By Bill Maher
Former Senator Fritz Hollings died earlier this month. He was a Democrat who went from being a staunch segregationist in the 1960s to endorsing Jesse Jackson for President in 1988. Much like West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd, the Democrat who went from being an active member of the KKK in the 1950s to a powerful champion of civil rights. Republicans always bring up Byrd as a big gotcha – “A Democrat in the KKK!” – but leave out the key plot twist: he spent the rest of his life earning redemption.
Contrast this with Tucker Carlson, who’s about to turn fifty as his political views turn one hundred. On the neo-Nazi website “The Daily Stormer,” he was praised “for covering all our talking points.” This is the kind of thing that should inspire change, but he’s proud not to.
This is an elemental difference between liberals and conservatives: to liberals, evolving is a feature. To conservatives, it’s a bug. Democrats should embrace being the party not only of scientific Evolution, but also personal evolution. To do this, you have to make it easier for sinners to sign up. It’s much more inviting if they think, to join your club, they don’t have to be perfect. They just can’t be Tucker Carlson.
The other day, Barack Obama said, “One of the things I do worry sometimes about progressives in the United States… is a certain kind of rigidity where we say, ‘Oh, I’m sorry, this is how it’s going to be.’ And then we start sometimes creating what’s called a ‘circular firing squad’ where you start shooting at your allies because one of them is straying from purity on the issues.” He’s talking about policy here more than racial attitudes, but the two are linked. And he’s right to worry.
The stories of Fritz Hollings and Robert Byrd – deeply flawed Southern Senators who ended up being deeply mourned by the NAACP – serve as good reminders that the focus must always stay on progress, not perfection.