Katon Dawson Makes a Mockery of Republican Ideas
The Republican Party is precariously close to fracturing. Not because GOP candidates abandoned conservatism. Not because they caved to the “oogedy-boogedy branch” of the Party. And not because the Party leadership lacks youth and sex appeal.
Those points may be worth debating (or deriding), but they’re not why the Party is on the verge of splintering. That honor is reserved for our dear Party leadership, the members of the Republican National Committee.
The RNC is preparing to elect a new Chairman in January, and among the candidates under consideration is Katon Dawson, the Chairman of the South Carolina GOP. Dawson occupied his spare time during the last 12 years or so brushing elbows with the Midlands elite at an exclusive private country club. What’s the big deal? Forest Lake Club is so exclusive that only white people are admitted as members.
The Republican Party has been a monumental force for civil rights in the United States for more than 150 years. Initially created to oppose the atrocious pro-slavery policies of the Democrats, the GOP remained committed to protecting individual liberty and has a proud history of civil rights achievements, including the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Throughout the twentieth century, Republicans stood for freedom and equality, and were instrumental in crafting and passing pieces of legislation that ended segregation and invalidated Jim Crow laws.
That is the Republican Party I embrace, a Party dedicated from its inception to the principles of freedom, liberty, and individual responsibility. It is gobsmackingly vile that this same Party is now seriously considering elevating a morally weak man like Katon Dawson to national Chair.
Republicans rightfully expressed outrage when news surfaced that United States Senate candidate Ned Lamont belonged to an overwhelmingly white country club. The liberal netroots and Democrat establishment were excoriated by Republicans for continuing to support Lamont, yet somehow Katon Dawson has escaped the indignation of Republicans.
Katon Dawson’s leadership accomplishments and civic achievements are now irrelevant. He made a decision 12 years ago that his political aspirations would be best served by hobnobbing with prominent white South Carolinians. He eschewed Republican principles and happily palled around with his white country club buddies, implicitly giving his blessing to one of the final refuges of segregation in America. At best, Dawson chose to turn a blind eye to his club’s admission practices, at least until he thought it might derail his run for RNC Chairman.
Once his dirty little secret was revealed in an article about Forest Lake’s heinous membership policy, Dawson suddenly had plenty to say in an open letter to the club’s Management Committee written shortly before he resigned his membership. Let me nutshell it for you:
I spend tons of time on outreach to black folks. In fact, I’m so busy reaching out to blacks that I barely get to spend time at my all-white club. But after that pesky newspaper exposé, I am overcome with a need to encourage greater diversity in my no-blacks-allowed club. Please consider changing your membership policy as my career may depend on it.
Way too little and a dozen years too late. Katon Dawson’s 12 year membership at Forest Lake Club tells me everything I need to know about his character and integrity. As Dawson wrote last week in a Politico editorial about, I kid you not, the courage of convictions, “It’s not good enough to talk the talk; you’ve got to walk the walk.” Pot, I trust you and kettle need no introductions.
Could Katon Dawson possibly be so blind to his own hypocrisy, or is he off high fiving his country club cohorts, privately congratulating himself on his stunning ability to travel under the radar for so many years? It boggles the mind that his abhorrent association with Forest Lake Club reached the pages of The State in August, yet here we are in December with Dawson still at the helm of the South Carolina GOP, vying for a position of national prominence.
Any vote for Katon Dawson to take the RNC reins will be taken as an endorsement of the dozen years he spent as a member of Forest Lake. If Dawson ascends to the GOP Chairmanship, it will be a giant middle finger thrust in the faces of every American who shudders at the memory of institutionalized racism in our country.
Get ready for the Grand Old Party to suffer an irreparable fracture. Republicans who treasure our Party’s core values will defect to other parties and dilute the strength of the GOP. If we’re lucky, the Party will split in two; in a more realistic scenario, the GOP will splinter into a half dozen or more factions unwilling to associate with a leader who allowed discrimination to simmer under his nose. The Democrats will be handed the country on a silver platter, achieving the inverse of Karl Rove’s “permanent Republican majority.”
But the demise of the Republican Party can be averted by electing a Chairman like Michael Steele whose actions match his words, and whose words convey core Party values. Last weekend Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina proposed a set of principles central to rebuilding the Republican Party. He reminded Republicans that “our loyalties need to be to ideas, not to individuals.” The 168 members of the Republican National Committee cannot forget that when they cast their votes for RNC Chair in January.
In 1870, South Carolina sent Republican Joseph Rainey to Congress as the first black member of the House of Representatives. Were he with us today, Joseph Rainey would not be welcome to schmooze with Katon Dawson and his comrades at Forest Lake Club. Katon Dawson is a blight on the GOP. The only noble path available to Dawson is to immediately withdraw his candidacy and step down as the South Carolina GOP Chair. If he fails to choose the noble path, he must be ousted by Republicans who can talk the talk and walk the walk.