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Published on Thursday, February 10, 2000 in the New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/library/opinion/herbert/021000herb.html  
Wave Goodbye To That Fantasy Of A More Inclusive Republican Party
by Bob Herbert
 

Wave goodbye to that fantasy of a more inclusive Republican Party.

George W. Bush and John McCain have planted themselves on the wrong side of the Confederate flag issue. And last week, there was Mr. Bush in Greenville, S.C., happily touting "our ideas, Republican ideas, conservative ideas" at Bob Jones University, which maintains its perverse rules against the mingling of races and its disgusting hostility to the Catholic religion.

Love is fine at B.J.U. as long as it doesn't cross the color line. Mr. Bush's brother and sister-in-law -- Jeb Bush, the governor of Florida, and his Mexican-born wife, Columba -- would have been condemned and expelled from Bob Jones for having dared to fall in love and marry.

Nice place.

The former head of the university, Bob Jones Jr., engaged in an astonishing series of attacks on Catholics in the 1980's, asserting that "all the popes are demon-possessed" and that Pope John Paul II was "the greatest danger we face today."

"The papacy," he said, "is the religion of Antichrist and is a satanic system."

On Tuesday I asked a spokesman for the university, Jonathan Pait, if the school had ever repudiated Mr. Jones's statements, or backed off of them in any way.

"I don't believe so," he said.

According to Mr. Pait, "There is a disagreement about what the Bible teaches between Catholicism and Protestantism. And the university takes a very strong stand that Protestantism is the correct interpretation of Scripture."

I asked about interracial dating.

"There is to be no interracial dating," he said. "That is the policy."

When I asked why the policy had been established, he replied, "Because there is a held belief from way back in the institution that that was biblically wrong."

Bob Jones has black students, but Mr. Pait said he didn't know how many. He said the ban on interracial dating did not imply that the school loved any of its students less. "It doesn't matter to us what The Washington Post or The New York Times thinks," he said. "It's when I can look my black or Oriental or Indian or whatever color brother or sister in Christ in the eyes and say, 'I love you.' That's what matters."

Mr. Bush's campaign appearance at Bob Jones reminded me of Ronald Reagan's first major appearance in the 1980 general election. Mr. Reagan chose to kick off his presidential bid in Philadelphia, Miss., which just happened to have been the place where three civil rights workers -- Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and James Chaney -- were murdered in 1964.

During that appearance Mr. Reagan told his audience, "I believe in states' rights."

Enough said.

Mr. Bush's entanglement in the Confederate flag issue is not limited to the controversy over the flag that flies over the Statehouse in Columbia, S.C. Mr. Bush has his own controversy back home. Complaints have erupted over displays of the rebel flag in public buildings in Texas, including some public schools.

Defenders of the Confederate battle flag like to characterize it as a cherished symbol of a benevolent and oh-so-civilized Southern past, rather than a banner representing the twin abominations of slavery and race hatred. They might want to take a look at the Texas Ordinance of Secession, dated Feb. 2, 1861.

The ordinance declares that Texas was received into the Confederated States "as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery -- the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits -- a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time."

The ordinance said Texas' "institutions and geographical position established the strongest ties between her and other slave-holding States of the confederacy."

Benign?

Civilized?

For many years the Republican Party has been a haven for reactionary, right-wing and racist elements in the society. Many of its candidates have pandered to those elements.

There is not much in the way of change that can be perceived on the horizon.

###

Copyright 2000 The New York Times Company

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