This past week newly minted Tennessee Governor Bill Lee issued an unusual press release in which he acknowledged previously unknown sins dating to his salad days as an undergraduate at Auburn University. The governor’s crime? While a member of the Kappa Alpha Order, a popular campus fraternity, Lee attended several of the frat’s Old South balls in which invitees dressed as stereotypical Southern belles and Confederate officers. In an image uncovered by the internet’s rapidly growing population of neckbearded amateur yearbook sleuths, Lee was photographed, much like Adolf Hitler very well might have been had old Adolf been a junior at Auburn in 1980, dressed in a costume approximating that of a Confederate cavalry officer.
Despite the crushing moral weight of the infamous uniform--also worn by Bedford Forrest, who was very scary looking and killed lots of people with a sword--the photo of the 20-year-old Lee features the future governor smiling broadly with one arm looped around the shoulder of a tawny-haired young woman dressed as a Southern belle.
“I never intentionally acted in an insensitive way,” the gimlet-eyed Lee proclaimed in the statement, “but with the benefit of hindsight, I can see that participating in that was insensitive and I’ve come to regret it.” The Volunteer state’s chief executive then removed his new blue suede shoes and prostrated himself at the feet of a purple-haired, possibly female college student identifying xirself to the press only as “Typhoid F***ing Mary” before rolling over and showing Ms. Typhoid his soft, furry belly.
As of today, Lee and his team of Nashville-transplanted, 4%-ABV-craft-beer-sipping press lackeys have yet to offer commentary regarding the “insensitivity” of staging a murderous invasion into thirteen politically independent states, the violent repression of local self-determination, the wholesale replacement of constitutional governance with empire, or the illegal and immoral iconoclasm of mindless mobs now routinely destroying monuments erected to the victims and heroes of a 19th-century war for independence. This author looks forward to hearing Governor Lee’s sincere opinions on these and other matters.
Lee’s willingness to collapse into a blob of humanoid gelatin at the first sign of Cult-Marx attack is, of course, nothing unusual for the Grand Old Party. From the outset, the Republican Party has been little more than an electioneering strategy, a means of inducting the handpicked political elite into the ranks of the bleached-smile types whose wallets grow fat through the years with state and federal tax dollars. The average GOP politician couldn’t come up with two moral principles to rub together if his life depended on it, and only a month into his tenure as governor, Lee has revealed himself to be no different.
Lee campaigned in 2018 as a political outsider, a straight-talking businessman, cattle farmer, and seventh-generation Tennessean who would honor Tennessee’s agrarian roots while continuing to cultivate the state’s emergence as an economic powerhouse. To this point, he seems less Old Hickory and more Nikki Haley.
Of course, principles can be costly. Standing like Horatius at the bridge against the waves of far-left outrage can be frightening. Best to melt into the political wallpaper, betray the previous six generations of your family, and release bland apologies blubbering on about hindsight and regret over a fraternity-sponsored costume ball through your team of hapless, wine-drunk press jockeys.
This is, as they now say, how you got Trump. The Republican Party, now the default political bunker for anyone who does not insist that SCOTUS codify a right to marry one’s toaster oven, has for years starved for leaders willing to stand against the increasingly insane cultural left and its zombie hordes of sans-culottes iconoclasts who would raze all of Western Civilization given half a chance. Perhaps it should come as no surprise that a wealthy businessman accustomed to tacking to the perceived center would have no stomach for revisiting the federal crimes of the 19th century or even offering a mild defense of the Confederate soldier and his memory. It is nevertheless disappointing to see even dark-horse political outsiders tuck tail and run at the first sign of trouble from the online hate mobs now constituting the vanguard of the toxic cultural left.
One thing is for certain: Governor’s Lee’s cowardice will do nothing to quell far-left attacks against him as a “neo-Confederate,” as he has now reinforced their aggression with a mewling apology for Tennessee’s Confederate tradition and memory. As a bonus, Lee has incurred the wrath of the Sons of the South, who presently have less than no patience for so-called representatives who are unwilling to wheel and fight for the soul of our ancestral home. Anyone can alienate one side or the other of the political aisle, but it takes a uniquely talented politician to infuriate everyone within just a few weeks of moving your extensive truffle oil collection into the pantry of the governor's mansion.
Enjoy your term in office, Governor Lee. If loyal Tennesseans have anything to say about it, you won’t have another.
JD FIncher is a fifth-generation Tennessean.