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Why conservatives are the most eager to dump Trent Lott as Senate majority leader.

2:45 PM, Dec 18, 2002 • By NOEMIE EMERY
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So then why, with all of this happening, did Lott win and hold his high office? Because this isn't the way these things work. Politicians, especially presidents, do not look for trouble and tend not to act unless pushed. Lincoln did not enact the Emancipation Proclamation upon reaching office. Four years after the Dixiecrats staged their national walk-out, Adlai Stevenson tapped the segregationist Senator John Sparkman of Alabama as his candidate for vice president. John Kennedy, who became the first American president to frame civil rights as a great moral challenge, was once greatly distrusted by civil rights leaders as being too good a friend to the South. Reagan and Roosevelt had racists within their own coalitions, and did little to make them unwelcome. If challenged, they would no doubt have told you that they were leading the nation in great global struggles, and could not risk losing part of the backing that gave them a mandate to do so. George W. Bush, who is fighting a war, would not have chosen this moment for this sort of battle. But it may, in the end, do him good.

Noemie Emery is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard.