Ed Driscoll

The Menacing Mr. Wilson

With Trent Lott riding off into his hair the sunset, it’s worth flashing back to Reason magazine in December of 2002, when, inspired by Lott’s urge to party like it was 1948, Charles Paul Freund wrote:

It was Inauguration Day, and in the judgment of one later historian, “the atmosphere in the nation’s capital bore ominous signs for Negroes.” Washington rang with happy Rebel Yells, while bands all over town played ‘Dixie.’ Indeed, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, who swore in the newly elected Southern president, was himself a former member of the Ku Klux Klan. Meanwhile, “an unidentified associate of the new Chief Executive warned that since the South ran the nation, Negroes should expect to be treated as a servile race.” Somebody had even sent the new president a possum, an act supposedly “consonant with Southern tradition.”

This is not an alternate world scenario imagining the results of a Strom Thurmond victory in the 1948 election; it is the real March 4, 1913, the day Woodrow Wilson of Virginia moved into the White House. The details, above and below, are drawn from the work of historian Lawrence J. Friedman, especially 1970’s The White Savage: Racial Fantasies in the Postbellum South.

Wilson plays a surprisingly large role in the early chapters of Jonah Goldberg’s upcoming Liberal Fascism, of which Kevin Holtsberry has some thoughts. (And having read the book’s galleys myself, watch this space for lots from me on its topics in the coming months.)