On Monday, former Reagan administration official Jeffrey Lord astonished the left and the right by penning an article in the conservative American Spectator attacking former-USDA official Shirley Sherrod for using the term “lynching” to describe the murder of one of her relative years ago. The problem, according to Lord, was that the victim, Bobby Hall was beaten to death by a blackjack, rather than being hanged by the neck. “It’s…possible that she knew the truth and chose to embellish it, changing a brutal and fatal beating to a lynching.”
Critics, even at his own magazine, pounced, noting that a lynching is an extrajudicial murder by a mob, whether or not the weapon of choice is a rope.
Last night, in an interview with TPMDC, Lord defended himself and extended his critique of Sherrod, and the entire Democratic party, which he claims is the true repository of racism in the United States.“I have felt for a long time that my friends on the American left, in the Democratic party have just had this atrocious history with racial issue,” Lord said. “I mean it just can’t possibly be any worse. I’ve gone back and read all the platforms for the Democratic party starting in 1840 which was the first one.”
What’s changed in the last generation, according to Lord, is simply the nature of the Democratic party’s racism.
“What struck me about [the Sherrod speech] was that sort of little, casual aside, where she says something about health care, and ‘I’ve never seen people so mean’ … The implication is — and she uses the phrase at one point ‘the black president’ and ‘we endured the Bush years’. And the implication to me was that she was saying ‘if you didn’t agree with Obamacare then you’re a bigot,'” Lord said. “The essence of the formula is ‘scare race X to death that race Y or Z is coming after them in some fashion, and then, you know, you get all the votes and the money, etc, etc, etc. And that all that’s gone on over a couple years of history of the Democratic party is that the races have changed.”
“What is the difference, really, between Jimmy Byrnes trying to pursue a “white” agenda, and Sonia Sotomayor’s wise Latina comment?” Lord asked rhetorically.
For Lord, the key inconsistency is that Democratic southerners were to blame both for Hall’s murder, and for ultimately overturning the conviction of his killers, and yet, decades later, Sherrod sympathizes with the Democratic party.
“I understand that people on the other side are going to go poopoopoo and the Nixon Southern Strategy and all that kind of thing,” Lord said. “To think that this was just, all these people just switched their party and made the Republican party segregationist is just nuts. I was there.”
Lord stands by his initial criticism too: that Sherrod was wrong to use the term “lynching.”
“Lynching is most serious business,” Lord said. “Let’s just say for the sake of the argument that you’re ‘pro-life’ and you’re an official in the Bush administration at HHS in a comparable job to what Shirley Sherrod has. And you stand up in a neutral forum where you’re there as a government official and you refer to Roe v. Wade as the ‘Baby Killer Act. Holy cow, you don’t think there’d be any reverberation for that?”
“To be an official of the United States government and stand up there and make such a blatantly flammable description, can be interpreted only one way: that you were trying to gin up the so-called pro-life vote,” Lord added. “And to me, what she did here was that equivalent. She used a phrase — the lynching phrase, however she phrased it there — that’s just designed to inflame people.”
Barraged by criticism Monday, Lord later expanded his critique of Sherrod by arguing that Hall wasn’t beaten to death by enough people to constituted a mob, and therefore it couldn’t have been a lynching in two different ways. He stands by that assessment.
“Certainly the image in my head of a lynching is rope around the neck,” Lord told me. “And when we really got into this, it was quite apparent to me that there was all sorts of other things. That there has to be a mob — mob action. Well what is a mob? Is it two people? Is it three people?”
Lord says he doesn’t want Sherrod to lose her job, and urges his fellow conservatives to work toward winning over black voters. “Get out there and engage on race,” Lord said. “There’s no reason in the world that we can’t be getting the black vote. But it’s our job to separate black from left and talk about left and right.”