Matthew Yglesias links to an interesting paper:
“I call on every red-blooded white man to use any means to keep the niggers away from the polls; if you don’t understand what that means you are just plain dumb.” These were the words of United States senator Theodore G. “The Man” Bilbo of Mississippi, as he addressed white supporters during his successful re-election campaign in June 1946. His inflammatory language ignited a firestorm, however, that prevented him from taking his Senate seat in January 1947 and ended the career of one of the nation’s most flamboyant politicians.
“The Man” fell because of the growing intolerance among many whites toward public racism and anti-Semitism. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, white elites outside the South—defined here as leading daily newspapers, weekly magazines, organizations, and political leaders—largely ignored Bilbo’s racist incitements. World War II, however, brought about a significant change in elite attitudes. Due to the ideological war against Nazism, America’s emergence as a superpower, and the unifying nature of the conflict, the kind of virulent public racism that was a trademark of Bilbo’s career was no longer tolerated outside of the South. Bilbo’s career, from his return to the governor’s mansion in 1928 through the Senate debate over his seating in 1947, parallels and illustrates the declining tolerance of overt racism and nativism in the United States.
Yglesias files this under ‘the past is another country.” That’s only the half of it. If you never picked it up, Starlight 3 [amazon], edited by Patrick Nielsen Hayden … well, it’s only about the greatest short anthology of fantastic fiction I know. More to the point, it contains “Senator Bilbo”, by Andy Duncan:
“It regrettably has become necessary for us now, my friends, to consider seriously and to discuss openly the most pressing question facing our homeland since the War. By that I mean, of course, the race question.”
in the hour before dawn, the galleries were empty, and the floor of the Shire-moot was nearly so. Scattered about the chamber, a dozen or so of the Senator’s allies – a few more than were needed to maintain the quorum, just to be safe – lounged at their writing desks, feet up, fingers laced, pipes stuffed with the best Bywater leaf, picnic baskets within reach; veterans all. Only young Appledore from Bridge Inn was snoring and slowly folding in on himself; the chestnut curls atop his head nearly met those atop his feet. The Senator jotted down Appledore’s name without pause. He could get a lot of work done while making speeches – even a filibuster nine hours long (and counting).
“There are forces at work today, my friends, without and within our homeland, that are attempting to destroy all boundaries between our proud, noble race and all the mule-gnawing, cave-squatting, light-shunning, pit-spawned scum of the East.”
The Senator’s voice cracked on “East,” so he turned aside for a quaff from his (purely medicinal) pocket flask. His allies did not miss their cue. “Hear, hear,” they rumbled, thumping the desktops with their calloused heels. “Hear, hear.”
“This latest proposal,” the Senator continued, “this so-called immigration bill – which, as I have said, would force even our innocent daughters to suffer the reeking lusts of all the ditch-bred legions of darkness – why, this baldfooted attempt originated where, my friends?”
“Buckland!” came the dutiful cry.
“Why, with the delegation from Buckland … long known to us all as a hotbed of book-mongers, one-Earthers, elvish sympathizers, and other off-brands of the halfling race.” …
It just gets better from there.
Completing the point: there is reason to believe that Tolkien’s hobbits had names derived from the American South (don’t know about Bilbo, specifically). Guy Davenport:
The closest I have ever gotten to the secret and inner Tolkien was in a casual conversation on a snowy day in Shelbyville, Kentucky. I forget how in the world we came to talk about Tolkien at all, but I began plying questions as soon as I knew that I was talking to a man who had been at Oxford as a classmate of Ronald Tolkien’s. He was a history teacher, Allen Barnett. He had never read The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings. Indeed, he was astonished and pleased to know that his friend of so many years ago had made a name for himself as a writer.
“Imagine that! You know, he used to have the most extraordinary interest in the people here in Kentucky. He could never get enough of my tales of Kentucky folk. He used to make me repeat family names like Barefoot and Boffin and Baggins and good country names like that.”
And out the window I could see tobacco barns. The charming anachronism of the hobbits’ pipes suddenly made sense in a new way.
I know, I know: Kentucky not Mississippi. Still. Interesting stuff.
In other news, for some weird reason you can buy the first Spiderman movie [amazon] for only $3.99. I consider that a good deal.
UPDATE: Andy Duncan, the author, shows up in comments with a bibliographical note: “Since Starlight 3, “Senator Bilbo” has been reprinted in Year’s Best Fantasy 2, edited by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer (Eos, 2002) and in Seekers of Dreams: Masterpieces of Fantasy, edited by Douglas A. Anderson (Cold Spring Press, 2005). It also will be in The Mammoth Book of Extreme Fantasy, edited by Mike Ashley (Robinson, 2008).”