd wrote to Samuel Green, an Atlanta doctor and “Imperial Wizard” of the Ku Klux Klan, in late 1941 or early 1942, expressing interest in joining. Some time later, he received the letter from Baskin, the “Grand Dragon” of mid-Atlantic states, saying he would come to Byrd’s home in Crab Orchard whenever Byrd had rounded up 150 recruits for the Klan.

When Baskin finally arrived, the group gathered at the home of C.M. “Clyde” Goodwin, a former local law enforcement official. When it came time to choose the “Exalted Cyclops,” the top officer in the local Klan unit, Byrd won unanimously.

Byrd was a high-ranking Klan officer who recruited 150 members to his chapter in West Virginia. He continued working as a “Kleagle” until 1943, recruiting new members to the organization. In a letter dated December 11, 1945, Byrd declared he wouldn’t fight in the armed forces “with a Negro by my side” and added “Rather I should die a thousand times, and see old Glory trampled in the dirt never to rise again, than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels.” Byrd even said of the Klan that it was “needed today as never before, and I am anxious to see its rebirth here in West Virginia and in every state in the nation.”

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Does that sound like a guy who joined the Klan merely for political advantage (as if that wasn’t despicable enough)? No…it sounds like a man who enthusiastically embraced the Klan’s ideals.

Indeed, even Byrd’s use of the racial epithet “nigger” wasn’t enough to tarnish his career. Try doing that as someone other than a Democrat or a rap star, and kiss your career and reputation goodbye.

That’s the way of the world: if you’re a Democrat, you can literally hold a high-ranking position in one of the most reviled and despicable institutions that ever existed and all you need to do is apologize and all is forgiven. You will be lauded and praised, and given a half-century tenure in the United States Senate.

Given the new focus on removing from the public all symbols of the Klan and confederacy, shouldn’t more attention be paid to the very long list of institutions, both government and non, named for the former KKK Exalted Cyclops? Why are we not rushing to remove the statue of Byrd that sits predominantly in the West Virginia State Capitol Building?

Why does Robert Byrd get a pass? Why is his behavior dismissed as something he did “in the 1940s” as if the past ever mattered to the left before (see their blame of the Crusades for modern-day terrorism)? Why does every Republican have to forcibly denounce the neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville while Democrats defend and support Byrd? Why should his monuments stand untouched?

Why? Because he’s a Democrat. And they’re okay with this.

At least he didn’t cut someone’s hair.

It must be nice.


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Amy Curtis
About Amy Curtis 29 Articles
I am a mom, nursing student, and conservatarian. I've been a teacher and have a MA in English. I live in Milwaukee, WI (for now) and look forward to starting fresh in a new city soon. When I'm not working or in class, look for me soon at The Binge!

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