TRENT LOTT’S ENDORSEMENT OF AFFIRMATIVE ACTION wasn’t an abandonment of his racist past, of course. It was just an endorsement of racism in a different guise. Shelby Steele points out the double standard:

No doubt the abuses of racism once made the democratic imagination a centerpiece of black American culture. The rhetoric of Martin Luther King was about nothing else. But the race-focused reforms that became entrenched after the 1960s have made the black imagination more self-referential. Now we imagine ourselves more than others, although depressingly seldom as conservatives. Universities across the country provide “ethnic theme dorms” to spare the young the stresses of developing a democratic imagination. And how many million blacks have a fellow-traveling affection for Louis Farrakhan, who is as ardently opposed to interracial dating as anyone at Bob Jones University?

Today America supports a racialist value system for minorities while demanding a democratic expansion of the white imagination. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus can embrace “blackness” and demand government preferences exclusively for their race. Remove the double standard and Trent Lott looks perfectly innocent by comparison.

But not so innocent that he should remain Majority Leader.

UPDATE: As Michelle Boardman writes: “Lott has insulted anyone who wants unbigoted political representation by implicitly arguing that an endorsement of affirmative action demonstrates his purity.”

This oped by Abigail Thernstrom, meanwhile, notes that:

After an era of liberal leadership, the typical black or Hispanic student graduates from high school today with junior high skills, according to the federal National Assessment of Educational Progress.

If Mr. Lott cedes civil rights issues to the Democrats, how can Republicans in Congress join the majority of black parents who want vouchers so that their children can escape public schools that have become graveyards for hope?

For years, Republicans have run in terror from most controversial race-related issues. But it was not always so. More than 80 percent of Republicans in Congress voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Congressional Republicans can recapture the moral high ground — but not if their Senate leaders are unable to stand up to groups that are often at odds with the interests and even the views of their own minority constituents.

Lott has sold out everyone — from his own party to black schoolchildren who are ill-served by pork-obsessed interest groups — to save his skin. And he hasn’t abandoned racism, but has endorsed it out of opportunism and cowardice. That’s why he has to go.