So Trent Lott is packing it in as grand poobah of the Senate, telling the world that:
"In the interest of pursuing the best possible agenda for the future of our country, I will not seek to remain as majority leader of the United States Senate for the 108th Congress."
We can all be excused for figuring that the guy who led the charge to restore Jefferson Davis' U.S. citizenship would have fought a little harder for his own personal Lost Cause, but go figure.
The real challenge for the Republican Party starts now. As any number of liberal commentators have pointed out, Lott's policy positions on affirmative action and related issues are "indistinguishable" from those of any other conservative pol.
If the GOP is serious about changing the widespread perception that it doesn't give a rat's ass about the condition of blacks in America, it needs to make its case for a truly colorblind society in front of darker-skinned audiences than those it has courted at least since Richard Nixon's 1968 presidential campaign.
An America in which people are judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin is a powerful one–indeed, it gave the original civil rights movement the moral high ground over segregationists. It also stands in stark contrast to the corrosive identity politics that the Democrats tend to traffic in. Yet if the Republicans–and conservatives more generally–want credibility on the issue with both blacks and whites, it has to prove that its invocation of "colorblindness," states rights, and all the rest aren't covert ways of playing to reactionary whites.
One key issue that may be an early indicator is education. Increasing school choice at all levels and in all ways is exactly the sort of "conservative" reform that would help all Americans, but especially those stuck in ailing inner-city systems, which tend to have disproportionate numbers of minorities. If the Republican leadership at national, state, and local levels moves on that quickly, it may well be a sign the GOP is serious about regaining its "Party of Lincoln" status.