Columnist: Are there similarities between Donald Trump and Trent Lott?

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 12, 2015

By Glenn Dowell

Contributing columnist

Are there similarities between presidential candidate Donald Trump and former ousted Republican Senate majority leader Trent Lott?

Can the republican party rein Donald Trump in or will he become so vile that he will just self-destruct as did former Republican senate majority leader Trent Lott on Dec. 5, 2002.

Amid fear of terrorism, Republican presidential candidates for months have escalated their rhetoric about the place of Muslims in the United States — statements such as mosques should be placed under surveillance and shut down if people are radicalized in them. Comments from Republican front-runner Donald Trump for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” have been the latest salvo for a party aggressively testing the boundaries between concerns about security and discrimination against a religious group (Julie Pace, Dec. 8, 2015, Associated Press).

Trump appears to find a sense of solace in his off-the-cuff comments that some might consider just old fashioned race-baiting.

But will he ultimately become so ridiculous that American voters will realize that his comments validate his being too much of a risk if allowed to become the president of our great country?

Trump actually does remind me of Trent Lott, who ended his career being considered by some as a kind of buffoon and embarrassment to the Republican party. In the early 2000s, Sen. Trent Lott had also become an albatross around the neck of the Republican Party. His culturally insensitive comments made at Strom Thurmond’s 100th birthday party caused a surfeit of woes for the party.

Lott, caught up in the celebration for a man known as the personification of the consummate Dixiecrat, who during his lifetime stood firmly entrenched against any federal or state civil rights legislation designed to empower blacks, said in effect, that the country essentially took the wrong course in not embracing Thurmond’s divisive politics.

What Lott essentially said on that day of infamy on Dec. 5 was that when Strom Thurmond ran for president, South Carolina voted for him.

“We’re proud of it, and if the rest of the country had followed our lead we wouldn’t have continued to have all these problems over all of these years.”

When the press got wind of his comments, some Republican leaders immediately began to distance themselves from him in order not to be associated with his brand of politics. President George Bush, when questioned about Lott’s comments, immediately gave notice that he would not be bailing Lott out of his predicament. The lackluster secretary of state, Colin Powell, was even allowed to utter a few sanitized statements to condemn Lott for his comments.

There were calls from some members of his own party for him to resign as senate majority leader. The Congressional Black Caucus in their leadership Summit, leading up to the actual resignation, condemned his inflammatory statements and also called for him to resign. It was not difficult for Republican leaders to understand that if Lott was influential enough to be the senate majority leader, that the public could conceivably believe that his comments echoed the sentiments of the party.

Backed into a corner, Lott attempted to form an alliance with blacks — Trump attempted the same with black ministers who were promptly marginalized in the media as being puppets — including appearing on Black Entertainment TV. He indicated in these interviews that he made a poor choice of words that were mistakes of the head and not the heart.

He insisted he was trying to honor Mr. Thurman for his work on national defense and fiscal matters, not his defense of segregation. Even though Lott could not secure traction in the black media, he did have the support of one black leader.

U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a Democrat, came to the defense of Lott. During the Lott debacle, Lewis indicated that he could forgive him for his comments.

Lewis went on to say that he would not support a move to oust Lott from his leadership position. Guess what? It was John Lewis who was quoted by Lott’s supporters on virtually every major television and radio station in the country as being the true barometer of how blacks should feel about Lott’s comments.

This is also the same Lewis whom Republicans and shock radio commentators had in the past ridiculed and called inarticulate and a bleeding heart liberal, out of touch with mainstream America.

The support of Lewis could not save the Senate Majority leader. When the story broke, it may not have necessarily caused a major firestorm of publicity right away, but within 15 days, Lott was gone and his rising political ambitions went stone cold dead.

America is the worldwide symbol of opportunity and freedom. The principles of justice, opportunity, equality and racial inclusion must continue to be the foundation of this great country. It is time to also say goodbye to Mr. Donald Trump.

Over the past several months Trump has provided America with a great comedy show where he has been the producer and its star. Trump has failed to realize, however, that buffoons don’t wait until the “fat lady sings” to call it quits.

Goodbye, Mr. Trump, the public in the very near future will certainly say: you are fired!

Glenn Dowell is an author and LaGrange native who currently lives in Jonesboro. He may be reached at