My review of Prof. Joseph Crespino’s new biography of Strom Thurmond is in the current edition of National Review:
The black comedian Dick Gregory said in 1971 that race relations in America were easy to understand: “In the North they don’t care how big I get, long as I don’t get too close. Down South, they don’t care how close I get, long as I don’t get too big.” Since his death, Strom Thurmond has been reduced to proof of this joke, if not a joke himself: the arch-segregationist with a black daughter who obviously didn’t mind if “they” got quite close indeed. He was a joke for many years before that, too — the doddering nonagenarian, the notorious flirt who fathered his last child at the age of 74, the southern throwback who patronized female congressional witnesses by saying things like “These are the prettiest witnesses we have had in a long time. I imagine you are all married.” In the world of politics, ancient history is anything that happened more than 25 years ago, and we have to look back much further than that to find a time when Strom Thurmond was not a punchline.