Trent Lott wasn’t always this way.
He was once a conservative champion, who came to Washington to change the ruling-class narrative. But now he’s a profile in what Washington does to you if you stay too long — unless you have Winston Churchill-like courage of conviction, and few mere mortals do.
Mr. Lott was originally part of a group that included former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Rep. Vin Webber, who were dubbed the “Young Turks.” They were among the chief lieutenants of the Reagan Revolution back in the day. Best known for fighting the Fraternal Order of Establishment Republicans. Led back then by men like former House Minority Leader Bob Michel, who only seemed to fight Democrats when they were on the golf course.
In 1992, Mr. Lott was one of seven conservatives who penned a letter to then-President George H.W. Bush, urging him to run a more aggressive re-election campaign. The letter boldly stated that should President Bush “resort to old Republican exhortations” which were “tired old cliches,” they predicted “the American people will quickly lose interest” in his candidacy. And they were right. Mr. Bush received the smallest percentage of the popular vote by a president up for re-election since 1912.
Unfortunately, these days that same Mr. Lott criticizes Sen. Ted Cruz for doing exactly what he used to do.
The Washington Examiner said that Mr. Lott recently urged the GOP establishment to “lower the boom” on Mr. Cruz, and Mr. Lott also described Mr. Cruz as “one of the problems” when explaining why Democrat policies like amnesty for illegal aliens haven’t lawfully passed yet (which Mr. Lott also blamed on Rush Limbaugh). Mr. Lott also said the GOP leadership should “move quickly to co-opt” new Republicans elected from the “far right” in November to “deputize them.”
Mr. Lott’s devolution is now complete — from “Young Turk” fighting for transformation to Borg Queen demanding assimilation. Heck, he’s even a lobbyist now. I have no idea what price Washington can offer you in return for your own soul, but something tells me Mr. Lott does.
Mr. Lott proves that when it comes to Washington, you either die the hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain. For years, those of us out here in the grassroots have been fighting for term limits for our own good. However, given how it’s obvious prolonged exposure to the airborne contagion known as “Ruling Class Virus (or “RCV”) is lethal to all who drink from the Potomac, maybe term limits are really for their own good as well.
Looking at the way his career began, Mr. Lott obviously wasn’t intent on becoming a bag man for K Street. But he was allowed to stay too long, and eventually succumbed to RCV like almost everyone else in Washington who doesn’t know when to say when. He’s both victim and villain in a city that treats its heroes the way Rolling Stone magazine apparently treats fact-checking.
Just how lethal is RCV? Mr. Lott’s sellout comments serve the interests of the same ruling class that drove him out as Senate minority leader in 2002 for his comments in support of then-Sen. Strom Thurmond. This is what the incestuous culture inside the 202 area code does to its inhabitants. You become so self-loathing you end up groveling for affirmation from the same people who will kneecap you just because they can.
Meanwhile, as Mr. Cruz gets ready to mount his 2016 presidential campaign, comments like these from Mr. Lott are political gold to the grassroots Mr. Cruz needs to rally to win the GOP nomination. They work as de facto endorsements. Similar to how a dog whistle works, Mr. Lott’s feckless words make a sound only patriots can hear.
And what Mr. Lott is saying is this: “If you’re looking for the one whom all the political hacks you loathe can’t stand, here’s your guy.” Cruz 2016 ought to feature words like these from Mr. Lott in its first campaign ads. You can’t buy that kind of conservative street cred.
This is why the American people are excited about political newcomers these days. They’re looking for people who aren’t showing symptoms of RCV yet, which means their common sense and integrity remain intact.
Unlike Trent Lott.
(Steve Deace is a nationally syndicated talk show host and the author of “Rules for Patriots: How Conservatives Can Win Again.” You can like him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter @SteveDeaceShow.)