Robert Byrd

Sure, he was kind of a mixed bag.

It’s true that he joined the Klan at age 24, that he filibustered against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and opposed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, that he was at one time in his life an unabashed racist, that as late as 2001 he was on the record as using a certain word that begins with the letter “n,” and that he also really liked to bring money home to West Virginia.

But he also castigated his colleagues for the dearth of real debate regarding the illegal and immoral invasion and occupation of the sovereign nation of Iraq. He was an unstoppable critic of the previous administration and an utterly outspoken advocate for health care reform.

He was also, I think, evidence that even those Americans who succumb to this nation’s most base, most vile cultural instinct, that those who opt to hate or otherwise distinguish an entire group of people based on pigmentation and other physical features and the history represented thereby, even those folks, Byrd was evidence that even they can be redeemed.

Is the last of the old guard of liberals finally gone?

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